Verhellen, Eugène 1941-2017
I first met Professor Eugene Verhellen when I attended the International Interdisciplinary Course on Children’s Rights at Ghent University, shortly after being appointed at Secretary General of Eurochild in 2006.
As I had no academic background in children’s rights, I was advised that this 4-day course was the place to get an broad understanding of children’s rights in practice.
At the time Professor Verhellen was stepping back from his teaching engagements – having been former Director of the Children’s Rights Centre at Ghent. But when he spoke it was clear he still commanded enormous respect in both the academic & practitioner children’s rights community – especially since I understand that this internationally renowned course on children’s rights had been his brainchild.
My predecessor, Heidi de Pauw, had invited Professor Verhellen to be honorary member of Eurochild in 2005. Indeed he was the only honorary member of Eurochild until we invited our 2nd honorary member Thomas Hammarberg 10 years later in 2015. We understand that Professor Verhellen took a close interest in the work of the network, and we were honoured to have him speak to our 2015 General Assembly.
The children’s rights community has grown enormously over the last two decades. Academic courses and professional trainings on applying children’s rights in practice have multiplied. But the passing of Professor Verhellen is an opportunity to reflect on those important trail blazers who championed our cause long before adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. It is in part thanks to their vision and commitment that we are where we are today.
Professor Verhellen is definitely among those to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude for paving the way for a growing public and political recognition of children’s rights.
By Jana Hainsworth, Eurochild