A timely conference prioritising children
On 4 March, Eurochild attended the Ministerial Conference on the Implementation of the European Child Guarantee, organised by the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union in Paris
Children, civil society organisations, representatives from European institutions and Ministers with a mandate for children from across the EU gathered in Paris to discuss the implementation of the European Child Guarantee.
The French Secretary of State for Children and Families, Mr. Adrien Taquet, marked the beginning of the conference, by reading a Declaration on the situation in Ukraine on behalf of the European Ministers with a mandate for children. This was followed by a response from UNICEF and Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Eurochild and by a unanimous condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine.
Moreover, Ministers took this opportunity to discuss the activities their countries are launching to support children and families fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. These measures ranged from responses to immediate needs such as providing food, clothes, medicines and housing to additional initiatives such as free rail tickets for refugees, school placement with staff teaching in Ukrainian and registrations of births for new born babies who had to flee before being registered in Ukraine.
“Child participation is not a cost, it is an investment”, added Renato Cursi, Executive Secretary at Don Bosco International and indeed children played an important part during the conference.
Throughout the event, children had the chance to ask their questions to Ministers or representatives from at least 24 Member States and to share what they think should be included in the Child Guarantee National Action Plans: free, inclusive and accessible education, a hot meal every day, national documentation such as identity cards and a home to live in – not a hotel.
"Children are fully fledged actors of civil society – their voice should be heard and more importantly listened too" - Adrian Taquet, Secretary of state for Children and Families, on behalf of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union
Children also pointed out the need to include in the National Action Plans measures to support their mental health and at least three countries – Bulgaria, Portugal and Sweden – stated that they plan to include mental health support initiatives in their Child Guarantee National Action Plans.
Additionally, it has emerged that governments from Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Luxemburg, Portugal and Slovakia will be prioritizing early childhood development in their respective National Action Plans.
Martina Stepankova, the Czech Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Affairs, closed the conference with a reassuring message for children and children’s rights defenders across Europe. She said that the Child Guarantee is a priority for the current Presidency of the Council of the European Union trio – France, Czechia and Sweden - and that another conference on the implementation of the Child Guarantee is being planned in Czechia for July 2022.
"Children have a voice. It’s just us adults that don’t listen to them. They know what they need and they can tell us."
- Martina Stepankova, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Affairs, Czechia