The event addressed a number of systematic challenges for children’s rights: child sexual exploitation, new challenges for media, the breakdown of traditional family structures and new ways of collecting and processing data.
Eurochild President, H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, saw the conference as a fantastic opportunity to address these challenges and more. “In a continent that leads on numerous fronts, huge challenges for children still remain – 1 in 4 children in the EU are at risk of poverty or social exclusion,” she stated. “Other challenges include early school-leaving, access to early years’ education and mental health challenges.”
Eurochild, together with Prof. Cath Larkins (Director of The Centre for Children and Young People's Participation at the University of Central Lancashire) and with Themis Association worked with 13 children and young people from 10 European countries to actively participate in the Council of Europe conference. The children, aged 11-18 years, came from Georgia, Albania, Serbia, Malta, Ukraine, Ireland, UK, France, Germany and Cyprus. Elene (Georgia) and Emma (Northern Ireland, UK) delivered key note speeches in the opening plenary of the conference. The children presented their work at the different Power Talks which were organised around 10 different subjects, ranging from child poverty and social inclusion, to children and the digital environment, children and family law and violence against children.
A discussion at the heart of the debate was the digital environment and how it affects children and their rights. Andrea (Serbia) addressed the ease of information access in today’s world: “Just by tapping our name in a search window we realize how much information is available about us online. And that opens up doors of mistreatment and manipulation of that information.”
Children challenged experts with their messages, questions and comments. The ability for children to directly participate drove the structure and purpose of the conference. Amadea (Albania) stated that children “…want the right to be heard. There should be mechanisms and improvement to justice for all children. We need more reports by children in all dimensions of life.”
Professor Cath Larkins, joined two young experts, to represent Eurochild at a panel debate organised by the Parliamentary Assembly on “the power of parliamentary action: promoting meaningful and sustainable child participation in the work of national parliaments and the PACE.”