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The -often denied- rights the child 30 years after the UN Convention

The Convention, promulgated by the United Nations and endorsed by almost all world countries, was signed on 20 November 1989. It is designed to ensure the right to life, the principle of non-discrimination and the primary consideration of the child's "best interests" in all circumstances. Celebrative events are taking place today in Strasbourg and Brussels, and tomorrow in the Vatican. Violations of these rights still occur across the globe

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted 30 years ago (20 November 1989). This landmark document in 54 articles, plus three optional protocols, recognises the civil, social, political, cultural and economic rights of all children in the world. It is the world’s most endorsed international document, as it is ratified by all countries except the United States; Italy ratified it in 1991. A number of initiatives are currently underway to reaffirm the value of the document has bears major topical relevance, highlighting the countless problems that still exist worldwide with regard to the negation of the rights of children and adolescents.

The “Strategy” of the Council of Europe. Although the text led to a change of paradigm in the attitude towards children, children’s rights are still being violated in world countries including in Europe. In fact, as an example, the so-called “Sofia Strategy”, i.e. the Council of Europe’s Strategy on the Rights of the Child for the years 2016-2021

Highlighted seven “challenges” that threaten children’s lives in the European continent:

The first challenge is poverty, that leads to inequality and social exclusion, a vicious cycle affecting one child in five in Europe. The second challenge is violence, especially sexual violence on girls in every setting including the digital environment. The third challenge to the exercise of the rights of the child is a justice system made for adults; while the family is a context where violence against children can take place. Other challenges are racism, hate speech and radicalization of vulnerable youths or those experiencing social exclusion. The digital world is the sixth challenge with its manifold risks that range from privacy and data protection to online sexual abuse, to cyber-bullying. Migration and the problems linked to immigration is the seventh challenge, as children affected by migration are one of the most vulnerable groups. The Strategy highlights the need for “strong political commitment paired with the allocation of sufficient resources and a broad societal awareness of the rights of the child to ensure that children are seen and treated as full rights-holders”; with a set of recommendations to improve their situation in Europe.

Conference in Strasbourg. Today, as we celebrate and reflect on the 30th anniversary of the Convention, it’ s time to make an evaluation of the Sofia Strategy halfway along its path. This will be done in Strasbourg today and tomorrow, on the occasion of a conference (13-14 November) to stimulate dialogue “on the major challenges for the rights of the child today.”

“RedefiningPower: Strengthening the rights of the child as the key to a future-proof Europe”

is the title of the Conference. Two introductory sessions will open the conference featuring speeches from institutional dignitaries which include, inter alia, Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, President of the European Court of Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Ministers for the Family from a number of countries, including Minister Elena Bonetti from Italy. The Mid-Term Evaluation of the Sofia Strategy will be presented during the conference.

Brussels: debate at the EU Parliament. The rights of the child and the related Convention are the object of today’s plenary meeting at the European Parliament in Brussels. To mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention the EU Parliament will organize a high level conference on 20 November that will “consider progress over the past three decades and reflect on the challenges that new generations face”, with a special focus on Europe. Queen Mathilde of Belgium and EP President David Sassoli will deliver the opening addresses of the conference that consists in two separate panels:

The first is dedicated to the rights of the child “to live and thrive”, the second to the right to “dream.”

Panel speakers include a number of institutional representatives as well as boys and girls personally involved in protecting their rights, such as 16-year-old Raina or Sioda, 15, a member of the “Children’s Council”, or Maria (14), from Uganda, or Bereket from Ethiopia (16), from Sos Children’s Villages Young Leader. In the evening, the European Parliament building will be lit in blue to show support for the UNICEF campaign “Let’s turn the world blue for every child.”

Vatican: international meeting. On 14-15 November, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences will host in the Vatican a high-level international meeting on “Promoting Digital Child Dignity.” The Child Dignity Alliance and the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities are organizing the event together with the Pontifical Academy, having already organized two similar meetings on the theme of childhood and the digital world (2017 and 2018).

Major digital companies (Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook – inter alia), NGOs, the political world and religions will in turn illustrate their commitment during the four related sessions of the event.

Keynote speakers include, inter alia, Saif Bin Zayed al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Queen Silvia of Sweden, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, Rabbi David Rosen and Najat Maalla M’jid, representative of the UN Secretary General on violence against children. Participants will be received by the Pope on 14 November.

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