Building a child-friendly Europe: turning a vision into reality

      Conference on the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2012-2015

      Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, 20-21 November 2011

      Speech by Keith Whitmore, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

      Your Highness,

      Deputy Secretary General,

      Ministers, Excellencies

      Ladies and Gentlemen

      A child-friendly Europe begins with our local and regional communities. Just like national governments, local and regional elected representatives have a responsibility to ensure that children are regarded and treated as fully-fledged citizens, that their rights are protected, and that they can fully enjoy life both inside and outside their homes. Territorial authorities are the first line in defending the rights of citizens, and their role in creating a child-friendly environment in our communities is truly crucial.

      This is why the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is fully committed to building a Europe for and with children, working in partnership with national governments and other stakeholders in promoting children's rights and protecting them from violence.

      Tragically, abuse and violence against children, including sexual violence, still remain widespread in European society. This violence is happening in our towns and cities, often behind closed doors, often shrouded in secrecy and protected by privacy. If anyone can do something about this, local and regional authorities can. And as we insist on the need for stronger co-operation and coherence of efforts between national and territorial authorities, protecting children from violence is certainly one area where their joint action will have a maximum impact.

      This is why the Congress fully supported, in 2009, the Policy Guidelines on National Integrated Strategies for the Protection of Children against Violence. In October 2009, we adopted policy recommendations to local and regional authorities on how to contribute to the Guidelines, stressing the need to develop child protection strategies at territorial level. We put forward specific proposals geared towards setting up local and regional mechanisms and action plans, ensuring coordination with national governments and other agencies, and establishing quality management systems for child care services as well as benchmarks for agencies, among others.

      We are continuing this active stand with our new Strategic Action Plan, which covers the local and regional dimensions of the ONE in FIVE Campaign of the Council of Europe to stop sexual violence against children.

      Drawing on previous recommendations, the Action Plan aims to raise awareness at community level and promote a multi-stakeholder approach. It encourages local and regional authorities to develop coordinated multi-disciplinary structures to tackle sexual violence against children. The Plan calls for investing in better local services that respect children’s rights and respond to the needs of children and families.

      Our hope and ambition are to develop a more child-friendly culture, whereby towns and regions enable children and young people to participate meaningfully in the development of safe communities free from sexual violence. In this regard, we work closely with the European Network “Cities for Children”, which today brings together more than 70 municipalities from 32 countries.

      As our first steps in implementing the Action Plan, we held a debate during the Congress session last October on the fight to eradicate sexual abuse of children, and appointed a Thematic Rapporteur on Children. Next February, we will organise a seminar on the role of local and regional authorities in preventing sexual violence against children, and will begin preparing a report on the subject.

      Ladies and Gentlemen,

      You can rest assured that the Congress, as an active partner in the Strategy for the Rights of the Child which we fully endorse, will continue in the battle to rid Europe of violence against children, and to make our cities safer places where our children can grow and flourish.

      Thank you.



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