Mr Palm's speech during the conference on the Children's Rights organized by the Ombudsman's office on 23 October 2012
I do not speak much French, but I think the language of children rights is universally understood.
In the rush to promote a country’s development, and the search for economic growth, children – and especially the children of poor people – often have to take the back seat. There is a prevailing assumption among many scholars, officials and practitioners that social issues will automatically disappear as long as the Gross Domestic Product increases steadily. Children’s issues are thought of as family issues, which the families are responsible for getting sorted out, and which require minimal State interventions.
But many well-meant development initiatives reach those families first who are informed, who read the newspaper, who take an active interest, and who have their professional or social networks. But often, funds are completed and energy exhausted before they reach the most vulnerable.
For example, a well-intended measure aimed at improving educational quality is likely to be picked up by the well performing schools, and the most motivated teachers. The 10 or 20 per cent of schools who are in difficult and remote locations, and the less motivated teachers serving marginalized communities are always at risk of not being reached by the programme or are likely not to absorb it well.
Or take those who may have been targeted for a special social assistance or programme. Those who are most in need of certain policy measures are often the last to hear about it. Even if they hear about it, they may not know where to apply or to seek recourse if they feel they didn’t get their entitlement.
Poor Children rarely make it into the evening news. And that’s why we need strong national institutions, who are on their side.
I welcome this conference about the strengthening of children’s departments in the ombudsman offices. Some may wonder why a special children’s department is needed, because human rights should apply to all people in the same way. Let me give an example.
A crime committed by an adult together with others usually causes a more severe sentence than if he had done it alone. Because the person has ganged up with others to commit the crime. In the case of an underage offender, the fact that the crime was committed as part of a gang, should normally reduce the sentence. Because the juvenile might have acted under the influence of peers or adults, causing him to do something that he alone would never have done. That’s why the treatment of children often must be different than that of adults. Children deserve special consideration.
I know that Mr. Totozani is fully on top of this, and that the attention by an ombudsman to children’s rights should be fully institutionalized.
Two weeks ago, the Committee of the Rights of the Child made recommendations in respect of Albania’s State Party Report on the implementation of the Convention. The report also makes a recommendation on the strengthening and financing of a children’s department in the Ombudsman’s office. It makes many other recommendations to the State Party in relation to Children’s Rights. These provide enough of an agenda for Albania, and for the Children’s Departments in the Ombudsman’s Office and other development partners.