Roundtable discussion dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child held in Moscow
In 2009, the world community is observing the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. On April 24, launching a series of events dedicated to this memorable date, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Faculty of Economics of the Moscow State University (MSU) arranged a roundtable entitled “The 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: contemporary challenges and innovative approaches in Russia”. The meeting was arranged within the framework of the Annual MSU Conference “Lomonosov Readings”.
The round table discussion brought together various experts in child protection, including Alexey Golovan, Moscow City Child Rights Ombudsperson; Marina Gordeeva, Chair of the Foundation to Support Children in Difficult Life Situations; Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative in the Russian Federation. Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, was invited to take part in the conference as a special guest speaker.
How has the situation of children changed during the twenty years that have passed since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child? In his welcome address, greeting the participants of the roundtable, Bertrand Bainvel said that there had been some positive changes in the situation of children in Russia, though there were some problems that remained unaddressed. In particular, the number of institutionalized children has not significantly decreased, HIV-affected children are still stigmatized, and a lot of children with disabilities are denied access to adequate education.
According to Moscow City Child Rights Ombudsperson Alexey Golovan, there is no well-thought-out and coordinated policy with respect to children in Russia today. There is no single agency which could develop and implement such policy. As a result, numerous problems concerning children remain unaddressed or are not addressed efficiently enough.
In the context of a global economic crisis, which has now taken on a social dimension, new risks and new challenges have emerged. “The best way of coming through the present crisis is to look forward and invest in the future. The well-being of children is the key,” Thomas Hammarberg said. However, the governments of many countries are acting completely differently today. “It is of greatest concern that so much of the budget resources are used for bailing out toxic debts in the banking system. This is not for free; it reduces the space for expenditures to cover the social needs,” Hammarberg pointed out. “A minimum now is that governments declare how they are going to protect the interests of children against the worst effects of the crisis. There is certainly a need for a planned approach,” he added.
“We should remember that rights for children is not only a question of means and measures; it is also a question of attitude and willingness to truly listen and help children in need. This is the attitude with which we should try to build our common Europe – for and with children,” Thomas Hammarberg said in conclusion.