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Less talk, more action: Regional Child Protection Focal Point meeting concludes

Efforts to make life for children in the Eastern Caribbean safer and more secure received a welcome boost recently as child protection focal points in the region met in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, to share ideas and best practices, to network and to chart a way forward with a defined action plan. 

Co-hosted by UNICEF and the Office of the Prime Minister (Gender and Child Affairs), the meeting, held from 14-16 August, was attended by focal points from Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Turks & Caicos and the host nation.

Learning from each other, examining what is working well, was a key aspect of the meeting and the Trinidad and Tobago team were keen to showcase their pioneering Children’s Assessment Centre which is a one-stop-shop for children who have been abuse or mistreated where their needs can be met in one place, lessening the likelihood of re-traumatisation. The focal points from across the region were also impressed with their visit to the Children Court, which focuses on restorative justice and finding alternatives to prison.

For Bertrand Moses, Coordinator of Child Development in the Office of the Prime Minister, the meeting was an “exceptional opportunity”. He added, “The theme of this conference is ‘one direction child protection’ and that’s something that we believe in. It doesn’t matter what island you come from, we are all working together…we all of us within the region can now share our policies, share our programmes, share our strategies…We can all learn from each other.”

Heather Stewart, Child Protection Specialist in UNICEF’s Office for the Eastern Caribbean Area, agreed. “We’ve come together to look at our common achievements and gaps. So we’ve been looking at foster care, directing children from the criminal justice system…How we address child abuse so that everybody – parents, families, teachers and health professionals improve things for our children.”

One concrete way in which the countries and territories can share their work is through a new online platform linking all the focal points. Other facets of the action plan which emerged from the meeting include: leveraging the existing OECS Juvenile Justice Reform Project to extend reach to non-beneficiary countries; facilitating policy fora  on alternatives to prison and foster care; developing model templates for the design of child justice facilities;  advocating for the universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocols to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;  piloting processes for evidence-based decision-making and better use of data; and developing and operationalising Disaster Preparedness Plans for all places of safety for children so that the most vulnerable are protected and cared for in emergencies.

For more information go to UNICEF’s ECA’s Facebook page or One Direction Child Protection



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