Celebrating Universal Children’s Day
November 24, 2015
CYPRUS: celebrating Universal Children’s Day with “You cannot play with the right to play”
The Cyprus Commissioner for Children’s Rights dedicated this year’s Universal Children’ s Day to the right to play in an effort to underline that children’s rights are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible, and at the same time to promote the much neglected right of children to enjoy their childhood.
Thus on the 20th of November, the Commissioner organised her annual event, where children had the leading role. Under the title “You cannot play with the right to play”, children from two primary schools, helped by members of the Commissioner’s Young Advisors Team (YAT), organised games and invited guests to play with them. The Commissioner, in her speech, highlighted the interrelation of play with childhood and elaborated on its importance, not only for the development and well-being of children, but also as a mean for the promotion of other rights; she also referred to the results of the consultation she had with her YAT. The President of the Republic of Cyprus, in his speech, expressed his institutional, as well as his personal, commitment to the promotion of children’s rights, presented the Government’s policies for children and extended his appreciation to the work of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights.
The highlight of the event was an interactive activity performed by the members of the YAT, who, through various playful activities presented the importance of spontaneous play and the necessity to secure all preconditions required for promoting the right to play.
WALES: On Universal Children’s Day, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland, pledges to ban smacking in Wales
“Universal Children’s Day is a good day to stop and think about what we achieved for children’s rights each year and what still needs to change. In Wales since last November we have seen new rights for looked after children to stay in their foster homes after the age of 18 until they are ready to leave. We have seen the government accept all of the recommendations of the Donaldson review of education, ‘Successful Futures’ that puts children’s wellbeing at the heart of education. So, some positive steps forward.
It is however very frustrating that we have still retained the right for parents and some other carers to claim that when they hit their children it is ‘reasonable punishment’. There is no similar defence in the law when an adult is subject to a common assault. Usually when we make laws that are different for children we do it to give them more protection. This is why we have age limits on smoking, drinking, driving and sexual consent. The law on common assault – what we usually call ‘smacking’ – is the only one I can think if where we give children less protection from harm than adults.
I suspect that in 30 years’ time we will find it hard to believe we were even having this debate in Wales. No-one finds it acceptable any more for a teacher to punish a child by hitting them, yet this is was entirely normal in the 1970s. Domestic abuse is no longer socially acceptable. So, our cultures can change and just as we already find it hard to remember what it was like to sit in a smoke-filled pub or café, so I believe we will shock our grandchildren with stories about how it used to be legal for parents to hit children.
It is not only unfair to give children less protection than adults. It is also bad for children. Every time a child is hit, however mildly, we are giving the message that hitting is an acceptable way to sort out problems and that they deserve to be hit. Both are messages we don’t want to see carried on into their adult relationships. We know from countless research studies that children who are smacked are more likely to develop problems in their behaviour and emotional health. Parenting that sets clear boundaries and is neither too strict nor overly laid back helps children have the best outcomes in terms of their happiness, behaviour and educational success.
I am really pleased that the Welsh Government is promoting positive parenting through campaigns and in schemes like Flying Start. However, evidence from other countries shows that the best way to rapidly change parenting behaviour is to change the law as well as promote positive parenting.
Wales has a really good record on children’s rights. We were the first country in the UK to have a Children’s Commissioner and the first to bring the UNCRC into our laws. Most Assembly Members that I have spoken to say that they favour a change in the law. My ambition is that Wales will be the first country in the UK to give children equal protection to adults from physical assault, following the example of Ireland earlier this month.
Come on Wales. Ymlaen!”
Commissioner’s message on youtube
THE NETHERLANDS: Dutch Ombudsman for Children pays visit to refugee children
On Universal Children’s Day, the Netherlands’ Ombudsman for Children engaged in a dialogue with refugee children. The children told Ombudsman Marc Dullaert about their daily life in a refugee center: their education, everyday activities and their hopes and fears for the future.
The Children’s Ombudsman is currently investigating whether the rights of children on the move in the Netherlands are sufficiently respected. He is concerned about their accommodation, safety, access to food, education and health care. The Children’s Ombudsman will also discuss the situation of refugee children with various organizations involved in the asylum system of the Netherlands.
The situation of refugee children will not only be investigated in the Netherlands, but in some European countries as well. Last September, ENOC set up an ad-hoc Task Force on Children on the Move under the leadership of the current ENOC Chair, Marc Dullaert (Ombudsman for Children, The Netherlands). All the members of the Task Force will contribute to this research project.
As ENOC warned two years ago in a public statement, children on the move experience violence, trafficking, trauma and death. It is therefore of critical importance that European governments take action to secure these children’s rights. With this report, ENOC continues to monitor the fulfilment of the rights of children on the move in Europe.