Events
'Universal Child Rights in Action: Debates, Dilemmas and Developments across the EU and MENA regions’ Expert workshop held in Bristol University
4/4/2013 12:00:00 AM To 4/5/2013 12:00:00 AM
The workshop brought together academics and activists, as well as academics who are also activists from the MENA region, predominantly from Jordan, Egypt and Iran and from the EU, predominantly from UK, Germany and the Netherlands. Not only did members (teachers, students and coordinators) of partner institutions of the Tempus DPPCR project take part, but also experts from the regions and for the regions. Issues that have come up in the course of the project were taken up and the latest research done by the different participants of the workshop was presented and discussed. A great mixture of approaches to various aspects of Children’s and Young Peoples’ rights was presented in the different panels (the topics varied from Child and Family settings to children’s rights in times of political instability and protectionism and participation of children). See also a compilation of the panel contributions to be downloaded from our DPPCR website. In between the six different panels key note addresses were held on topics ranging from parenting issues to the success story of the Tempus DPPCR project itself. Day one was opened with a very engaging presentation by Professor Aoife Nolan of Nottingham University, School of Law on Child Rights and Poverty. In a judicial way, Professor Nolan highlighted what poverty means, where until the day there are many publications of opinions in which poverty is determined as an economic problem alone, whereas there is an agreement in wide circles of society that poverty is a multidimensional phenomenon which children are unproportionally highly affected by. Prof. Aoife Nolan reminded the audience of the different measures described in the CRC as well as the ICECSR to counteract poverty. Even though the CRC is the most widely ratified UN Convention, it is ratified by states, not by non-state actors who are also often those who violate children’s rights. Companies cannot be held accountable towards the UNCRC- rather states have to hold the enterprises accountable and often this does not take place. This first key note set the agenda of how discussions during the course of the two day workshop proceeded. In Panel 1, chaired by Prof. Alaa Abdelhafiz Abdelgawad, Professor of Political Science at Assiut University, Egypt, universal declarations and local interpretations were discussed and since representatives came from Muslim countries the debate was about how CRC is implemented in Muslim dominated countries: in countries part of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) the Islamic human rights are the rights which are abided to, not the Universal human rights developed by the UN. This is reflected in e.g. at what age children can be held legally responsible for trespasses against the law: in most Islamic countries boys can be sentenced at ages above 14 and girls as young as age 9. Even though civil society e.g. in Jordan is motivated more by tradition/culture than religion, they face the paradox that the jurisdiction is based in religion- this is also true for Iran. In Panel 2, child rights and the family, chaired by Dr Debbie Watson, University of Bristol, effects of both parents working on children were discussed, where the general opinion is that there is no better means against child poverty than having both parents in work- what affect this has on the well-being of children and their rights situation is less reflected in these argumentation strands. Issues of early child marriage in Arabic countries were discussed (not only girls, also boys are forced into marriage and there are many widowed boys who are yet teenagers in regions in Iran e.g.) and also the situation of children’s education in general and in Jordan in particular, where resources which are already non-abundant have to be shared with thousands of Syrian refugees. The apparent international isolation of Jordan in responding to the crisis in Syria is important to recognise and the need for international assistance. The second key note was presented by Naomi Eisenstadt, Oxford University. She discussed why progressive universalism is violating children’s basic rights. Not all children need the same services, children who are healthy and grow up in a family that has many resources be it material, social or cultural obviously do not need the same type of services as children who grow up in families with a lower level of resources or e.g. children growing up without a family. Therefore there should be disaggregation of finances for services according to the needs of the addressees. Ms Eisenstadt described the different current laws that have been put in place for child services and the way child poverty is addressed by government spending. Funds for reducing poverty levels in children are allocated in a way, argues Naomi Eisenstadt, which is leading in the wrong direction and doesn’t do justice reality. Child poverty is recognized as multidimensional and therefore funds are not given to the families in cash but rather in additional services: so-called parenting courses are offered- as it is presumed that parents of poor children have poor parenting skills. Research has shown however that parents do spend extra cash given to them for their children and not on drugs, alcohol and gambling as supposed in the accusations made against them (especially in the media). The presentation was followed by Panel 3 on child poverty and wellbeing, It was chaired by Professor David Gordon (University of Bristol) who himself gave an introduction to the theme by showing data (mainly economic) taken from the World Bank archives and from the current UK poverty project. He argued that child poverty is a multidimensional problem. Finally, on the first day an awareness raising film on undocumented migration from Egypt via Libya to Italy funded by the International Organization for Migration and the National council for Child and Motherhood Egypt was screened. This raised discussions on the incentives behind the film, where the life and in particular the dangers and risks of the journey are shown- it made an impression that it not only wants to raise awareness but rather wants to keep people out of the fortress Europe. On the other hand it ends with an option for training for potential migrants to work in the service industry in Italy and migrate through regulated channels. The second day of the workshop was opened by Dr Anne Crowley of the Childhood Research group at Cardiff University, Wales, with a key note on “Monitoring and Reporting on the implementation of the CRC”, in which the different articles were reviewed that refer to monitoring the implementation of the CRC. The fourth panel of the workshop was chaired by Dr. Heba Raouf of Cairo University, Egypt and DPPCR coordinator. Members discussed issues of political and economic instability for the situation of children and their rights. The panel included a very impressive and engaging presentation by Nelly Ali, a PhD candidate and teacher at Birkbek University, England, who talked about her work and ethnographic research with street children in Cairo. The plight of these children is obviously very harsh, however Nelly Ali put an emphasis on the great resilience and love these children have despite their dire situation. She also argued against the widespread opinion that street children are simply a problem, criminal and very bad off- rather research has shown, that street children coming from very poor families (as most children who live on the street are not orphaned or abandoned but do have family) have better health than other siblings who remain in impoverished homes e.g. they taller than their siblings who remain with the family, claiming that street children are better nourished. Usama Al-Qalawi of Hashemite University, Jordan spoke about the situation of families and children in Jordan at the moment, in particular the situation of child refugees coming from Syria and the difficulties for the Jordanian government in providing for the refugee children their basic rights (to education, health) And consequently the situation of Jordanian children for whom resources are being cut in favour of the refugees. Usama raised the question whether generally speaking the situation for children has worsened since the Arab spring and how these negative spin offs can be counteracted. Panel 5 on protectionism and participation was chaired by Prof. Kholoud Dababneh of Hashemite University. Professor Manfred Liebel, from Freie Universität Berlin opened the panel by presenting participation as part and parcel of protectionism instead of viewing protection in a traditional way where someone else protects someone rather than a person or child in this case protecting itself through participating in decision-making processes. He also talked about the notion of social justice which needs to be put in place in order to secure that children are protected and can participate. Dez Holmes, director of Research in Practice continued with giving information on a new public spending scheme, so- called ‘personalization’, introduced by the British Government for the distribution of funding to disabled children or children with special needs. Where formerly children with special needs would be offered specific classes/education/courses which would be offered by state institutions, with personalization, this funding is now allocated directly to children. Dez Holmes sees different problems with this scheme, even though it may sound attractive at first, because it seems like each child would have access or would be able to buy exactly the service he or she needs. However the personalisation of the funds is done by giving the parents of these children the power of decision-making and not the children themselves. Another problem Dez Holmes raised is the fact that disabled children are particularly prone to be abused and by personalizing funding the connection to others/ outside the family is limited compared to the former scheme. Panel 5 was succeeded by the last key note speech by Nadine Finch on Protection under the CRC for Children on the Move or Facing Persecution. Nadine Finch presented basic information provided in the CRC articles on provisions for the rights of children in migration. The last panel of the workshop continued on the same subject, Ann Singleton of Bristol University chaired the panel on children across or without borders in which different aspects of situations children in migration are confronted with were presented: one member discussed the situation of Afghan refugees in the Netherlands (Carla Buil, Maastricht School of Governance); Lynn Maddern who works as a clinical psychologist with Somali children in Bristol presented her work and Maddalena de Carolis argued for the consequent inclusion of migrant children in EU schools. The workshop concluded with a wrap up presentation by Dennis Arends from UNICEF who had in 2009 originally instigated the DPPCR Tempus Project.
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