Street Children discussed at the Council of Europe
Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe Ms de Boer-Buquicchio addresses the problem of street children in Europe and calls for adequate measures to protect them.
At the Spring Session of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, held in Strasbourg on 27 March 2007, Ms de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary-General of the Council of Europe gave a speech addressing the problem of street children in Europe .
She pointed out that the phenomenon of street children is global and escalating. The United Nations estimate the number of street children worldwide to be 150 million, more than the population of France and Germany combined. "Poverty, family disintegration due to health or death, neglect, abuse or abandonment, and social unrest are all common triggers for a child's life on the streets", she said. The Council of Europe will hopefully soon enact a new legal instrument allowing for the protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse. These will be top priority issues for the European Commission as declared by Commissioner Frattini during the European Parliament Joint Hearing on the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, held in Brussels on 17 April 2007.
Street children are exposed to the worst forms of violations of their human rights. They may be killed, exploited, abused or tortured, and yet their suffering remains invisible.
"People must know - and accept - that street children are victims, not criminals", affirmed Ms de Boer-Buquicchio.
The problem of street children and their protection are of direct concern to the Council of Europe, which is committed to the protection of the rights and well-being of all children, especially the most vulnerable ones.
She pointed out that one of the best available instruments for the protection of street children, elaborated by the Council of Europe, is the European Social Charter, which represents the main legal text establishing social, legal and economic rights for all children. Under its Protocol, which came into force in 1998, complaints of violations of the Charter may be lodged with the European Committee on Social Rights by those organisations which have participatory status with the Council of Europe.
In 2006 the European Foundation for Street Children Worldwide (EFSCW) obtained participatory status with the Council of Europe on child protection and this will be a great opportunity to increase awareness of EFSCW's specific target group and to give more visibility to street children in the official initiatives of the COE.
Ms De Boer-Buquicchio concluded by stressing the fundamental role that local and regional authorities can play in the promotion and improvement of the situation for street children. In particular, she emphasised the great capacities and potential of European Municipalities, particularly that thanks to their work in the field and their direct access to street children can indeed provide an added value and help in building a better future for them.
In this context, EFSCW is glad to co-operate with the Council of Europe from April 2007 by carrying out a study on the situation of street children in various municipalities throughout Europe. More precisely, EFSCW will contribute by presenting four to five case studies on the successful integration of street children carried out in co-operation with different municipalities in Europe by its member organisations as well as a final report and recommendations about initiatives on street children at the municipal level.
Casa Alianza UK is a member of the European Foundation for Street Children Worldwide and an Advisory Board Member.