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The Berlin Commitment for Children of Europe and Central Asia

Recognising that progress has been achieved during the past decade in fulfilling the rights of the child throughout Europe and Central Asia, in particular with regard to commitments taken at the 1990 World Summit for Children and the obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, universally ratified by countries of Europe and Central Asia,

Welcoming the important contribution of civil society, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, and regional and international organisations, especially the UN System, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the European Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States, to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,

Also welcoming that children throughout Europe and Central Asia are increasingly acknowledged as subjects of human rights and that government strategies and legal frameworks, administrative policies and practices progressively respect the right of the child to participate in social life and to partake in the decision-making processes which affect their lives,

Bearing in mind our responsibility towards future generations, which implies, inter alia, that any action undertaken today, must not endanger the enjoyment by our children of their human rights,

Recog rising that poverty and economic and social disparities, including growing income inequalities especially in the countries in transition, lack of opportunities for leisure and recreation and changes in family structures limit the chances of children of fully developing their personalities, mental and physical abilities, and of growing into a fulfilled adulthood,

Concerned that a growing number of children, particularly in the countries in transition are being deprived of their right to grow up in a healthy, safe and supportive family and community environment which results in growing numbers of children at risk of social exclusion, in significant increases in morbidity, stunting of growth and child development delay as a consequence of poor quality of care as well as in reduced numbers of children participating in basic education programmes and increased rates of juvenile delinquency, accidents and suicides,

Recognising that much still needs to be done to improve the health and social environment for children as well as the quality and relevance of educational programmes, and that low and/or declining public expenditure in the countries in transition caused by overall financial constraints and other factors, continues to affect the provision of social services for children and their access to quality education and health care,

Stressing the need to ensure support, including through giving consideration to restructuring national budgets, international aid flows, and appropriate foreign investments, for the implementation of social reforms and programmes aimed at promoting and protecting the rights of the child in the countries of Europe and Central Asia, particularly in the countries in transition,

Concerned at the rise in tuberculosis, malaria, sexually transmitted diseases, anaemia and iodine deficiency disorders in the countries in transition and noting with concern that HIV/AIDS continues to spread in many countries of Europe and Central Asia, greatly affecting those under 18 years of age and increasingly girls,

Aware of the negative impact of an increasing level of substance abuse, including alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, on children's and young people's physical and mental health,

Also aware of the increasing numbers of children of Europe and Central Asia at risk of all forms of abuse and violence, such as corporal punishment, sexual and economic exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, trafficking and homelessness,

Concerned that armed conflicts and natural disasters continue to affect and destroy the lives of of children in Europe and Central Asia and in this regard stressing the need for a growing awareness of protecting children's rights in conflict situations as well as the importance of protecting children from environmental threats such as chemical contamination and nuclear pollution and of ensuring that children grow up and live in an environment that is conducive to the highest attainable level of health,

Aware of the fact that children belonging to minorities, internally displaced, refugee and migrant children, stateless children, children with disabilities and children infected with HIV and suffering from AIDS are at special risk of being victims of discrimination, and are in need of, and have the right to, special protection, inclusion and participation,

Taking note of the results of regional and sub-regional preparatory conferences and consultations, including the proposals submitted by young people and civil society organisations working for children's rights, and welcoming the Political Message from the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for communication to the Special Session,

Aiming to contribute in collaboration with the UN System, civil society and children themselves to the preparations for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children and to further the development and implementation of actions for children in the next decade.

We, the participants of the Berlin Conference on Children in Europe and Central Asia (16-18 May 2001), affirm our commitment to the following:

1. Take all measures in order to ensure the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratify as soon as possible the two Optional Protocols to this Convention; develop comprehensive national strategies and provide the necessary resources for the implementation of the rights of the child; strengthen and make more effective the existing monitoring mechanisms;
reinforce the essential monitoring role of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child by submitting detailed, reliable and timely reports;

2. Enable ratification and full implementation of ILO Convention No. 182 on the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, ILO Convention No. 138 on the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, the 1993 Hague Convention on Child Protection and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children;

3. Adjust legislation, where appropriate, to ensure its conformity with the norms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and with the principle of the best interests of the child, strengthen governmental structures for children and independent children's rights commissioners, focal points for children and other mechanisms, while recognising and facilitating the important voluntary initiatives of civil society and the private sector for the benefit of children;

4. Encourage social and economic policies which meet the needs of families and their individual members, with particular attention to the care of children; ensure opportunities for family members to meet their social responsibilities and promote equal partnership between women and men in families, recognising the role of fathers; promote mutual respect, tolerance and co-operation within families and within society; fight against parental abductions and defend the right to personal contacts between parents and children across national boundaries; ensure that wherever possible children have the opportunity to be brought up in family settings in their own countries as opposed to institutions, and that national strategies for alternative care, including reform or closure of institutions that are not child-friendly be devised, where necessary;

5. Mainstream a gender perspective into all programmes and policies, promote equality between girls and boys, eliminate discrimination against girls in education, consider introducing study programmes on gender education;

6. Make every effort to support and facilitate the rights of children to participate in all relevant decision-making processes, in accordance with their age and maturity, ensure that their views are taken into consideration on all matters that affect them;

7. Make all possible efforts to eradicate poverty and address its negative impact on children, inter alia by reducing economic disparities;

8. Implement programmes to protect children from growing health risks, including tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases, in line with the targets set out in WHO Health 21; combat iodine deficiency conditions and anaemia; promote breastfeeding; undertake effective policies to promote mental health and to protect children from alcohol and drug abuse;

9. Pursue effective national and international information and risk-awareness programmes to fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic; adopt effective measures to prevent the direct transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child; provide special assistance to children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and support the psycho-social care of children infected with HIV and suffering from AIDS;

10. Sustain and further increase access to free and compulsory good quality education for all children up to the minimum age for entering into employment while ensuring equal access, opportunities and inclusion for children from both urban and rural areas, children belonging to minorities, indigenous children, refugee and displaced children as well as children with disabilities and other children in need of special protection; empower children to use media and new technologies with competence;

11. Promote life skills education, health and hygiene education, as well as education and participation programmes that highlight peace, justice and tolerance;

12. Protect and remove children from all forms of work which can harm their health, safety and morals; elaborate and implement strategies for the effective elimination of child labour contrary to accepted international standards, bearing in mind that education is a key strategy for combating child labour;

13. Take all necessary measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination and exclusion on the basis of race, language, religion , sex or any other reason; ensure re-integration of marginalised children, such as children living or working in the streets and children living in state institutions, especially those with poor quality of care; focus special attention on protection of and support for children with disabilities, ensure early detection of a child's disability and early intervention, and ensure that children with disabilities are accepted and integrated as equal members of society, with the same entitlements and with unimpeded access to basic health, education and other social services;

14. Take all necessary measures in order to end all forms of violence against children, such as sexual abuse and exploitation and corporal punishment; combat all violence in schools; protect children from violence and pornography in the media and on the Internet; end trafficking of children without criminalising child victims and ensure comprehensive rehabilitation and social re-integration of affected children; implement policies and rehabilitation programmes that take fully into account the rights and special needs of children affected by armed conflict, including refugee children, asylum-seeking and displaced children as well as those deprived of parental care;

15. Ensure that distinct juvenile justice systems are established and/or further developed which focus on rehabilitation and re-integration, using deprivation of liberty only as last resort and for the minimum possible period;

16. Recognise the importance of intergenerational justice, especially with regard to economic—and social welfare policy, and environmental sustainability;

17. Protect all children, irrespective of the social and economic conditions they live in from environmental threats; create child-respecting urban and rural environments which enable all children to have access to a range of play and informal learning opportunities both at home and within their local communities;

18. In the overall framework of national development plans and the 20/20 Initiative, ensure substantive budgetary allocation to the maximum extent of available resources, for the benefit of children and their parents and caretakers, to the health and education sectors and other social services, thereby giving priority to the eradication of poverty and social exclusion affecting children;
and provide greater transparency in budget allocations and spending on children as a proportion of national budgets;

19. Call for the reaffirmation to strive to fulfil the yet to be attained, internationally agreed target of 0.7 percent of the gross national product of developed countries for overall official development assistance as soon as possible with the aim of increasing the flow of resources for the benefit of children;

20. Take all necessary measures to continue and expand international co-operation for children among countries of Europe and Central Asia and ensure support, including through giving consideration to restructuring national budgets, international aid flows, and appropriate foreign investments, for the implementation of social reforms and programmes aimed at promoting and protecting the rights of the child in the countries of Europe and Central Asia, particularly in the countries in transition,.

We have set a challenging and forward-looking agenda for ourselves, recognising that children are citizens in their own rights and that investing in their development is the key to building a peaceful and prosperous Europe and Central Asia. We must now take the legislative, administrative and other actions necessary to realise these aims, and to monitor progress and difficulties.

This will require commitments of time, energy and resources. We commit ourselves to meeting our obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and thus to ensuring that all children in Europe and Central Asia enjoy their rights. We will seek to engage all components of civil society in the challenges this task presents. We pledge ourselves to this task and will work to create a Europe and Central Asia fit for children.


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