The Expert Group welcomed Turid Heiberg as the new head of the Children at Risk Unit at the CBSS Secretariat during the Finish presidency. The mandate period for the previous Head of Unit, Lars Lööf, had ended.
The CBSS Vilnius Declaration
The CBSS Heads of Government and other high-level representatives adopted the Vilnius Declaration – A Vision for the Baltic Sea Region by 2020, which put forth three (down from four) long-term priorities for the CBSS. The Safe and Secure Region priority applies to the work of the Expert Group on Children at Risk.
The objective of the Children at Risk area underlines the need to strengthen comprehensive and sustainable child protection systems to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children through a multi-sectorial approach and increased cooperation among relevant ministries, other stakeholders and professionals in the Baltic Sea Region.
Mandate and priorities
The Expert Group adopted a new mandate for 2013 – 2017, and agreed on the following priorities for this time period:
- The protection of children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse
- Ensuring the rights of children in migration and the protection of children that are trafficked
- Early intervention and prevention as a means to ensuring children’s rights to protection from all forms of abuse, violence and neglect
- The rights of children in residential care and in other forms of out of home care
The Child Centre website
The Expert Group decided to redesign the Child Centre website in order to make it more functional. The website is an important tool to share knowledge and display news from the Expert Group’s work, events and trainings. However, it was necessary to delete old material, to keep all information in English, and to only have links to relevant national resources in the CBSS member countries. The responsibility of uploading information to the website and also ensuring communication and exchange among the groups who once used the website as a communication tool was transferred to the Head of the Children at Risk Unit at the CBSS Secretariat.
PROTECT Children on the Move
This project was a follow up of the recommendations of the children trafficked for exploitation in begging and criminality project. The overall goal is to identify child rights standards and key agencies for better transnational cooperation. The work is based upon five expert meetings with key experts from Europe and beyond, – and organized by CBSS in collaboration with the Central Board of the State Border Guards in Latvia, the State Child Rights Protection and Adoption Service in Lithuania and the Stockholm Social Emergency Authority in Sweden. Co-funded by the European Commission’s Return Fund.
SOS Children’s Villages Estonia decided to take the lead in developing a follow-up project, to be submitted by the Expert Group to the European Commission in spring 2015.
Expert group meetings
The Expert Group met in Helsinki 17-18 October 2013 and 20-21 March 2014.
In the early days of the Expert Group, a group of national coordinators were essential in ensuring the success of the Child Centre IT network website project. They also ended up having a central role in supporting the technical execution of the work of the Expert Group, and took part in numerous joint and separate meetings over the years. However, as internet technologies and computer usage quickly evolved, the role became less essential and fell out of disuse in line with the secure side of the website. For most CBSS member states, the Expert Group member and the National Coordinator had become the same person.
The updated Terms of Reference for this group set their role as helping the Expert Group to include the correct experts in its work, to be informed of national developments, and to give input to the work of the Expert Group.