During the Latvian chairmanship, work with the website expanded to include English and national language forums.
On 1 May 2004, four member states of the CBSS ascended to the European Union.
Expert group meetings
The yearly meeting of the National Co-ordinators and Competence Centre representatives took place outside Helsinki at Hanaholmen, a beautiful conference venue right on the shores of the Baltic Sea. The Tampere university hospital forensic team, under the leadership of Dr Kaija Puura, presented their work related to the forensic examination of children that may be victims of sexual abuse.
Senior Officials Meeting on Unaccompanied Children from the Region of the Baltic Sea States
A February 2003 meeting gathered senior officials from the member countries in the Council of the Baltic Sea States, senior officials from Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, representatives from the European Commission, IOM and from UNHCR
The representatives discussed the issue of Interministerial and Interagency Co-operation for Improved Assessment, Care and Reintegration of Unaccompanied Children within and from the region.
The group came to several agreements, including to establish an action plan and national contact points, and to further engage NGOs in this area.
Stop Child Trafficking – Modern Day Slavery
On 1-3 June 2003, in Helsinki, the US, Canadian and Swedish Embassies to Finland, the Finnish Government and the Council of the Baltic Sea States gathered some 150 delegates to share and improve practices, programmes and policies aimed at stopping trafficking in children.
The Conference “Stop Child Trafficking – Modern Day Slavery” enjoyed the presence of several dignitaries like H.E. President Tarja Halonen of Finland, H.E. President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia, H.E. Prime Minister Anneli Jäätteenmäki of Finland, H.E. Deputy Prime Minister Winberg of Sweden, Paula J. Dobriansky, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, H.E. Ambassador Ulf Hjertonsson of Sweden, and H.E. Ambassador Adele Dion of Canada. “The Children’s Senator” Chris Smith of the United States gave videotaped remarks. Her Highness, Queen Silvia of Sweden sent her videotaped greeting to the conference. H.E. Ambassador Bonnie McElveen-Hunter was the driving force behind the conference.
This instructive and forceful conference gave clear political support from the entire Baltic Sea Region as well as from the United States and Canada that the fight against trafficking in children is as important and necessary as ever.
Unaccompanied and trafficked children
The Expert Group began establishing a group of National
Contact Points on unaccompanied and trafficked children, and a first meeting of the national contacts was held in Helsinki December 2003.
Several cases of trafficking of children were reported in the media, calling for more operational cooperation regarding the possibilities for the regional co-operation to offer support to the young persons affected.
NGO conference on separated and trafficked children
The Expert Group co-organised a conference in September 2003 in Vilnius, Lithuania for NGOs on Separated and Trafficked Children – Best Practices and Co-operation. The conference was a response from the NGO community to one of the commitments made at a governmental conference in Stockholm in February 2003, regarding the importance of involving NGOs in the struggle against trafficking in children and in finding appropriate solutions to the problem of separated children crossing borders in the Baltic Sea Region.
The conference was attended by 90 participants from more than 50 NGOs representing nearly all the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) countries and also Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy and Romania.
The aim of the conference was to strengthen the co-operation between different NGOs in the region regarding national as well as international co-operation for all Separated and Trafficked children. The overriding message from the NGOs present to the CBSS governments is that NGOs in the region have a considerable amount of experience which they wish to put to use in active collaboration both with each other and with the governments in the region.
Plan of Action on Unaccompanied and Trafficked Children in the Region of the Baltic Sea States
On the 17th of May 2004 the Plan of Action on Unaccompanied and Trafficked Children in the Region of the Baltic Sea States was adopted by the Expert Group. The initial Plan of Action covered the period May 2004 until December 2005 and set up a number of goals and actions. The Plan of Action was prolonged until July 2007 at the ministerial meeting in Oslo in May 2005. The plan of action was the result of a recommendation that came out of the 2003 meeting of Senior Officials on the issue of Unaccompanied Children in the Region of the Baltic Sea States, a meeting which was held in response to the decision of a meeting of the CBSS Heads of Governments in the Baltic Sea Region to work on the topic of unaccompanied children.
In June 2004, the CBSS Heads of Government meeting noted with satisfaction the results obtained through the Baltic Sea Programme on unaccompanied and trafficked children. They encouraged the CBSS to pursue vigorously the task of strengthening the rights of children in residential care in the region and to raise the quality of care in institutions, in order to improve the situation for children in out-of-home care.
Research on young persons’ attitudes and experiences in relation to child sexual abuse
A survey was prepared and translated, with one research institute in each of the participating countries holding the responsibility of implementing the study in that country and finding funding – with the Russian portion of the project entirely funded by the World Childhood Foundation. A meeting was held to discuss methodological issues, ethical issues and how best to disseminate the findings from the research. A database with all data from the participating countries was to be collected by NOVA in Norway.
Child sexual abuse images
The Expert Group co-organised a seminar on Victim Identification. The seminar was held in Stockholm and was part of an ongoing EU co-funded Daphne project with partners from Cork University in Ireland, the NGO Childnet in London and Rädda Barnen, Save the Children Sweden.
The Victim Identification Project looked at how police in successful cases have managed to support and cooperate with child protection services and child psychological expertise in making certain that children have received support.
Street children and children without a family
The Expert Group co-hosted a meeting in Moscow in April 2003 to exchange information among CBSS member countries, and to discuss prevention and protection measures.