Latvian presidency 2018-2019 features high-level conference on non-violent childhoods

The expert group also ushered in a phase of consolidating its work and taking it to the next level.

The Latvian Presidency of the CBSS aimed to enhance cooperation in civil protection to strengthen resilience in the region against major emergencies and disasters, fighting against trafficking in human beings to prevent and mitigate consequences of this severe crime and lastly combating organised crime and strengthen border management. The CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk contributed to these goals through its work against trafficking and exploitation of children.

PROTECT Children on the move

In contribution to the Latvian presidency priorities, a main achievement of the Expert Group on Children at Risk was the follow-up of the Oslo Conclusions on Identifying Children at Risk of Exploitation and Trafficking from May 2018 by developing the “Listen Up!” report, launched December 2018. This report shared the lessons learned about the conditions for children to speak and be heard, and supports professionals in their communication with children at risk of exploitation and trafficking.

The Expert Group was also supporting adult survivors of trafficking and and exploitation in childhoods to create a Baltic Sea network as a follow-up to the Oslo Conclusions.

In February, the Children at Risk Unit was invited to take part in a meeting of the CBSS Task force on Trafficking in Human Beings TF-THB Task Force meeting, and in the international conference organised by the Latvian Ministry of Interior on Human trafficking – a crime with too few convictions and too many victims. The Children at Risk Unit presented achievements in the Tour the Table session in the Task Force meeting and was part of discussing findings in the international conference.

Non-violent childhoods

Promoted the elimination of corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading punishments of children through the change of attitudes and behaviour. During the Latvian Presidency, 6 Guidance Reports, a comic book and a campaign were developed and launched at a high-level conference in November 2019 in Stockholm.

The conference was an important milestone marking the achievements the Baltic Sea region has made in inspiring other regions and countries to act on this issue. It also marked the mid-point between the last global conference organized by the government of Malta in May 2018, and the next in Tunisia in 2020 (postponed).

A number of dignitaries were on hand, including the Crown Prince of Sweden, the President of Malta, a number of ministers, secretaries of state, and other high-level national representatives.

The high-level conference was organized by the Council of the Baltic Sea States and co-hosted by the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and the Swedish Government.

PROMISE – promoting the Barnahus model

During the year, PROMISE gave support for national implementation of phase one achievements in 10 countries. A proposal for a third phase of funding was developed, with the aim to deliver university level training in forensic interviewing, relevant therapy necessary for Barnahus in Europe and a case management tool including a child participation tool. The first steps for fomalising the PROMISE Barnahus Network were put into place, aiming to ensure long-term support for Barnahus and similar services by formalising the European Barnahus movement into a European Network with a steering group and a General Assembly.

ProGuard – Strengthening and professionalising guardianship in Europe

The Expert Group was a partner to this project, and gave input to the development of the project’s toolkit and accreditation pilot which took form during the Latvian presidency. The toolkit supports guardians in their efforts to work in the best interest of the child, by strengthening their professionalism, mandate and position. The pilot accreditation system for guardians assess how the national system fulfils common and transparently defined general European standards.

Expert group meetings

The meeting held in Riga 6-7 December 2018 included the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the CBSS cooperation on children at risk. The celebration was initiated with a reception and a lunch on the 6 of December organised by the Latvian Presidency and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The work of the Expert Group was highlighted in the presence of the Senior Officials and invited guests. In the evening, a dinner was organised by the Ministry of Welfare in a restaurant in Riga, honouring some key persons and their role in initiating the cooperation and ensuring its success. Key documents are included as annexes to this annual report.

The meeting on 7-8 May 2019 featured a special visit to a support centre for out-of-family care and a visit to the Children Helpline of the State Inspectorate for Protection of Children’s Rights and the Consultative Unit for children with challenging behaviour. The meeting thanked Turid Heiberg, who was ending her mandate as the Head of the CBSS Children at Risk Unit, and adopted the following take-home message:

In recognising the two phases of development the cooperation has undergone under the past 20 years, the Expert Group looks forward to consolidating its work and taking it to the next level when the group enters a next phase of cooperation with a new management team.