Upholding the rights of children: Keepers of the next generation
NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Franz Jessen (The Philippine Star) - November 22, 2018 - 12:00am

As a doting father to my teenage son Alexander, I have always put a strong focus on children and children’s rights both in my private as well as professional life.

Everyone will agree with me that upholding children’s rights should be the paramount priority in every community. 

As we celebrate the Universal Children’s Day this 20 November, it is good to reflect on what we can all do to ensure that children’s rights are upheld. This special day aims to improve children’s welfare, promote children’s rights as well as togetherness and awareness among all children. And this year is extra special as we also mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

For the EU, human rights are an integral part of all aspects of our policies. The EU views all human rights as universal, indivisible and interdependent.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees the protection of the rights of the child by EU institutions and by EU countries when they implement EU laws. Article 24 recognises that children are independent and autonomous holders of rights while Article 31 prohibits child labour.

In the Philippines, the EU collaborates with government institutions, NGOs and international organisations to promote children’s rights.

The world would certainly be a better place to live in if we are able to provide a secure environment where there are common aspirations for peace, hope, security, love; and when basic necessities are served. But of course we have to be realistic. We are confronted with everyday challenges and, therefore, we all need to hold our stake in protecting and ensuring the well-being of the young population. This applies in particular to the Philippines where 41.8 percent of the population are children.    

This does not only mean providing children with adequate living standards but using an integrated approach to give them the best support services.

One of our ongoing initiatives is the “Spaces for Peace” project which works toward the protection of children from abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence in selected armed conflict-affected communities in Maguindanao. Together with Save the Children, the EU highlights gender responsiveness, inclusivity and partnership and empowerment. Implemented in five towns in Maguindanao province, the initial results of the project have been significant: 3,844 children and 2,897 adults participated in awareness – raising and learning sessions on children’s rights, protection, and peace building; 3,816 children received school kits with messages about children’s rights; and 8 adult core groups (parents, leaders, teachers and village officials) now function as community-based child protection committees.

Through our community-based approach in combatting child labor in hazardous industries in plantations and mining, six learning centers were established in six project areas in plantations and mining sites; while the incidence of child labour in Hinigaran and Sipalay in Negros Occidental was reduced by 11 percent from a baseline of 1276. School dropout rate was decreased through another project “Community Education, Advocacy and Social Mobilization to Eliminate Child Labor in Negros Occidental.” Meanwhile, an EU/UNICEF partnership has also supported nutrition policy-making, capacity development, and knowledge sharing and scaling up evidence-based key nutrition interventions.

Together with the Philippines we are exploring innovative approaches to education of children from disadvantaged areas – economically and socially. A pilot project focussing on post degree training of teachers to better address the specific need of disadvantaged children is now being developed in collaboration between institutions in the Philippines and the EU. The ambition is to use the results on a global scale, enhancing the education of children from the poorer segments of societies.  On a more personal level, I was pleased to see that one of the key persons working on the EU side for this project was a Filipina national. One more example of a successful Filipina working in Europe.

We have many more projects but all these just highlight our strong resolve to remain committed to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to which we both adhere.  

It is good to keep our spirits high for our children and to match our attitude with strong will, determination and corresponding actions to give them the opportunities to learn about and enjoy their basic rights.

We owe it to our children to let them savour their lives and their innocence, to give them our utmost love and attention and not snatch childhood away from them.

In as much as I want to give my son the best care, we all shall remain steadfast guardians to protect the welfare of our children: the keepers of the next generation.

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(Franz Jessen is the EU Ambassador.)

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