Participation of Štefan Füle in the High-level Conference on Justice for Children
Type: Complete speech
End production: 27/06/2013 First transmission: 27/06/2013
On 27 June 2013, Štefan Füle, Member of the EC in charge of Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, participated in the High level Regional Conference on Justice for Children held in Brussels, Belgium, on 27-28 June 2013.
On this occasion, gave an opening speech together with Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director for External Affairs of Unicef.
Only the original language version is authentic and it prevails in the event of its differing from the translated versions.
||Arrival of Štefan Füle, Member of the EC in charge of Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, to the High-level Regional Conference on Justice for Children at The Square in Brussels, Belgium and handshake with Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director for External Affairs of Unicef
||Štefan Füle and Yoka Brandt having a conversation
||Arrival of the participants
||Štefan Füle greeting the participants
||Screen with the title of the High-level Regional Conference on Justice for Children (2 shots)
||General atmosphere before the beginning of the conference in presence of Štefan Füle and Yoka Brandt
||Cutaway of a photographer
||Štefan Füle meeting the participants
||Štefan Füle joining his seat
||Soundbite by Štefan Füle (in ENGLISH): Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the High Level Conference on Justice for Children, jointly organised by the European Union and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). It is part of our continued support to neighbouring and enlargement countries in establishing and reforming their juvenile justice systems. And it is also a reflection of the fact that we care for our children, in fact for all the children.
Before taking stock of the current state of play and what needs to be done in the future, let me underline my strong commitment to implementing the European Union’s policy on the promotion and protection of children’s rights. This calls for a reinforced cooperation with national authorities and civil society so that we can ensure that children are treated as fully fledged members of society.
There are still many challenges regarding the rights of the Child and Juvenile Justice within the EU. In fact, the EU itself has adopted several pieces of legislation relevant to children in justice in recent years, for example the directive on sexual abuse and exploitation, the anti-trafficking directive, and we intend to propose a new measure on suspects/ defendants.
The participation of enlargement countries in this conference is very relevant, because the topic of today's conference is a priority area for the EU in the accession process. Indeed, the EU 'acquis' on children’s rights and child protection is not limited to chapter 23 – Judiciary and fundamental rights. No less than 17 other 'acquis' chapters contain legal instruments that have important provisions on children’s rights and protection.
Despite some progress, there is still scope for considerable improvement when it comes to children’s rights. I am thinking in particular about the need to overcome institutionalisation of children and to promote preventive mechanisms in support of families.
And our concerns don’t just end there. Let me mention six other important areas that need to be addressed: lack of prioritising children's rights in criminal proceedings; lack of adapted facilities corresponding to specific needs of juveniles in detention; insufficient free legal aid for juveniles; repressive responses to juvenile offending; lack of effective alternatives for detention and hence an over-use of detention; and lack of specific measures for child victims, leading to unnecessary trauma and re-victimisation.
This is why it is so important that neighbouring and enlargement countries not only adhere to international human rights standards, but they must also ensure the effective implementation of recently adopted criminal justice legislation, which in some countries is very progressive.
Support for justice reform is one of the core pillars of European Union external action. It aims at: ensuring judicial independence, impartiality and integrity; increasing the performance, efficiency, accountability and transparency of the justice sector; improving access to justice for the poorest and the most vulnerable; and improving detention conditions and introducing alternatives to imprisonment.
Successful justice reform initiatives are those built on national priorities, enjoying full political commitment and national ownership, as well as reinforced partnerships between civil society and state decision makers.
I would like to remind you about the on-going support that the European Commission is providing in the neighbourhood and enlargement countries:
In the neighbourhood countries, the Commission is supporting juvenile justice reform within the rule of law agenda, in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Armenia through financial and technical assistance provided by the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument.
In the enlargement countries, the Commission has been providing support through the Instrument for Pre Accession Assistance to strengthen child protection measures in general and to support assistance for child victims (e.g. in Croatia in context of child sexual abuse) and juvenile justice systems in particular (e.g. in Kosovo, Montenegro, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey). Support for civil society working in the area of child protection has also been provided.
Enlargement countries are gradually aligning their legislation with the EU 'acquis'. The Commission is monitoring this process intensively, including when it comes to the rights of the child in the different chapters. On this point I would like to underline that data collection is an important part of that monitoring work. The European Commission supports enlargement and neighbourhood countries to strengthen their statistical capacity so that reliable data is available to support modern policy making.
We remain committed to supporting projects and policies that enhance child protection systems and strengthen the rights of children, including as victims or in the context of criminal proceedings.
Recognising that juvenile justice reform is a key entry-point for the promotion and protection of children’s rights, EU support to date in advancing the juvenile justice reform agenda has focused on two areas:
First, law reform for the promotion and protection of children’s rights, in particular by:
Encouraging and supporting the enactment and review of national legislation to ensure its compatibility with relevant international standards on the rights of the child, in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and
Enhancing the capacity of law enforcement agencies for investigations into the violation of children’s rights and the development of child friendly procedures in pre-trial and court proceedings.
Second, combating and discouraging violations of children’s rights, in particular by:
Prohibiting violations of the children's rights and ill-treatment of children, in law, including criminal law, and ending impunity for violations of children’s rights; and
Taking effective legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent violations of children’s rights under the jurisdiction of the State and combat impunity for such violations.
We do not work alone. UNICEF is one of our traditional partners whose vital work in the field is advancing the children's rights agenda in line with international standards and best practices. I am particularly proud of the cooperation that we have established with UNICEF to face the consequences of the Syrian crisis. When I was in Jordan recently, I went to the Zaatari refugees' camp and inaugurated a school run by UNICEF and funded by the European Commission. Through this concrete cooperation, we are giving children living in camps a semblance of normal life and the opportunity to acquire knowledge for rebuilding their lives.
Through innovative approaches, research, know-how and constant involvement, UNICEF has greatly contributed in advising countries on how to reform their juvenile justice systems based on modern legislation, policies and operations.
Today we have the opportunity to discuss our achievements, but also what remains to be done and how, so that children can enjoy their rights and freedoms and states can properly respond to their demands and expectations.
That is the world we seek. It is in our mutual interest and it is our common goal. The children deserve nothing less.
||Soundbite by the moderator (in ENGLISH) thanking Štefan Füle for his speech, giving some comments and inviting Yoka Brandt to take the floor
||Soundbite by Yoka Brandt (in ENGLISH): Excellencies, colleagues,
Let me begin with the story of a 14 year-old boy, Suren from Armenia. As part of his punishment for smashing a window in his school he had to fix things that other people had broken. He said: “It is only after repairing things that you understand how hard it is to fix what has been broken….But then there are things that cannot be repaired.”
Children in conflict with the law are among the most broken in society. They suffer extreme violations. . . they’re out-of-sight and they’re out of mind . . . behind closed doors . . .away from their families; and when they do try to be heard, another door gets shut in their face.
As the EU-UNICEF report launched today points out, in countries across the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia region children who are arrested and detained are often tortured, beaten and raped. Solitary confinement is still allowed in nearly all countries.
And yet, these children are no threat to society, no threat to their families. They are accused of petty or non-violent offences; some, living on the streets, turn to substance abuse or prostitution as a means of survival.
Children of minority and lower income groups are more likely to feel the cold shoulder of juvenile justice systems, more likely to suffer the isolation of detention.
Police, prosecutors and judges too often seek to punish, to repress rather than repair and to penalise rather than analyse or seek effective social support for the child and his or her family. .
And so begins a cycle of stigmatization and isolation that pushes that child to the edge and deeper into poverty. .
The more children in conflict with the law are shut up and shut out of society, the more broken they become, the harder to heal and the greater the risk to society.
It doesn’t have to be like this … And it is at odds with global evidence that shows the right approaches, targeted in the right direction, can indeed reduce offending by up to 70%1.
1 Source: Toolkit on diversion and alternatives to detention, UNICEF (on-line toolkit).
We know what it will take to fix this. Unlike Suren’s “Shards”, which you will see in his video shortly,
this can be repaired.
And we have been working for the past decade together with the EU to help reform the juvenile justice system in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) changes have been introduced in the juvenile justice systems of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan and Ukraine. Let me give you some examples:
• Changes in legislation have brought these countries closer to international and European standards . . . and led to a substantial decline in the number of children languishing behind bars
• Changes on sentencing such as depriving a child of liberty as a last resort are now increasingly captured in law and policies.
• In several countries, there are now more alternatives to detention – such as community work, victim/offender mediation, vocational training or life skills programmes.
• Ombudsman offices and human rights NGOs, many of whom are here today, are jointly monitoring ill-treatment and torture of children in the juvenile justice system.
• Children in conflict with the law have been given a voice and supported to produce their own videos sharing their personal experiences. Some of these videos will be shown today.
These efforts over the last five to ten years have led to detention rates falling by up to 80%2 in some cases.
So what now . . . how do we plot the way forward?
Let’s be clear; progress is paying off but justice is still too often blind to children’s needs. The work ahead needs to go beyond the juvenile justice and better adapt the overall justice systems to the rights of all children – including victims and witnesses of crime, and children party to civil and administrative proceedings (such as divorce and custody).
Reforms of Juvenile justice systems must be speeded up. This conference – and the partnerships it involves – is the time to push this work forward and build societies based on rule of law. . . .
A society that protects, not punishes, a society that aims to fix what is broken.
Let’s listen and look at children themselves in conflict with the law have to say. These are three short videos produced by children themselves about their world. I leave you with their words, their stories, their realities. Thank you.
||Video presentation on Justice for Children
||Soundbite by the moderator (in ENGLISH) giving some comments on the video presentation and inviting Elisabeth Jeggle, Member of the EP, to take the floor
||Soundbite by Elisabeth Jeggle (in ENGLISH) on the progress made in reforming legal systems, on her intervention mainly focused in Central Asia
||Soundbite by the moderator (in ENGLISH) thanking Elisabeth Jeggle for her speech and all the speakers