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Children’s rights conference: ‘it’s time to put the human being at the heart of society’

“Council of Europe member States must put the human being back at the heart of their political decisions,” PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier has told a major conference on children’s rights opening today in Strasbourg. “It is important that children are first and foremost considered as children” and that “their best interests guide all decisions that affect them”, she added.

Taking part along with other Council of Europe leaders in a conversation hosted by Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović-Burić, the President pointed out that, each year, half of children in the world are victims of violence, and a quarter of children in Europe live in poverty. “This is huge, and unacceptable. And yet Europe is one of the wealthiest regions in the world!”

The two-day “Redefining Power” conference is focusing on strengthening the rights of the child as the key to a future-proof Europe, marking the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the half-way point of the Council of Europe’s own five-year Strategy for the Rights of the Child.

Answering a question on corporal punishment, the President said it was up to politicians and parliamentarians to show leadership in banning this practice, and not to be guided by the latest opinion-poll. But it was also important to provide parents with modern educational tools and to ensure they have enough time to spend with their children, she said.

Ms Maury Pasquier said it was important to hear the voices of children themselves, and cited the inspiring work of young climate campaigner Greta Thunberg. She said the Assembly was looking closely at ways of involving children in parliamentary work.

The President also mentioned the difficult issue of children abusing other children. When children generated inappropriate images, for example, they were not always aware of the consequences for themselves or other children, she pointed out. Favouring alternative measures, such as education and mediation, over penal procedures was a useful way forward, she said.