Doc. 9840

23 June 2003

Social measures for children of war in south-eastern Europe
Recommendation 1561 (2002)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 844th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (19 June 2003)

1.       The Committee of Ministers welcomes Parliamentary Recommendation 1561 (2002) on social measures for children of war in south-eastern Europe. Like the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers attaches great importance to the promotion and protection of children’s rights and welfare. The well-being and best interest of children are fundamental values shared by all member states, attested by the political message from the Committee of Ministers to the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Children in May 2002.

2.       The Committee of Ministers has communicated the Recommendation to the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS) and its Forum for Children and Families, to the Group of Specialists on the protection of children against sexual exploitation (PC-S-ES), to the Pompidou Group, the Council of Europe Development Bank and to the Joint Council on Youth Questions for information. It has also brought it to the attention of member states’ governments.

3.       The Committee of Ministers shares the Assembly’s concerns and it encourages the governments of the region to take measures to improve the well-being of children and to guarantee their rights. The Council of Europe will continue to support activities in this area, to provide assistance in developing policies and measures in the interest of children and families in line with its principles and standards, including in the social cohesion field, and to provide assistance to develop better systems for children in need of care.

4.       The Committee of Ministers supports the call to provide for a minimum level of social protection in South Eastern Europe as a social measure to ensure an adequate standard of living for children in the region. The Council of Europe will continue to provide technical assistance to those countries which so require, with a view to developing social security systems in line with the standards of the Council of Europe.

5.       As regards the activities of the Council of Europe (paragraph 13 iv), the Committee of Ministers supports the call to reinforce the principles of democracy, civil society, tolerance, respect for law and human rights in the region. The commitment of the Council of Europe is reflected in the programme of activities which continues to pay special attention to South East Europe. A number of initiatives are underway, for example, confidence building measures aimed at promoting mutual respect and understanding, youth and promoting intercultural dialogue and peace, training seminars for teachers in democracy and human rights and the development of a teaching module on children’s rights.

6.       As regards paragraph 13 ii, the Committee of Ministers, at the 112th Session (14 – 15 May 2003) called for reinforced action in efforts to combat trafficking in human beings. The Committee of Ministers has recently adopted terms of reference for an interdisciplinary committee to prepare a European Convention on action against trafficking in human beings, which will be geared towards the protection of victims’ rights and the respect for human rights and will aim at a proper balance between matters concerning human rights and prosecution. In the framework of the 2003 programme of activities, special attention is paid to the development of measures to ensure the protection of children against sexual exploitation, in particular to develop an implementation strategy for Recommendation Rec(2001)16 on “the protection of children against sexual exploitation.

7.       As regards paragraph 13 iv c, the Committee of Ministers encourages the Pompidou Group (Partial Agreement on the Cooperation Group to combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking in drugs) to improve its cooperation with countries of the region which are not yet members of this partial agreement. The Pompidou Group’s expertise in prevention programmes, particularly at community and school level, could be one area where cooperation could be strengthened.

8.       As regards paragraph 13 iv b, the Committee of Ministers invites the CDCS to bear this question in mind in its future activities concerning children and within the framework of the strategy for social cohesion. The Committee of Ministers also refers to its reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1551 (2002) “Building a twenty-first century society with and for children: follow-up to the European strategy for children (Recommendation 1286 (1996))”.

9.       As regards paragraph 13 v, the Committee of Ministers continues to support the work carried out under the Stability Pact, including the promotion of children’s rights, and the co-ordination of social security, aimed at ensuring that migrants and their children are treated fairly as regards social security schemes, within the Initiative for Social Cohesion under Working Table II of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. The Committee of Ministers invites member states to provide funding for this work.

10.       Finally, the European Ministers responsible for Youth, at their 6th Conference (Thessaloniki,
6-7 November 2002), adopted a Resolution on the situation of young people in conflict areas, in which governments are encouraged to continue the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe as an important element in assisting initiatives led by and for young people in the region. The Council of Europe continues to be active in the working group on young people in the Stability Pact, for example as regards the development of National Action Plans on youth in countries of the region.