4 October 2002
A dynamic social policy for children and adolescents in towns and cities
Recommendation 1532 (2001)
Reply from the Committee of Ministers
adopted at the 809th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (2 October 2002)
The Committee of Ministers shares many of the concerns expressed by the Parliamentary Assembly in Recommendation 1532 (2001) on a dynamic social policy for children and adolescents in towns and cities. Like the Assembly it takes the view that Europe, as a highly urbanised continent, must give appropriate attention to the problems specific to towns and cities, in particular in the light of the growing sense of insecurity among the urban populations.
The Committee of Ministers would nevertheless like to emphasise that violence is still only a marginal phenomenon amongst children and young people. A dynamic social policy should therefore be aimed at all children and young people whereas the fight against violence should be targeted in a different way.
Whereas it is true that the various breaches of the law, acts of violence and acts of anti-social behaviour which occur among and against young people have reached disturbing levels, especially in certain places in the urban environment, the Committee of Ministers agrees with the Assembly that a repressive approach is not always the most appropriate means of counteracting such behaviour. This is particularly true as regards incidents of minor violence, insults, threatening behaviour, etc. On the other hand juvenile delinquency, which may be distinguished from the above-mentioned behaviour, should be met with action in the security and judicial fields. The Council of Europe’s activities in the legal field extend to juvenile delinquency.
As the Committee of Ministers pointed out in its opinion on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1286 (1996) on a European Strategy for Children, since the 2nd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the member States (Strasbourg, October 1997), the Council of Europe, in its activities relating to childhood, is trying to follow a comprehensive, consistent and co-ordinated approach.
The Council of Europe Programme for Children, which was based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and launched at the 102nd Session of the Committee of Ministers (4-5 May 1998), was an integral part of the European strategy for social cohesion. The Committee of Ministers focused its work to promote children’s interests in the Programme for Children which involved children on an equal basis with adults, by providing them, through the Forum for Children, with a platform that enabled them to have their say on issues that concern them. This Forum has evolved into the Forum for Children and Families, which reports to the European Committee on Social Cohesion (CDCS) on issues concerning children and families and their living environment.
The Forum is a platform for information exchange and for the pooling of ideas cutting across the different sectors covered by the Council of Europe and by other intergovernmental and international non-governmental organisations. Various aspects of a dynamic social policy for children and adolescents are included on the list of subjects to be dealt with as a matter of priority, such as the need to encourage and accompany families, teaching of parenting skills, policies for children who are at risk or have been placed outside their families, and democracy and the participation of children. The Forum has provided inspiration for intergovernmental activities in favour of children in the Council of Europe.
Moreover, under the responsibility of the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS) another activity, which is a contribution to one of the Integrated Projects carried out within the Council of Europe, “Responses to violence in everyday life in a democratic society”, is just being launched. It relates to social integration of young people in disadvantaged urban areas. The idea is to develop guidelines for tackling the cases of violence and related forms of anti-social behaviour. The Committee of Ministers will keep the Parliamentary Assembly informed about the progress of this activity which is closely linked to many of the concerns expressed by the Assembly.
Finally, the Committee of Ministers would like to emphasize its strong support for the Assembly’s plea to member States to ratify all relevant Council of Europe conventions on the rights and protection of the child, in particular the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights (ETS No.160) and the European Social Charter (revised) (ETS No. 163).