Working Group on the Quality of Childhood
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Working Group on the Quality of Childhood within the European Parliament A Vision on Children and Childhood in the European Union by Michiel Matthes Brussels, 4 March 2008. Autumn 2007: The Council of the European Union signs the Lisbon Treaty.

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Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

Working Group on the Quality of Childhood

within the European Parliament

A Vision on Children and Childhood in the European Union

by Michiel Matthes

Brussels, 4 March 2008


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • Autumn 2007: The Council of the European Union signs the Lisbon Treaty.

  • This implies a fundamental change regarding the approach and functioning of the European Institutions

  • In this context the European Commission decided to undertake a consultation process.

  • The Alliance for Childhood European Network Group uses this opportunity to present a Vision on Children and Childhood in the European Union.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • The European Commission works at present a.o. on the basis of two Communications:

  • ‘The demographic future of Europe, from challenge to opportunityof 2006’

  • ‘Towards an EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child’

  • The Alliance for Childhood European Network Group welcomes these papers, but is of the opinion that a wider ranging vision would be worthwhile for the European Institutions at this point in time.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

What could be the basis for a Vision on Children and Childhood in the European Union?

The Alliance for Childhood European Network Group proposes to choose as basis:

The Quality of Childhood


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

The Structure of the Vision Paper:

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: What is a good Quality of Childhood?

Chapter 3: How to improve the Quality of Childhood in the European Union?

Chapter 4: The role that the European Commission could play


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

Chapter 2: What is a good Quality of Childhood?

In this paper we assume that a poor quality of childhood is harmful for children.

When society as a whole improves this quality, it will be beneficial for the children and the adolescents concerned and for the societies in which they grow up.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • The Alliance for Childhood is not the first to think about this question. We can base our work on achievements of people and organizations before us:

  • Learning the treasure within, Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, chaired by Jacques Delors

  • UNICEF Report Card No 7, An overview of child well-being in rich countries

  • Great Transitions, Preparing Adolescents for a New Century, Carnegie Corporation of New York

  • Jesper Juul: various books

  • Publications of DECET (Diversity in Early Childhood Education and Training).

  • Every Child Matters: Change for Children by the UK Government.

  • Children’s Defence Fund in the USA


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • In the Vision paper we state that a society could wish to have a childhood environment with the following seven categories of characteristics:

  • General characteristics

  • Material well-being

  • Physical and psychological health and safety

  • Educational well-being

  • Family and peer relationships / sense of belonging / social skills

  • Citizenship

  • Subjective well-being


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

The philosophy of the wishes regarding the childhood environment is characterized by the following:

We do not say: the child must become authentic, but instead:

He / she has been shown what it is to be authentic.

We do not say: the child must have a secure attachment, but instead:

He / she has a parent who has the ability to form secure relationships.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

Each group of people and each society can use this list as a starting point for its own discussion and amend it, enrich it and adapt it to its own environment and the phase of its development.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • From a philosophical point of view: is it right to address these questions?

  • The Alliance for Childhood is of the opinion that we may take this action, taking into account the following considerations:

  • The child is respected as a fellow human being with his or her own aspirations to develop his/her inner potential

  • We should also respect the various organisations and persons, that work for and with children.

  • But when we discover that children and young people are harmed in one way or another and if we are aware how things can be improved we may bring it forth and try to convince actors and stakeholders concerned, in a normal democratic way, and in dialogue with them, about the new insights acquired.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • Chapter 3:How to improve the Quality of Childhood?

  • Consider the whole system of childhood

  • Be aware of the complex organizational landscape of the whole system of childhood

  • Address the Perceptions of the various Actors and Stakeholders

  • The Methodology of intervention

  • Address the missions of organizations working with and for children

  • Work on coalitions of Actors and Stakeholders

  • Monitor the Quality of Childhood

  • Bring the various Communities working for and with children together on the basis of the Quality of Childhood


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

3.1 Consider the Whole System of Childhood

Cause and affect are sometimes

far apart; when we want to improve

the situation we must address

both.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

3.2 Organisational Set Up of the Whole System

In each compartment in this table organisations

and individuals are active; often they don’t know

each other, don’t relate to each other and often they

have a different perception of what is a child,

a different set of objectives , and activities, that may

go against those of other actors.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

3.3 Address the Perceptions of the various Actors and Stakeholders

How do we look at human beings and human society?

What are our objectives with regards to our children and young people and their childhood environment?


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • How do we look at human beings and human society?

  • David Korten wrote a book about this entitled ‘From Empire to Earth Community’ .

  • According to him there are two basic perceptions about human beings and human society:

  • Empire Perception of Humanity

  • Partnership Perception of Humanity

  • The perceptions have the characteristic that they are also self fulfilling prophecies.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

Basic perceptions about human beings and human society


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • What are our objectives with regards to our children and young people and their childhood environment?

  • To ensure that they get good grades at school?

  • To become competitive soldiers in the global competition?

  • To be citizens and part of a democratic society?

  • The objectives as listed in chapter 2?


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

3.4 The Methodology of intervention:

‘You have to be yourself the change you want to see in the child’ Mahatma Gandhi

This should be the leading approach for the Actors and Stakeholders in the whole system of childhood.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • 3.5 Address the Mission of Organizations working with and for Children:

  • Many organizations have as mission to repair things that went wrong.

  • Often they work like this for decades without addressing the causes.

  • Sometimes one organization causes the problem and another organization must clean up the mess.

  • It is beneficial to add to the mission to work together on a good Quality of Childhood in the first place.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • 3.6 Work on Coalitions of Actors and Stakeholders

  • On the local level: parents-schools-neighbourhoods

  • On the national level: between the various Ministries of the Central Government

  • On the European Level: between the various DG’s in the European Commission.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • 3.7 Monitor the Quality of Childhood (I)

  • The pioneers in this respect:

  • the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre which published the report ‘An overview of child well-being in rich countries’, Report Card No 7 .

  • the Verweij-Jonker Instituut in the Netherlands that published the report ‘Kinderen in Tel’ (Kids Count).

  • Children’s Defence Fund’s statistical work in the USA.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • 3.7 Monitor the Quality of Childhood (II)

  • Advantages:

  • Best practice becomes visible

  • Learning from each other

  • Providing the tools to the advocacy groups / empowering

  • What is necessary:

  • A common European methodology to collect data and agreement on the types of data.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

3.8 Bring the various Communities working for and with Children together on the basis of the Quality of Childhood (I)

Many scientific disciplines work on the topic of children and childhood.

They are not aware of each other’s work and they don’t work together.

It would be beneficial if these Scientific Communities would be brought together and invited to work together on improvements in the Quality of Childhood.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

3.7 Bring the various Communities working for and with Children together on the basis of the Quality of Childhood (II)

Organizations and individuals working in the Field have often to find solutions for problems they are faced with and they do their best to cope as well as possible.

However, they are often not aware of the life changing research outcomes available in the universities and elsewhere.

Conclusion: bring also these Communities together.

For both parties it will be fruitful.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

3.8 Bring the various Communities working for and with Children together on the basis of the Quality of Childhood (III)

In certain scientific areas knowledge flows easily from one country to another.

Example: physics, chemistry, medicine, economics etc.

This is much less the case for the sciences working on the topic of children, childhood, pedagogy, psychology, education etc.

It would be beneficial to establish networks of scientists in the various EU member states on the basis of the Quality of Childhood. It will accelerate learning processes.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • 4. THE ROLE THAT THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION COULD PLAY (I)

  • Many challenges regarding children and childhood are common for the various EU member states:

  • Globalization

  • The business sector have found children as a new target group of consumers, which is sometimes harmful for the children concerned.

  • The global electronic village (television, mobile phones, internet, computer games) is in some ways harmful for children and the quality of childhood

  • Trafficking into the EU of minors to work in the sex industry

  • Integration of the 28 million people with an immigrant background

  • Migration

  • Demographical developments.


Working group on the quality of childhood within the european parliament

  • 4. THE ROLE FOR THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (II)

  • Statistics: to help to define a common approach in this area so that data become comparable

  • Create a European Research Institute regarding Children, Childhood and Children’s Rights

  • Coordinate the own activities of the various DG’s in the Commission with regards to children, childhood and the rights of children.

  • Create an ongoing dialogue between the member states on the subject

  • Strengthen the European Forum for the Rights of the Child.

  • Stimulate the creation of coalitions of actors and stakeholders regarding childhood issues.

  • Create a budget line for children, young people, quality of childhood and Children’s Rights.

  • Apply the Open Method of Consultation in the policy area of children and childhood.


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