By political decision in 1998, the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) initiated regional cooperation activities implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. With the CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk as the hub of cooperation, the region has not only developed models and guidelines to support children at risk of violence, exploitation and traffickingbut also established the European Children’s House movement and supported interagency and multi-disciplinary interventions for child victims of violence across Europe.
On 6 December 2018, the Expert Group and stakeholders will celebrate in Riga – the birth place of the Group – the achievements of the last 20 years, honour the founding members and the work done on national, regional and international level in the field of children’s rights.
At the 1998 Summit in Riga, the Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers supported CBSS initiated cooperation activities on children at risk, which firmly established the regional work and commitment to protect children at risk under the auspices of CBSS. In 2002, the CBSS Senior Officials established the Expert Group as a formal group of the CBSS and the Children at Risk Unit as part of the Secretariat.
The CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk has through its history addressed areas of common interest, including transnational issues relevant to all its Member States, by engaging ministries and national agencies, ombudsmen for children, academia, organisations, as well as children. A significant development in the fields of education, health and social welfare has taken place in each of the 11 Expert Group’s Member States and many children are relatively well informed and live in safety and security in their family setting.
However, too many children still experience different forms of violence and feel that they have few reliable adults to turn to. To fulfil the vision of the Baltic Sea Region as a violence-free zone for children, the Expert Group highlights key learnings from recent years as important for future work such as listening to the child; tailor made support to the child and the family and taking children’s recommendations into account for the development of preventive strategies and interventions.
The Latvian Ministry of Welfare has been represented in this group since 2009 and before, the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs took part. The Ministry has throughout the years been actively working to enhance the level of support and protection for children in alternative care and also recently been a partner in the Non-violent Childhoods programme, which supports Latvia in strengthening initiatives against violence against children. The Latvian Ombudsman for Children, Juris Jansons, highlighted during a high-level conference on 15 November 2018 in Stockholm the importance to deal with any violations against children and to cooperate in this field: “We are all here to help children when there is no one who can help – we are here to educate societies and ourselves.”
Amongst the guests at the reception:
Ambassador Maira Mora, Director General of the Council of the Baltic Sea States Secretariat
Ambassador-at-Large Juris Bone, Chairman of the CBSS Committee of Senior Officials (CSO), Ministry of Foreign Affairs Latvia
Turid Heiberg, Head of the Children at Risk Unit, Council of the Baltic Sea States Secretariat
Lauris Neikens, Chairman of the CBSS Expert Group on Children at Risk, Ministry of Welfare Latvia
Solveiga Silkalna, Under-Secretary of State for European Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Latvia