Change is the only constant
Gandhi said, change is the only constant. But who would have anticipated the pace and direction of change over the last 12 months? It feels the values we cherish are being rocked to their core. From Brexit to Trump, from Hungary's Orban to Poland's Kaczyński, identity politics are gaining ground. 2017 elections in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Serbia promise to be highly divisive as politicians pander to voter fears. Recent terror attacks are unfortunately likely to stoke those fears.
In an era known for ‘post-truth' politics, fighting for social justice and human rights is portrayed by some as elitist and disconnected from reality. More than ever our work needs to be driven by, and have an impact on, the people whose voices are not otherwise heard.
Eurochild aims to bring about positive changes in the lives of children, particularly those affected by poverty and discrimination, those at risk of entering, or already in, the care system – including migrant and refugee children. So we have spent a lot of this year thinking about, and applying new approaches to, engaging our membership – those organisations advocating for children's rights nationally or those working on the ground with the most disadvantaged children and families. Our membership spans 33 countries. Our impact is measurable by how much their engagement in Eurochild helps them deliver change at local or national level. Our EU advocacy is an important lever of influence and funding, but not an end goal in itself.
And just as important as members' engagement, is our work directly with children and young people. We aim to ensure our advocacy is informed by their experiences and they are enabled to influence our work. This summer, for the first time, the Eurochild conference was co-organised and delivered with children and young people who delivered a powerful message to policy makers: “don't forget what it is like to be a child, and try as hard as possible to make growing up the happiest period of people's lives”.
Achieving widespread recognition of, and respect for, children's rights is a long, slow process. We have suffered setbacks but 2016 also brought important positive developments: the Council of Europe adopted a 6-year ambitious children's rights strategy with high-level political commitment from many of its 47 member states; the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued two new General Comments giving detailed guidance to governments on public spending for the realisation of the rights of the child, and implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence; and during its Presidency of the European Council, the Netherlands helpfully chose to give a high political priority to tackling child poverty and promoting integrated approaches.
In 2017 we remain hopeful that the European Commission's proposal for a Pillar of Social Rights will put children's rights centre stage and bring new impetus to implement the 2013 Recommendation on Investing in Children. We'll also be supporting and influencing plans of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament to initiate a child guarantee targeted at tackling child poverty.
There are many ways you can get involved and support the work of Eurochild. There has never been a more important time to work collaboratively and unite our efforts to promote and protect children's rights. Thank you to everyone who has contributed over the last year. Your support is precious.
I wish you all a peaceful end of year holidays and look forward to connecting with as many of you as possible in 2017!
Secretary General, Eurochild