Eurochild partners with the UN in the organisation of Regional Dialogues with children on online violence
Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid engaged with the children, listening to their views and answering their questions, with the aim of informing her Office’s 2023 report on violence against children and the digital environment.
On 4 March, the European UN Regional Dialogues between the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children (SRSG – VAC) and children took place. Eurochild cooperated with the Office of the Special Representative in its organization, preparation and execution through the invitation and facilitation of participation of children and members.
The dialogues that took place in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas were organized on the margins of the 52nd regular session of the Human Rights Council and focused on the theme of violence against children and the digital environment. The purpose was to provide children with a space to express their views on different forms of online violence and answering their questions on what the UN is doing to address the issue. Their input informed the SRSG’s statement to the Human Rights Council on March 14, as well as the finalization of her Office’s 2023 child-friendly report ‘Protecting children in the digital environment.
During the discussion three representatives of Eurochild’s Children’s Council, as well as children from our member organizations, voiced their opinions and concerns. Opening the discussion, one of the children wanted to know how the UN monitors and handles all the different laws between countries regarding the digital space. On this, Najat highlighted the need for legal harmonization among countries to prevent and erase existing loopholes for perpetrators, as well as the need for information sharing among law enforcement agencies, which is currently not a standardized practice.
Some children, additionally, stressed the importance of child participation in the design of policies and legislations, both on local but also regional – in this case European – level to make them more effective, reflecting of all groups of children and especially accounting for those from vulnerable backgrounds. On this, the Special Representative maintained her commitment for child participation to be more systematic.
A further major concern amongst the children was the need for child safety in the digital space to be included in school curricula, while also educating parents and teachers on online child protection. Najat added that such training must cover all sectors that support children: the health sector, law enforcement, prosecutors but also institutions (out of home care).
Children also raised the issue of cyberbullying among peers with the SRSG stressing the need to strengthen reporting mechanisms and creating safe spaces for children.
Finally, the children questioned the role of tech companies and the need for them to take responsibility. Najat noted that all businesses have to align to human rights principles and that child safety-by-design and child impact assessments must become a norm.
In her concluding remarks, the Special Representative stressed that children can and should be part of the solution as drivers of change; both because they are experts in their own lives but also because they are in the best position to reach out to big networks of their peers.
Eurochild is committed to ensuring that children enjoy the same rights offline and online. Our guiding principle is that children are experts in their own lives; which is why it is crucial that they participate in decisions that affect them. On this basis, we celebrate that children’s meaningful participation is a key component and crosscutting priority of the Special Representative’s mandate and welcome the fact that she will report back to children ensuring their continuing and meaningful involvement.