Children are becoming a minority in our ageing society and they do not have a voice

Interview with Judit Costa, Children's rights advocate for the National Coalition Germany.

- Could you introduce the work of the National Coalition Germany to us? 

The National Coalition Germany has 120 members, among them there are internationally known organisations like Unicef, Terre des Hommes, Save the Children, Worldvision, but also organisations that focus on only one issue or professional associations. The ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was the reason that brought us together. As a coalition we have annual themes, last year it was the changes we want to apply to the German Constitution in order to fully include children’s rights. This year we talk about data and children’s rights indicators.

Not having enough data to support the implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child has been an ever recurring issue with UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.  As a coalition, we would like to build consensus among civil society that together we need to push for better data and better use of existing data in order to assess new laws and action plans. In the end, the only thing that counts is impact. 

-Germany has shown immense solidarity to refugees during the so called ‘migration crisis’. According to newspapers the number of asylum seekers has dropped since last year. What is the situation now? 

First of all I’d like to be clear that what Germany faced in 2015 and 2016 was not a “migration crisis”. Germany fulfilled its international obligations by granting the right of asylum to those who are persecuted in their country. The fact that the numbers have dropped in 2017 is not due to a better situation in the respective home countries or to the fact that those wars are over. People are simply stuck in neighbouring countries near the conflict zones. 

In Germany, there are still cases of child rights violations for refugee children, for example concerning the right to education, to health and housing. In Berlin and also other parts of Germany, we still have emergency facilities and young people are not housed according to youth welfare standards. 

We have to look at those places where children on the move do not get equal treatment as other children in this country. Our success in the implementation of human rights and children’s rights will be measured on the most vulnerable children.

-Are you supporting the refugee or asylum seeking children and if so, how?  

Our members are supporting refugees and refugee children in very different ways: welfare organisations are providing housing, counselling and services, professional associations like trade unions and medical associations are working with a new clientele from Syria and Afghanistan. That is just part of the integration process that is happening now.  

As a network, we are bringing together these organisations so that they can start initiatives in the same field together and, of course, we also lobby for the implementation of children rights for refugee children. 

-What is the main issue children currently face in Germany?

I think that in general, children in Germany are facing the same issue as children in many European countries. They are becoming a minority in society as societies are ageing. For example, in Germany we have roughly 82 million inhabitants and only 18 million are under 18 years of age, so that it is less than a quarter and it will not be sustainable for our current social system

This minority is not allowed to vote, does not have a say in how the education system or the welfare system are being shaped right now. “Children are the future” has become a figure of speech frequently used, but it does not have any impact on, for example, the right to be heard

-We’re currently developing a Child participation Strategy.  Is there any good example of children’s active participation you could share with us?

I think that we should support self-organised groups of children and young people that have formed around issues, rather than creating participation methods based on existing models used by adults. Children are not small adults. Form follows function, whether we are considering reason, length, method or outcome of participation. 

- What are the main benefits of being a member of the Eurochild Network?  What would you change or improve?

I think the greatest benefit for us is the contact with other national coalitions, for example for the upcoming event on indicators and also on child participation. We are actively looking for those people and organisations that are a step ahead of us so that we can learn and exchange. That is very valuable! 

Other benefits are the dialogue around EU developments, for example on investing in children, that we do not hear so much about, and being able to meet with EU institutions and organisations from other countries because we can learn from them. That really helps!

- What do you expect from the Eurochild General Assembly in April? 

By putting child participation in the center of the General Assembly,  Eurochild sends a strong message to all members and beyond. I think that as time goes by, participation will become a standard. But in order to get there, we need to address participation on all levels, and Eurochild is setting an example here. 

Click here to know more about the National Coalition Germany.

Click here to know more about the event "Measuring Children’s Rights: Why We Need Indicators."