Protection and advocacy of children's rights is one of the priorities of the Estonian Government and the Estonian Chairmanship in the Council of Europe. The conference is supporting the implementation of the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child and the Programme “Building a Europe for and with Children”. Estonia is committed to mainstreaming children's rights on all levels of society. There's a saying that it takes the whole village to raise a child, thus it is up to every one of us to provide a better present and a better future for our children.
The aim of the conference is to share good practices and discuss two burning issues that are currently in the spotlight in Estonia, in Europe as well as at global level - children's rights in the turmoil of migration and children's rights in the digital environment. When we are talking about children's rights it is paramount to engage with children themselves and have their voices heard. At the conference the children will be participating next to top leaders and will present their own messages and thoughts about the issues under discussion.
The working language of the conference is English.
Conference takes place with funding from the Council of Europe.
Children in Migration Turmoil
Europe is in the centre of migration crisis where children on the move and otherwise affected by migration are one of the most vulnerable groups and face a great the danger of their rights being violated. The principle of the best interests of the child is too often neglected in asylum and immigration procedures. It is our task to find effective and long-lasting solutions to protect and safeguard children fleeing war, violence and persecution. There are many countries, organizations and inspiring individuals who have notable experience in receiving these children and families, as well as helping them to adapt and integrate different cultures and backgrounds – there is a lot we can learn from them.
I panel: REFUGEE CHILDREN
It is foremost the task of each country to protect the children and guarantee them a sustainable violence free future. However, in times of crisis international cooperation is inevitable. What are the challenges for societies as whole, governments and international organizations to protect children’s rights, to keep them safe in conflict zones and refugee camps as well as in new homelands?
II panel: CHILD’S RIGHT TO OWN IDENTITY
Migrants come to Europe with their own customs and traditions - their own cultural heritage. What are the challenges and best practices to integrate children and their families into new societies while being mindful about their background? What roles do different stakeholders have in the process – (local) governments, schools, civil society? Have the national action plans and strategies worked? What are the lessons learned and what could be improved in the future?
Children in the Digital Environment
Constantly evolving digital world creates a huge potential for everyone from governments to individuals and in particular the children. Experts are predicting that within ten years almost 90% of the entire population will be connected to the internet and the digital and physical worlds will be merged. We have to acknowledge that there is digital gap between children and adults because the way children use technology is very different from their parents. Estonia has many good examples on how to best use the opportunities that the innovation has brought about, in particular how we could use it to smartly raise and educate our next generations. As with many other things in life, along with opportunities come challenges, therefore it is necessary to find strategies and means how to cope with the risks of wide spread digitalization has on children’s health and wellbeing. The latest surveys show us that the children are spending more time with different gadgets then they spend at school or with the parents.
III panel: THE OPPORTUNITIES OF THE DIGITAL WORLD
New technologies and digital solutions are inseparable part of modern lives. The digital environment gives numerous possibilities to learn. ICT and digital media have added a new dimension to children’s right to education. What is the role of schools and education? It is the task for educators and leaders to prepare next generation for the digital future and give them necessary skills and digital intelligence. How to best use the modern means? What is the role of parents when their children are better at handling modern devices than themselves? Does all the information available online make us more knowledgeable and how to be an intelligent Internet user? What is the future of the digital solutions and what should be the goal of learning?
IV panel: THE CHALLENGES OF THE DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT
The digital environment is like an enchanted forest. While offering numerous opportunities and great solutions there are also many dangers and risks that often remain hidden at first sight. The emphasis should be on the supporting not controlling the children because more informed children will be better prepared for the potential risks. What are the potential risks the children should know about? What could be done at government level to protect and how to keep pace with the changes in the digital environment? How to recognize and report abuse and bullying? Is there a difference between virtual and real life? How to recognize addiction to virtual life (e.g. surfing online, social media, gaming) and what are the impacts on mental health? Where to find help? What are the responsibilities of private stake holders and how could perpetrators be held accountable (considering the cross-border nature of virtual life).
During the breaks of the conference it is possible to see the life of a refugee child with an virtual reality from the UNHCR.
In the eight minute long VR movie Clouds over Sidra we follow the twelve-year-old girl Sidra in one of the world’s largest refugee camp, Za’atari refugee camp in northern Jordan, which is now home to over 80 000 Syrian refugees. In this film you will be able to turn your gaze 360 degrees and get a visual understanding of the environment that surrounds hundreds of thousands who are on the run towards and through Europe, the spectator will step into a reality no one should have to experience.
The conference is organised by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with the Estonian Institute of Human Rights. The event is a part of the Estonian Chairmanship in the Council of Europe.