Towards Transnational Co-operation for Children

Barnardos. (1997). Towards Transnational Co-operation for Children.
Europe, it seems, is full of paradoxes. For all its recovery from devastation over the past fifty years, for all its economic and technological sophistication, it has become a virtual minefield for children. True, many children prosper from a standard of living never before imagined and benefit from highly developed education and health systems. But the paradox is that in this same Europe increasing numbers of children and young people are experiencing poverty, are homeless, are affected by family breakdown, by abuse and exploitation, by migration and by war and civil conflict. Thirty years ago we thought we had put the worst ravages of the past behind us. In each Member State of the European Union - in fact, in each country in the world - organisations, whether governmental or non-governmental, are responding as best they can to the needs of children and families. While some problems may be exacerbated by local or national demographics, policies or circumstances few, if any, are unique. Neither are their solutions. Increasingly child welfare is, and must be seen to be, a global issue. Problems of sex tourism or child labour in Asia cannot be resolved in that continent alone - they require global solidarity and intervention if they are to be challenged effectively. Some European Union policies, however well-intentioned, have in some respects had a negative effect on children. The free movement of labour has implications for the child who must follow his or her parent as he or she seeks employment in another Member State, as it does for the child left at home in the care of a third party. Changes in industrial and agricultural polictes have affected children as have policies relating to broadcasting, advertising and the environment. By the same token expertise gained in addressing problems in one country has relevance for the task of finding solutions elsewhere. It is, I believe, appropriate for the member states of the European Union to retain responsibility for matters of child and family welfare. But it is essential that the transnational. nature of many of the issues affecting children in Europe to-day be acknowledged and acted upon. The principle of subsidiarity is not weakened by this reality yet it has been used by some member state governments as a shield to hide a lack of commitment to European-wide action in the interests of children. Indeed it has been salutory over the past year to contrast the horror expressed at the Dutroux case in Belgium and the queue of politicians to speak from the Stockholm Conference platform with the failure of the Intergovernmental Conference to include adequate provisions and protection for children in the revision of the Treaty. It is quite scandalous that the European Union has greater powers in relation to animal welfare than it has for child welfare. Meanwhile the task of responding as best we can to the needs of children and families in Europe continues. There can be no doubting the merit of transnational co-operation and collaboration; the sharing of ideas, resources and expertise; the evaluation of both successes and failures. Over the past six years it has been my privilege to be an active member of the European Forum for Child Welfare since it was founded. Supported over most of that time by the European Commission it has been influential both in addressing many issues concerning children and stimulating collaborative action between member organisations in various parts of Europe. Now, as its President, it gives me great personal pleasure to introduce this volume of papers which has been produced by my own organisation, Barnardo’s (Ireland) in association with EFCW and supported by the European Commission, DGV (Social Policy and Action). The papers which comprise this report address a diverse range of issues and concerns for those of us who seek to co-operate transnationally in the interests of children. There are seven contributions but there could have been seventy - there are so many issues and perspectives concerning children. Yet what the collection may lack in completeness and complementarity is more than compensated for, | believe, in its representation of a common theme illustrated from radically different perspectives: the necessity and urgency of the task of working collaboratively across national boundaries in the interests of children. When one considers how its achievement would enhance the relevance of the Union to its citizens, demonstrating as it would, true cohesion, equality and unity, it is indeed paradoxical that it is not already being celebrated.