Europe’s largest conference on children’s right to participate took place in Opatija, Croatia between October 29th-31st 2019 with the participation of approximately 100 children and 200 adults from 39 countries - among them, the child and expert representatives of the Hintalovon Foundation. The organiser umbrella organisation, the Eurochild aimed to facilitate children’s participation in public issues as well as to enhance their opinion being taken into account in local and governmental matters.
“Building a better Europe with children: All aboard!” - read the title of Eurochild’s multiannually organised main event, where children and adults worked as equals to urge politicians to pay closer attention to the opinion of children. Experts, professionals from NGOs, stakeholders and governmental officials, student representatives, volunteers and youth activists all attended the conference. Our foundation was represented by the colleagues and five child advocates of the Children’s Rights Advocate Programme.
“During the conference we have met children and professionals who are, just like us, working together for children’s rights. It has been an outstanding opportunity to learn from each other’s success and hurdles and to present our work in an international environment. This is how we got to know how the child friendly city of Opatija operates its Youth Council, the work of the Children’s Parliament of Scotland and of children’s rights journalists of Greece, a child participation assessment tool, or the many possible uses of the online world in our own campaigns. All of this at a conference where children were finally treated as organisers and full-fledged partners instead of mere bio-decoration.” - summarised her experiences Orsi Lányi, the coordinator of the Child Rights Ambassador Programme.
During the events our colleagues visited two local NGOs, where they observed how the host Society ‘Our Children’ Opatija enhances participation of children in the local children representation forum and promote the rights of children as well as how the Terra Association involves children in drug prevention.
Among the opening speakers of the conference, there were Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, prime minister of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro-Preca and the Dutch and Polish Children’s Peace Prize Nominees of 2017, Fahima and Tymon.
Tymon, whose words have been implemented in Polish legislation, sent the following message to the children participating: “The greatest challenge for me was to convince myself, it is not futile to step forward and to make myself believe that it can all be achieved. You make an impact on others, what you do, matters!”
Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands emphasised in her emotional opening speech:
"Adults need to answer these questions when they seek children's participation: Are you ready to share your power with me? Are you ready for the game to change? Are you ready to accept my participation has value without needing proof?"
The Children’s Rights Advocates are also preparing a video summary that will soon be available on our website as well as on their Instagram page.
Our travel to the conference was sponsored by Mazda Hungária Kft.