Opportunities for Regional Cooperation at the Black Sea

On the 26th of June 2013, ChildPact’s Secretary General Mirela Oprea participated at the debate “Opportunities for Regional Cooperation at the Black Sea” hosted at the European Parliament, launching a call for regional cooperation in our region.

You can read an excerpt of her speech below:

“[…] Why the need for an initiative in the field of child protection? Because recent reports show that in our region the number of vulnerable children is increasing while the number of children in the general population has decreased sharply in the past 20 years! We face a demographic crisis, but this is not necessarily the biggest concern. The biggest concern is that in our region fewer children are born and those fewer who are born will have more difficult lives than 20-25 years ago. Isn’t this simply amazing? I repeat: fewer children are born and those who are born can expect more difficult lives than 20-25 years ago. 25 years ago we had communist regimes in the region and now we mostly have democratic systems or transitional systems to democracy.

Now what sort of progress is this? What is the value of democratization processes, many of them assisted by EU aid, that take place in the region if the most vulnerable members of our societies are faring worse than before?
When Romania, a country in the Black Sea region, was an EU candidate country, it faced a lot of EU scrutiny in relation to its child protection system. The European Parliament had an incredibly active Rapporteur who never tired to speak her mind when she thought Romania was not doing enough to protect its children. The European Parliament, as also the European Commission, was bold, innovative and outspoken and in the end the EU accession process significantly and positively impacted child protection reform in Romania.
Now other countries in the region seek closer relations with the European Union, under the Black Sea Synergy or the Eastern Partnership and promotion of human rights are claimed to be the core of these EU initiatives. There are valuable lessons from the previous EU Enlargement that could apply to the current EU Neighbourhood today.

The EU should encourage initiatives that make these lessons and best practices available for improved reform design and implementation. In other words if the EP and the EU as a whole were once successful in bringing better lives for children, this should be repeated.
 Why do we think regional cooperation is important? Because our region is now entering a new era for child protection and welfare reform – no longer the responsibility of the international donor community, but the responsibility of domestic public policy. In other words: funding and expertise are increasingly the responsibility of this region’s leaders. Given similar contexts, experiences and need throughout the region, there is an opportunity to work together towards greater impact. And we have to admit it: due to the communist legacy, many countries in the region have similar cultural, social, and political pasts and their reform processes, including child protection, are comparable. Given this common platform, ChildPact wants to launch a call for regional cooperation in this field.
We were inspired in this by the recent Recommendation of the Black Sea Economic Organization(BSEC)  Parliamentary Assembly, which stated that regional cooperation in this field should be strengthened and a regional fund for children should be launched. We discussed the idea of such a regional fund for children at the Black Sea NGO Forum last year and we collected some valuable ideas from the MPs who were present at the meeting. This year, we want to continue these conversations and organise a new special panel to talk this time about an even more ambitious idea: creating a regional cooperation mechanism for child protection.
This regional cooperation mechanism would mainly facilitate: 1. Exchange of experience; 2. Implementation of programmes and projects for innovative approaches; 3. Joint research; 4. Monitoring of child protection system reforms; 5. Bi-lateral and multi-lateral cooperation on child protection issues.
ChildPact is now leading informal consultations with a number of stake-holders and we also launched a petition to test the level of support that we might have for such a mechanism. If you believe that this is a good idea and if you want to support us in this endeavour please sign the petition on line, on our website or on the paper that we are now circulating.
Improving children’s lives is not a matter of charity and maybe this is a surprising statement when coming from an NGO representative. But let us be honest. There is a very strong economic argument for raising happy children. Research shows that a significant proportion of children who are abandoned, abused or neglected can face life cycle risks that are costly to society, including lower earnings, low education achievement, higher consumption of health services through old age and greater risk of incarceration. Investments, particularly in early childhood, have been associated with a reduction in infant and child mortality, future criminal activity, drug abuse, teen pregnancy and use of social services. […]”

Please sign our petition to create a regional cooperation mechanism in the wider Black Sea area here.