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In Vienna on improving and empowering child participation in legal processes

Fundamental Right Agency (FRA) organized an event ”It felt like I was just a puppet: How to improve child participation” on 28 April 2017 in Vienna. The main topic was improving and empowering child participation in legal processes and justice system in general. According to FRA, over 2.5 million children participate in judicial proceedings across the European Union (EU) every year, affected by parental divorce or as victims of, or witnesses to, crime. Ensuring a child-friendly legal system thus has to be a matter of priority for all the experts involved. Children were also included in this meeting and they ideas, testimonies and stories were taken with high importance.

Among 39 experts of different vocations, from different countries and institutions (Ministries, Institutes, Universities, European Parliament, Council of Europe, European Commission, UNICEF, UN, Court, NGOs), there were two representatives from our Center. Assoc. Prof. Gordana Buljan Flander, Ph.D. and Mia Roje, mag. psych. from Child and Youth Protection Center of Zagreb, participated as two of five practitioners at the meeting, working with children in everyday practice, including assessment, forensics and therapy. Assoc. Prof. Gordana Buljan Flander, Ph.D. got the chance to introduce participants in the workshop “Child Participation in Justice” as an expert in the field, and Mia Roje, mag. psych. partook in a workshop “Child Participation in Social Media and Research”.

During workshops, panel discussions, FRA’s research presentations and expert dialogue the main findings were addressed. First of all, that was the importance of capturing the views of both professionals and children. Furthermore, the consensus on taking UN’s Child Rights Convention in legal practice was achieved, primary the fact that every child has the right to be heard. There were numerous ideas on practical modes to implement Conventions’ propositions into practice. Guidelines (FRA and EU) were discussed and new guidelines were planned to get done. Education was repeatedly mentioned as playing a vital role, as well as multidisciplinary and inter-sectoral approach in providing children’s best interest in courts and ensuring child-friendly justice.