“The Rights of the Child – between the Interests of the Parents and the Obligations of the State” was the theme of this annual conference of the ombudspersons for children network of south-east Europe (CRONSEE), held on 28 May 2015 in Zagreb. It was organised by Croatian ombudsperson for children, Ivana Milas Klarić and under the auspices of the City Assembly of the City of Zagreb. The representatives of ombudspersons for children from the countries of south-east Europe and professionals from Croatia discussed how to realise the rights of the child and his/her best interest when the interests of parents appear to be in conflict with the child’s interests and the obligations of the government to protect the child’s well-being.
The choice of the topic was initiated by the current opposition of some parents to mandatory vaccination of their children and the “campaign” against vaccination which has already resulted in obvious negative consequences. Other important issues which were discussed included the introduction of sex education and civic education in the regular education curriculum, positions on corporal punishment, manipulation of children in the process of parental divorce and other current issues.
This year the Ombudsperson for Children of the Republic of Croatia is the work coordinator for the Children’s Rights Ombudspersons’ Network in South and Eastern Europe – CRONSEE. The CRONSEE is a network of independent institutions for the protection of children’s rights at the national, regional and local levels, established in 2006 with a view to cooperating and empowering the work of the offices of children’s ombudspersons in South East Europe as well as of promoting and exchanging good practices. This regional network at present has fourteen members and includes the representatives of ombudspersons’ offices from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Srpska, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Cyprus, Greece, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia and AP Vojvodina.
Discussion was moderated by ombudsperson D.Sc. Ivana Milas Klarić, Asst. Prof., and introductory plenary sessions were held by renowned Croatian and international experts. The member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Peter Guran of Slovakia talked about “Children’s Rights and Parental Responsibilities – Committee on the Rights of the Child Approach, D.Sc. Nevena Vučković from Belgrade, member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child explained how the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international documents define the best interest of the child, while Aleksandra Galonja, Save the Children from Sarajevo consultant, presented the handbook which contributes to determining the best interest of the child.
Head of the UNICEF Office for Croatia, Valentina Otmačić elaborated on the right of the child to live in the family environment.
Director of the Child Protection Centre of Zagreb, Prof. D.Sc. Gordana Buljan Flander, delivered an invited lecture presenting professional findings on the Protection of the Best Interest of the Child in Divorce Cases: Does the System Sustain Manipulative Parental Behaviours?
Director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Tamara Poličanin gave a detailed speech on vaccination as the right of the child, while the Head of the Psychology Department of Croatian Studies of the University of Zagreb, D.Sc. Eva Anđela Delale talked about “How is the Subjective Experience of Parenthood Related to the Parental Behaviour and the Best Interest of the Child?”
The debate on the right of the child and parental right to the freedom of education, held at the very beginning by the Debate Club Bušmani from Zagreb Second Grammar School.
At the end, an inspiring and meaningful discussion of all participants followed since the choice of topics focused on the best interest of the child and challenges of various interpretations of parental rights and obligations of the state. Materials from this conference are available on the Ombudsperson’s web page (www.dijete.hr).