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Berlin puts the spotlight on child poverty in Europe


On 31 August and 1 September 2009, Berlin was the venue for the symposium "Child poverty – a European challenge”, organised by the Commission of the Associations of German Associations for Family Affairs (AGF). The event brought together over 100 participants from 17 European counties, including representatives of NGOs and family associations, as well as national governments and EU officials.

19 million European children at risk of poverty

The first day presentations and discussions covered a wide range of themes, from the current poverty rates of children and adolescents in the EU, tools and methods for measuring child poverty at the national and international levels, to child poverty and children’s rights from the child’s perspective.

"19 million children in the EU are currently living in poverty and experiencing many forms of exclusion", said Edith Swab, Chairwoman of the AGF, who opened the event. "Children living in single-parent, low-income and large families, as well as those coming from an immigrant background, are the most affected." Mrs Swab also warned that the number of poverty-stricken children is likely to increase, considering the current financial and economic crisis in many EU countries.

Participants stressed that there was a long way to go to eradicate child poverty in the EU. Poverty rates vary enormously across the EU, ranging from low levels in Scandinavian countries (13% in Denmark, 15% in Sweden) to acute levels in others, such as 36% in Portugal or 42% in Romania.

The EU strategy against child poverty

The second day focussed on the EU strategy in the fight against child poverty, in terms of its tools but also its limits. In recent years, the European Union has increasingly been concerned with the problem of child poverty, which is reflected in the decision to designate 2010 as the European Year for combating poverty and social exclusion.

Antonia Carparelli from the European Commission’s unit for Inclusion and Social Policy gave a comprehensive overview of the EU strategy in place for fighting poverty and social exclusion of children. Mrs. Carparelli reiterated the EU’s commitment in the fight against poverty and social exclusion of children and explained the Open Method for Cooperation in the field of social policy – a mechanism for coordinating and taking forward the agenda on fighting child poverty. She also stressed that in 2006-2008 reports, the EU Members States pledged to develop a strategic, integrated and long-term approach to preventing and addressing poverty and social exclusion among children. She noted however that "delivery on common objectives remains a challenge for many countries".

The way forward

Discussions turned to a position paper prepared by the AGF, which highlighted key areas in the fight against child poverty and recommended measures to be taken by national governments and the EU.

The symposium participants called for a holistic, child-centred approach to addressing child poverty, ensuring educational opportunities irrespective of social background, as well as allowing children and their parents to make their voices heard in the decision-making process.

Concrete recommendations included setting an EU-wide target to reduce child poverty by 50% by 2020. The paper also urged streamlining of the indicators for measuring and evaluating child poverty in order to target them more at the real problems encountered by children and their families, in particular the most vulnerable groups.

The agenda, the position paper and presentations will soon be available at the website of the Commission of the Associations of German Associations for Family Affairs (AGF).