20 million out of the 100 million children and young people aged between 0 and 17 years in Europe are at risk of poverty. This figure has undoubtedly increased even further due to the effects of the recent economic crisis.Fighting child poverty is one of the priorities of the European Union. In this context, the Belgian EU presidency in cooperation with the King Baudouin Foundation, UNICEF and Eurochild organised the conference "Who Cares? Roadmap for a Recommendation to fight child poverty" on 2 and 3 September 2010.
The event gathered three hundred experts in the field of child poverty and well-being of children. They took part in debates focusing on ensuring adequate resources, guaranteeing access to quality services, and ensuring active participation and inclusion of children and young people.
All participants took part in the discussions (using the “Town Hall” concept), enabling a rich debate and strengthening the recommendations outlined in the conference background paper. Particular priority was given to the voices of children: Children from Cyprus, Bulgaria and Portugal also took part in the event, bringing messages they had discussed in Eurochild’s children’s meeting in July.
The experts’ opinion was unanimous: in order to break the vicious circle of poverty, absolute priority should be given to children. In policies on the eradication of poverty and social exclusion, special emphasis is placed on the fight against child poverty for two main reasons: children form one of society’s most vulnerable groups and the reduction in child poverty involves breaking the cycle whereby poverty is passed on from generation to generation, and, in consequence, poverty in general.
The event ended with the three EU presidencies Spain, Belgium and Hungary signing a declaration calling for the EU to give particular priority to child poverty and well-being, especially in this period of economic crisis.
The declaration was signed by Belgian Secretary of State for social integration and combating poverty and conference host, Philippe Courard, Juan Carlos Mato Gomez from the Spanish Ministry of Health and Social Policy, and Hungarian Secretary of State in charge of child poverty Zoltán Balog.
The Belgian Presidency has placed child poverty and well-being as a top priority. This declaration is an important step towards a Recommendation at EU level that will set policy objectives and monitoring mechanisms to measure progress across the EU27.
EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, László Andor committed in his video message on Thursday to adopt a European Recommendation on child poverty in 2011.