Lobbying & advocacy

In a few words…

DCI-Belgium lobbies for the rights of all children, in Belgium and in the rest of the world.

One of DCI-Belgium’s goals is to attract the authorities’ attention on the situation of vulnerable children, such as an unaccompanied foreign child.

This “lobbying and advocacy”, based on the international standards on children’s rights, is meant to influence the creation, the application, the implementation and the interpretation of the authorities’ decisions locally and internationally. DCI considers any violation of children’s rights and will always try to advocate for its awareness in different institutions (Council of Europe, European Commission and Parliament, United Nations…)

A few examples

We have multiple lobbying activities: 

1. Regarding migrant children, DCI has always asserted that the proceeding of their confinement was falling into the conception of the “best interest of the child” as laid down in the Convention of the Rights of the Child. This interest must guide every consideration concerning the implementation of return policy. In this perspective, DCI was on several occasions mobilized: press releases, organization of conferences, advocacy policies. The creation of an “Opinion Court”, in collaboration with several associations, is based on “the detention of children in closed centers for foreigners” and is one of our biggest lobbying action.

2. Migrant children have the right to reception! DCI works so that every child can be safely and kindly received and integrated.

3. DCI also deals with children left alone – sometimes obliged to sleep in the streets or in train stations.

4. Generally speaking, DCI works to improve the situation of unaccompanied children, asking that their child status is respected. The goal is to find a long term solution that respects their rights and their interests.

5. Regarding cases of mendicity of parents along with their children, DCI always calls for a “social response” and condemns repressive policies. Isn’t it better to have a more practical approach (access to housing, healthcare, social security, education, etc.), rather than criminalizing the parents?

6. Regarding juvenile justice, DCI-Belgium has supported many areas where various rights are applied:

  • The guarantee of the right to free, legal help for children arrested by the police, called in front of a judge or facing difficulties (this includes the right of having a different lawyer than their parents);

  • The guarantee of the right of a child committing an infraction to be judged by a specialized jurisdiction (Youth Court). We are against the possibility of children over 16 to have the same jurisdictions as adults.

  • Ensure that the measures taken by juvenile judges are primarily educative measures, not just punishments;

  • Act against the possibility for the municipal administrations to impose administrative sanctions for youth aged 14 or more;

7. Recently, DCI addressed an open letter to the Belgian authorities to underline that Belgium had been condemned by the Committee of Social Rights of the Council of Europe for violating the European social charter. Belgium was condemned because there was no explicit interdiction of corporal punishment on children in the Belgian legislation. Corporal punishments are the most frequent form of violence toward children. Not only are they ineffective as disciplinary and educative methods, they also send a wrong message and may result in detrimental changes, both morally and physically, for the child. DCI-Belgium is saddened by the fact that all initiatives aimed at elaborating a legal framework protecting children from corporal punishment receives little interest from Belgian authorities. Based on the premise that no child can be victim of corporal punishment or any other kind of physical violence, DCI-Belgium requests that the State integrate in its national legislation, and more precisely in the Civil Code, the interdiction of corporal punishment toward children. This would avoid further condemnation and disapproval of Belgian child laws by the international community.

Our actions in matters of lobbying and advocacy

Manifesto against the vulgarization of confinement of children in Belgium (group "article 40")

The last few years in Belgium, we have noticed the increasing number of youth confinement. Despite the fact that Belgian law says that judges must prioritize measures that don’t deprive the youth of their freedom, the number of children in closed centers is increasing and many people hope this number keeps rising.

To fight this trend, that has been surprisingly approved by a large majority of the public, and to reverse the negative image of youth conveyed by the press, various field actors wrote a “manifesto against the vulgarizing of confinement”. This group was named “article 40”, in reference to the article of the Convention of the Rights of the Child that protects youth against every form of arbitrary confinement and guarantees the rights of youth in the justice system. The goal of this project is to fight against the vulgarization of confining youth and to promote policies that strive to use confinement as the last resort.

First, this projects answers to all the prejudices towards youth delinquency by diffusing objective information. Then, “article 40” will proceed to gather data on confinement and youth delinquency, and analyze this information. The current academic research on this issue will be gathered, summarized, and the conclusions will be presented. The results of the study will be distributed to the political authorities, the juvenile justice actors and those actors directly helping the youth. In addition, it will be sent to the press to raise further awareness on the issue.

Advocacy to change the law concerning corporal punishment of children

Belgium is at risk of being once again condemned by the European Committee of Social Rights for violating the European Social Convention because of the lack of explicit interdiction of corporal punishment toward children. The interdiction of all corporal punishment toward children is an immediate obligation of the government according to international treaties on human rights, but most particularly according to the International Convention on the Right of the Child, ratified by Belgium on January 15th, 1992.

Unfortunately, corporal punishment given by parents is still socially acceptable in Belgium. Belgian parents still have the “right” to inflict corporal punishment to their children as long as it doesn’t leave visible wounds.

DCI-Belgium, through an open letter asked the Belgian government and the Belgian parliament to change the Civil Code. The goal of DCI-Belgium’s initiative is not to blame or to sue every parent, but to pave the way to promote non-violent educative methods.

More info