Steady progress on children’s rights, PvdA wants more speed

The Dutch Government, in consultation with United Nations Children Fund UNICEF and the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, makes progress on the improving of children’s rights on the islands, but it is a matter of a long-term effort, said Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on Thursday.

The children’s rights plan was one of the agenda points of the meeting of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament with Minister Plasterk. The other agenda points concerned financial supervision. (See related article)

One of the two Members of Parliament (MPs) attending that meeting, Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA, urged the Minister to keep investing in the process to improve children’s rights, in the sense of effort, as well as financial and capacity support.

Van Laar said he was concerned about the apparent lack of progress in St. Eustatius and Saba. “The execution of plans started a year ago, but seems to get insufficiently off the ground, especially in St. Eustatius and Saba. We have a children’s rights plan, but more is needed,” he said. He mentioned the lack of capacity and coordination as apparent factors. Van Laar asked the Minister to explain where the execution stagnated, particularly in the Windward Islands. “Is there sufficient progress, and what are the possibilities to speed up things?” He also wanted to know where things were at with the planned domestic violence reporting facility/ hotline. He said domestic violence was still a taboo on the islands that demanded attention.

The PvdA MP also brought up his motion, adopted by the Second Chamber last year, which requested the Dutch Government to invest in housing to ensure that everyone had a reasonable roof over his or her head in the Caribbean Netherlands.

“It starts with children having a decent, safe home to grow up in,” said Van Laar, asking about a Plan of Approach and the status of executing that motion. “We are hearing little about a follow-up.” Plasterk said a plan was being worked on and that the Parliament would be informed next week. A plan was also drafted regarding the hotline for domestic violence.

The Minister gave an overview of the initiatives and projects that were taking place on the islands in the area of children’s rights. He mentioned the ten households in Saba that receive help from the Public Assistance Fund, the improvements in the day care facilities, the PPP parenting programmes, after-school activities. In St. Eustatius, the Youth Safety Net, the healthy eating/life style Ken Young campaign, the Sister Talk project and breakfast possibilities for children who were unable to eat at home before school.

Plasterk mentioned the appointment of a project coordinator children’s rights since February 1 in Saba. A similar coordinator is being sought for St. Eustatius. This coordinator will work according to an all-round strategy, in cooperation with the local government and the National Government Representative, to actively address matters that are directly related to children, such as life style, violence and after-school activities, explained Plasterk.

Improving children’s rights on the islands, including the Dutch Caribbean countries, is a lengthy affair, said Plasterk. The problems are complex and deeply rooted in the community. Absent fathers, mothers left to fend for themselves often having to raise many children, related poverty and domestic violence.

Poverty and children’s rights, and by extension economic development, are the three main pillars of the Multi-Annual Programmes for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Money alone is not the solution, said the Minister. He said there clearly was no lack of willingness to address children’s rights, but that it was also a matter of limited capacity.

The Daily Herald.

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