Idea and Arts Workshop Association (Fikir ve Sanat Atölyesi Derneği-FİSA) received a grant from our Children’s Fund to support local governments in fulfilling the fundamental rights and freedoms of children and developing local policies and practices to prevent violations in crisis situations.
Read below our interview:
Idea and Art Workshop Association (Fikir ve Sanat Atölyesi Derneği – FİSA) has been working to protect and improve children’s rights in Turkey. Can you tell us about the work you plan to do in 2022 in line with these priorities?
As FİSA Child Rights Centre, we will continue our activities to protect and improve children’s rights. Unfortunately, we foresee that violations will continue in these times of crisis. Thus, we will carry out monitoring studies to make children’s rights violations visible. On the one hand, we are conducting a field study on the prevention of child labour. On the other hand, we will continue to work with and strengthen the capacity of local governments with the support of Turkey Mozaik Foundation and the Support Foundation for Civil Society. The legal advocacy activities, following court cases and strategic litigation, will continue. In this respect, we will continue to focus on the right to life, and education, along with the right to association of children.
The pandemic, earthquakes, and wildfires showed that we, as a society, do not have much knowledge of children’s rights. What is the framework for children’s rights in times of crisis and disasters?
We are globally facing many extraordinary situations, and in crises, children’s needs might often become invisible. Adults are trying to solve these crises but while doing this, unfortunately, children are not taken into consideration. The existence of child protection mechanisms and their effectiveness determine how children will be affected in times of crisis. Children in countries with insufficient child protection mechanisms, weak welfare state policies, and deep inequality are affected more negatively.
The existence of child protection mechanisms and their effectiveness determine how children will be affected in times of crisis.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) crisis management should respect children’s rights. Policies need to protect children from the direct effects of the crisis, re-empower those affected, ensure their participation in crisis response processes, and help children acquire accurate information. Practices and policies should take into account different children with special needs and potential – for example, those who are in prison, those with chronic illnesses, those with low-income families, refugees, groups who cannot access their basic rights, those who live in deep poverty, those who have to work. Of course, it is necessary to be prepared in advance. This is why holistic, rights-based local and central child policies are necessary.
You are implementing the It Is Not a Children’s Rights Crisis! Children’s Rights-Based Crisis Management for Local Governments project with our grant support. What is the idea behind this project? What are the project’s activities?
We are witnessing the transformation of the crises we are experiencing on a global scale into a children’s rights crisis because of the attempt to solve them with policies that do not focus on children. Now, we are looking at the impact of various crisis situations in Turkey on children. We believe that strengthening local governments, which are institutions expected to be first responders in times of crisis, will directly affect the lives of children. This is an obligation, and according to the UN CRC, it is a responsibility.
Within the scope of this project, we will first prepare a guide. This guide will contain the minimum standards of children’s rights in crisis situations. Afterwards, we will conduct trainings based on this guide and prepare strategic plans with three district municipalities in Izmir, Istanbul and Rize. We hope that our collaboration with these municipalities will inspire others as well.
We believe that strengthening local governments, which are institutions expected to be first responders in times of crisis, will directly affect the lives of children.
Why do you think it is important for municipalities to develop rights-based and child-sensitive policies, and what should be the main principles in developing these policies?
Local governments can provide services for children more closely than the central government. Additionally, because they have the opportunity to identify needs and potential on the spot, they can produce effective regulations. In countries with large populations and geography like Turkey, this role of local governments is much more important in terms of children’s rights.
While making policies for children, local governments must remember that what they do is not a blessing but an obligation. Additionally, local governments should first assess how they perceive the children they serve. They should confront prejudices that hinder rights and freedoms, and see children as individuals.
Local governments should start their services by assessing the needs of the children they serve. These services should be planned and implemented with a holistic, child-oriented approach that considers the children’s best interests. Children’s participation in decision-making processes should be ensured. Local governments must see and accept the UN CRC as a basis for themselves. They should establish mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the work regarding children, and also make sure that they can be monitored by independent parties too. For all of these to be possible, local governments should cooperate with the children’s rights movement, especially with children.
While making policies for children, local governments must remember that what they do is not a blessing but an obligation.
The climate change actions initiated by Greta Thunberg spread all over the world, becoming a major action involving children from 139 countries, including Turkey. In your experience, are children able to participate in decision-making processes on issues concerned with disasters? Are there any regulations that guarantee the participation of children?
Greta and hundreds of children organised demand for justice against climate change because they are concerned about what is happening around them, like all of us. What is more important is that they did it at a time when many adults remained silent or perhaps at a time when adults had no hope at all. Most of the children in Turkey are taking action as climate change activists. Unfortunately, we cannot say that children can participate in policies concerning disasters or similar areas -preventive or remedial regulations- in general. However, contrary to what we adults do, children are pretty competent at creating their own spaces.
There are not many mechanisms that structurally guarantee child participation in Turkey. Although this is an obligation according to the UN CRC, it is unfortunately considered a blessing and depends on the discretion of adults. But such mechanisms will evolve as the children’s rights movement works with children on participation. It is well-grounded to say that there is a change and transformation in this regard with each passing day.
FİSA was established in 2015 to support the creation of cultural, scientific, intellectual, and artistic productions. FİSA carries out projects and programs on the issues of child neglect and abuse, child labour, discrimination, child participation, child and migration, disability, and education to promote children’s rights. FİSA provides scholarships for students in addition to implementing educational activities in arts and science in collaboration with public institutions, the private sector, and CSOs.