On March 18- 2018, the Beijing Children’s Legal Aid and Research Center and Alibaba Group opened the A20 Global Social Leadership Summit on Child Advocacy in Beijing. The Summit is supported by the China NGO Network for International Exchanges and the China Soong Ching Ling Science and Culture Exchange Center for Youth People. Representatives of non-government organizations on child care and protection from 20 countries from Asia, Africa and Europe participated and shared their advocacy experiences on child care and protection, as well as the challenges they face and their visions for the future.
The successful convening of this Summit signifies the internationalization of Chinese domestic child protection organizations, which is becoming more influential in international– especially developing countries– child protection field.
1. The government of China, for the first time, hosted an international conference on child protection facing social organizations across the globe and especially in developing countries.
From the very beginning the objectives of the A20 Summit were: (1) to establish a global platform for exchanges and cooperation of child protection work, (2) to unite the world’s best children protection organizations, and (3) to promote the exchange and cooperation of child protection around the world, especially in developing countries. After the announcement of registration in early December 2017, a total of 64 social organizations from 38 countries on five continents had registered within a month. Several world-renowned child protection organizations also expressed their willingness to attend the meeting. The project team carefully examined the applications in considerations of the following factors: interview reports, geographical distribution, the progress each organization made, social impact, the origin of the organizations, the applicant’s role in the organization, etc. Finally, twenty institutions (eleven from Asia, seven Africa, and two Europe) are selected, including representatives from India, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Cambodia, South Korea, Kenya, Tanzania, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Hungary, Albania, Azerbaijan and other countries as well as representatives of international organizations participated in the first A20 Global Social Care Leadership Summit.
The selected 20 organizations are mostly local social organizations that specialize in (or engage in) child protection or service. They have extensive work experience in the field of child protection and services, and positive social impact in their countries. For example, Ms. Javzankhuu Baljinnyam, a representative from Mongolia, has nearly thirty years of experience working with children. Her organization is the Child Rights Training and Research Center, which has extensive cooperation with Mongolian national government departments and a number of international organizations and is committed to promoting the improvement and implementation of the Mongolian Children’s Rights Act and Child Protection Act. In 2017, the Supreme Court directly promoted the elimination of winter horse-racing, which was deemed as harmful; MacBain Mkandawire from Malawi is the executive director of Youth Net and Counselling. The agency, established in 1997 and accessing the United Nations Economic and Social Council consultative status in 2013, is an influential children’s rights organization in Malawi; The participant from Mauritius is Mr. Mahendranath Busgopaul, the Secretary-General of the Halley Movement Agency. The agency is mainly engaged with children and family welfare agencies and activities in Mauritius and South Africa. The organization was established in 1990 and expanded to a coalition with 22 social organizations from Mauritius. It also has a consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council. Mr. Busgopaul is one of the founders of the organization and has been engaged in child protection work for a long time. He has considerable influence in the region and is an African representative of the Board of Directors of the International Volunteer Association. In recent years, he has also been nominated by the National Information Technology Department to become a member of the National Children’s Network Protection Committee. The representative of Thailand, Tuangsiri Kanisthananda, is from Alliance Anti-Trafic (AAT). The main goal of this organization is anti-trafficking. At present, the agencies work in three Southeast Asian countries– Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, with a total of six offices.
2. The summit is strongly supported by various government agencies.
Child protection has always been highly valued by the Party and the government. In recent years, especially after the Party’s 18th National Congress, child protection undertaking in China has achieved significant development. The A20 summit has received attention and support from relevant government departments since the beginning. Before the conference, the Beijing Youth Legal Aid and Research Center convened a conference on the theme of “Making full use of the role of the UN’s consultative status, building a platform for the exchange of child protection social organizations based mainly in developing countries, as well as a solid foundation for the future of humanity.” The relevant responsible comrades with a total of more than ten people from National Working Committee on Children and Women under State Council, Human Rights Department of the international division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Department of Treaty and Law, International exchange and Coordination Management Office of the social organization of the CPC Central Committee, Bureau of international cooperation of the Ministry of Justice, Office of the social organization of the Ministry of Civil Affairs and Division for the protection of minors in the division of social affairs, Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China Department of international Trade and Economic Affairs, Human rights affairs bureau of the Central Propaganda Department, The National Association of lawyers and the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau, Beijing Foreign Office, Beijing Public Security Bureau and Beijing Judicial Bureau attended the meeting. After listening to Director Yan Lihua’s introduction on the original intention and the goal of the A20 International Conference and Beijing Youth Legal Aid and Research Center as a social organization’s goal and plan for “going out”, the participating comrades of the relevant departments expressed their support and were willing to ensure the smooth convening of this conference and come up with many valuable opinions and suggestions on this conference and the “internationalization” of the youth center.
At the opening ceremony on March 18th , and the Summit on 23rd, Xiulian Gu, the former vice chairman of the National People’s Congress and director of the Next Generation Committee of China; Shiqu Chen, the deputy director of the Criminal Investigation Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security; Wenzhen Song, the deputy director of the Office of the Women and Children Working Committee of the State Council; and Ke Wang, the director of the secretariat of the International Organization for the Promotion of Non-governmental Organizations, attended the ceremony and delivered a speech. There were also some guests from Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (MCA), Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the PRC, and the Women’s and Children’s Work Committee of the State Council who were invited to attend the meeting and gave keynote speeches. During the conference, Director Xiulian Gu mentioned that the Chinese nation has a traditional virtue of carrying and loving the young, and the ancient saying, “Expend the respect of the aged in one’s family to that of other families; expend the love of the young ones in one’s family to that of other families”, has been wide spread in China. China is the largest developing country and the Chinese government has always paid high attention to children’s wellbeing, protection and development with a serious and responsible attitude. Beijing Youth Legal Aid and Research Center and Alibaba Group hold joint meetings that were of great significance to both China and the global work of child protection. Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Shiqu Chen mentioned that anti-trafficking was a shared responsibility of all countries in the world. He sincerely hoped that more national governments and non-governmental organizations would join the anti-trafficking work, develop transnational policing cooperation and make great efforts to build a community of human destiny. Moreover, Deputy Director Wenzhen Song mentioned that children represent the future of mankind; investing in children will contribute to the economic development and social prosperity; and promoting children’s development will also promote the development of mankind. She also said that today they all came together to achieve a common goal of protecting the rights of children, promoting the development of children and promoting the sustainable development of mankind; Also, Director Ke Wang said that children were the future of the world, and the protection of children’s rights was not only a UN human rights charter, but also an important part of our 2030 UN sustainable development goals. And he paid his respect to the host of the A20 Summit, Alibaba Group and the Beijing Youth Legal Aid and Research Center.
Moreover, during the summit, representatives from Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Security, Beijing Affairs Office of the People’s Government of Beijing Municipality, Beijing Committee of China Communist Youth League and Beijing Law Society also attended the meeting.
3. The summit is strongly supported by international organizations.
With China’s reform and the acceleration of the internationalization process, many international organizations engaged in child protection and service work are paying more and more attention to cooperation with China. Some international organizations have carried out child protection work for many years, such as UNICEF, Save the Children, Plan International, etc. The participation of international organizations brings advanced international experiences and ideas for developing the work of children protection and services.
The Beijing Youth Legal Aid and Research Center has established a long-term good cooperative relationship with various child protection international organizations. The meeting also received their strong support. At the beginning of the A20 conference registration, various international organizations use their own platforms to help promote and publicize the registration information and recommend qualified social organizations to register. During the conference, Ms. Rana Flower, the chief representative of UNICEF in China, and Mr. Ron Pouwels, the Director of Child Protection Department, attended the conference and delivered speeches in turn. Mr. Haider. W. Yaqub, China chief representative of Plan International, and Mr. Chao Wang, China chief representative of Save the Children, were invited to attend the A20 summit which was held on the 23rd. And they respectively delivered the speech on promoting innovation and cooperation of child violence in the world and development of the global child protection system, and communicated with guests and representatives. In addition, ECPAT International and Child Fund Australia, which are the international organizations engaged in child protection abroad, also paid great attention to this meeting.
ECPAT International is an international organization established in 1996. Its mission is to end child sexual exploitation around the world. Currently, ECPAT is the only international non-governmental organization which specifically combats child sexual exploitation. During the summit, Ms. Dorothy Rozga, the chief Executive Officer of ECPAT, made a special trip from Thailand to participate in the conference and gave a keynote speech on “Strengthening Child Protection Rights International Cooperation” in the global innovation and cooperation against child sexual abuse.
As a member of the Child Fund Assists, a historical and experienced international organization in the children’s field, Mr. Nigel Spence, the Chief Executive Officer of Child Fund Australia, also made a special trip from Australia to attend the 24th conference and made the keynote speech on “Child Protection in Developing Countries: Ideas, Resources, and Innovation”. He also communicated with participants on building the world’s most dynamic platform for child protection exchanges.
In addition, the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children initiated by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) had paid great attention to the A20 Summit since preparatory stage and planed to make the Executive Director participate who failed to attend the meeting due to a time conflict. After that, he entrusted Mr. Ron Pouwels, Director of Children’s Protection Division of UNICEF, to deliver a speech.
Besides, the representatives from UNFPA China, UNESCO, UN Women, and Right to Play were also invited to attend the summit.
4. The summit is a joint effort of Chinese professional child protection social organizations and modern enterprises to promote global children’s protection.
The Beijing Youth Legal Aid and Research Center and the Alibaba Group have jointly organized the A20 Summit on Child Protection Social Organizations in Developing Countries, which is a successful attempt by professional social organizations and enterprises to jointly participate in child protection work. In the cooperation, both parties jointly exert their professional, financial and technological advantages. The Beijing Youth Legal Aid and Research Center used its years of experience in child protection and advocacy to allow participants to learn in detail the legislation and status of child protection in China and the role of social organizations in child protection. The Alibaba Group’s “Membership Project” allows guests to recognize the great potential of science, technology and businesses in child protection. The Dingtalk system developed by Alibaba group was also favored by attendees during this meeting, which became the main platform for communication and follow-up support after the conference.
5. The conference is a platform for exchange of experience and cooperation among children’s care and protection social organizations in various countries.
The conference provided a wide range of opportunities for mutual learning and learning for the participating organizations and institutions. Some agencies have shared their work on children’s legal policies, such as Liberia’s Defense for Children International-Liberia promoting national guidelines for the development of children’s cases, and Hungary’s Hintalovon Child Rights Foundation providing legal assistance to children and families to promote lawyers’ participation in legal aid cases. The Training and Research Institute on Child Right of Mongolia promotes the nation’s improvement of the Mongolian Children’s Rights Act and the Child Protection Act; The Children’s Legal Bureau in The Philippines promotes the state to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years. Youth Net and Counselling created the National Juvenile Justice Forum; the Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children in Kenya advocated for the government of five countries to increase the budget for children’s sensitive issues. Some agencies introduced their work on children’s health, such as Vietnam’s Vietnam Stature Foundation, which provided free milk to children from poor families to alleviate the malnutrition of children in these impoverished areas; Al Birr and Al Tawasul Organization in Sudan provided food for the Sudan Primary School. Some institutions are committed to children’s education, such as Alban’s Children’s Human Rights Centre of Albania, an inclusive education program for Gypsy children, which allows Gypsy children to receive early childhood development, early learning and primary education in Albania; Cambodia’s ChildFund Cambodia has 12 projects in education (113 schools and 933 teachers), including improving the enrollment of school-age children and improving the quality of teaching; Shaishav in India provides after-school tutoring services for children who may be out of school; There are also institutions that specialize in one or two high-risk areas for children, such as Laos’s Life Skills Development Association and Thailand’s Alliance Anti-Trafic for pre-prophylaxis, mid-term rescue protection, and later follow-up rehabilitation for child trafficking issues; Associations for Community Development such as South Korea’s ECPAT TACTEEN and Bangladesh’s Association for Community Development are committed to preventing child sexual exploitation and child victims of sexual exploitation; the Halley Movement in Mauritius promotes parents’ understanding of the Internet and the protection of children’s networks; Psychosocial Wellbeing for All Children in Zimbabwe calls for the elimination of corporal punishment; Societa Indonesia in Indonesia provides protection and care for children with drug abuse; the Azerbaijan Children Union in Azerbaijan promotes child marriage prevention; the Peoples’ Development Forum in Tanzania works to prevent violence against children.
Institutions also talked about the challenges faced by their respective work: 1. Capacity building, including institutional development, funding sources, professional capabilities and other challenges, such as how to obtain sustained long-term funding, how to cultivate professional staff, how institutions can Provide more professional services, etc.; 2. Relations with the government, such as how to recommend the government to pay attention to children’s issues, how to communicate with the government on a child issue, make comments and suggestions, and provide the government with reference data or experience, How to assist in the implementation of relevant policies after the introduction of the policy; 3. Cooperation with other agencies, including cooperation with international agencies and cooperation with companies, such as how to strengthen cooperation and exchanges between local social organizations in different countries, how to attract the concern of the UN mechanism, how to deal with the relationship with international social organizations, and how to involve enterprises in child protection. 4. Child participation. When institutions deal with children’s issues, they often lack the participation of children, and institutions cannot stand in the children’s perspective to consider what children really need.
Faced with many common challenges, various organizations are aware of the importance of strengthening cooperation and hope that in the future, they can strengthen cooperation in sharing experiences and information.
6. The Conference Fully Demonstrated the “Chinese experience” of Child Protection
Child protection work in China has made significant progress in recent years. Child protection legislation, policies or government departments, social organizations have accumulated a lot of experience with Chinese characteristics in the child protection. In order to fully introduce the legislation, policies of child protection in China, the role of government and the achievements, experiences of social organizations in child protection work for representatives of participating countries, A20 Summit invited government agencies, international organizations and Communities and participants from local NGOs conducted extensive and in-depth exchanges.
Wang Yu, from The Supreme People’s Procuratorate Office of Prosecution Office for Minors, introduced the work of the procuratorate on the comprehensive legal protection of juveniles from seven aspects including the investigating and prosecuting apparatus further deepened and effective the education and rescue of juvenile criminal suspects, more accurate and powerful in cracking down on crimes against the rights and interests of minors, more professional in their protection and assistance to young victims, further integrate the functions of the procurator organs in juvenile justice protection, further strengthen the prevention of juvenile delinquency and infringement of juvenile delinquency, further deepen the socialization of minors procuratorial work and further innovate juvenile justice protection measures; Wu Yuefu, deputy director of the Division of Minor Protection of the Department of Social Affairs of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, introduced the civil affairs department’s protection of the basic lives of children in difficult circumstances and the protection of the rights and interests of special minors. The emphasis was placed on the care and protection of rural left-behind children, including the construction of rescue and protection mechanisms, how to mobilize the entire social force to care for left-behind children, etc., and summed up some experiences of the civil affairs department in carrying out child protection work, including top-level design, strengthening guardianship interventions, and mobilizing participation of social forces, etc., for foreign participation the guests brought great inspiration, which brought great inspiration to foreign guests. Mr. Guoqiang Zeng, from the office of the Women’s and Children’s Work Committee of the State Council, exchanged views with guests on the children’s work carried out by the Office of the Working Committee for Women and Children of the State Council, which acts as a deliberative coordination agency and plays a role in organizing, coordinating, guiding and supervising children work in China. Zeng Guoqiang had a communication with the participants in presumed improvement of children protection legislation and policies, building a multi-sector cooperation mechanism, synchronizing children’s career development with national economic and social development, formulating and implementing the outline of children development, strengthening statistical monitoring and evaluation of children development data, strengthening international exchanges and cooperation, which are carried out by the Office of the Working Committee for Women and Children of the State Council. The speeches made by representatives of government departments and judicial organs made the participants more explicit about the role and positioning of the Chinese government in child protection work, and some of the experiences achieved in the work were also approved by foreign participants.
Ms. Hong Wei, director of Public Welfare Department of Alibaba, and Meng Qingtian, deputy director of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation of the Ministry of Public Security issued a keynote to the participants on the “Reunion” project jointly conducted by the two parties and showed them “Internet + anti-abduction” and the new working model of cooperation between police and civilization; police and medium; police and company, which enable everyone fully feel the great function and potential of science and technology in children protection.
Xin Wang, Director of the National Child Protection Program of the International Rescue Children’s Association, Chinese Office, introduced the basic situation of the work of the Save the Children’s Association in China, and highlighted her work in the fight against children sexual exploitation, children violence, and left- behind children. Yang Hao, Asian Foundation Project Officer, shared the project and research conducted by the Asian Foundation on “Guardian infringement of the rights of minors”.
The leaders of the China-based social organization such as China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, Beijing Transcendental Youth Social Work Agency, the Children’s Hope Foundation of Henan Province, the Children Welfare Research Center of the China National Institute of Public Welfare of Beijing Normal University and the child protection and non-profit lawyers respectively shared the role of social organizations and public lawyers in child protection from the perspective of their own work. Ms. Huifang Wen, director of the Health Development Department of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, shared the “child companion” project with the guests. The project is mainly directed at rural left-behind children. In the village where the left-behind children are located, the left-behind children are provided with a mother. The village committee provides a place, and the sponsor equips it with play-assistance tools, and establishes functional departments related to children, such as education, public security, civil administration, and justice at the county-level county office, which means to establish the so-called “three ones,” –one person, one home, and one bond. Xi Xiaohua, director of Beijing Transcendent Social Work Agency for Youth, introduced the children judicial protection services provided by her social work office, including social investigation services, suitable adult services, targeted education and correction services, and rescue services for criminal victims. Educational corrective services for such children that have not yet constituted a crime, and guardians of minors who urge parents to divorce, perform better duties of guardianship duties. Mr. Zhijun Wang, Secretary-General of the Children’s Hope Foundation of Henan Province, shared the achievements and challenges of localized child protection case service with attendees of the child abuse assistance service organized by the organization; Jie Li, director of Beijing Normal University Institute of Child Welfare Research, China Institute of Public Welfare, shared the pilot project of “Child Welfare Officer” conducted by the organization. The project establishes a leadership committee at the county level in the pilot area, hires a child welfare officer at the village level, and establishes a child welfare center whose technical support is provided by professors of social work professionals in universities. The two children protection advocates, Ms. Xiaoxia Li and Mr. Weiyao Yao, combined with their own legal assistance for minors, legislation, and policy advocacy, introduced the role of lawyers in child protection and the cross-sector cooperation and practice.
The sharing of Chinese experience allowed participants to have a deeper understanding of Chinese child protection. Many participants said that the Chinese experience has great inspiration and meaning for their institution to carry out the work of child protection.
7. The Summit Achieved a Consensus of A20 Child Protection
After several days of experience sharing and discussions on challenges, the representatives of A20 countries fully realized the importance of strengthening international cooperation in the future, and they reached the social consensus of “A20 Global Child Care Network to Build the Most Dynamic Platform for Children Protection and Cooperation in the World”. After full discussion and consultation, the summit formulated and released the “A20 Global Social Concern for Children Care”. In the consensus, the deputies agreed that child protection should be a priority topic of the international community. Social organizations should become an important force in child protection. Strengthening social organization and business cooperation should be included in the agenda of child protection. A vibrant global child protection platform need to be built.