The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament wants the governments in the Kingdom to get moving with concrete projects to improve children’s rights in the Dutch Caribbean. Three parties, the liberal democratic VVD party, the Labour Party PvdA and the Democratic Party D66, made use of the opportunity to submit remarks and questions in a written consultation with Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk to discuss the first draft of the Children’s Rights in the Kingdom Action Plan, published last month.
According to PvdA and D66, the action plan was a positive step in the process to improve the situation of children on the islands. The May 2013 report of the United Nations Children Fund UNICEF Nederland on children’s rights in the Dutch Kingdom has shown there are “valid reasons” to be concerned, stated D66.
D66 stated that it was of “great importance” that the rights of all children in the Dutch Caribbean are safeguarded and that they have a fair chance at a decent quality of life and a future perspective, whether they live in the autonomous countries Aruba, Curaçao or St. Maarten, or in the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. D66 applauded the move to establish a joint Task Force Children’s Rights in the Kingdom.
The VVD party said it needed to be clear that a difference should be made between the countries in the Kingdom, where it came to the responsibility for children’s rights. The Dutch Government was responsible for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, but not for Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten which carry their own responsibilities in the area of children’s rights.
PvdA wants the Kingdom partners to make haste in executing plans to improve children’s rights and asked about a concrete time- frame detailing the timing of certain actions and the responsibility per country.
Concrete plans per islands are “unfortunately” lacking in the action plan. The PvdA hoped that these plans would be ready for the April 2015 Kingdom Conference on Curaçao. According to the party, it was important to determine the needs of the individual islands when taking concrete action to improve the living conditions of children. The VVD and PvdA addressed the role of the father, often absent in Dutch Caribbean families. The VVD remarked that the problem of the absent father was hard to solve, but that it did have big consequences for the position of children. The VVD asked the minister and the Task Force to tackle this issue with a plan. Sharing the Task Force’s vision that the father of a child should be known, the PvdA asked the minister clarity on the (legal) process on Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten to make the registration of the father’s name on the birth certificate mandatory. The minister was urged to consult the islands on this matter. The PvdA further sought attention for the tackling of violence and physical, sexual and mental abuse against children on the islands. The party asked the minister how and within what timeframe the recommendations in this area would be carried out. Poverty plays a central role in children’s rights and as such the PvdA asked what actions the Dutch Government and the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba could take at this mo- ment in anticipation of the definite ratification of the multi-annual plans next year. The PvdA would like to see the multi-annual plans ready, where it concerns children’s rights no later than April 2015, so the execution of plans can start right after the Kingdom Conference. According to the party, the Dutch and local governments carry an important responsibility to tackle poverty.
D66 wanted to know whether the action plan, the Task Force and the governments dedicated sufficient attention to the prevention and awareness in relation to the health of the children. Poor health, obesity and bad eating habits were cited as one of the big problems in the UNICEF report. D66 asked about health information campaigns in schools and initiatives, such as providing healthy meals at schools and after-school facilities. D66 also asked about sexual education, which, in the party’s opinion, should be a mandatory subject in schools. According to D66, there were still big problems with sexual diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
The VVD wanted to know whether the funds, which so far have been made available to improve children’s rights on the islands, have been effective and what would be the future cost, including that of the Task Force.
An additional three million euros was made available for the coming three years for children’s rights in the Caribbean Netherlands, through the initiative of the PvdA and the ChristianUnion. The PvdA wanted to know how the Dutch Government would be spending these funds, and in which way it would arrange a big role for UNICEF Nederland in this.