On October 20, 1989 the United Nations General Assembly approved the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC. On September 2, 1990 it became effective. This document defined for the first time a worldwide standard for child protection and rights. 195 out of 197 countries endorsed the convention. An approval that largely outreaches all other UN conventions. Thus the convention acquired almost universal relevance.
The legal scenario, threats and protection possibilities regarding minors were also core elements of the course held this year on international law in terms of human rights delivered by the René Cassin International Institute for Human Rights (Institut International des Droits de l’Homme– René Cassin) in Strasbourg. This 3-week course allows each year the conveyance of current knowledge and topics concerning international law in terms of human rights, based on international conventions and mechanisms. Around 300 participants from numerous countries attended this meeting that offers each year a venue for intense learning and engaged debates. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom invited 9 experts in human rights from Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali and Turkey to take part in the course and acquire updated knowledge. The purpose is that knowledge and contacts should be useful for those projects in which participants are actively engaged.
In the topic courses the notion of “child” was addressed from the most varied perspectives: children in violent conflicts, protection of children against sexual exploitation, religious practices and children’s rights, children as victims of human rights abuse in wars and civil wars, children’s rights and criminal law related to young offenders, legal scenario regarding international kidnappings, protection of non-accompanied children during migration, child protection and new technologies, fight against forced labor of minors.
Particularly current in the last decades was the issue concerning the recruitment or forced use of “child soldiers”. Unfortunately, many countries and militias involved in war or civil war conflicts do not want to leave the practices of recruiting children and teenagers for fighting purposes. The UN child convention prohibits their direct and active engagement in violent conflicts. However, their provisions are not accurate, mainly as to age limits. This was one of the reasons why the USA, almost in solitaire, did not endorse the convention. (Another reason probably lies on the prohibition of death penalty for children.) The practice of military schools to recruit extremely young candidates would particularly collide with the convention.
The core question “What is a child?” is replied in the convention with a “mild” answer. A child is a person who has not reached 18 years of age, provided the states’ national laws do not determine otherwise. Establishing an age limit is thus left to discretion of the national law, which –regarding the recruitment of child soldiers– leads to extremely unsatisfactory results. Some verdicts of the International Criminal Court and other courts have restricted even further the engagement of children and teenagers in combats. According to the statute of the special court for Sierra Leone, engaging child soldiers is considered a war crime.
A few years after the Convention was approved, it was generally agreed that protection-related provisions were not enough to control the acute threats faced by children. Therefore, three additional protocols were signed:
1. Additional protocol against child exploitation, child prostitution and child pornography (2002)
2. Additional protocol about children in armed conflicts (2002)
3. Optional protocol on individual appeal procedures (2002)
An interesting aspect in the evolution of documents refers to the fact that –unlike the Convention– the additional protocols were endorsed by the USA.
From the extensive provisions set forth in the Convention, five basic core rights for children are derived:
– The right to survival
– The right to development
– Non discrimination
– Advocacy of children’s interests in all relevant decisions thereof
– The right to participation
All the contractual parties in the Convention are committed to use their available resources to enable the children’s development (education, instruction, health) and gradually engage them in social processes.
The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969) considers the possibility that a state could ratify a treaty without granting its agreement to the contents, but only “under reserve”, which restricts the engagement. This option has led to a generalized practice of restricting the rights granted by the Convention by means of extensive restrictions. Thus Iran endorsed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with the condition that the sharia and the national criminal law should remain unaffected. That is why a 9-year-old child in Iran can still be sentenced to death. Singapore endorsed it with the exception of its national law; Saudi Arabia did it under reserve of the sharia. In Brunei, the Convention is only valid if it does not interfere with the Constitution and Islamic law. That means, a generalized tendency to subordinate the bonding nature of the international conventions to national law can be perceived. An evolution that does not precisely benefit the children’s development opportunities and that infringes the Vienna Convention’s spirit. There is still a lot left to do!
For the Foundation’s participants, efforts have resulted worthwhile. Despite a heavy workload under summer temperatures of up to 44 ºC and in spite of Ramadan, which Muslim attendants abided by, almost all the participants passed the difficult final test.
by Dr Gabriele Thöns
As you can see on the following 95 pages, you – as a free, emancipated and confident citizen with the right to determine your own life – are the focus of our continuous engagement both in Germany and around the world. We as a liberal foundation have been standing by your side for more than 57 years, to protect personal life choices, to ensure a free business environment and to make our society more open and tolerant. A democracy needs democrats, in the same way that freedom needs freedom fighters, to be safe from those who despise it.
In 2014, we recalled the lessons learnt from German history and reassured ourselves of our responsibilities. Our Foundation is a consequence of the realisation that freedom and democracy have to be defended every day anew, and that teaching the value of freedom and democracy is the most effective way to advocate a free, democratic and tolerant society. We encourage you to continue working with us in our efforts to achieve an open-minded, free and tolerant Germany, and to help us to bring these values to other parts of the world. Please participate in one of our many events that take place at ten locations in Germany and more than 60 countries worldwide, as well as virtually at www.freiheit.org.
The annual report 2014 [download pdf] gives you a broad overview of our projects and the wide range of our activities. Welcome to the Foundation for Freedom!
The IAF International Seminar on Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Information 2015 took place from April 19th to May 1 in Gummersbach, Bonn, Cologne and Hamburg. Twenty-six participants from twenty-five countries world-wide explored the current state of media freedom in their respective countries and identified core threats like political oppression, religious fundamentalism, self-censorship and digital surveillance.
Media, unfortunately on the decline in recent years in a number of countries, was identified as an indispensable part of liberal democracy driving political liberties and fundamental rights. The optimism still linked to social media and the versatility of new mobile digital devices has been seriously cautioned by new authoritarianism and an increase in physical violence towards information-doers and practicing journalists in war-torn or conflict-prone societies. Digital spying and surveillance motivated by commercial or security interests add a new dimension of global danger to the freedom of information and the protection of privacy.
Visits to the Deutsche Welle in Bonn (read more about our visit here) and to leading German media houses in Hamburg complemented the academic part of the 12 days programme. The participants met various interlocutors who shared their practical experiences, insights and professional concerns.
In a final proactive work group the participants identified and drafted a number of concrete interventions and projects to enhance media freedom in their countries and regions in accordance with the concurrent UN World Press Freedom Day 2015 theme:
Let Journalism Thrive! Towards better reporting, gender equality and media safety in the digital age.
- – Freedom of the Press Report 2015 published by Freedom House
- – About the media situation in Turkey and Germany
From March 14 through March 21, 2015, a group of 7 Cambodian politicians, including two women, visited Germany. The group was composed by 6 parliament members and the deputy director of the Public Relations Department of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). The participants are members of the parliamentary committees led by the CNRP. The CNRP is the only opposition party with 44% of votes, versus the ruling Cambodia Popular Party with 48% of votes. The topic of the 1-week academic trip was “The Constructive Role of Opposition Work in the Parliament”.
The primary goal of the visiting program focused on getting acquainted with and discussing those instruments employed by the Parliamentary opposition’s work in Germany, as well as particularly knowing the work performed by the committees led by the opposition.
This visit included Berlin, Brandenburg/Potsdam, and North Rhine-Westfalia/Düsseldorf. Our Cambodian visitors learned first about politics, state administration, federal system, and the panorama of the political parties in the Federal Republic of Germany. Particularly significant was for them the opposition work and the efforts conducted by committees in the following areas: politics, human rights, fight against corruption, health, budget, education, as well as press and public relations work at federal, regional, and municipal levels. They also exchanged experiences with their German peers about the parliamentary work. The culminating part of the trip was the visit to the German Federal Parliament in the Reichstag Building in Berlin.
The study group visited the headquarters of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, where they received information about the liberal-oriented work performed internationally by our Foundation.
At the end of the academic trip, all the participants were very satisfied with the obtained results. Topics such as politics and state administration, party structure, media work, education, health, etc. were greatly welcomed. They thanked the Foundation for the organization and opportunity to make the trip; they will use the knowledge acquired to perform their political activities in Cambodia, in order to foster freedom and more democracy in their country.
by Sophanna Khim and Hans-Georg Jonek
A great and unusual distinction was awarded to the Project Office Argentina of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, and its counterpart “Red Ser Fiscal” (“Be an Observer” Network) on March 20, 2015. The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis I, received both institutions in a private meeting in the Vatican.
Since 2009 the Foundation for Freedom cooperates with “Be an Observer”, a network engaged with transparent electoral processes within the electoral observation field. Once important elections have concluded, “Be an Observer” posts its results which not only draw high attention levels in Argentina.
During the 30-minute meeting, Francis praised the effort from both institutions and emphasized the importance of free, fair elections in a democracy. It is important, particularly in Argentina, that civil society, NGOs, and also international organizations, such as the Foundation for Freedom, advocate for transparent elections and against corruption, and do not delegate such tasks to the monopoly of state institutions. In this regard, the head of the Catholic Church stated that nowadays electoral manipulation has deeply spread, which could lead to a “white coup”.
At last, the Foundation’s project director emphasized that the Foundation for Freedom has been promoting for over 30 years the democratization process in Argentina, and advocating for transparent, free elections, and against manipulation and corruption. In view of the upcoming elections, and from a liberal standpoint, possibilities for a political and government change could clearly emerge.
This meeting with the head of the Catholic Church constitutes an early highlight of the multi-day visiting program that the group will complete afterwards in Brussels. Argentineans will meet there with the Vice-President of the EU Parliament, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff; other ALDE Group representatives in the European Parliament, and high-ranking experts of the EU Commission, among others.
by Jörg Dehnert
Project Director (Argentina), Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom
From October 11 to 18, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom organized an information program in Germany (Hamburg and Berlin) for Turkish journalists named “Freedom of media – legal, institutional and economic fundaments”.
Participants in this program were: Sevgi Akarçeşme (Zaman & Today’s Zaman), Yonca Poyraz Doğan (independent journalist), Ahu Özyurt (CNN Türk), Müjde Yazıcı (Milliyet), İpek Yezdani (Hürriyet), Lora Sarı (Agos) and Ayhan Aktar (Taraf and Bilgi University).
Three priority subjects were the basis of this program:
1. Journalism/structure/outlook/freedom of media
2. Foreign policy
3. Turkish community
Professor Dr. Steffen Burkhardt, Director of the International Media Center (Hamburg), was in charge of the introductory section of the seminar that lasted one day. Subjects such as laws and institutions of the German media and communication system were addressed, as well as the principles and structure of media freedom and self-control; media protagonists and the ombudsman concept; media independence mechanisms and contents in the digital transformation era. Through this crash course, broad and greatly informative, participants acquired a general overview on the German media history, structure and principles, which eventually proved to be a solid foundation for future program phases.
Based on this seminar, the delegation had meetings (in Hamburg) with stern.de and Spiegel editors; (in Berlin) with members of the metropolitan studio of the ARD channel and ZEIT newspaper, among others. Also with the German Association of Journalists, the German Newspaper Editors Federation and the German Journal Council.
Regarding the second subject, the delegation had the opportunity to have conversations with two members of the German Parliament: Özcan Mutlu from Alliance ‘90/The Greens and Matern Freiherr Marschall von Bieberstein (CDU). First of all, foreign policy topics were addressed, such as the relationship status between Turkey and the European Union, the civil war in Syria and the international coalition battle against IS.
Also, Turkey’s internal policy subjects were addressed, such as the increased restriction on free opinion and media, the allegations of corruption against members of the ACP government and –as a consequence– the massive lay-off of police officers, judges and district attorneys, etc.
Another meeting related with the second subject was carried out with Dr. Günther Seufert, Turkey expert of the Foundation for Politics and Science (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, SWP). After sharing summarized information on the structure and function of the SWP, the conversation focused on the Turkey/EU relationship and the future of the adhesion negotiations.
Conversations were held with the Turkish-German Center directorate (Berlin-Neukölln) regarding the third priority subject (Turkish community in Germany) and with Kamuran Sezer, Director of the futureorg Institute (Dortmund), an institute dedicated to applied, prospective and organizational research. On one hand, everyday and integration problems were addressed; on the other hand, issues concerning the political orientation of German citizens with immigrant (Turkish) background.
The visit to the FNF main office in Potsdam helped the delegation gain insights on the broad international activities of the Foundation. Turkish guests also showed great interest in the location and facilities of the Foundation’s headquarters.
The visiting program ended with a public round table, to which selective guests with priority interest in Turkey were invited. Time was insufficient and only the following subjects were addressed: “Freedom of the media in Turkey” and “Civil war in Syria – The Kurd issue in the IS”. Journalists faced competent questions asked by the guests.
Arab mayors, congressmen and judges visiting trip on decentralization
It is a great surprise: Eric Weik (FDP), mayor of Wermelskirchen at North Rhine–Westphalia, declares that he can only implement what the city council decides. He was asked: “But, as a liberal mayor don’t you automatically obtain a majority at the council that votes for your project?” “No, that is why I have to fight each time for a majority and convince people”, explained Weik. This has little to do with the arbitrary conduct of dignitaries in many Arab countries. A local government has, at the same time, own incomes, for example, from the trade tax – and the young liberal mayor delights with his great achievement: When he lowered the trade tax, the town attracted numerous companies and therefore, greatly increased its trade tax derived income. Mayors, members of parliament, politicians and judges of six Arab countries that participate in the information trip to Germany, are fascinated by this degree of municipal self-management.
There is enormous interest in the subject. The majority of Arab countries are now experiencing a period of upheaval and transformation, in which the centralist order of the State is also critically assessed. In Morocco, the first decentralization bill, which was announced years ago, is circulating these days. In Tunisia, after the revolution, new non-party mayors were partially assigned and new State building laws are now being generated. But Lebanon and Jordan are also thinking about generating more municipal self-management. In this regard, the German federal system becomes an interesting model – even if its complexity represents a challenge. The visits and conversations –at the Federal Parliament and Federal Council, the Regional Parliament of Düsseldorf, two municipalities with liberal mayors, the Cologne Municipal Congress, the Ministry of Economy of North Rhine-Westphalia and the State representation of North Rhine-Westphalia in Berlin- illustrate and exemplify the delimitation and cooperation of the different levels.
The liberal spokesperson of the Committee for Europe and One World at the regional parliament of Düsseldorf and former minister, Ingo Wolf, masterfully presented the historic evolution of the German model and also disclosed its weaknesses: excessive mixed financing at all levels. His advice from the liberal point of view: “In case of financial compensations, there must exist sufficient incentives and the overcompensation of differences must be avoided”. And: “Define objectives, but provide the greatest freedom possible on the way to achieve them.”
The conversation held at the German County Association in Berlin resulted to be very confusing for the Arab guests: the participants asked about the origin of this level in this three-structured system and its purposes. It is highly probable that this institution will not find followers in the Arab world – but some tools regarding civic participation, municipal self-management and federal structure will be integrated to the proposals and discussions in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
by Andrea Nüsse, FNF Project Director Morocco
The International Academy for Leadership – or IAF – is the most valuable and arguably also the most popular of the many international programs sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF). Over the years, a large number of young and also senior leaders from India have attended the courses in the Western German city of Gummersbach. FNF New Delhi’s Omair Ahmed was invited to join the recent workshop titled “Religious Power in Politics. Political Power through Religion?” as a co-moderator. We asked him to share his impressions.
“The seminar was filled with argumentative, boisterous and convivial discussions.”
This was only to be expected with such a sensitive topic, and with people from the Arab Spring countries like Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt, as well as from countries as varied as Mexico, Malaysia, Russia, Tanzania, the United States, Ukraine, the Palestinian Territories, and India. All of the participants felt strongly about the issue, some of whom asserted that they were ‘fundamentalist’ in their interpretation of faith, though not in a militant sense, while others stated their own ‘fundamentalist’ belief in atheism or non-theism.
The discussion was ably assisted by Arno Keller, a former country director for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), and assisted by Sagarica Delgoda, another former country director for FNF. They brought in a great deal of personal experience, from countries as diverse as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Germany, trying to get at the root of the idea of secularism and what it means in the modern world. Referring to the multiple ways that ostensibly secular countries such as the United States, Germany, France and the United Kingdom have official religions, collect religious taxes, have religious political parties and a host of other practices, Mr Keller demonstrated the confusion on the very idea of “secular” for most everyone. Instead he encouraged the participants to discuss the issues and get at main principles and themes. Ms Delgoda spoke about Buddhism as a meniator of values, and how even such a religion could be manipulated for nationalistic sentiments.
While participants from the Arab countries, who had seen revolution and radicalisation recently, were often vocal in their fears and opinions, the important stories of the experience of minority communities in Malaysia and the role of religion in war-making rhetoric in the Ukraine-Russian crisis also figured in the discussion. An exercise by the participants, in which five groups were asked to list the basic values of liberalism, Christianity, Islam, non-theistic Humanism, and Hindu & Buddhist thought threw up a host of overlaps, showing the participants visually how much they had in common. The exercises were an important part of the seminar, as was the trip to Cologne and an interaction with the Rabbi of the Synagogue there. Each member of the group pledged to complete a particular assignment within three months of the end of the seminar, and when they parted, it was with a great deal of new thoughts, as well as with a number of new friends from across the world.
by Omair Ahmed, Delhi/India
This article first appeared on www.southasia.fnst.org: “Religious Power and Politics: An international liberal debate in Germany”,
7 October 2014.
10 Years of EU Expansion – Despite Disillusion and Nationalism, a Strong Conviction for Europe, Particularly among Young People, Prevails
May 1st, 2004 was a great joyful date in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the three Baltic countries. The acceptance of the young democracies into the European Union initially evidenced in those eight countries a strong economic growth that had positive repercussions on politics and society. The global crisis and the subsequent Euro crisis were factors that came mostly to ruin it all. The resulting reductions of social benefits, joined by a severe austerity policy implemented by the governments led broad population groups not only to impoverishment, but also disillusion regarding the personal and economic freedom achieved by the adherence to the EU.