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The deliberation of the matter of significant national importance ?On the Situation of Children and on Ensuring the Children?s Rights in Estonia? was held in the Riigikogu.

Minister of Social Affairs Marko Pomerants noted in his report that there were three main inputs in Estonia?s activities in the field of child welfare. The most essential source is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, second ? the Strategy for Ensuring the Rights of the Child which was approved by the Government of the Republic in October 2003, and third ? the Child Protection Act. Mr. Pomerants added that the Child Protection Act which entered into force in 1993 had become outdated, and in order to upgrade the relevant legislation, the process for drafting a new child protection concept had been launched by the Ministry of Social Affairs. Minister of Social Affairs Marko Pomerants also provided an overview of the current situation of Estonian children, main problems and the Government?s action plan proposed by the Strategy for Ensuring the Rights of the Child.

Minister of Education and Research Toivo Maimets spoke about the opportunity to acquire a good education as one of the important issues in ensuring children?s rights. Mr. Maimets noted that to the date there were only a few persons who were satisfied with the substance and organization of the existing schooling. In the opinion of the Minister of Education and Research the schools, but first and foremost the headmasters of schools should be more trusted and have greater responsibility; the financing of schools should promote parents? options. The Minister stressed that our aim should be to create the best development opportunities for our most important resource, the children, and for this purpose it would be necessary to create, within the limits of the existing resources, opportunities to acquire education, which would best meet the needs of individual talents, interests and inclinations.

Legal Chancellor Allar Jõks focussed in his report on Legal Chancellor?s activities relating to ensuring the children?s rights and the problems that need to be solved. Allar Jõks referred to the fact that it would be impossible for the Legal Chancellor to start forming the state family, child protection and education policy which belonged to the competence of the parliament, but he could draw attention to the need to work out and implement these policies.

The Chairperson of the Riigikogu Social Affairs Committee Mai Treial referred in her report to the problems raised by the Estonian Union for Child Welfare, for instance to the low level of administrative capacity. In the words of Mai Treial there are few persons engaged in child protection in local governments, and the measures and services designated for the support of coping are rather modest. In her report, the Chairperson of the Social Affairs Committee also forwarded the proposals of the Union for Child Welfare for improving the situation. The shortcomings in the children?s health protection, especially in case of mistreated children were also referred to. Mai Treial stressed that the time had come when the family policy and the ensuring of children?s rights required continuity, and the assessment to the adopted legislation should be given on the basis of its impact on family policy, child protection and demographical processes.

Members of the Riigikogu Kadi Pärnits, Vilja Savisaar, Raivo Järvi, Sven Mikser, Kaarel Pürg, Ela Tomson, Elle Kull, Eiki Nestor, Tõnis Lukas, Mai Treial, Liina Tõnisson, Helmer Jõgi, Andres Taimla and Siiri Sisask took the floor.

The Riigikogu Press Service