Russia and the USA discuss children’s welfare
The first meeting of a working group of the Russo-American commission on ‘Civil Society’ has taken place in Washington. Participants included members of the public chamber, the children’s ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin and the chair of the presidential council on furthering the development of the institutions of civil society and human rights, Ella Pamphilova.
The press office of the public chamber said that the chief executive of the secretariat of the chamber, Anna Radchenko, had presented a report to the meeting. She remarked that both Russia and the USA had accumulated a great deal of experience in protecting children’s rights and law enforcement. She suggested that a joint conference be held with a view to sharing experience and developing practical recommendations in the area of law enforcement practice. She thought that Russia might find it useful to learn of the experience that the USA has had with regard to its database of those convicted of sexual crimes against children, which is open to the public.
Ms Radchenko went on to mention the experience that North American colleagues had had in pressurising businesses (food and drink companies, the tobacco and alcohol industries, the entertainment industry) to be more socially responsible in regard to children. ‘Unfortunately the standards of behaviour that they observe at home and their efforts at self-regulation at home are not always matched when it comes to markets that they regard as developing ones’, she added. In that connection Ms Radchenko suggested joint working with American colleagues with a view to monitoring socially responsible practice on the part of international companies in relation to minors. She also suggested organising a standing Russo-American seminar ‘Childhood 2030 – At the Crossroads’ as a forum for preparing a plan of action on child welfare with proposals to be put to the presidents of both countries that reflected positive experience there. Another of her ideas was to select a city in each country to be ‘Child Friendly City of 2030’. The press office of the presidential representative on children’s rights stated that he, Pavel Astakhov, had presented American colleagues with a report on the situation regarding child welfare in the Russian Federation.and also met with the director of the state department’s Office of Children’s Issues, Michael
Regan. They discussed issues of co-operation between the two countries in the field of adoption.
‘The Russian side does not always receive information about what happens to children sent abroad for adoption in spite of the fact that this is required of accredited organisations. However, apart from that there is a huge stream of adoptions that take place without the participation of officially authorised organisations’, explained Mr Astakhov. According to him, American colleagues acknowledged the existence of the problem and said that in their country such issues were resolved at the level of the individual states. Mr Astakhov observed that the problem in regard to international adoption arose because Russia and the USA were party to different international conventions. Russia had ratified the UN convention on the rights of the child whilst the USA had not. At the same time, The USA was party to the international Hague convention on adoption whilst Russia had acceded to it but not ratified it. ‘We wanted to sort the situation out by entering into bilateral agreements but the American side held that this would be a lengthy and complex exercise’, said Mr Astakhov. However, he observed that the state department representative expressed willingness to work with Russia despite the jurisprudential differences.
The second issue discussed in Washington related to cases of abduction of children when parents divorced. In February a delegation from the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Kids would be visiting Moscow at the invitation of the Moscow office of the ministry of the interior, it being planned to set an analogous centre up in Russia. With a view to resolving this issue, the American side has proposed examining the possibility of concluding a memorandum of mutual understanding.
The establishment of a Russo-American commission was initiated by the presidents of both countries at the time of President Obama’s visit to Moscow last year. The first deputy head of the presidential administration, Vladislav Surkov, was appointed as the co-ordinator of the working group on civil society on the Russian side and on the American, the special assistant to the president of the USA, Michael Makfoll.