The Smile of the Child
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Voluntary Children's Association
10, Zinonos Eleatou Street, GR-151 24 Maroussi, Athens, Greece
The Smile of the Child: 5th International Conference of the European Antibullying Network
Urgent call on the shared responsibility to tackle bullying through initiatives that promote a common European strategy.
An urgent call for the need to promote a common European strategy against bullying was launched at the 5th International Conference of the European Antibullying Network (EAN), hosted in Athens by the Organization “The Smile of the Child”, which holds the Presidency of the Network.
The conference was honored by the participation of the Head of the Information Office of the European Parliament in Greece, Mr. Leonidas Antonakopoulos, members of the Network from different EU Member States, public officials, institutional actors, the academia and professionals.
In his opening address the President of the BoD of the European Antibullying Network, Mr. Costas Yannopoulos, welcomed participants by highlighting the importance of a pan-European cooperation through the utilization of European funding mechanisms aiming at recognizing the phenomenon and the need to take all necessary measures and promote common policies.
“Sadly, and despite our efforts, the special characteristics of the phenomenon of bullying, and the need for specific legal initiatives that take into account these special characteristics, have not been recognized from the European Commission. As a result, the need for the adoption of appropriate initiatives at the EU level have not been taken. Bullying constitutes a public health issue and for this reason it must be tackled immediately through prevention, intervention and therapy. As parents, teachers, and society as a whole, we share the common responsibility to listen to our children and protect them by providing information, raising awareness and empowering all the relevant actors with proper tools and knowledge.”
In this spirit, the President of EAN analyzed extensively one of the priorities of the Network, which is the development of a certification tool with the funding of the European Union. This initiative will be presented in November 2019 in Brussels with the ambition to place school communities at the center of the management of bullying incidents within the school environment.
In his opening greeting, Mr. Antonakopoulos referred to the actions and initiatives undertaken by the European Parliament over the recent years towards addressing bullying, while he also highlighted the need to tackle bullying urgently by harmonizing the national legislations through a holistic framework at the European level. At the same time, he recognized the important efforts of the European Antibullying Network through the formulation of concrete recommendations to the EU institutions, and the opportunity for the further promotion of a common European strategy soon with the active support of the members of the European Parliament.
One of the key highlights of the conference was when Paolo Picchio, father of Carolina, the first-ever recognized victim of cyberbullying in Italy, shared in a highly emotional moment with all the participants the tragic story of his daughter, and his initiative to establish the Carolina Foundation in memory of her loss. The mission of the Foundation is to provide therapeutic services to children and young people in need of support. “What happened to Carolina should never happen again to any child. We must understand that the Internet provides many possibilities, but at the same time implies great responsibilities. Carolina inspired the adoption of the first law in Italy for the protection of children from the risks of cyberbullying” explained Mr. Picchio.
It is worth mentioning that “The Smile of the Child” operates a unique specialized center, the only one in Greece and one of the most innovative ones in Europe, with the support of the multi-disciplinary scientific team, offering therapeutic services aiming at the holistic treatment of cases of children victims of abuse and victims of bullying.
The conference emphasized the urgent need to address bullying in a coordinated manner on a European scale through the development of good practices and tools and the promotion of concrete awareness raising actions vis-à-vis the EU institutions and national authorities.
EAN Vice-President Maria Rita Bracchini from “Hallgarten-Franchetti Centro Studi Villa Montesca Foundation”, Italy and Secretary of EAN, Peter Dankmeijer from GALE Global Alliance for LGBT Education, The Netherlands, presented the first steps towards a European certification system against bullying and the progress of the EAN project towards establishing a platform for pursuing the development of a common antibullying tool for all schools in Europe.
In her speech the President of the Scientific Committee of the Conference, Professor Vasiliki Artinopoulou, analyzed the satisfactory progress achieved at the national level in the field of antibullying policies, however she highlighted that to date the goal of establishing a common European strategy has not been realized.
The keynote speaker of the conference, Peter Smith, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of London and Honorary Member of EAN, presented the consistency of gender differences in bully and victim rates. The main conclusion of Professor Smith is that the bullying phenomenon is affecting on an equal way both boys and girls.
The day preceding the conference, the meetings of the General Assembly and the Board of Directors of the Network were held. The members discussed the strategic priorities and future steps of the Network, while they also elected the new composition of the Board of Directors with Mr. Costas Yannopoulos being re-elected for a new term in the position of the President of EAN. The Board of Directors decided to host the 6th EAN International Conference in November 2019 in Brussels.
The European Antibullying Network would like to warmly thank the following sponsors of the conference:
- Hellenic Management Association for hosting the event
- BICI EVENT MANAGEMENT for its interpretation services
- GRAFISTES for covering the printing needs
- CAFFE VERO for the beverages