About the report

Foreword

‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together’ (saying)

This report on children’s rights in Germany is a co-operation between 101 organisations. The National Coalition Deutschland was founded in 1992, and composed the Supplementary Report to the German federal government’s First, Second, Third/Fourth and now Fifth/Sixth Periodic Reports. Based on the recommendations established by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2014, 22 member organisations took charge of co-ordinating a localised writing process, and worked with other member organisations to compose parts of this report – on education, health, poverty and many other issues. Their common aim was to assess, at a civil-society level, how the federal government has implemented the recommendations from the last report cycle.

New topics were added by member organisations, many directly referencing the federal government’s State Report. The collaboration between the various member organisations has strengthened the ties between them, the network has grown, and civil society is co-operating even better. Joint discussions on the drafts saw us learn a lot from each other, and increased the wealth of knowledge within the member organisations of the National Coalition Deutschland.

But the more we know, the more questions are raised. If a topic is not mentioned or not addressed from a civil-society perspective in this Supplementary Report, this does not mean no action is required in that area. These gaps in content are often due to the fact that the National Coalition Deutschland does not have a broad enough skill set in that field, which is then flagged as an area requiring further development.

One of the greatest challenges associated with the report was that of recording developments at a municipal, state and national level. The federal system means that responsibility for legislation and execution does not always occur at the same level; for example, the state has authority over education-related decisions, while the State Report and Supplementary Report are primarily federal-level activities.

Meanings of individual words and age-group structures also posed a challenge for the authors. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, all people aged under 18 are children, though 15-year-olds would tend to classify themselves more as adolescents, and the ‘young adults’ age group established by law in Germany applies up to the age of 27, thereby exceeding the framework of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the term ‘child’. A heightened awareness of diversity and diversity-sensitive language led to numerous discussions amongst many of the authors. We hope we have put together a good, diverse report that helps ensure children’s rights are respected in Germany.

Berlin, 20 June 2019

Definition of the Child

Many sections of this 5th/6th Supplementary Report refer to ‘children and adolescents’ to describe people under the age of 18 years. Volume VIII of the German Social Code distinguishes between children and adolescents: Adolescents are aged between 14 and 18 years. If the term ‘young people’ is mentioned, this refers to people aged 0 to 27 years.
This report will – where possible – refrain from using the terms ‘minor’ and ‘of legal age’, with the exception of the fixed expression ‘unaccompanied refugee minors’, which is used in this report to explicitly refer to regulations in asylum and immigration law.

Inclusion

The National Coalition Germany understands the notion of inclusion as a human rights principle directly linked to the right to freedom, equality and solidarity. Initially primarily based on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the understanding of inclusion has broadened, and today stands for the elimination of structural barriers which restrict or prevent participation. Inclusion means no person may be excluded, segregated or marginalised. Every person’s rights and individuality must be recognised and respected, regardless of sex, gender, age, origin, migration background, religion, sexual orientation, education, social status, any physical or intellectual disabilities, emotional or behavioural disorders, or other particularities or social attributions.

Migration background

The German Federal Statistical Office defines migration background as follows: ‘A person is deemed to have a migration background if they themselves, or at least one of their parents, were not born a German citizen. Specifically speaking, persons with a migration background include all foreigners, (late) resettlers and naturalised persons. They also include persons who were born German citizens but for whom at least one parent is a foreigner, late resettler or naturalised person.’

‘Migration background’ has been determined by 19 questions based on the German Microcensus Act since 2016, though various studies or institutes, such as the PISA, the German Federal Employment Agency, the German Federal Institute for Vocational Education & Training, and the joint EU census for 2011, establish it through fewer questions. For example, they take into account the parents’ countries of origin, the language spoken at home, and other factors.

The term ‘persons with a migration background’ was initially used in administrative and scientific terminology, but since it has now also entered the vernacular, some people find it stigmatising, as it is now primarily associated with (Muslim) ‘problem groups’.

The National Coalition Deutschland uses the term ‘so-called migration background’ to reference the State Report, even though it is aware of its stigmatising effect. As numerous source texts do not use the German Federal Statistical Office’s definition consistently, it is similarly impossible to guarantee consistent use of the term in the Supplementary Report.

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