The United Nations Children's Fund says violence, poverty and exclusion still dominate the lives of millions of children in Europe and Central Asia, despite progress on legal and institutional reforms.
'Too often, we see that legislation is on the books but that many children remain on the margins of society; unregistered at birth, not in school, too poor to see a doctor and, for that, all the more vulnerable to violence and abuse,' said Rima Salah, Unicef deputy executive director.
Marta Santos Pais, director of the Unicef's Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, added: 'The main challenge now is to fast-forward on reforms and make them a reality for every child. This can only be done by having children involved from the beginning and listening to what they have to say.'
The calls for progress on reform were made at the third Intergovernmental Conference on a Europe and Central Asia Fit for Children, held in Palencia, Spain, this week, to reaffirm commitments made at the UN Special Session on Children in May 2002.
The two-day conference on Monday and Tuesday focused on child poverty and social exclusion, violence against children, and monitoring mechanisms for children's rights.
Violence against children is the subject of a benchmark report commissioned by the UN General Assembly, which secretary general Kofi Annan will present in October.
A chronic lack of reliable, comparable data, broken down by income, gender, age, ethnic and social origin, and place of residence was a crucial challenge, delegates were told. Without data it was difficult to take appropriate action and measure progress on children's rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Unicef urged countries to make the provision of data a priority.