Claudia Stangl-Taller, Ombudsoffice Upper Austria
SECOND REGIONAL MEETING OF NGO FORUMS IN EUROPE
STOCKHOLM, MAY 26th-28th 1999
Austria, National Coalition,
Conference of Ombudsperson for Children and Youth
NGO´s and the political will
Methods for monitoring and lobbying of national NGO reports to
the UN Committee of the Rights of the Child.
Austria has a federal state structure, being divided into 9
federal states. Therefore Austrian Ombudsoffices for Children and
Youth were set up in all nine Austrian states. In addition a Federal
Children´s Ombudsperson was established within the Ministry of
Environment, Youth and Family.
This Child and Youth Ombudssystem was founded by the Austrian
Youth Welfare Act, a federal law of principles in 1989. So the
Ombudssystem is as old as the UN Convention on the Rights of the
The Conference of Ombudspersons for Children and Youth consisting
of the Ombudspersons for Children and Youth in Burgenland, Carinthia,
Lower Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Upper Austria, Vienna and
Vorarlberg is a member of the National Coalition of Austria
(hereinafter called "NC").
The NC for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights
of the Child is a national umbrella body in Austria which represents
a wide range of non-governmental organisations and independent
institutions concerned with the rights and welfare of children and
was founded in 1997.
Other members are for example:
- Austrian Boy Scouts and Girl Guides Movement
- Austrian Committee for Unicef
- Austrian Federal Youth Council
- Catholic Children Movement of Austria
- Socialdemocratic Children Movement
The first NGO report of the NC was presented in June 1998 in
Geneva at the presessional meeting for the Initial Report of
Austria signed the Convention and ratified it with reservation on
5. September 1992, which means Austria will perform the contract
through passing its own laws within the meaning of the Convention.
The Convention is not directly applicable and the rights are not
written down in the Constitutional Law.
The Initial Report of Austria was ready in fall 1996, more than
two years after the required date. NGOs have not been sufficiently
involved in the process, the ombudspersons received the Initial
Report to make comments on it within a period of one week.
The NC demands, that NGOs and independent organisations will be
involved from the beginning for the next report.
The first NGO report &endash; from March 1998 &endash; regarding
the Initial Report contains a lot of demands and
Here are some:
- Reduction of the age of majority from 19 to 18.
It is already existing a bill and this demand will be
fulfilled in the year 2000.
- Obligate attorneys for children and youth in front of the
Pilot projects are running in five federal states in
collaboration between the ombudspersons and the chambers of the
- Sexual abuse: Education and continued education for judges,
attorneys, police officers, doctors, ...
- In Vienna already exists a special pool of judges for the
subject "sexual abuse".
support for victims
In autumn 1999 in one federal state there will be a pilot
project called "ProKids". It is a kind of "process-company"
beginning with the announcing of the suspicion and ending when the
wellbeing of the victim is restored.
special rooms for children and youth at the court
In all Provincial Courts are existing these rooms since
statutory period of limitation beginning with majority
This demand is already fulfilled (amendment of the Criminal
Code in October 1998).
In January/February 1999 the Ombudsoffice of Upper Austria
made a PR-campaign concerning the subject "sexual abuse" with
posters, advertisements in all important newspapers and folders as
a supplement for all 500000 households in Upper Austria.
In 1998 and 1999 the Ombudsoffice of Upper Austria organised an
exhibition in 6 districts of Upper Austria with the title "No
secure place &endash; Sexual violence on children &endash;
prevent/recognise/help". These exhibitions where shown in
combination with a detailed program for parents, social workers,
teachers and workshops for girls and boys, ...
- Distress call for children and youth free of charge,
available for every child in the country.
In the local parliament of Upper Austria was a motion of the
Green Party in May 1999. But it was turned down.
- Good availability of psychotherapists and social
institutions also and especially on the countryside.
The waiting periods specially for victims of sexual abuse are
up to six months.
- No detention for unaccompanied under-age refugees.
There are for example statistics from Upper Austria (1998)
that say that there were 108 under-age refugees in detention.
Per 11.02.1999 were still 54 under-age refugees in detention in
In March 1999 the Conference of Austrian Ombudspersons passed a
declaration concerning unaccompanied under-age refugees. The most
important demand was "no detention for unaccompanied under-age
In April 1999 the local parliament of Upper Austria brought in a
resolution to the federal government with the same demand "no
detention for unaccompanied under-age refugees.
- Information on the Convention (article 42).
Although the NGOs and independent institutions did most of the
work so far (e.g. postcards, booklets and brochures) the
Convention is still largely unknown in Austria.
- Availability of the Initial Report (article 44, Paragraph
The NC regrets that the government has neither presented the
Initial Report submitted in 1996 to a wide public nor held public
meetings on this matter, the Initial Report is only published in
English and is nowhere on offer. But there is a progress. The
Concluding Observations adopted of the Committee on the Rights of
the Child on 29th of January 1999 are already available in
- Anchoring the children and youth rights in the
The Austrian board of ombudspersons and the Austrian Federal
Ministry for the Environment, Youth and the Family ordered a
comprehensive study about the possibilities to write down
constitutional rights for children and youth in the Austrian
Constitution (made by the Boltzmann-Institute for Human Rights).
This study is already published as a book and was presented in a
press conference (April 1999, Graz). The authors make a proposal
to anchor 18 articles (representing the spirit of all 41 articles)
in the Constitutional Law of Austria.
In May 1999 the Conference of Ombudspersons for Children and Youth
set up a catalogue of demands to the Federal Government. One of
the most important demands is the demand for anchoring the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child in the Constitutional
Right now a committee of the ombudspersons of Austria has talks
with all clubs of the members of the National Council about the
possibilities to write down the Rights of the Child in the
Referring to the title "NGOs and the Political Will" you
see that NGOs can do a lot to influence the political will. But there
is still a lot to do.