Focusing on the well-being of children in Israel from the viewpoint of policy making, planning and practice.
The Beersheba Conference on Children's Well-Being in Israel was initiated in February 2002 to focus public, political and media attention on the questions of policy, planning, and change in the provision of services from a comprehensive standpoint. The conference has a multi-domain, multi-framework approach, and most importantly, puts the child in the center of all its concerns.
Beersheba, "the capital of the Negev", was chosen as the location for the conference. Although it is Israel’s fourth largest city, far from the countrys center it expresses the NCC commitment to peripheral regions in Israel. As a joint project of the NCC and the Ben-Gurion University, the conference also has the sponsorship of several Israeli businesses and organizations.
Distinguished participants from the Knesset, governmental ministries, community services, the media, Israeli businesses and academia - some 500 of the most influential policy makers in Israel - free their busy schedules to devote two full days to discussing the state of Israel's children, their needs and steps that should be taken to improve their lives and guarantee their rights.
Youth play an important role in all of its aspects of the conference. Approximately 80 high school students - Jews, Arabs, new immigrants, youth at-risk, religious and secular– have the opportunity to meet senior policy makers, to voice their opinions and discuss policy effecting their lives and those of their peers. Working for months before the conference, students prepare position papers voicing their opinions regarding the different aspects of children's lives to be discussed in the conference. Students open panel discussions by posing questions for subsequent discussion. Summaries of the papers are reproduced in a special newspaper especially prepared for the conference.
The conference success goes beyond the overwhelming positive response of the participants. First, the conference provides an opportunity for professionals from a multitude of ranks and fields to talk with one another on children’s issues; a rarity in their usual activities. Second, policy changes that take place following each conference are concrete evidence of the influence that the event has on society; beyond another theoretical gathering. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the involvement of youth in the conference reinforces our belief that children must be actively involved in decisions affecting their lives.
The conference is another NCC program aimed to raise children's rights to the top of the national agenda and to empower youth, enabling their voices to be heard.