Children's rights

Children’s rights are still violated all over Europe. The rights of children are not limited to access to education, adequate food or quality health care. States also bear the responsibility to protect them against sexual exploitation or any other forms of violence. They must not discriminate against children, but should listen to them and involve them in every decision relating to them. States are also obliged to protect children against poverty.

Some progress has been made, partly as a result of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Council of Europe has also contributed to the protection of children through the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Committee on Social Rights as well as through the adoption of important standards relating to adoption, child exploitation, juvenile justice or children in institutions.

Despite this, persistent and widespread violations of children’s rights occur in all parts of Europe. The Commissioner for Human Rights therefore pays particular attention to the respect for and the protection of the rights of children.

He regularly visits prisons or care institutions where children are placed and provides recommendations to national authorities on how they could improve their records on children’s rights.
Positions on children's rights
Positions on the rights of minor migrants in an irregular situation

A summary of conclusions and recommendations concerning children’s rights, based on the Commissioner’s country monitoring and thematic reports, issue papers, recommendations, opinions and viewpoints.


Janusz Korczak, the Child's Right to Respect (Korczak lectures)

Korczak's message was about respect for children, respect for their inherent value as human beings, but also for their capacity and competence. Though continuously practising as a medical doctor and directing orphanages, he was also a writer. His essay "The Child's Right to Respect", in which he analyses the role of adults and the place of children in society, is published in this volume.

Korczak's vision of children's rights is still relevant. What can we learn from his ideas when tackling today's challenges?

Five eminent children's rights activists analyse current problems in the Korczak lectures. They focused on participation, children’s best interest, children in out-of-home care, corporal punishment as well as children and prison.

To order

Issue Papers

Issue Papers are commissioned and published by the Commissioner for Human Rights for the purpose of contributing to debate or further reflection on a current and important human rights matter. All opinions in these expert papers do not necessarily reflect the position of the Commissioner.

Adoption and children: a human rights perspective (2011)
Children and juvenile justice: proposals for improvements (2009)
Children and corporal punishment: “The right not to be hit, also a children’s right” (2008)

Stop sexual violence against children

About one in five children in Europe are victims of some form of sexual violence. The Council of Europe campaign aims at raising awareness and promoting the reinforcement of mechanisms and measures of protection for child victims at national level.

Building a Europe for and with children

Council of Europe programme covering the social, legal, educational and health dimensions relevant to protecting children and promoting their rights.

Photo gallery on children

Photos Sandro Weltin/ © Council of Europe
Please contact the author for the use or reproduction of any photo displayed in this gallery.

Latest News

Austerity measures weaken human rights protection in Spain (09.10.2013)
  Estonia should eliminate child statelessness (20.06.2013)
Spain: Human rights need particular protection in times of economic crisis and austerity budgets (07.06.2013)
Estonia: All children should be citizen (27.03.2013)
Portugal: Austerity measures threaten the most vulnerable (10.07.2012)

Human Rights Comment

Decisions concerning migrant children must always be based on their best interests (19.09.2013)
Child labour in Europe: a persisting challenge (20.08.2013)
Governments should act in the best interest of stateless children (15.01.2013)
Schools must stop spreading homophobic and transphobic messages (27.09.2011)
Methods for assessing the age of migrant children must be improved  (09.08.2011)
Previous Comments
List of the Commissioner's Viewpoints on children's rights from 2007 to 2009

Speeches and statements

Children’s rights are threatened by austerity measures (18.06.2012)
Address before the Committee on Justice of the Dutch Senate, The Hague (28.09.2010)
Children must be the actors of their rights (06.10.2010)

Previous Speeches

Country monitoring

Reports and press releases classified by country


“Ombudswork for children”, Athens, 29-30 September 2006