Building a Europe for and with children

Celebrating 25 years of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 


The welcome and perhaps long-overdue arrival of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) 25 years ago gave us all the definitive text to anchor our work towards protecting children’s rights. The under-18s in 1989 could welcome the fact that their rights were finally spelled out in a single document; a treaty that was gratifyingly speedily adopted by almost all nations. The UNCRC is one of the most complete international human rights instruments that exist and clearly positions children as rights holders with a full set of political, social and cultural human rights.

For all those working with and for children we can say that we have come a long way, have achieved much, yet still seemingly have a long way to go. The UNCRC demands from states globally that children are afforded protection from violence and it also expects that childrens’ best interests are taken into account.

To pay tribute to the challenges overcome and to underline the challenges that remain, the Council of Europe dedicates this week to the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the UNCRC. See here for further details.

Below is an overview of some of the activities the Council of Europe has undertaken under the Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2012-2015 to guarantee the effective implementation of children’s rights as set out in the UNCRC.

 1. Child-friendly services and systems:

The Council of Europe has aimed its efforts towards securing the rights of children in care by educating children about their rights as set forth in the UNCRC. This has been achieved by standard setting through Recommendations as well as by providing guidance to professionals working with children in care.

    Child-friendly social services
It is important that the provision of social services that have an effect on the rights of a child be based on individual assessment of the child’s needs and circumstances. Child participation must also be guaranteed in all cases. See the Recommendation on children’s rights and social services friendly to children and families.

The Council of Europe aims to implement child-friendly justice and to improve children’s access to justice. In 2010 the Council of Europe consulted with children and gathered their views on justice systems.  This led to the adoption of Guidelines on child friendly justice that are intended for use by professionals working in the criminal, civil or administrative justice systems.

2. Violence against children

As enshrined in Article 19 of the UNCRC all children shall be guaranteed protection from all forms of physical or mental violence.

Violence against children can, for instance, take the form of bullying, violence in schools, sexual violence or corporal punishment. The Council of Europefights to end all forms of violence against children by adopting Conventions, standard setting through Recommendations and by raising awareness through the initiation of campaigns.


Bullying is a common problem worldwide which negatively impacts children psychologically and infringes their right to learn in a safe environment. The Council of Europe has developed a training pack to support existing violence prevention schemes in Europe. See the Beat Bullying video here.

Corporal punishment

Corporal punishment is the most widespread form of violence against children. The Council of Europe is challenging corporal punishment by campaigning for its abolition and by actively promoting positive parenting. Thus far 26 member states have introduced a full prohibition of corporal punishment in all settings. See the campaign against corporal punishment: Raise your hand against smacking !

    Sexual Violence

Available data suggests that about one in five children in Europe are victims of some form of sexual violence. The Council of Europe has taken action to fight for enhanced protection of children against sexual violence by creating the Lanzarote Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Thus far 34 member states have ratified the Convention.

See here for the ONE in FIVE Campaignaiming to achieve further ratification of the Lanzarote Convention and to equip children, families and societies with knowledge on sexual violence against children, ans here to view the awareness-raising video “The Lake”, and here to view the materials: Kiko and the Hand.

A further video “Keep me safe” illustrates good practices taking place in different member states through prevention of sexual violence and education and protection of victims.

3. Child participation

The right of children to participate in all matters which concern them is guaranteed in Article 12 of the UNCRC. The Council of Europe believes that all citizens have the right to participate in the workings of democratic society and that children are no exception! In 2014 the Council of Europe created the Child Participation Assessment Tool which is intended to measure progress in promoting the rights of children to be heard.