Children's rights

Children and young people have the same human rights as adults and must be recognised as full rights holders. Moreover, children are entitled to additional rights due to their special needs and vulnerabilities to exploitation and abuse. The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely supported international treaty, ratified by all but one UN member state. It lays out the specific rights of children, from the rights to life, survival and development to the rights to education, quality health care, leisure and play, to the right to be protected from violence and to be heard on all matters affecting the child.

States have committed themselves to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights and to make all necessary efforts to ensure that all children, not just the privileged few, enjoy basic qualities of life and can reach their full potential. The Council of Europe has significantly contributed to the protection of children through the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights as well as through the adoption of important standards such as relating to adoption, child exploitation, juvenile justice or children in institutions.

Yet, children's rights continue to be violated across the European continent and many children, in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities, find themselves without protection from exploitation and abuse. Levels of child poverty have been rising steadily and children and young people are increasingly affected by homelessness.

The protection of the rights of children is high on the agenda of the Commissioner for Human Rights. She regularly visits care institutions, schools, facilities where children are detained, places where children live in precarious conditions, and organisations providing services to children. As part of her mandate, the Commissioner addresses recommendations to national authorities on how they could improve their records on children's rights.

The Commissioner has identified three areas of concern to which she devotes specific attention: 1) the human rights situation of migrant children, especially unaccompanied minor migrants; 2) the right of children to be heard and to have their views given due weight in all matters affecting the child; and 3) the rising levels of child poverty and social exclusion.


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