“On the occasion of World Children’s Day, I call on political leaders to ensure that children’s rights remain firmly on top of their agendas. Council of Europe member states must take all necessary measures to build strong societies for the future. This means investing in children from early childhood on, to ensure their equal access to rights and address rising levels of child poverty. The best interests of the child must be given primary consideration every day of the year, including during emergency situations and in all recovery programming,” said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, today.
As Europe is moving into its second pandemic winter, governments are again facing important challenges. Yet, they must not lose sight of the profound and ongoing crisis of children’s rights in Europe. Even before the pandemic struck, children had a higher risk of poverty and social exclusion than working-aged adults and older people, particularly when living in single-parent households. There was already a sharp digital divide limiting access to knowledge and opportunities for children of disadvantaged socioeconomic background, and causing deep inequalities in societies across the continent. If left unattended, these inequalities will increase and perpetuate themselves from one generation to the next.
COVID-19 has exacerbated child poverty and social exclusion as families have faced a new wave of unemployment and income insecurity. Access to vital health and social care services were impacted by emergency measures, and food banks across Europe have reported a sharp increase in demand. Interruptions to education caused by school closures have had disproportionately adverse effects on children from disadvantaged families and will require strenuous efforts over many years to be reversed.
As pandemic-related emergency support is dwindling and governments concentrate on economic recovery, the worst may yet be to come for the weakest members of our societies: our children. Governments must ensure that their wellbeing and equal access to rights are prioritised throughout the pandemic and throughout the recovery period.
Children need strong political will and commitment now and every day.