Children's rights continue to be violated all over Europe. Moreover, children are not always recognised as full bearers of human rights. 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 and through the adoption of important standards relating to adoption, child exploitation, juvenile justice or children in institutions.
The rights of children are not limited to access to education, adequate food or quality health care. States also bear the responsibility to ensure that children’s best interests are a primary consideration in all decisions concerning them. They must not discriminate against children, but should listen to them and involve them in every decision relating to them. They must also protect them against all forms of violence and exploitation. Moreover, they are obliged to provide protection against poverty.
The protection of the rights of children is high on the agenda of the Commissioner for Human Rights. He regularly visits care institutions, schools, facilities where children are detained, places where children live in precarious conditions, and organisations providing services to children. 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 he devotes specific attention: 1) the persisting problem of statelessness among children in various member states; 2) the still widespread practice of placing some groups of children, including Roma and children with disabilities, in segregated educational settings; and 3) the human rights situation of migrant children, especially unaccompanied minor migrants.