“The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened and widened pre-existing inequalities that undermine children’s ability to enjoy their human rights, including in terms of health, safety, education, and living conditions. There is a clear risk that COVID-19 will have adverse long-term effects on children and the fulfilment of their rights”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights today, ahead of the 31st anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
“This is a very delicate period for children. As governments devise and implement measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on people’s lives, it is crucial that they make the best interests of the child a priority.
To this end, governments should seek inspiration from the rights enshrined in the UNCRC, translating them into tangible goals for national and local authorities, and devising specific lines of action to enable children to develop to their fullest potential.
States must strengthen their efforts to protect children from violence, poverty and neglect, all the more during times of crisis, and gear their childcare services to the current health situation. It is also crucial that state authorities adopt effective measures to enable children to fully exercise their rights to education and health care, to access reliable information that they can understand, and to participate and be heard. In all of this we should never forget children’s rights to play, leisure time and culture – which are so seriously eroded during lockdowns - and to receive adequate psychological support when needed.
I call on member states to step up their co-operation with international bodies, children’s Ombudsmen, and youth organisations. In the current situation, it is particularly important to secure the right of children to be heard and participate in processes involving decisions affecting them. By involving children in such processes, states will not only fulfil one of the rights enshrined in the UNCRC. They will also empower children to be part of the solution and take up the many challenges that lie ahead.
I wish to express my solidarity with children and their families who, despite economic difficulties and uncertainties about the future, are making sacrifices to attend school or to follow lessons online. I also salute the work of so many teachers who play such a crucial role in keeping up children’s education despite the health risks involved and the difficulties posed by remote teaching.
The UNCRC is a silver lining in troubling times and a valuable resource that states should not waste. As it turns 31 tomorrow, states should offer their renewed commitment to this crucial text and ensure that current and future generations of children will continue to benefit from the protection it affords.”