From words to action: will the Council of Europe’s new Child Rights Strategy deliver for children?

Eurochild Secretary General, Jana Hainsworth, and Eurochild President, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, attended the launch event of the new 6-year Strategy of the Rights of the Child of the Council of Europe.

In the words of Iceland’s Minister for Education and Children, Ásmundur Einar Daõason, “we must all become activists now”. 

The war in Ukraine cast a dark shadow on the recent launch event of the Council of Europe’s new 6-year Strategy for the Rights of the Child.  The event was inaugurated by the statements of Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska and of the Ukraine’s Minister for Social Policy, Maryna Lazebna, who laid bare the scale of child rights violations. More than 2 million children were forced to abandon their homes and many are being killed, injured, sexually abused and displaced. Statements by the First Lady of Ukraine,

Nobody could foresee the war during the lengthy process leading up to the Strategy’s adoption.  But, as highlighted by many high-level delegates, this crisis only raises the importance and urgency of implementing the six priority areas highlighted in the Strategy. However, how will Member States of the Council of Europe make good on their commitments? 

Eurochild’s goals overlap with those of the Council of Europe – in particular when it comes to equal opportunities and social inclusion for all children, and giving a voice to every child.

We also applaud the Council of Europe’s efforts to meaningfully engage children in shaping the Strategy and to involve them in the conference itself. The Child Participation 4 Europe project shows promise in mainstreaming child participation in public decision-making processes and several members in partner countries (Czechia, Iceland, Portugal, Slovenia and Finland) are already involved. 

We are also pleased to see the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe take up the mantle of child participation. A recent resolution /recommendation of the Committee for Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development draws heavily on Eurochild’s experience and representatives of the Committee have reiterated their commitment to bring child participatory practices into the heart of what they do

We urge governments who have signed up to implement the CoE Strategy to work with and strengthen civil society and child rights defenders. Referring to the work of Eurochild National Partner Networks, we drew attention to the importance of civil society working together at national level to hold governments accountable to the commitments they make – to the UN, the Council of Europe and the EU.  We also drew attention on Eurochild National Partner Network, Plataforma de Infancia, and specifically on their important work involving children in defense of environmental rights, particularly in the context of the climate crisis

Finally, despite how warmly the Strategy was welcomed by government representatives, we are acutely aware that opposition to children’s rights is still widespread across our region. In February 2022, Eurochild convened a high-level meeting between the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović and the European Commission Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, Dubravka Šuica, where we called for an observatory to monitor anti-child rights movements. We need more tools and resources to prevent the spread of disinformation which challenge the underlying principles of human rights and democracy.  These are the values on which the Council of Europe is built, and the values that are being defended in Ukraine. Now, we must all become activists and defend them.

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