“On World Children’s Day, I call on political leaders to ensure that children’s rights remain firmly high on 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, to ensure their equal access to rights and to tackle increasing levels of child poverty. The best interests of the child must be a primary consideration every day of the year, including during emergencies and in all recovery programs, ”the Commissioner for Human Rights said today from the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatović.
As Europe enters its second pandemic winter, governments again face significant challenges. However, they must not lose sight of the deep and current crisis of children’s rights in Europe. Even before the pandemic hit, children were at higher risk of poverty and social exclusion than working-age adults and the elderly, especially when living in single-parent households. There was already a sharp digital divide limiting access to knowledge and opportunities for children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, and causing deep inequalities in societies across the continent. If left unattended, these inequalities will increase and continue from generation to generation.
COVID-19 has exacerbated child poverty and social exclusion, as families face a new wave of unemployment and income insecurity. Access to vital health and social services has been affected by the emergency measures, and food banks across Europe have reported a huge increase required. The interruptions in education caused by school closures have had a disproportionate adverse effect on children from disadvantaged families and will require strenuous efforts over many years to address.
As emergency aid from the pandemic wanes and governments focus on economic recovery, perhaps the worst is yet to come for the weakest members of our societies: our children. Governments must ensure that their well-being and equal access to rights is a priority throughout the pandemic and throughout the recovery period.
Children need strong political will and commitment now and every day.