A new comprehensive strategy of children's rights

In “A New Push for European Democracy”

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The mission letter of the Commissioner for Democracy and Demography outlined a plan for a comprehensive strategy on the rights of the child, including actions to protect vulnerable children, protect their rights online, foster child-friendly justice, and prevent and fight violence. This new strategy should build on the work and the acquis done and achieved prior to 2019  across Commission portfolios. It should particularly build on the 2006 Communication 'Towards an EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child' and on the 2011 EU Agenda on the Rights of the Child. 

The work on children's rights across the EU has been done over the years in the context that in 1989 the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) explicitly recognised children as human beings with innate rights. The Convention has been ratified by all EU Member States. Article 3(3) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) focuses, inter alia, on the protection of children's rights, as does Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. The strategy is meant to contribute to mainstreaming children’s rights across all relevant EU areas of work, and throughout all six Commission political priorities as presented by President von der Leyen in her political guidelines.

Over the years the European Parliament has been instrumental in pushing children's rights to the core of European policies, particularly through its Intergroup on Children Right. In its latest resolution on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the UNCRC it emphasised the importance of focusing on both the external and internal aspects of children's rights across all portfolios. 

The European Commission, in the preparatory phase, ran a public consultation between 1 September and 8 December 2020. 

The European Parliament adopted its resolution on children's rights in the view of the EU strategy of the rights of the child won 11 March 2021 with 545 votes to 24, with 119 abstentions. It highlighted the massive toll the COVID-19 crisis has had on children, further exacerbating their risk of poverty, severely affecting access to education, compromising their physical and mental health and increasing the danger of violence and abuse. It emphasised the importance of a gender-balanced approach; of addressing structural inequalities; prioritising public investment in education, healthcare, housing, family support and childcare; investing in high-quality universal services that reach all children; strengthening the capacities of the social service workforce in order to support children and families facing special challenges; and supporting frontline operators in child protection services. It called on Member States to secure children's right to education. It also stressed that the strategy should improve the situation of children in migration and protect their interests both within and outside the EU, and at every stage of asylum procedures.

The Commission presented the strategy on 24 March 2021, together a proposal for a Council recommendation on establishing a European Child Guarantee. Details on the latter can be found in train 3.

The new strategy is comprehensive, developed for children and with children and draws upon the substantive contributions from the European Parliament and the Member States. It claims that children should have access to information provided in a child friendly way so they can clearly know what their rights are and, in this case, what the EU plans to do for them. It tackles six thematic areas: 

  • participation in political and democratic life; 
  • socio-economic inclusion, health and education; 
  • combating violence against children and ensuring child protection; 
  • child-friendly justice; 
  • safety of children in a digital and information society; 
  • global dimension: an EU that supports, protects and empowers children globally. 

The strategy proposes a series of targeted actions across these areas, each one defining the priorities for EU action in the coming years. This will be supported by strengthening the mainstreaming of children’s rights across all relevant EU policies. The specific needs of certain groups of children, including those in situations of multiple vulnerabilities and facing intersecting forms of discrimination, are duly taken into account.

As part of the implementation of the strategy, the Commission will set up an EU Children's Participation Platform. 

Further reading

Author: Ingeborg Odink, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

As of 20/09/2023.