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Children speak up about the rights and the future they want


23 Feb 2021


Science & Policymaking

Over 10,000 children and young people participate in a consultation to shape the design of the EU’s upcoming Child Rights Strategy and Child Guarantee

The opinions of children and young people might soon be playing a greater role in policymaking. A group of five Children’s Rights organisations launched an on-line survey and consultation with children, as well as the development of a report itself. The children’s voices will help inform the EU's Strategy on the Rights of the Child and the Child Guarantee. The children’s contributions will therefore directly help shape and define priorities for both initiatives. This survey was initiated by the European Commission who worked on it in close cooperation with the five child rights agencies.

“This consultation with children is a game-changer for us at the European Commission and an important step towards greater child participation. Children are experts in the matters that concern them and this consultation proves once again that children are already important actors in the here and now. Our role is to enable and empower all of them to continue blazing the trail now on their way to becoming tomorrow’s leaders. Therefore, participation, equality and inclusion are the guiding principles for both the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child and the Child Guarantee in 2021. We must and will ensure that all children have an equal start in life and thrive in this world, free from fear and want.” said European Commission Vice-President, Dubravka Šuica.

“This is in itself a historic report, as it is the first time that so many children and young people can directly influence and shape EU policy. It could not come at a more important time as children are facing the psychological and practical impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, having to adjust to a new reality for years to come. As it is their future, their opinions need to shine through in decisions that are taken by the EU,” stated representatives of ChildFund Alliance, Eurochild, Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision.

Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “As we face the socio-economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, we do not simply want to protect our children but also to invest in them, so they have the best possible start to life and can thrive. And who better to tell us about the difficulties they are facing than children themselves. I warmly welcome the spirit of this consultation and am grateful to the thousands of children who gave us their input. Your voices are being heard.”

“As policymakers, we need to ensure that our strategies can rely on all citizens' personal experience. Building up a comprehensive child rights strategy must include all relevant areas, from health (including mental health), social inclusion, education, child-friendly justice, children in migration and participation in the democratic process.  It is of utmost importance to listen to children, to hear their voices on these subjects – that is why this consultation is so valuable and will help support the EU's Strategy on the Rights of the Child,” said Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice.

Children are fully-fledged citizens and rights-holders. It is of paramount importance to give children a voice and acknowledge they have a say in shaping the future of Europe. I am extremely glad that the upcoming first comprehensive EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child puts children at the centre, and this consultation is an important step in the right direction. As politicians, it is our responsibility to give all children a real chance to reach their full potential and thrive in all settings, leaving no one behind,” said David Lega MEP, Co-Chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights.  

Main findings of the survey:

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed children and young people in Europe and beyond toward stress and uncertainty. One in five children in the EU who responded to the survey report growing up unhappy and anxious for the future, a new study from ChildFund Alliance, Eurochild, Save The Children, UNICEF and World Vision revealed today.

For the report, ‘Our Europe. Our Rights. Our Future,” more than 10,000 children and young people between 11 and 17 years old from within and outside Europe were consulted.

The report revealed other stark findings:

  • Almost 1 in 10 children who were consulted for the report identified as living with mental health problems or symptoms such as depression or anxiety. Girls surveyed were far more at risk than boys, and older children reported higher levels of problems than younger children;
  • A third of the children surveyed experienced discrimination or exclusion;
  • That percentage rose to 50 when children with disabilities, migrants, ethnic minorities or those who identify as LGBTQ+ were asked;
  • Three quarters of the children consulted feel happy at school, but 80 per cent of 17-year-olds polled felt that education provided does not prepare them well for their future;
  • The majority of children consulted would like to make changes in their school life: 62 per cent of respondents would like to have less homework, and 57 per cent of those surveyed would like to have more interesting lessons. Almost a third of respondents would like to influence the content of school curricula, with more sports activities (33 per cent), learning about child rights (31 per cent) and more arts subjects (31 per cent). However, almost all respondents had heard about child rights;
  • 88 per cent of children and young people consulted were aware of climate change and its impact on their community, 8 per cent somehow aware and 4 per cent were unsure.


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