November 20, 2015
Guest blog post by, Active – Sobriety, Friendship and Peace.
November 20th marks the Universal Children’s Day, the date when in 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted. This year’s November 20th has a dual role – it also marks the last day of the 3rd Awareness Week on Alcohol Related Harm (AWARH). Both occasions call for a deep reflection on the rights of the child in EU today.
Convention on the Rights of the Child – are we living a dream?
According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children have the right to education, health care, freedom of expression, leisure time, housing, right to participate in making decisions that affect them, right to grow up in a safe environment, among else.
In reality, what Europe has experienced in the recent years is a significant increase in child poverty. In the period between 2008 and 2012, the number of children at the risk of poverty in EU has risen by one million, out of which a half a million increase has been noted between 2011 and 2012. In 2013, 27.6 million children in EU28 were at the risk of poverty, according to data from Eurostat.
Recently, the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs adopted a report on reducing inequalities, with a special focus on child poverty. The report rightfully highlights that EU has not seen a recent effective initiative on child rights, urging, among else, for a follow up of the “Investing in Children – Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage” initiative and better utilization of the EU funds, processes and instruments (such as the European Social Fund, the European Semester etc) for reducing child poverty and social exclusion.
The report comes in the right timing, and is followed with enthusiasm by the child rights advocates, who have been struggling for the past year to grab the Commission’s attention on the lack of commitment to child rights, and the subsequent lack of child right policies.
The (in)visible children of Europe
The rights of the child are, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly,strongly connected to health and wellbeing of children. While all children have the right to live in a safe environment, not all of them get to practice their right. In Europe, there are 9 million children and young people who live in families where at least one of the parents is addicted to alcohol. Behind the projected normality of alcohol use in society, the needs and realities of these children still remain a taboo, and often get lost in the already forgotten issue of child rights.
There is currently no information on EU level, about the support that this particular group is getting from their community. What there is information on, is that each policy in the EU should be looked at through a child perspective – a commitment that is failed to be followed despite its existence in the EU treaties and policies. This brings up the rationale: if EU is “big on the big things”, how big should the issue be, to be a big thing? Is being written in the Treaty too “small”?
The European Parliament event also “played” with this rhetoric when organizing the public event “Alcohol – Why is it a big thing?”, in the scope of the Awareness Week on Alcohol Related Harm (AWARH). Gathering a variety of stakeholders, the event reflected on the changed patterns of alcohol use around Europe, and displayed worrying statistics about the impact of alcohol on children and their wellbeing.
What the future holds
Having a concrete and effective policy action on child rights, and in particular poverty and social inclusion would only bring benefits to the EU. Not only will the EU show commitment to following the “best interest of the child” principle, but a policy protecting child rights will bring EU closer to fulfilling the Europe 2020 indicators. According to the mid-term evaluation of the Europe 2020 Strategy, out of all the indicators, the ones about poverty and social inclusion remain the most unattainable.
“Investing in Children – Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage” was the last concrete initiative endorsed by the EU intuitions, and touching upon child rights. The civil society organizations who advocate for child rights have been urging the institutions to take a firmer stand in securing that the interest of children remain a priority in the policy making processes. The adopted report by the European Parliament Committee comes at a good time to remind that action is still needed, as well as to go in line with the initiative for a written declaration on Investing in Children, currently supported by several child rights – oriented civil society organizations.
Ideally, the EU could bring back the discussion on child rights through adopting a policy, influencing the Member States to work towards reaching their own national child poverty target, and having a comprehensive view of what the rights of the child mean, and how they can be connected with the work of various DGs.
What the civil society would like to see is a bigger political and public commitment – a European Year on the Rights of the Child, followed by series of activities, debates and policy discussions in the Member States would be indeed a big step forward.
For this November 20th
While there is a variety of initiatives for celebrating the day, following the puzzling state of child rights in EU, one of the initiatives is completing a puzzle in order to read a message for the Universal Children’s Day. Enjoy it ! #ChildrensDay
 ‘Child Poverty and Social Exclusion in Europe – a Matter of Children’s Rights’ – Save the Children, 2014
 Anderson, P. and Baumberg, B., Alcohol in Europe , 2006
 Article 3(3) Treaty on European Union and Charter of Fundamental Rights in the European UnionBlogactiv Team