Children’s rights are human rights

The upcoming Children’s Rights Strategy will be an opportunity to mainstream children’s rights in all EU policies, explains Saskia Bricmont.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

By Saskia Bricmont

06 Apr 2020


Last November, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Adopted in 1989, this innovative text enshrines four fundamental principles: non-discrimination, protection of the best interests of the child, the right to live, survive and develop as well as respect for the views of the child.

All 190 states that have ratified the Convention are bound by these principles, however the United States has yet to do so.


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This Convention marks a turning point in the way children are perceived: from being objects, they become subjects with their own rights.

Thirty years of rights and principles have come true for many children around the world. Thirty years, during which a majority of states have adopted more protective and emancipatory legislation for children.

“Making children’s rights a reality rather than a principle will underpin my mandate as an MEP. I hope that, with my colleagues from the Intergroup on Children Rights, we can make this ambition come true”

Governments have acted against violence and the exploitation of children, primary education rates are increasing, while infant mortality has halved since 1990.

We can only salute the work of associations on the ground and all dedicated social services for children who strive to make these rights a daily reality

 Thirty years of progress certainly, but against facts and reality, one can only draw a bitter observation on the current situation regarding children’s rights in the world and within the European Union.

One in four children in Europe are currently at risk of poverty; access to education is not guaranteed.

Meanwhile, the rights of migrant children are often violated and there are thousands of missing migrant children in Europe, migrant children are still detained in our countries with serious consequences for their development.

The rights of LGBTI children and families are at risk and they often suffer stigmatisation in most Member States.

European children of foreign fighters are abandoned in camps in Syria in disastrous humanitarian situation.

Trade agreements are concluded with countries where child labour is widespread, as the recently adopted FTA with Vietnam highlighted.

Finally, the death of one in four children in the world is directly or indirectly linked to environmental risks. I could go on citing other areas where children’s rights are being violated.

We cannot ignore the fact that the political choices we make, and the political project we are delivering, have a direct impact on the lives and future of many children.

As the #FridaysForFuture movement, Walking for Climate, or the girls who speak out to assert their rights and their equal place in society remind us, children are often directly affected by the decisions we take.

“We cannot ignore the fact that the political choices we make, and the political project we are delivering, have a direct impact on the lives and future of many children”

It is up to us, to our generation and we should not wait another 30 years to make this world fit for our children.

Let’s not wait any longer for the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to become reality, let’s have that level of ambition and responsibility for future generations. Implementing children’s rights enables our children to become critical, active, creative, responsible and supportive citizens.

Last November, the European Parliament took a firm stance in favour of children’s rights by adopting - with a broad majority - a resolution to celebrate the anniversary of the Convention.

This resolution will be the work programme of the Intergroup on Children Rights, which I am co-chairing on behalf of the Greens/EFA group together with my MEP colleagues, David Lega, Hilde Vaultmans and Caterina Chinnici.

We believe the best way to celebrate this anniversary is to include the rights enshrined in the Convention in all European legislation, policies and programmes, and to make sure this is properly implemented in all Member States.

The European Commission’s upcoming Children’s Rights Strategy will be an opportunity to mainstream children’s rights in all EU policies and to set priorities where improvements have to be made.

In the current MFF negotiations, funding for children and youth, as well as social programmes, should be treated with great urgency. Investing in children will prevent social inequalities and exclusion in the future.

I am also very much concerned about the impact of detention on the physical and psychological development of children.

The European Parliament has always taken a firm stance to prevent the detention of migrant children and we should make sure this is again the case in the upcoming recast of the Return Directive.

Making children’s rights a reality rather than a principle will underpin my mandate as an MEP. I hope that, with my colleagues from the Intergroup on Children Rights, we can make this ambition come true.

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