Making children’s voices heard

Children are entitled to the same rights as any other citizen; it is our duty as MEPs and society to remain vigilant and ensure that those rights are protected and promoted at all times, writes David Lega.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

By David Lega

16 Mar 2020


The Intergroup on Children’s Rights is a cross-political, cross-national group of MEPs committed to making children’s rights an EU priority. Our aim is to mainstream children’s rights in all EU policies and legislation.

Since its establishment back in 2014, the Intergroup has proven instrumental in passing groundbreaking pieces of legislation to advance children’s rights across Europe and globally.

I have been co- chair of the Intergroup - together with my colleagues Caterina Chinnici from the S&D Group, Hilde Vautmans from the Renew Europe group and Saskia Bricmont from the Greens/EFA group - since the beginning of this parliamentary term.


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I am proud to represent the EPP; our group attaches a lot of importance to children and children’s rights.

Unfortunately, we do not have MEPs from all political groups, but our doors are open to all members who embrace our values and who share our mission to make this Union a much better and safer place for children.

We must never forget that children’s rights are human rights; I would like to stress that children are fully-fledged EU citizens and need to be treated accordingly.

“We must never forget that children’s rights are human rights; I would like to stress that children are fully-fledged EU citizens and need to be treated accordingly”

Their rights should never be dismissed and the strength of our Intergroup lies precisely in our cross-political cooperation.

Children are vulnerable and as such require specific protection to provide an environment where every child is able to thrive and reach their full potential, leaving no one behind.

We are stronger together and our Intergroup would not work effectively without our firm partnership and cooperation with UN agencies and civil society organisations, whose expertise allow us to make informed decisions and help us turn words into action.

Many of the risks facing children require close attention from legislators.

The online world, which presents endless opportunities for children, also poses serious threats that need to be addressed.

Recent years have seen an enormous increase in online hate speech, anti-Semitism, anti-gypsism and xenophobia.

In addition, recent figures show that law enforcement bodies and other civil society organisations – including hotlines – have seen a strong spike in reports of child sexual abuse material online, which has grown at an unprecedented rate.

A global problem requires a global response. In December 2019, I spoke on behalf of the European Parliament at the Global Summit to tackle online child sexual exploitation at the African Union in Addis Ababa, co-hosted by ‘We Protect Global Alliance’.

A close EU-AU cooperation is essential in the fight against child sexual exploitation and abuse. We need to learn from our mistakes to avoid them being repeated in Africa, where internet access is not yet ubiquitous.

It is vital that the EU works with ICT companies and civil society organisations on a clear strategy to ensure a safer, better internet for children.

Every single new view of an image of child sexual abuse is one too many; it is a traumatic experience for the victim that can haunt them into adulthood with detrimental consequences for their psychophysical wellbeing.

We must intensify efforts at all levels to fight child sexual abuse and exploitation online, by enhancing cooperation among law-enforcement authorities, strengthening preventive measures for potential offenders and increasing cooperation with the industry.

Those children living in areas affected by conflicts and crises often pay the highest toll, disproportionally exposed to violence in many forms, including rape as a weapon of war and military recruitment by armed groups.

These specific challenges require specific measures to ensure children’s best interest is always upheld.

Here, access to education in emergencies is key, giving children a sense of normality and protecting them from military recruitment and violence.

The EU is already doing a tremendous amount of work here, by allocating substantial humanitarian funds to education in conflict-affected areas.

“Children need role models and a positive narrative to do better; they have an important role to play in society and they need to be part of the solution”

As a full member of the DROI and AFET Committees in the European Parliament, I truly believe that a stronger and more united EU voice for children’s rights is essential.

As the human rights agenda seems to be under attack globally, the EU should step up its actions as a global actor to promote and protect children’s rights throughout the world. It is easy to play with emotions when it comes to children.

Phrases such as “I am a father”, “I am a mother”, or simply “we have all been children” are commonplace, but we should not get caught up in our own emotions.

Rather, we should think of children as rights holders and treat them accordingly. Legislation alone will not provide the solution; the key lies in cooperation.

We need to put in place a society-wide approach with all actors involved, from decision-makers to industry, families, schoolteachers and religious leaders.

We should look at all children with a happy face and words of encouragement to ensure that they thrive and overcome challenges and difficulties.

Children need role models and a positive narrative to do better; they have an important role to play in society and they need to be part of the solution.

I started my sporting career as a child and would not have become a gold medal winner without the encouragement to always strive to improve.

I strongly believe that empowered children can be real agents of change, with the potential to improve society for better.

Upon my election to the European Parliament, I pledged to be a voice for those people with the greatest difficulties being heard.

I will do my utmost to ensure that the child’s perspective is integrated into legislation and that all children’s voices are heard.

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