Blog & Comments

Not a normal back to school

President of Eurochild and President Emeritus of Malta, H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca shares her reflections and ambitions for the Eurochild network as we enter a not so normal back to school time.

"The only future that the peoples of Europe, can rely on, is by investing in all the children of Europe."

We are all facing unparalleled challenges, whether it is financial, practical restrictions and/or political limitations, yet, I am pleased to note that as a network, we continue to show resilience and the ability to adapt, in all that we do in the best interest of our children. I congratulate our members for their ability to adapt their work to respond to the evolving needs of children during this unprecedented and uncertain time. We managed to capture and also share among our network, some of your innovative ways of conducting your work, through the COVID resources section on Eurochild’s website.

Our Eurochild network has likewise adapted to the new realities. Our regular online meetings have helped us to engage with each other, to understand the needs and give more effective support where is needed. The strong engagement during our online General Assembly in June this year is evidence of our solid commitment to children’s rights and wellbeing.

Across Europe, we are at a time when our children usually return to school. This year it is not a normal back to school. As we all know, developing relationships and friendships together with social interactions are fundamental to a healthy childhood and adolescence. The restrictions caused by the pandemic have unfortunately severed this developmental process.

The consequential decline in our economies and job loss in most of our countries, will further exacerbate the situation for most of our families and children. However, I am convinced that our network through Eurochild, will continue to do our utmost to address the challenges children are facing.

In this context, we are enhancing our online services and introducing new ones. At such an unstable time, there is the urgent need to mobilise communities by encouraging activism and political engagement. Children and organisations that work with children should be at the forefront of this mobilisation, and now more than ever, we need to give space for children’s voices to be heard.

Eurochild’s annual report on children and the European Semester process will aim to highlight the most urgent issues influencing children’s rights across 21 countries, identifying critical areas for action to guide national and European policymakers. I am pleased to note that member organisations have shared their expertise to achieve this important objective.

I am also glad to note that Eurochild has the support of the European Commission, as was clearly demonstrated through the engagement of Vice-President Dubravka Šuica and Commissioner Nicolas Schmit at our own General Assembly. This constructive engagement was reiterated during another meeting held last week with the Vice-President.

This gives us hope for the upcoming EU Child Rights Strategy, Child Guarantee, and the Conference on the Future of Europe. We are looking forward to constructively contributing to this important work that the EU Commission is undertaking. It undoubtedly is a most opportune time for our network to join forces, to gain national support for these initiatives.

Meanwhile, we need as a European Network to continue to push for child protection reforms, prioritising investment in the early years, and ‘normalising’ child participation. I will dynamically lead Eurochild in enhancing its connection with the realities of our members on the ground and support member-led events, to ensure political support whether on community-level, national and European.

I would like therefore to encourage all members of our European-wide network to continue to strengthen the engagement of children to ensure their voices and experiences are considered at key and valued contributions.

Autumn has always been an exciting season of activity for children’s rights, culminating in the celebration of the anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This year is no different, except for the form these activities will take. The first event is the EU Child Rights Forum, where 65 children, aged between 12 and 17, from 18 countries, will interview EU Commissioners and voice their aspirations and opinions. 

Let us continue to strive to make child participation the way forward for the future of all children in Europe. The only future that the peoples of Europe, can rely on, is by investing in all the children of Europe. It is after all a duty of each and every one of us which ever responsibility we might carry to ensure that no one child is left behind. I believe that we will need to work harder to achieve our aim, mainly the prosperity and wellbeing of our children.

Every one of us is a key player. Together we can not only move forward, but also ensure that all children in Europe will effectively become valued contributors and fully enjoy their rights as they so much deserve.