Children’s participation takes centre stage at 12th European Forum on Rights of the Child

Children and young people are taking part in the discussion for the first time in the history of the European Forum

For the first time in the history of the European Forum on the rights of the child, 9 children and young people participated in the 12th Forum this week. Two of the children, Petra, 15 and Lucija, 13 were supported by Eurochild member “Society Our Children” from Opatija, Croatia to participate along with 270 adult participants. They were accompanied by four EU Romanian Junior Ambassadors to the European Union, two children from the Netherlands, who were supported by UNICEF and a Syrian young journalist living in exile in Europe. Lucija, along with Lieke and Shundell from the Netherlands, presented the results of the Europe Kids Want survey, stressing that only 7% of respondents felt listened to by their local government.  Mental health and the environment were raised as an increasing concern for children and young people in Europe.  

The children also shared their messages in a meeting with European Commissioner Jourová, responsible for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality. Petra, Child Mayor of Opatija, who was actively involved in the Eurochild Conference 2018 on children’s participation in public decision-making, raised the need for all children in Europe to be educated about their rights. Commissioner Jourová recognized that, “politics in Europe is mainly made by older people, but we should listen to children and take them seriously.”  She also encouraged the children to use the online world, where everyone can be a journalist or politician and influence decisions.

At the Forum, several high-level speakers raised the need to listen to children including the European Parliament Children’s Rights Coordinator MEP Corazza Bildt and the Director of the Fundamental Rights Agency, Michael O’Flaherty, who said that every time we listen to children at the Agency we do a better job.  MEP Corazza Bildt also raised the need for a new Agenda for Children’s Rights in the next mandate of the European Commission as well as having child rights focal persons in every European Parliament committee.

Three themes were discussed in-depth in workshops, including the protection of children in migration; children’s rights in the digital world and children and young people’s participation in the EU political and democratic life.  In the latter Petra spoke about how the Opatija children’s council influences decisions of the city; she called for all cities in Europe to have a children’s council. Jana Hainsworth reported the outcomes of the child participation workshop to the plenary. Eurochild was recognized for its efforts in bringing children’s participation into practice and as partner of UNICEF Romania in organising the Children’s Summit on 6-7 May in Bucharest for which a Children’s Declaration is currently open for consultation.

The Forum ended with inspiring speakers sharing their vision for the next 10 years for children’s rights. MEP Caterina Chinnici and the director of Save the Children Spain, Andrés Conde Solé, raised the need to combat child poverty. MEP Chinnici referred to the need for a child guarantee which would allow all children to have free education and health care. Also the need for more children to participate in future Fora (suggestion of a minimum of 30% of child participants was made); the need for a children’s council in every city as well as lowering the voting age to 16 were brought up. The need to combat violence against children was also stressed by several speakers.

Follow the discussions online on Twitter #EUChildForum