With climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian Federation’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine, securing and protecting children’s rights in crisis and emergency situations has been designated a new priority in the Council of Europe’s Strategy for the Rights of the Child for 2022-2027 launched at a high-level conference in Rome. Other priorities included in the strategy are freedom from violence, equal opportunities and social inclusion, access to and safe use of technologies, child-friendly justice for all children and giving a voice to every child.
According to UNICEF, two million refugee children had fled the war in Ukraine by the end of March 2022, in search of safety across the border. With an additional 2.5 million children displaced within the country, 60 per cent of children in Ukraine had been forced from their homes.
The conference focuses on how the Council of Europe, its 46 member states, international partners and civil society, can help guarantee the security of displaced children, put in place effective systems of registration and guardianship, in particular for unaccompanied children, train professionals to assist children traumatised by armed conflict, identify and help children who have become victims of sexual abuse and trafficking, and support the work of civil society organisations.
Thematic sessions and panels focusing on children’s mental health, environmental rights, access to justice, protecting children against sexual exploitation and abuse, comprehensive sexuality education and challenges faced by children who act as human rights defenders will also take place during the conference.
First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska addressed a message to the conference, read by the Ambassador of Ukraine to Italy. Senior Council of Europe and European Union representatives, as well as Ministers, Deputy Ministers, State Secretaries and Undersecretaries from Albania, Andorra, Estonia, Iceland, Ireland, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Ukraine, Armenia, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Holy See, Hungary, Slovak Republic and Turkey took part in the opening session.
The new strategy has been developed with the input and participation of children themselves. Young delegates from a number of European countries, including Belgium, Spain, Montenegro, Italy, Portugal, Bulgaria and Greece, as well as Canada are providing input and recommendations to the event.
On 8 April, during the panel on protecting children from online sexual exploitation and abuse, a new monitoring report was presented by the Council of Europe’s Lanzarote Committee on how to address the challenges raised by child self-generated sexual images and/or videos.
Source: press release and platform.