Covid-19 has had a huge impact on society globally. By April 2021, one million people in Europe had died due to the Covid-19 virus. Although research has confirmed that deaths of children from Covid-19 are rare, governments in many states, nations and regions across Europe have introduced Emergency Measures in response to the pandemic which have had a direct or indirect impact on children. Children across Europe may not have experienced high rates of mortality during the pandemic, but they have shouldered the burden of many restrictions as governments across Europe have introduced Emergency Measures in response to Covid-19.
The European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) works to safeguard and promote children’s fundamental rights. In 2021, ENOC identified the need for research to examine the impact of Covid-19 Emergency Measures on children’s rights so that lessons may be learned in order to better protect children’s rights during any future pandemic or public health emergency.
A special Working Group, chaired by the Office of the Deputy Ombudswoman for Children Greece, led the work on the annual theme supported by Professor Simon Hoffman and Dr Rhian Croke, independent expert advisors. The working group launched a special questionnaire to map the situation regarding COVID-19 and children’s rights within the membership and collected feedback from 32 ENOC members from across Europe. Members’ contributions have been collated and analysed in a Synthesis Report ‘Mapping the Impact of Emergency Measures introduced in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic on Children’s Rights in ENOC Member States’. Based on the findings of the Synthesis Report, ENOC organised a first round of discussions on the issue of « COVID-19: learning for the future » on the occasion of a working seminar held online on 1 June 2021, aiming at informing the preliminary terms of the ENOC Position Statement on the same theme.
ENOC members worked on recommendations to help minimise the negative impact of any future emergency measures in a pandemic/public emergency.
In parallel and in the framework of the ENYA (European Network of Young Advisors) child participation project, children and young people from across Europe expressed views on what aspects of their lives have been impacted by laws and policies put in place by governments to tackle the pandemic, and what mitigating measures and solutions can be found. Young people from 17 countries/regions participated in an ENYA online Forum “Let’s talk young, Let’s talk about the impact of COVID-19 on children’s rights!” on 1-2 July 2021 to work on common and specific recommendations, to be included in ENOC’s Position Statement. More information on the ENYA project HERE.
The 25th ENOC Annual Conference and General Assembly meeting took place on 27-29 September 2021. The ENOC General Assembly concluded the work on the annual theme with the adoption of the ENOC Position Statement on COVID-19: learning for the future.
In this statement, ENOC strongly recommends that all public authorities adopt a Children’s Rights Approach to the exercise of their functions at all times, including in times of public emergency, to ensure their decisions and actions are grounded in the CRC and uphold the rights of all children.
ENOC also strongly recommends that the Committee on the Rights of the Child issue a General Comment on children’s rights in a public emergency to help ensure safeguards for children’s rights in the future.
Read the full statement HERE.