Children's Rights in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak

Statement of Koulla Yiasouma - ENOC Chair (2020)


While we all try to adjust to an unprecedented situation affecting countries worldwide, Ombudspersons and Commissioners for Children across Europe face a new challenge: how to continue upholding children’s rights in the current context of restrictions to address the COVID-19 outbreak.
ENOC's mission to ensure that the rights of all children, as guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, are respected is even more important during the COVID-19 healthcare crisis, especially in the areas of:

  • Information and Participation (Arts 12 and 13 UNCRC)
  • Protection from violence and abuse (Arts 19 and 34 UNCRC)
  • Rights to health and development, to benefit from social security, and an adequate standard of living (Arts 24, 26 and 27 UNCRC)
  • Education (Arts 28 and 29 UNCRC)

The rapidly evolving situation will continue to massively affect children in general and aggravate the conditions of the most vulnerable groups. ENOC and its members will continue to closely monitor the situation of all children, as well as the responses from local, national and European authorities during and after the end of isolation measures. We will continue to share critical information, good practices and experiences to keep children and their families safe and guarantee children’s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and other relevant European and International Human Rights instruments.

ENOC-UNICEF Report on Ombudspersons and Commissioners for Children's Challenges and Responses to COVID-19 - June 2020:

ENOC and UNICEF conducted in May 2020 a short online survey on Ombudspersons and Commissioners for Children’s responses to the new challenges generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty three ENOC members responded to the survey (Armenia, Basque country/Spain, Bulgaria, Catalonia/Spain, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Jersey, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Northern Ireland/UK, Republika Srpska/ Bosnia & Herzegovina, Scotland/UK, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Wales).

Following this survey, nearly 60 representatives of Ombudspersons for Children’s offices and UNICEF participated in an online session on June 2nd 2020, to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on their work and on children’s rights in their respective countries, and share innovative practices. The main issues raised in the survey and during the joint online session are summarised in the Report « Ombudspersons and Commissioners for Children’s Challenges and Responses to COVID-19 » published today.

You can find the report here (in English).

2021 Annual Theme: "COVID-19: Learning for the future"

As a specific objective in 2021, ENOC has focused on assessing the impact of states’ responses to COVID-19 on children’s rights in Europe. Building up on what has been completed in 2020 in the area of Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) , ENOC through its membership has mapped how COVID-19 emergency legislation and practices have affected children’s human rights and wellbeing and what are the lessons learnt to ensure a better preparedness and capability to respond effectively to a similar challenge in the future.

A special Working Group, chaired by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Children Greece, led the work on the priority theme supported by Simon Hoffman and 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. Based on the findings of the Synthesis Report, ENOC organised the first round of discussion on the issue of "COVID-19: learning for the future" on the occasion of a working seminar online on 1 June 2021, aiming at informing the preliminary terms of the ENOC Position Statement on the same theme.

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 on CRIA and 25th General Assembly meeting took place on 27-29 September 2021. The Conference was hosted by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Children Greece.

ENOC Online Seminar, June 2021

ENOC members at the 2021 Online Seminar


ENYA Online Forum, July 2021

ENYA Online Forum


ENOC Annual Conference, September 2021

ENOC Annual Conference


2021 Publications

Useful resources

We have prepared a list of resources around coronavirus produced by ENOC members and international organisations, that can help children and young people, parents, carers as well as children's rights organisations and child protection professionals.

Resources from ENOC members

The Human Rights Defender of Armenia

The Office of the Human Rights Defender has published a guide on frequently asked questions about Covid-19 and human rights in the state of emergency. This guide is available in English, Arman, Russian and Cyrilic, and for persons with visual impairments.

The Office of the Human Rights Defender has also translated Manuel Molina’s booklet “My name is Coronavirus” offering a child-friendly explanation of coronavirus into Armenian.

The Croatian Ombudsman for Children

The Croatian Ombudsman for Children has developed a special section "Together Against Coronavirus" on its website (in Croatian), to inform the public of its recommendations, the views of children's rights organizations (ENOC, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child ), to give answers to frequently asked questions and information on how to help children in times of crisis. They have published a number of resources where parents can be informed about the protection against COVID-19, how they can support children, how to talk to them about the pandemic, where they can get psychological support for themselves and children, how to organize quarantine time with their child and illustrated materials for children and young people available in Croatian.

The Ombudsman for Children has made a number of recommendations to the executive authority regarding the protection of the well-being of children in specific conditions of life in isolation due to the pandemic, for example the protection of the best interests of children in online learning, or ensuring regular video call contacts for children separated from their parents – if their parents are divorced or one of them is in prison.

The Cypriot Commissioner for Children’s Rights

The Cypriot Commissioner for Children’s Rights has prepared and posted a special section on her website (in Greek), with useful information for children regarding COVID -19. Children and young people can find the Commissioner’s message addressed to them during the pandemic, answers to frequently asked questions on how to help children during times of crisis as well as leaflets and videos with recommendations for protecting themselves from the virus, together with useful telephone numbers to ask for help. Two projects are currently run by the Commissioner’s office, namely a creative “demonstration” by the Commissioner’s  Young Advisors Team  under the guidance of  the Theatrical Organisation of Cyprus  as well as a challenge run the in Social Media, named “#therightchallenge”, asking the public to post a photograph or video of themselves doing their favorite activity at home. More information of the two projects can be found on the website.

The Children’s Commissioner for England

The Children’s Commissioner for England has put together a page on its website to pass on official guidance regarding coronavirus, but also to reflect question that have been raised during the crisis and where possible provide answers. Among the resources available on this page, the Children’s Commissioner for England has created a Children’s Guide to coronavirus to help explain the coronavirus and tell them how to stay safe and active. They have also developed a digital safety and wellbeing kit for parents and a safety guide for children to help ensure they are safe, and their wellbeing is looked after while at home during the coronavirus outbreak when their screen time maybe higher than usual.

The Flemish Children's Rights Commissioner

The Flemish Office of the Children’s Rights Commissioner constantly monitors the situation of children and young people, who are increasingly affected by COVID-19 measures in connection with aid organisations, and advises policymakers on a wide variety of themes related to children’s rights. A constantly updated document “Coronacrisis: stay connected with vunerable young people” (in Dutch) was published on the Commissioner's website and widely distributed. They also published an advisory document (in Dutch) to call for a child-rights perspective in all corona measures. The Flemish Office of the Children’s Rights Commissioner launched an online questionnaire for children and young people to learn more about their experiences of the coronavirus crisis. The Commissioner Caroline Vrijens launched the questionnaire and the campaign (#jongerenovercorona – young people and corona) by wearing a mask covering her entire face in solidary with all children and young  people who are not being heard during the crisis.

The Ombudsman for Children in Finland

The Ombudsman for Children in Finland has made a compiled list of resources (in Finnish) to support families and children in coping with the coronavirus situation.

The French Defender of Rights

The French Defender of Rights has created an Online Platform “Childhood and COVID” (in French), with resources created by field experts to respond to the daily needs of parents, parents-to-be, children and child protection professionals (activities to help children express their emotions, guides for parents and professionals, podcasts, videos, etc).

The Hungarian Commissioner for Fundamnental Rights

The Hungarian Ombudsman, having a special mandate for the protection of child rights, continues to perform his constitutional tasks in the state of danger ordered on 11 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and receives individual petitions submitted by children, youth and parents.

On 26 March 2020, the Commissioner and his Deputies emphasized in a joint statement that in these extraordinary times, we must not abandon the most vulnerable individuals and communities.

In his statement issued on 15 April 2020, the Ombudsman pointed out that during the restrictions ordered due to the state of danger, particular attention must be paid to the proper functioning of the child protection warning system. He also carried out several visits to institutions, like the Special Home for Children in Szedres or the Nagykanizsa Juvenile Reformatory of the Ministry of Human Capacities. During all these visits the Commissioner collected information not only about how the general operation of such institutions but also about the measures taken in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ombudsman for Children in Iceland

The Ombudsman for Children in Iceland has compiled various information about the coronavirus for children and parents on their website (in Icelandic).

The Italian Independent Authority for Children and Adolescents

The Italian Independent Authority for Children and Adolescents has drafted a Decalogue (available in Italian and English) on how to explain the coronavirus to children in a clear and child-friendly language. The key questions in the Decalogue (what is coronavirus, why can’t we go visit our grandparents, what should I do if I have to sneeze, etc) were also audio-recorded in short podcasts (in Italian).

The Italian Independent Authority for Children and Adolescents and the Ministry of Education has also developed a “mini guide” for teachers entitled “Distance learning and student rights” (in Italian). This guide aims to offer methodological and practical tools to teachers to continue their educational duties in respect of children’s rights as enshrined in the UN Convention on the rights of the child.

The Ombudsman for Children Ireland

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office has put together some information for children and young people on their website. This page answers different question in a child-friendly manner, for example what is the coronavirus, what can you do to help and where can you go if you are worried about everything that is happening.

They have also launched a child participation campaign “#whatImiss”. During the month of April, children and young people are invited to express, through short video, music, acting, poetry, memes, photographs, etc, how the lockdown has impacted them, their home, their education and right to play and rest, and what they miss most. A panel of young people will judge the entries. A weekly winner will be announced and there will be an overall winner at the end of the challenge! Find more information here.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People Jersey

The Children’s Commissioner for Jersey has dedicated a page of its website with relevant information to support children and young people or to help support the child or young people in your life, for example “stuck-at-home” kits or child-friendly explanations.

You can also find a statement from Jersey’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Deborah Mc Millan, on the impact of the coronavirus here.

The People's Advocate Moldova

The Ombudsperson for children's rights of Moldova has dedicated a page on the Ombudsman’s website which includes recommendations and child-friendly explanations to cope with the COVID-19 situation. Simultaneously, the Ombudsperson for Children has publicly answered the children’s questions in connection with the pandemic situation and has given advices on things to do while staying at home. Using google forms and easy-to-understand questionnaires, the Ombudsperson has also asked the children’s opinion regarding the actions taken by state authorities with regard to the exercise of children’s rights, such as the right to education.

Another section “People are reported, People’s Advocates react” includes concrete cases of interventions to ensure human rights and freedoms are respected in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ombudsman for Children Norway

The Ombudsman for Children in Norway has also dedicated a page on its website addressing issues like who can children and young people talk about coronavirus (in Norwegian), with useful resources and helplines.

The Netherlands Ombudsman for Children

The Netherlands Ombudsman for Children has created a page on its website gathering information and advice for parents and children on how to deal with coronavirus (in Dutch).

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People has dedicated a page on its website to share updates on the coronavirus situation. They have also developed an Information Hub with resources and information to support and advise children and young people, as well as their parents.

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland has created gathered useful information to support children and young people or to help you support the children and young people in your life in a page on its website called “Getting Human Rights Advice in scary times”.  It includes their policy work on Coronavirus and the briefings produced for MSPs around emergency legislation stressing, but also common human rights questions on coronavirus.

They have also produced a series of videos to help children, young people and their parents and carers learn about children’s human rights at home. You can find the videos here.

The Catalan Ombudsman (Spain)

The Catalan Ombudsman published a decision on “the impact of the measures taken to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic on the rights of children in Catalonia”. Their recommendations aim at ensuring that the rights of children and adolescents, as well as their best interest, are taken into account in the management of the COVID-19 crisis, and that to the extent possible their specific needs are addressed.  For example, it requests that lockdown measures are adjusted in a prudent and specific manner, so that children and adolescents can carry out some leisure activities and physical exercise outdoors, according to age and needs of the child. You can read the decision here.

The Protector of Citizens in Serbia

The Protector of citizens has published a report (in English) which presents the work of its office throughout the COVID-19 crisis. This work has included inspection visits to different places like reception centres, roma settlements, etc, as well as citizens’ complaints and recommendations on various issues such as visitation rights of divorced parents, the right to education, children with disabilities, etc. You can find the report here.  

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has developed an Information hub for children, young people and families in Wales on its website. They are posting answered to your questions on coronavirus, and post ideas and things to do while at home, to make you relax and laugh. It includes for example video from their Participation team to help children and young and their families think about playing at home.

The Children's Commissioner for Wales, together with the Welsh Government, Children in Wales, and Youth Parliament for Wales have also launched a nation-wide survey "Coronavirus and me" for children and young people in Wales. Over 20,000 children and young people shared their experience of lockdown. The results will be published soon.

Resources from other organisations

For all medical questions and guidelines, please follow the World Health Organisation and your country guidelines.

International statements on children's rights and coronavirus