EU youth forum: Cities must invest in our children’s future

Disruptions to schooling, an impact on mental health and the suppressing of social skills. These are just some of the dramatic effects which COVID-19 has brought on children and young people. 

In particular, home-schooling has deepened inequalities in education and training. More children in cities are living in poverty, and the poorest are the hardest hit. It all means that protecting children’s rights is now more crucial than ever.

And key to tackling these fundamental issues is cities investing in young people through education and interventions around drugs, alcohol and mental health. That was the view of Councillor Judith Blake, the Leader of Leeds City Council, when she spoke at the 13th EU Forum on Children’s Rights,

‘Putting children’s voices at the heart of what we do’

“All the work cities do in this field should be seen as a long-term investment to create better outcomes for young people – cities need to address these issues together with national governments and European institutions, with a long term vision, putting children’s voices at the heart of everything we do,” she added.

This forum, as previously reported, saw children and young people taking centre stage at what is a major annual European event aimed at protecting and promoting their rights. COVID-19 restrictions meant that this year’s event was held digitally.

Councillor Blake, who also represented Eurocities Working Group on Children, used her intervention to reinforce the essential role of cities in any future strategies, as well as the role of city networks like Eurocities in ensuring that ‘national borders don’t get in the way of our conversation about the rights of children’.

‘Children’s rights should be included in every thought’

Young people also had their say, including Charlotte Williams, 17, who is Chair of the Leeds Youth Council. “What is missing is a proper understanding on the part of parents, teachers and other adults as to what it is like to exist as a child with the constant presence of the internet…. and the challenges that this brings,” she said.

Echoing these sentiments, David Lega, a Member of the European Parliament, stressed the importance of giving children and young people ‘full participation’ in the processes that are directly affecting them. ““Children and children’s rights should be included in every thought and every perspective when we work together – my wish is to make the European Parliament a House of Children and children’s rights,” he said.

The event was organised by the European Union. Click here to read and watch the individual sessions.

Author: Simon Weedy

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