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Thousands of children speak up about their future hopes and fears

Climate justice will be one of the themes covered at our Child in the City Seminar 2024 (photograph: Tom Driggers/Flickr)

A survey of more than 10,000 children has revealed that one in five are ‘unhappy’ and ‘anxious for the future’.

The consultation was part of a project to shape the European Union’s forthcoming Child Guarantee and Strategy on the Rights of the Child. This is geared towards giving children and young people a greater say in developing policy at EU level.

Five child rights organisations – Eurochild, UNICEFSave the ChildrenWorld Vision and Child Fund Alliance – were commissioned by the European Commission – the law-making arm of the EU – to ensure child participation in the future that concerns them.

‘Anxious for the future’

More than 10,000 youngsters replied to the consultation, and the findings were presented by children themselves at a launch event in a closed meeting with the Commission. As well as those children who talked about being unhappy, other key findings included:

  • one in 10 children said they have mental health problems or symptoms such as depression or anxiety;
  • one in three had experienced discrimination or exclusion;
  • 88 per cent of children and young people are aware of climate change.

Most children consulted would like to make changes in their school life, with 62 per cent of respondents expressing a desire like to have less homework, while 57 per cent wanted more interesting lessons. Almost a third of respondents would like to influence the content of school curricula, with more sports activities (33 per cent), learning about child rights (31 per cent) and more arts subjects (31 per cent). Almost all respondents had heard about child rights.

Children had the opportunity to ask questions about their future to the Vice-President of the European Commission, Duravka Šuica; the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit; the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders and to the Co-Chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights, David Lega.

Dubravka Šuica, European Commission Vice-President, said: “This consultation with children is a game-changer for us at the European Commission and an important step towards greater child participation. Children are experts in the matters that concern them and this consultation proves once again that children are already important actors in the here and now.

‘We must and will ensure that all children have an equal start’

“Our role is to enable and empower all of them to continue blazing the trail now on their way to becoming tomorrow’s leaders. Therefore, participation, equality and inclusion are the guiding principles for both the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child and the Child Guarantee in 2021. We must and will ensure that all children have an equal start in life and thrive in this world, free from fear and want.”

In a joint statement, representatives of the five children’s bodies said: “This is in itself a historic report, as it is the first time that so many children and young people can directly influence and shape EU policy. It could not come at a more important time as children are facing the psychological and practical impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, having to adjust to a new reality for years to come. As it is their future, their opinions need to shine through in decisions that are taken by the EU.”

Click here for a the summary of the report

Click here for the full report

Author: Simon Weedy

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