Our Europe, Our Rights, Our Future: Children and young people’s contribution to the new EU strategy on the Rights of the Child and the Child Guarantee

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ChildFund Alliance,Eurochild,Save the Children,UNICEF, United Nations Children's Fund,World Vision EU Representation

The European Union (EU) is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of children. It is undertaking two major pieces of work to contribute to making this commitment a reality:

• A Strategy on the Rights of the Child, 2021-2024

• A Child Guarantee to ensure every child in Europe at risk of poverty has access to essential services

To find out what children are experiencing and what they say needs to change, the EU approached five child rights organizations – Child Fund Alliance, Eurochild, Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision – to consult with children on their lives, aspirations and concerns for the future. This report presents the findings of that consultation with over 10,000 children aged 11–17 across Europe and beyond.

While each child’s life is unique and children’s situations differ significantly, this report provides a coherent and insistent set of messages that speak to being a child in the 2020s. Many common themes emerge – discrimination and exclusion; lack of access to vital services; failures in the education system; high levels of violence; and continued failure to listen to, respect and consider children’s views – with the most marginalized children facing the gravest challenges. Perhaps of greatest concern is that a fifth of children in the EU are growing up unhappy and anxious for the future. The findings highlight powerfully that we are failing to create environments for optimum childhoods for far too many children.

Significantly, the consultations took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had an unprecedented impact on children. It also limited the opportunity to contact many vulnerable children. Although some children highlight unexpected benefits of more family time and creative opportunities, the more dominant themes are those of greater anxiety, mental stress, loneliness, fear of falling behind and money problems. The longer the pandemic continues, the more significant these concerns will become. All recommendations proposed in this report need to consider the implications of this context.

Overall, the findings testify to the significant insights that children can bring to the table and affirm the imperative for ensuring that children’s perspectives inform the economic, social, legal and policy frameworks and priorities of the EU. It is a clarion call for action.

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