Message of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights on the Universal Children's Day

Commissioner for Fundamental Rights László Székely thinks that children’s rights are not holiday decorations that should only be dusted off on the occasion of anniversaries but they are, if you like, “everyday articles for use”. The Ombudsman regards the universal message of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as one that is topical today, as the rights therein should be protected on as high a level as possible. For this, we need to be able to actively listen to each other, to learn from experiences and critical remarks, and we should also find the best compromises.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is one of the key documents of the international protection of rights, which has been continuously shaping the thinking on children’s rights since it was adopted. It is made clear by the Convention that children have real, enforceable fundamental rights, and due to their vulnerability on account of their age, they need extra attention and care from the state and the society, in addition to their being protected and supported by their parents and families. It is also emphasized by the Convention that besides all these, each child should be respected, honored and paid attention to. The Ombudsman thinks that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted on November 20 twenty-eight years ago, provides tools and tasks for this mission. It is one of the key responsibilities of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights to pay special attention to the actual enforcement of children’s rights, i.e. to function as a kind of Ombusdman for Children’s Rights as well.

In his welcome speech this morning at the Budapest conference entitled “Children are Our Future”, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights László Székely underlined that the adoption of the Convention in 1989 was a special moment of grace in the history of human rights. It confirmed the already existing values but it also endeavored to add new ideas. This document has reshaped our thinking on children’s rights in nearly thirty years. This Convention has the highest rate of global acceptance and this can make us proud even if we are aware that the enforcement of the principles and rights laid down therein faces serious challenges in many parts of the world. In quite a number of countries, including Hungary, it is a significant problem that children do not have a proper knowledge of the rights that they are entitled to. It was, however, achieved by the Convention that in making their decisions, the adults, the authorities and other competent bodies increasingly take the best interests of children into account.

On November 16, 2017, on the occasion of the Universal Children’s Day, the Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, the UNICEF Committee for Hungary, as well as the General Representation of the Government of Flanders organized a joint international conference on the serious threats that children are exposed to, as well as the enforcement of the fundamental rights of children in danger. It was mentioned that serious exposure to threats may become an everyday reality in many situations and anybody, the child of any family may become endangered. There are some children with severe disabilities who do not receive appropriate early childhood development, school or kindergarten training, or only get access to the latter with great difficulties. Children in a difficult financial situation or those leaving children’s homes, who are exposed to the threat of physical or emotional abuse, prostitution, as well as sexual exploitation, were also mentioned. A child may also become endangered if he or she is unlawfully taken abroad by one of his or her parents after the divorce of the parents. Extreme poverty or deprivation of basic human needs may gravely affect children as well. This is why it is a key question what system of state support and assistance is available to the children and the families in such cases, and how these support services can be improved.