Message of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights on World Children’s Day

“In times of distress, epidemics and other sorts of crises, children’s rights and the mentality we adopt with respect to child-related matters become even more crucial”, Dr. Ákos Kozma underlines on World Children’s Day. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights draws attention to the fact that children’s rights are not claims but constitutional norms that are prompted by the legitimate considerations and fundamental needs of the children.

The Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1924) is usually regarded as the first major international document on child rights, which was engendered in the context of the First World War and the subsequent dire economic and social situation, as well as the raging of the massive Spanish flu pandemic. The five articles of the Declaration should be taken to heart even today. According to its principles, the child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress. He or she must be given the means requisite for his or her normal development, both materially and spiritually. The child must be brought up “to earn a livelihood”, and in the consciousness that his or her talents must be devoted to the service of fellow men.

Drawing on the intellectual foundations of the above, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, drafted 65 years later under the auspices of the UN, occupies a special place in the international protection of rights: it has remodelled the way we think about children’s rights and continues to do so even today. Based on the Convention, each child has genuine and enforceable, general and special rights, and parents, families, societies as well as each and every state must strive to protect their best interests. Children are not small adults; they are not simple means or ends of something, and they are more than statistical data. Children are human beings who have their own rights, dignity, will, personality, and developing character. In accordance with the Convention, each child deserves respect, attention and esteem.

In Hungary, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights has the key priority to operate also as a sort of Ombudsman for Child Rights. His mission is to monitor international expectations regarding children’s rights, while maintaining a professional dialogue among Hungarian professionals and contributing to finding answers to child rights issues in the international realm.

In 2020, too, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights conducted numerous inquiries that were directly or indirectly related to the protection and enforcement of child rights, and these inquiries conveyed important messages. He examined individual petitions concerning education, and the possibility to restrict the freedom of opinion within the school. He reviewed issues related to the practice of the joint adoption of siblings and to the educational situation of children raised in children’s homes; moreover, he exposed the consequences of the repeated hearing of children by authorities. Since April, he has paid several personal visits to children’s homes and special homes for children to assess the unique problems brought about by the pandemic and the measures taken in this respect.

On World Children’s Day, Dr. Ákos Kozma reminds that while the current health crisis may restrict and influence a lot of things, it must not marginalize the rights of the child. We have to strike a delicate balance between the rights and best interest of the child, safety or ensuring the right to education, for that matter, and this requires closer cooperation and collective brainstorming between the public and civil spheres, and national and international organizations.