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

“Whenever decisions and measures affecting children are made, the reference point must be the enforcement of children’s rights and giving due consideration to children’s perspective”, Ombudsman Dr. Ákos Kozma reminded on World Children’s Day. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights called attention to the fact that the pandemic is also a turning point, which gives us an opportunity to review how the world as we know it today could become a better place for our children and the generations to come.

We celebrate children’s rights and with that, children in general, on 20 November each year. For more than thirty years now, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has occupied a special place in international rights protection, and not only because it has been approved by nearly all the countries of the world. Its priority role lies in the fact that functioning as a sort of compass, it has transformed and shaped the way we think about child rights in times better or worse. Based on the Convention, each child has genuine and enforceable, general and special rights, and parents, families, societies as well as each and every country must strive to protect children’s best interests. Children are not miniature adults; nor are they the instruments or passive subjects of decisions. Children are human beings who have their own rights, dignity, will, personality, and developing character, who deserve to be treated with respect, care and appreciation.

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 2021, too, the Ombudsman visited numerous institutions, including children’s homes and special children’s homes all over the country in order to gather the experience gained from the challenges of the pandemic, ranging from the protective and preventive measures to online education. This year the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights once again conducted numerous individual and comprehensive inquiries that were directly or indirectly related to the protection and enforcement of child rights, and these inquiries conveyed important messages. In connection with the latter, several Ombudsman’s reports came out which overviewed the operation of child protection institutions, going from verifying the existence of adequate staff and facilities through protection against violence to ensuring children a proper diet. In the domain of education, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights issued a detailed comprehensive report on the school-readiness test procedure in February. In addition to the above, the Ombudsman inquired into several cases related to the measures introduced due to the pandemic, such as the assessment of school absence due to the epidemiological situation, and school measures taken regarding absence from online education. Furthermore, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights looked into the issue of adoption and the more efficient prevention of suicidal behaviour in childhood and adolescence.

On World Children’s Day, Dr. Ákos Kozma underlines that we as a society – including children – have gone through historic times of struggle, and they are not over yet. The restrictive measures introduced earlier to mitigate health risks (i.e. online education, home office, the reduction of the number of personal contacts) have generated new kinds of social challenges and dialogues. At the same time, the pandemic has also given us an opportunity to revisit our priorities: it has spurred us to make changes and re-examine things, which also has an impact on children’s life. There is one thing, however, that does not change: when decisions are made about children’s destiny, the enforcement of child rights remains the standard.