Every Child Counts– A Message from the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights on Universal Children’s Day

Each child and the rights of each child count, reminds us Commissioner for Fundamental Rights László Székely of the statement underlying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on Universal Children’s Day. Dr. Székely also calls our attention to that children are not small adults, they are not mere instruments or objectives, they are not simple statistical figures but humans with their own rights, dignity, free will, personality and developing character. It is a one of today’s key challenges to give them a carefree childhood.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has a special role in the international protection of rights, it has transformed and is still transforming our thinking on the rights of the child. The Convention suggests that every child has, from their birth, genuine, enforceable, general and special rights, and the parents, the family, the society and last but not least, each state should strive to protect their best interests. Each child, irrespective of their age, sex, religion, nationality, social or other status, is entitled to be respected, taken care of and honored. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted on November 20, 1989, after ten years of preparation, provides ammunition for this. In the past, nearly three decades, the Convention has lost none of its significance, or the validity of the rights contained therein.

In Hungary, it is one of the most important tasks of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights to pay special attention to the enforcement of children’s rights, i.e. to operate as a kind of Children’s Ombudsman. It is the mission of the Commissioner to follow the international requirements related to children’s rights, to maintain a professional dialog among the Hungarian experts on this subject, as well as to participate in seeking answers on an international scale. The development of information technology and the rapidly changing digital environment pose a serious challenge to all: the children, the parents, the families and the states as well. Finding the answers to such topical challenges is both a national task and an urgent European, or even global matter. The Ombudsman thinks that besides the traditional, offline areas responsible for the protection of children’s rights, the child protection dimension of the digital space, the joint action against online violations of rights, as well as prevention based on cooperation are gaining ever increasing significance. We speak many different languages in Europe but children’s rights are the common language that everybody understands and the language that everybody looks at as a starting point, despite the disputes.

The Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, the UNICEF Hungarian Committee and the General Representation of the Government of Flanders in Hungary organized their traditional annual international conference on the offline and online protection of the rights of the child on November 15, 2018, on the occasion of the Universal Children’s Day. At the plenary session of the event, presentations were held by Hungarian and Flemish experts on the opportunities, dangers and challenges of the online space and the social media, as well as the respective best practices. After the presentations, some young people and some theoretical and practical experts of the topic were thinking together and were discussing the reality of the online activities of children, for instance the responsible and sensible use of digital devices (smartphones) and the social media, in the framework of a workshop.

The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights conducted a high number of inquiries that conveyed an important message and that were directly or indirectly related to the protection and enforcement of children’s rights in 2018 as well. It was based on these that the report issued in order to make the legal obligation related to prenatal care clear, the one analyzing the ways to ensure the objective and personal conditions of supervised contact, or the one published with a view to promoting the safety of summer children’s camps, were prepared. The inquiry conducted on the final examinations at the vocational grammar school in 2017 also concerned children’s rights, along with the investigations into several specific complaints in cases related to schools. The action against child prostitution and the comprehensive follow-up investigation conducted in the field of prevention and encompassing a long period of time can also be listed here, along with the report focusing on international child abduction, which monitored both regulation and practice.