Children’s rights must also be protected under emergency conditions
18 May 2020, 12:20
By Johanna Laisaari
The COVID-19 epidemic has shown us in practice how important the rights of children are under emergency conditions. Over the past few months, the rights of children have been considerably restricted around the world. Restrictions have been placed on education, social relations and physical activities. At the same time, the rights of children to security, basic care, play and leisure time have also been reduced in practice.
In addition to numerous national actors, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has raised concerns over the effects of the coronavirus crisis on children’s welfare and their rights. The measures required by the epidemic have also clearly highlighted the need for a National Child Strategy. The fundamental and human rights obligations, on which the forthcoming National Child Strategy is based, require that under emergency conditions the rights of children be restricted only to the extent that is necessary. At the same time, it is important to be aware of the effects of these restrictions on children.
Emergency conditions force us to make difficult decisions in a rapidly changing situation, and this may easily lead to superficial assessment of the impact of such decisions. It is, however, always important to assess and predict the effects of decisions on children, and under emergency conditions, it is more important than ever. When assessing the effects on children, account must be taken of children’s own opinions; we cannot overlook the experiences and views of children and young people themselves on how the crisis affects their everyday life.
Under emergency conditions, it is particularly important to pay attention to predictability and the significance of providing sufficient information to children. The State is responsible for informing children of the matters that concern them, and children have the right to receive information appropriate to their age level.
Now it is important to look to the future and to safeguard the rights of children as restrictions are being lifted. From the perspective of children’s rights, it is imperative that Finland adheres to the rule of law and safeguards the fundamental and human rights of children both in emergency conditions and as restrictions are being lifted. The National Child Strategy will set guidelines for how this will be achieved.
Note: The writer is Secretary General of the National Child Strategy.