The European Union, not a signatory of the Convention (yet), but having Member States that have all committed themselves to align their policies with the Rights of the Child, is facing its greatest challenges in decades. At the same time the current European Commission has recently announced measures that affect the lives of children in Europe – directly or by influencing the lives of their parents and the institutional framework around them.
The announcement to build the Pillar of European Social Rights was welcomed by all, including parents all over Europe. The EU Summit in Gothenburg last week has proclaimed the construction of the Pillar, a major demonstration of political will. The Summit also marked the publication of a new EU initiative on creating a European Education Area by 2025.
These political initiatives are more than welcome, binding EU-level measures to ensure children’s right to parental care, guidance and education, the right to a good start in life, the right to 21st century formal education (if parents opt for that) and lifelong learning opportunities for all have been demanded by organised parents all over Europe for years. At the same time, as the saying goes, the devil is in the detail. Representatives of parents, bringing the voice of their children into the debate, will work hard in the forthcoming years to ensure measures are implemented in a way that ensures the rights of children and their parents as protected by the UNCRC.
This Universal Children’s Day is therefore the best opportunity to emphasise the need for strong measures to ensure that parents are empowered by knowledge and financial support to provide the best and make the best choices for their children, and to remind policy makers that they are obliged through the UNCRC to provide this in their own national contexts and push for this approach to be implemented on European level. Investing in families is key for tackling today’s problems as well as preventing tomorrow’s.
It is crucial that planned measures answer needs and wishes of parents, a large cohort of voters at the 2019 European Parliament elections, showing signs of growing scepticism towards the EU. Civil society organisations, first of all EPA, have a major responsibility to amplify the voice of parents with regards to this political agenda. The majority who do not want to be forced, but make a free choice to go to work while they have young children, who do not necessarily want to take their children to an early childhood institution at a very young age, but see the need for their own learning to provide the best education for their children.
EPA will continue to voice the wishes of parents concerned about and responsible for ensuring the future of their children. Parents are concerned about the formal education of their children, about creating a free option that is not yet there in any country in Europe, to ensure the best interest of the child is ensured by equitable measures, and to be part of curricular and methodological reforms towards a really 21st century education.
This year’s topic for the Universal Children’s Day is #KidsTakeOver. We must make sure they are not left alone, but guided and supported by their parents – and policy makers accept our right and children’s need for this.