Defending children’s rights in Europe

Adélaïde Trousselard, Soujata Morin et Benoit Van Keirsbilck, 2011

The International Convention on the Rights of the Child is now over 20 years old and there are other instruments defending children’s fundamental rights which are older still. In recent years, instruments aiming to promote better respect for children’s rights have proliferated, to the extent that it is now difficult to follow everything.

Most texts (conventions, covenants, recommendations, guidelines, minimum standards and so on), establish a mechanism for implementation and monitoring which is intended to ensure that the principles enshrined in them become effective.


But on a daily basis, the rights of many children go completely unrecognised, including (and above all?) by those who are supposed to implement them and the beneficiaries themselves: the children. Not only unrecognised, but worse, deliberately violated on a massive scale.

This is a serious accusation and we are well of that. Nonetheless it corresponds to the daily lives of far too many children.

Alongside particularly grave events, which are sometimes very clumsily portrayed in the media, there are swathes of daily violations of rights which are not generally visible.

Social workers, and street workers in particular, are the privileged witnesses of this situation (but is it in fact a privilege?). Every day, they meet children forced to live in the street, who do not even have the bare minimum; they live in insalubrious or overcrowded housing and they suffer from social and police violence (despite the fact that the first duty of the police is to protect society).

There is very little social assistance for people in these circumstances, and thus they are often disregarded by the people whose job it is to drum up both individual and collective responses.