Guest pen A protracted pandemic reveals the pain points of a child’s rights

If the best interests of the child were taken seriously, Finland’s current interest rate strategy would be reversed.

Coronavirus pandemic has been shadowing the world for a year and a half. In Finland, the crisis has tested the resilience of the economy, the service system and the population. The crisis has put the rights of the child on the test of fire, and as the pandemic continues, the pain points of the rights of the child have become apparent.

In strict decision-making situations, it has been repeatedly forgotten that the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in the actions of all authorities and legislatures. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health’s letter of intent was ignored, although it recalled the existence of a binding general principle of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

When restrictions were decided in the early stages of the pandemic, they targeted children and young people, although the virus did not pose a significant threat to them at the time. The solution was justified by the need to protect at-risk groups and the elderly.

Now that a virus variant hitherto unknown to children is spreading, especially among unvaccinated children and adolescents, restrictions are being lifted. The unvaccinated have been referred to as a marginal group, although there are 600,000 unvaccinated children alone. The protection of children and young people is giving way to other interests.

If the best interests of the child were taken seriously, the current strategy would be reversed: restrictions would be set and lifted so that the rights of the child were always safeguarded.

During the pandemic, attitudes towards children’s equality have been overstated. Various actions have been justified in the interests of the majority: the majority of children succeed in distance learning, do not become seriously ill or can meet their loved ones normally. Vulnerable children, such as the disabled, those at risk, those living in institutions, the paperless and the children of prisoners, have been forgotten. However, the rights of children belonging to minorities must also be taken into account in all solutions.

Pandemian during which the child’s right to health and development is emphasized. Counseling and school health care are in trouble when professionals are transferred to coronation. Diseases go undetected and prevented. The mental problems of young people, which were already alarmingly common before the pandemic, have increased.

Restrictions during the pandemic have led to a global crisis of civilization. The UN organizations UNO, Unesco and Unicef ​​have insisted that continuing education must be at the heart of pandemic solutions. In Finland, the differences in children’s learning have also increased. Early childhood education has become intermittent, many primary schools have been transitioning to quarantine and back, and secondary and college students have been in distance education in some areas throughout the past school year. Children’s social development, growing into a member of the community and becoming a citizen, has received little attention.

Visible has become our inability to take children’s views into account and respect children’s right to participate in decision-making about them. The views of children are only taken into account when they are in line with the views of adults. Coroner vaccinations sparked a debate over whether the sovereignty and privacy of a child capable of making informed decisions should be respected.

Taking children’s views into account is more broadly related to children’s right to participate. When formulating norms during a pandemic, children’s opinions have rarely been clarified. At the same time, children’s right to information has been forgotten. Very little national communication about the virus, its prevention or corona strategy has been targeted at children.

When the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified in Finland in 1991, the recession made it very difficult to implement the Convention. Last winter, a new step was taken in the rights of the child: the National Strategy for the Child, drawn up by a parliamentary committee, was adopted.

We must now ensure that the tragedy of 30 years ago does not happen again. The implementation of the children’s strategy must not be left at the foot of the pandemic. The pain points of children’s rights that have become visible underline the strategy’s goal of creating a child- and family-friendly Finland that respects children’s rights.

Elina Pekkarinen

The author is the Ombudsman for Children.

The guest pens are the speeches of experts selected by the HS editorial board for publication. The opinions expressed in guest pens are the authors’ own views, not HS’s statements. Writing instructions: www.hs.fi/vieraskyna/.

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