Disappointment and discontent were expressed by the 15-year-old who addressed a conference on Monday, organised to present a report on the impact of the pandemic measures on children, an initiative of the children’s right commissioner.
“You did not listen to us when you were making decisions that affected us,” said Nikoletta Xydi, a member of the adolescent counseling team of the commissioner. “Communication with children could have helped you recognise the needs and particularities of this group so as the decisions taken correspond to their reality.”
Xydi’s presentation was part of the programme by commissioner Despo Michaelidou to accompany the report titled “Impact of measures adopted during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on children’s rights” which was drafted by her office, the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) and UNICEF. Its drafting process begun 10 months after the pandemic’s started in Cyprus and draws on findings and recommendations provided by 3,320 children aged 3-18, 61 professionals working with children and three parents.
The recommendations include among other things the development of a comprehensive national strategy for children’s rights with measurable and achievable goals, and establishing a mechanism that takes into consideration the voices and concerns of children during decision making processes.
Furthermore, the ministry of education is urged to take all actions ensuring that schools remain open and close them only as an absolute last resort for the minimum period possible, while the ministry of health is urged to place emphasis on children’s mental health so that decisions, actions and legislation takes into consideration this aspect of children’s overall health.
Other recommendations include the judiciary to process hearings for child victims of violence the soonest possible, even in times of emergency; the inclusion of a child specialist adviser within the groups of experts advising the president of the Republic and the adoption of a robust legal protection of children from harm by the parliament.
The paper aims at setting the foundations and underlying the need for establishing a process of assessing policy impact before any decisions are taken by state bodies who deal with matters related to children. Furthermore, it seeks to establish how the measures adopted against Covid-19 have affected children and their rights.
In attendance at the presentation was the president of the House of Representatives Annita Demetriou, state officials from relevant ministries, MPs, members of the scientific advisory committee on coronavirus, and representatives of children.
In total the Impact Assessment includes 102 recommendations.