European Elections - UNICEF calls for children to be more visible

UNICEF analysis of nine EU political party manifestos shows a lack of policy proposals on children and their well-being

05 June 2024
Cologne, 12 January 2024: Pupils taking part in the UNICEF fundraising activity "Reading for UNICEF / Lesen für UNICEF" at the Rheinschule in Cologne.

BRUSSELS 6 June 2024 - Ahead of decisive European elections, UNICEF is calling on prospective and future MEPs, EU decision makers and institutions to take children and their needs and rights more fully into account. 

This follows analysis by UNICEF of the election manifestos of nine European political parties and the policies they propose for children. UNICEF’s review showed that while young people and related policies are largely reflected in the manifestos, children receive less attention than their older (voting-age) peers. There is also a distinct lack of policy proposals which include any element of child participation. 

“Children’s rights in the EU are under threat from recent trends including climate change, digital technology and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental health and education. But despite making up approximately 20 per cent of the EU’s population they are rarely involved in the decisions that affect their present and future,” said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to the European Union Institutions and Director of the Partnership Office in Brussels. “We hope that our analysis triggers discussion and thinking on how political parties can do more for children.”

While children aged 16/17 in five countries can vote in the European elections, the large majority of children in the EU are not able to participate. 

UNICEF is calling for new and returning EU politicians and decision makers to stand up for children’s rights, invest in children and promote their participation in EU policy-making.

“Much has been achieved for children over the last five years at EU level, however, much remains to be done. Without political will and buy-in from EU decision makers and politicians, progress made for children could stall or even regress,” says Bainvel. 

He added: “Investing in policies which promote child rights is vital not just to the wellbeing of children, but also for EU’s cohesion and competitiveness. Moreover, it is key to help cement the ongoing and future support from young generations to the European project.” 

Taking into account the situation of children both within the EU and globally, as well as the EU’s ambition to fight poverty, reduce inequalities, adapt to climate change, and uphold human rights, UNICEF has shared three main messages with European political parties:  

  1. Champion Children’s Rights - The EU must continue to champion and set high standards for children’s rights in its internal and external actions  
  2. Make the money work for children - European money must work for children, both for children in the EU and globally. Child-friendly policies must be backed up with adequate budget allocations. 
  3. Strengthen governance for children – especially, because children largely cannot vote, their issues and views need to find stronger entry into policy debates. It is important that children are given the chance to participate. 

Media contacts

Marco Carraro
Donor Communications Officer
UNICEF Representation to EU Institutions
Hugh Reilly
Advocacy and Communications Manager
UNICEF Representation to EU Institutions


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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