Important that decison-makers listen to the research

Research and knowledge dissemination are important when children’s rights are to be implemented in practice. The Ombudsman for Children continues her work to spread awareness of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as law.

Ombudsman for Children, Elisabeth Dahlin. Ombudsman for Children Elisabeth Dahlin at the 2020 Barnafrid Conference. Photo: Ulrik Svedin. 

“Now that the Child Convention has become law, decision-makers and others who work with children must always have a child-rights perspective. The convention covers every child in Sweden, regardless of ethnicity, and whether or not they are here legally or illegally”, says Ombudsman for Children Elisabeth Dahlin. This places considerable demands on Swedish government agencies, and on every professional who deals with children. Elisabeth Dahlin points out that it will take some time before everything is running smoothly.

Not automatically good

“The new law doesn’t mean that things will be good for all children automatically, but in the long term, vulnerable children will be better off. We know that a lot of work is underway at municipalities, regions and government bodies, to ensure that the convention’s implementation is successful.”
The Ombudsman for Children assists municipalities, regions and relevant government bodies in the implementation of children’s rights, based on the convention. According to a questionnaire conducted by the ombudsman in the autumn of 2019, just 48 per cent knew that the convention was to become law.

“It’s about increasing knowledge in general. It’s important that children’s voices are heard in every issue that concerns them. For instance, the UN has criticised Sweden because many children here don’t know their rights. But children’s knowledge of the convention is improving. Our studies show that children’s knowledge of their own rights has increased in recent years. In 2008 about one in five children was aware of the convention; in 2018 the figure was 50 per cent.”

The teachers' role

The Ombudsman for Children has developed various types of courses – for professionals in various sectors, and for children. The course “Mina rättigheter” (My Rights) is a major initiative.

“It’s aimed at children between 0 and 18 years of age, and was developed together with children. It’s adapted to various age groups and for children with disabilities. The teachers will have an important role. Our studies show that when they want information, children turn to their school, not to friends, parents or the internet.”

How is research important in the work for children’s rights?
“Research into issues concerning children is very important. In order to make decisions and assessments, you need scientific evidence. But it’s also important that decision-makers listen to the research.”

What are your hopes for the future?
“That children’s rights will gain full acceptance in society, that children are heard. A single adult listening to a child’s story can make a difference for that child.”
A number of studies are under way, investigating how Swedish legislation is affected by the chance. These include Barnkonventionsutredningen (Commission into the Child Convention), which began in 2018 and will present its report in November of 2020.

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