Vienna, 24 January 2022 (TDI): The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) posted a tweet on the 21st of January highlighting the need for greater recovery plans for the post-COVID19 era given the pandemic had resulted in a grave number of children being affected by it.

What is the OSCE

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is an international organization within Europe, which focuses on comprehensive approaches to security issues, economic, environmental, and politico-military matters within human security.

The organization comprises 57 states throughout 3 continents, specifically Asia, Europe, and North America. Amongst the states, there is Portugal, Romania, Latvia. Lithuania, Estonia, Albania, Italy, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, etc. A full list of the member countries can be found here.

They conduct a number of operations, from field operations where the staff within this organization are deployed in areas where operations are being conducted such as the areas of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, South-Eastern Europe, and South Caucasus.

To assist in carrying out several operations and activities, the organization is characterized by institutional structures as well as parliamentary assemblies where OSCE’s member states come to represent and discuss solutions to their problems.

Covid19 and Importance of Child Protection Rights – OSCE

COVID19 has taken mankind and nation-states by surprise, being the next Spanish flu of the 21st century. Having affected millions of people across the world, it led governments to take precautionary measures against the pandemic.

However, while the economy and the health of millions of individuals have taken a hit as a result of this pandemic, the effects of the pandemic on children can not be ignored. The Representative on Children and Security for OSCE, Ambassador Rita Izsák-Ndiaye emphasizes the need to increase and strengthen child protection rights after the pandemic.

She outlined the effects of COVID19 upon the democracies of the world. Amongst all the partner countries, a ‘state of public emergency was announced in more than 1/3rd of the countries. While dire measures were taken to protect citizens, she emphasized the need for analysis of socio-economic effects due to the pandemic.

Internationally, the right to get an education has largely been interrupted and disrupted as a result of the pandemic. An amount greater than 1.5 billion children have been affected by this largely due to the closing of schools around the world in more than 190 countries.

These changes and developments have specifically affected female students widely, as due to the closure of educational services, they have largely been left with handling caregiving responsibilities.

Likewise, due to the wide gender gap within the digital world, they have had an increasing unequal availability of remote educational opportunities, which largely threatened the continuation of their schooling.

Furthermore, given the fact that these children were largely confined to their homes, it also increased their exposure to violence especially sexual violence and maltreatment. Such situations were worse for developing countries whose populations are already vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Specifically, the children who harbor a minority background, are displaced internally, children of refugees, children whose homes are in the streets, and those who are locked in prison or detention facilities are especially worse off during such a time.

Taking the example of Roma and Sinti Children

According to the Council of Europe, Roma and Sinti Children are the children possessing the citizenship of communities that are most deprived, they are vulnerable as they face large amounts of discrimination, and their human rights are violated daily.

Roma and Sinti are terms used for diverse groups of individuals in Europe that are travelers, they usually identify themselves as ‘Gypsies’, as stated by the Council of Europe.

Roma children in Slovakian slums
Roma children living in the slums of Slovakia

Before the advent of the Pandemic, the children of these communities experienced a lack of proper educational facilities, having unequal opportunities relative to other children, however, with online education, more than 10 thousand Roma and Sinti children did not have access to education due to their marginalized circumstances and a lack of facilities available to them such as access to computers, quiet rooms, and internet connection.

The closures as a result of COVID19 led to an increasing gap in education for this community. As a result of these activities, it is estimated there will be an increase in the number of dropouts which will invariably result in a fall in employment rates.

Other effects of the Pandemic on Children

Being largely confined to homes, children now fall into a greater risk of trafficking as school closure puts them at the disposal of domestic violence. According to the law agencies operating with the OSCE, there has been increased trafficking of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation through the internet; and this is especially the case for children and women as there has been a rise of innovative forms of sex trafficking online, having moved away from traditional methods.

However, COVID19 has led to largely weakening states, making them vulnerable to these attacks, as a result, response strategies have developed slowly. Children and families that were endangered are now experiencing decreasing to a non-existent amount of sheltered accommodations, legal guardians, and social services.

OSCE’s Response

Given this wide range of issues, OSCE is working with its partner countries to work towards socio-economic recovery plans. In their policies, practices, and laws, they plan on introducing to reduce the perils of the pandemics. The OCSE will ensure the prime interests of the children are taken into consideration.