Finland to take the chairmanship of the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC)

The European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) has unanimously elected Elina Pekkarinen, Ombudsman for Children in Finland, as its Chairperson-elect. Finland's chairmanship will cover the period from September 2024 to September 2025.

Ombudspersons for Children are independent and autonomous authorities tasked with promoting and protecting the rights of the child and amplifying and highlighting the voices of children. The European Ombudspersons for Children have created a network with the aim to promote children’s fundamental rights and to facilitate, through cooperation, the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, as formulated in the UNCRC.

"The offices of Ombudspersons for Children in Europe differ slightly from each other regarding the size, structure and mandate of the office. It is very important that all offices are independent and autonomous authorities in accordance with the Paris Principles. The shortcomings regarding the rights of the child are also similar in many countries. In recent years, matters such as the coronavirus pandemic, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the increased cost of living of families with children and disinformation campaigns have posed challenges to the rights of the child," says the current Chairperson of the network Caroline Vrijens, Children’s Rights Commissioner, Belgium Flanders. "I am delighted that Elina Pekkarinen will succeed me and I am eagerly looking forward to working together in the future."

European cooperation is important

Elina Pekkarinen, who was elected as the Chairperson-elect of ENOC by ENOC's 27th General Assembly in Brussels on 21 September 2023, considers European cooperation important.

"The cooperation between the European Ombudspersons for Children is close and important. As the post of an Ombudsperson for Children becomes more common, people around the world have been interested in learning about the European model. Unfortunately, there are very few posts of Ombudspersons for Children in the countries, in which children need the most support. In that case, network-type cooperation is extremely important," Pekkarinen says.

Finland's chairpersonship will start in the autumn of 2024. Then all the ENOC members (44) and a group of children and young people will gather for a joint conference in Finland. Next year, ENOC will focus especially on the protection and promotion of the rights of children in alternative care.

"The goal is to learn about the methods different countries use to hear the children in alternative care and enable their participation in the society," Pekkarinen comments.

Ombudspersons from ENOC's member states fill the position of trust of Chairperson as a part of their own job. The Bureau of ENOC includes the current Chairperson (Caroline Vrijens, Belgium),  the Chairperson-elect (Elina Pekkarinen), the past Chairperson (Salvör Nordal, Iceland), the Treasurer (Solaÿman Laqdim, French Community of Belgium), the Secretary (Andres Aru, Estonia), and two ordinary members (Helenca Pirnat-Dragicevic, Croatia and Ketevan Sokhadze, Georgia. The operation of the network is funded by project funding from the European Commission and revenue from membership fees.