Statement by the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day

On the occasion of Universal Children’s Day on 20 November, the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy stated the following:

This year we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history that has helped transform children’s lives around the world for the better. 

On this day, the European Union reconfirms its determination to making sure that every child has every right. Children need to be able to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment – free from violence, exploitation, harassment or neglect. Within our Union and in our external actions – whether in situations of conflict or peace – the Convention guides EU policy, legislation and financial programmes that have an impact on the rights of children. All EU Member States are party to the Convention and together we have strong national and EU legal frameworks that serve to protect children from abuse and exploitation. 

Despite all efforts, 25 million children in the EU and 19.5% of the world’s children continue to live in poverty. Children across the globe are victims of abuse, exploitation and trafficking. Children suffer from mental health problems, are victims of bullying and commit suicide. We still have a long way to go to make sure that all children regardless of their place of origin, socio-economic background and migration status can fully enjoy their childhood. 

The Convention has also contributed to changing the way the world looks at children: from looking at them as a group of people who need protection, the world starts to recognise children as rights holders, who can play an active role in shaping society. The EU is convinced that in order to ensure children’s rights without further delay, we need their meaningful participation. On the occasion of the Convention’s 30th anniversary, the EU and UNICEF have recently launched #TheRealChallenge social media campaign to engage with children and young people on their rights in a language they understand and via a platform they know. 

Today, the EU recommits to the principles of the Convention and to giving children the priority they deserve. Investing in children is not only a moral duty but also an essential investment in a better present and future for all of us.

 

Background

The European Union supports EU Member States with concrete funding to translate child-friendly justice frameworks that facilitate children’s access to justice, their appropriate representation in front of court and diligent treatment of juvenile delinquents. All EU Member States were required to transpose the Directive on procedural safeguards for children who are suspects or accused in criminal proceedings by 11 June 2019.

The EU has dedicated funding for combating violence against children, including on harmful practices under the Rights, Equality and Citizenship programme. In 2018, more than €15 million was dedicated to finance projects preventing and combating gender-based violence and violence against children in the EU.

Through the European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children, the EU defines measures to protect and empower children online and to promote a multi-stakeholder approach to reach a safer digital environment. The backbone of these efforts is the EU funded Safer Internet Centres, with the Betteinternetforkids.eu portal as central hub. The #SaferInternet4EU campaign promoting online safety, media literacy and cyber-hygiene reached nearly 30 million EU citizens. 

The EU is facilitating the inclusion of young refugees into European communities as much as possible. While challenges remain, good practice models  in Member States leads the way to better integration. The EU also protects children on migration routes:our initiatives support safe zones, deploy child protection teams and improve access to qualified guardianship for unaccompanied children. Nearly one in four registered victims of human trafficking in the EU is a child. We are working to prevent these crimes and to ensure that perpetrators are held fully accountable.

The European Union believes that every child has the right of access to protection, nutrition, healthcare and education. This year, the EU will allocate a record 10% of its humanitarian budget to education in emergencies to help crisis-affected children stay in school, foster their sense of normality, and to provide them with perspectives for a better future. So far in 2019, the EU has allocated nearly €64 million to child protection activities in humanitarian contexts. 

The EU’s commitment to fight child labour translates into targeted action in our trade engagements: the integrated approach for cotton from West Africa and for fishery in South-East Asia, involving also trade partners and communities, is showing promising results. 

For more than 30 years, we have been working together with UN agencies, EU Member States, partner countries, civil society, and regional organisations to create a world free of violence against children. With the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative we are leading a global and multilayered work to raise awareness for all forms of violence against women and girls in South-East Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific and the Caribbean. We support programs by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) to address child, early and forced marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). So far, the programs have successfully contributed to the establishment of national action plans to end FGM in 12 target countries. Behind each visual depicting child pornography, there is a child victim. We support multi-stakeholder initiatives aiming to improve the effectiveness of the fight against these crimes, such as WePROTECT Global Alliance to End Child Sexual Exploitation Online.

EU projects in Cambodia, Myanmar, Georgia, Burundi and Armenia help children without parental care to grow up in supportive families or communities and our initiatives in as many as 17 enlargement and neighbourhood partners contribute to preventing the separation of families and strengthening quality alternative care for children without sufficient parental care.