World Children’s Day: Joint Statement by the European Commission and the High Representative

Ahead of World Children’s Day on 20 November, the European Commission and the High Representative made the following statement:

Today, the world is home to the largest generation of young people in history. Sadly, millions of children in the world, including 18 million in the EU, still live in poverty or social exclusion. Many more are at risk, as children continue to be the first to suffer from the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An estimated 466 million children around the world have no access to remote learning. Many have dropped out of school for good, affecting their life chances, well-being, development and protection.

Every child should enjoy the same rights and live free from discrimination and intimidation of any kind.

The EU supports education in around 100 countries worldwide, working with partner countries to minimise the impact of the pandemic and to facilitate a safe return to school. To build back better, the European Commission will significantly increase its investment in education in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific, over €6 billion by 2027. The focus will be on supporting partner countries to strengthen their education systems to deliver inclusive, equitable quality education for all.

European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, has called for 2022 to be designated European Year of Youth, to support and engage with children and young people, and ensure that their concerns and needs are at the heart of EU policymaking.

The EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child tackles the root causes of the existing inequalities and poverty, proposing concrete actions to fight all forms of violence, to support and empower children, and fulfil, protect and promote their rights in the EU and globally. The first ever Youth Action Plan in EU external action to be adopted during the European Year of Youth will build on this.

The new European Child Guarantee – agreed by EU Member States earlier this year – promotes equal opportunities for all children regardless of their background by guaranteeing access to early childhood education and care, education, play and leisure activities, healthcare, nutrition and housing for children in need. An updated Better Internet for Kids Strategy in 2022 will ensure that children enjoy the same rights on- and offline.

The EU has accelerated its efforts to decarbonise the European economy, restore nature, and ensure sustainable use of resources to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 – so that every child, now and in the future, can live a happy, healthy life on our planet.

We must invest in the present and future of all children. It is our responsibility and we will leave no child behind.

Background

Since March this year, the European climate law legally obliges the EU to reach climate neutrality by 2050. The Commission has proposed a package of measures to achieve a reduction of 55% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to set the EU on a frim path to become climate neutral by 2050. In parallel, the EU continues to deploy all its diplomatic efforts to push our international partners to increase their ambition to make sure global warming does not surpass 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in accordance with the Paris Agreement. In addition, the EU will support Member States in their efforts to improve children’s access to energy and transport.

2021 is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. The EU is working to eliminate child labour by 2025 as committed through the Sustainable Development Goals. This requires an integrated approach pulling the different policy strands together to address the root-cause of child labour. As part of this effort, the EU has announced a zero-tolerance policy on child labour, including in the implementation of trade agreements. The EU free trade agreements and General Scheme of Preferences require trading partners to implement the International Labour Organization’s conventions on the worst forms of child labour and on minimum age. An ongoing multi-stakeholder dialogue under the Sustainable Cocoa Initiative also aims to eliminate child labour and halting deforestation.  In addition, since 2008, the EU has supported 150 projects seeking to tackle child labour in 65 countries, with more than €200 million. Projects, such as CLEAR Cotton, have already helped thousands of children. Finally, the EU will adopt a new Sustainable Corporate Governance proposal by the end of the year. It will require EU companies to perform due diligence to address human rights – including child labour – and environmental risks in their supply chains.

Combating violence against children and ensuring child protection is a significant pillar in external action. In line with the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, the EU is committed to intensify the efforts needed to prevent and end grave violations against children affected by armed conflict, including by advocacy activities promoting compliance with International Humanitarian Law, and to support demobilisation, long-term rehabilitation and reintegration needs.

The EU continues to address violence against women and girls through the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative and through funding of civil society organisations to strengthen child protection mechanisms. The European Commission has committed to continue allocating 10% of humanitarian aid funding for education in emergencies and protracted crises, and promote the endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration.

On the occasion of World Children’s Day 2021, the EU, UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) and UNICEF are launching an education pack in all 24 EU languages on the work we do together to help forcibly displaced children and young people in Africa stay safe and achieve their rights, including access to quality education.