The EU and children’s rights

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified of all Human Rights treaties. The EU is strongly committed to the ratification an implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols.

The target is to address issues such as violence against children, armed conflict and child labour.

The EU’s commitment to protecting children is underlined in the ‘EU Guidelines on the Rights of the Child ' , adopted in 2007. Violence against children is outlined as the first priority. Action points guide the EU in ensuring that children's rights are taken into account in all EU policies and actions.

Protecting children in third countries is the focus of the 2008 Communication entitled ‘A special place for children in EU external action ’. The paper emphasizes how the protection and promotion of children’s rights must be seen as part of all external relations policies.

When conflict breaks out, children are at risk at many levels. The EU Guidelines on Children in Armed Conflict , adopted in 2003 and revised in 2008, commit the EU to addressing the impact of armed conflicts on children in a comprehensive and systematic manner.

A combination of policy dialogue, development cooperation and trade incentives are used by the EU as it plays its part in working towards the internationally agreed goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016.

The rights of children are systematically raised during dialogues with non-EU countries; the EU calls on partner countries to ratify relevant international conventions, lift reservations, adopt or revise national legislation, identify areas where technical assistance could be helpful and promote good practices.

Financial support comes from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the Investing in People programme and other thematic and geographical programmes.

The EU regularly tables resolutions on children's rights at the UN Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly Third Committee and works in close cooperation with UNICEF and civil society groups.

As part of their strategic collaboration, UNICEF and the EU have developed a 'Child Rights Toolkit: Integrating child rights in development cooperation'.

Children Affected by Armed Conflict

The EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict , adopted in 2003 (and revised 2008), commit the EU to address the impact of armed conflict on children in a comprehensive manner. This is done through monitoring and reporting by EU Heads of Mission, Military Commanders and Special Representatives, through diplomatic initiatives, political dialogue, multilateral cooperation and crisis management.

The EU Implementation Strategy of the EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict , adopted in 2006 (and revised 2010), gives directions on monitoring, reporting, and cooperation with the UN, focusing on prevention, protection, but also rehabilitation and reintegration. Implementation of these Guidelines is targeted on priority countries, which are regularly reviewed in accordance with the UN list of priority countries regarding children and armed conflict.

In addition, the EU has developed a Checklist , to help integrating the issue of children affected by armed conflict into Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations.

The EU has invested in strengthening its capacity on child protection in the operations, and in the Headquarters. As a result the toolkit forintegrating child rights in development cooperation was finalised in 2014 and pre-deployment child protection training module for civilian and military personnel is currently in the finalisation process.

The EU has been consistently supportive of the UN mechanisms in this field - UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the Security Council’s Working Group, and the monitoring and reporting mechanism on use of child soldiers requested by Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) .

The EU supports and contributes to the CampaignChildren, Not Soldiers initiated in 2014 jointly by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF. Campaign aims to end and prevent recruitment and use of children in conflict by 2016.