On the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, and the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, renewed the commitment of the EU and the UN to work together to end the recruitment and use of children in conflict situations, and to effectively support the reintegration of children associated with parties to conflict.
"Despite years of engagement and progress on this issue, the recruitment and use of children continues to happen in too many conflicts. These are children taken away from their families and communities, deprived of their childhood, education, health-care, and of the chance to grow up in a safe and enabling environment. When children are released, we strive to support these boys and girls, including by working to prevent the recurrence of conflict and to build sustainable peace. We will keep working to ensure that the human rights of children are fully integrated in global work on conflict prevention, peace-building, mediation and reconstruction. Every child has the right to get an education and the opportunity to decide of his or her own future," said Federica Mogherini and Virginia Gamba.
In a context where the complexity of conflicts is increasing, the collaboration between the European Union and the Office of the Special Representative is essential to ensure the best possible response for boys and girls used and abused by, in and for armed conflict. Over the years, the EU and the UN have continuously supported efforts to prevent the recruitment and use of children in conflict, to secure their release, and to ensure their reintegration. In Uganda, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan or Syria, the EU has provided assistance to children in need, by reintegrating children associated with armed forces and groups into families or alternative care and by bringing them back to school. In Mauritania, the EU supports the UN to offer psycho-social support, insertion in the education system and socio-economic reintegration of child soldiers' refugees from Mali. In Colombia, hundreds of minors affected by the armed conflict and armed groups were identified to benefit from assistance to reintegration, and a project on child release and reintegration in Sudan supports the implementation of the Action Plan to end and to prevent child recruitment and efforts to prevent recruitment of children at risk.
As education is central to preventing the use of children in conflict and to reintegration efforts, children associated with armed forces and groups are being prioritised for support to access education. To this end, the EU aims to increase humanitarian funding for education in emergencies to 10% of the overall EU humanitarian aid budget as of this year, and to bring children caught up in humanitarian crises back to school within 3 months. The EU also remains a staunch supporter of the UN's Children and Armed Conflict mandate, which is equipped with tools that have a real impact on the ground.
The EU and the UN currently support the implementation of Action Plans to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by 15 parties to conflict, with additional engagement in the countries on the Children and Armed Conflict agenda. This work, with the support of UN and NGO partners as well as Member States, has led to the release of thousands of children in 2018. Advocacy and engagement are also leading to positive developments to protect schools and hospitals, to curb sexual violence in conflict and to end and prevent other grave violations against children.
As we celebrate the 19th anniversary of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the EU and the UN pledge to keep working together to be better equipped and complementary to address this issue worldwide. Children are the guarantors of a better future and it is our common responsibility to provide them with the means to play their role in our society.