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The event aimed to facilitate a discussion on the importance of the EU Guidelines as a tool to address challenges and provide opportunities to protect the rights of all children and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Protection and promotion of the rights of the child is one of the objectives of the European Union and all policies and actions with an impact on children must be designed, implemented and monitored in line with the best interests of the child.
Mercedes Garcia Perez, Head of Human Rights Division of European External Action Service, underlined in her opening remarks how the EU Guidelines recall international standards on the rights of the child and provide comprehensive guidance as well as concrete ways to promote effectively and protect the rights of the child. She outlined how the 2030 Agenda and its key guiding principle, leave no one behind strongly influenced the revision of these Guidelines which aim at strengthening efforts to ensure all children are reached by EU policies and actions, in particular, the most marginalised children and those in vulnerable situations. "A key message that we will be advocating is that children's rights are everyone's business" Ms Garcia Perez said. In particular, she stressed that every single sector and almost every policy has an impact on children either directly or indirectly, positively or negatively and that efforts need to be strengthened to ensure the rights of the child are considered in sectors that are perceived as less child sensitive such as infrastructure, agriculture, energy, climate change or environment in addition to the more obvious sectors such as education and health.
"The EU Guidelines are a great opportunity to help to amplify the voice of Europe in the rights of the child in global fora and its external actions," said Marta Santos Pais, UNSRSG on Violence against Children. She pointed to the opportunity to reach the universal ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the importance to align national legislation with international standards, as well as better tools and methodologies to help governments to move ahead on child protection's policies.
Benyam Mezmur, Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, warmly welcomed the revised Guidelines, but also addressed challenges in its implementation. "There can be political constrains and commitments; the allocation of the necessary resources can have an impact on the implementation as well as the time at which States ratify". He encouraged the EU to use these Guidelines in its internal strategy as well as the EU's external action.
"Half of the population of the world are children and they are living in extreme poverty; a billion of children have experience sexual or psychological violence," stated Verena Kaus of UNICEF. "Everyone, from the top of the bottom, from the left to the right and from all sectors, has to address and take into account children's rights," she underlined.
"These Guidelines go further than the previous ones on how the EU can support partners in a comprehensive manner and encourage them to a better achievement," said Tanya Cox of Plan International, an EU partner closely involved in drafting of the revised Guidelines. To mark the adoption of the Guidelines, Plan International is partnering with the European External Action Service and EU Delegations worldwide to organise a global social media #YouthTakeover so young people's opinions on them can be heard.
As the final speaker of the panel, Maxence Daublain of the EU's Directorate General for Development Cooperation, presented an overview of EU operational support to children's rights over the period 2011-2016.
An important next step is to complement these Guidelines with specific guidance on how we can support the strengthening of child protection systems to ensure the protection of all children from violence, abuse neglect and exploitation, which is also a specific action in the EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy for 2015-2019.
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