I have the honour of speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States. I would like to thank Poland and the other co-hosts for organising today's event, and all of the briefers for their interventions.
Children in conflict situations continue to face gross violations of their human rights. Children continue to be exposed to an unacceptable risk of killing and maiming, sexual violence and abductions, and to suffer as result of attacks on schools and hospitals and the denial of humanitarian access. Last year's Secretary General's report documented an alarming increase in the recruitment and use of children in some country situations. Child soldiers are vulnerable victims and they are often rejected when they finally manage to return to their communities.
But, as we have heard in the briefings today, there is also some reason to be optimistic. The vital work of the SRSG, UNICEF, civil society organisations, and in many cases of the governments concerned, has resulted in significant achievements in recent years. Since 2000, more than 115 000 child soldiers have been released, 29 Action Plans have been signed with parties to conflict, and the Security Council has adopted 11 resolutions on children and armed conflict. The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict continues to play an important role, with concrete recommendations to parties and follow-up on action plan implementation. Just two weeks ago, we saw the release of more than 200 children by armed groups in South Sudan, the latest in a series of such releases in that country.
The experiences of Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, as well as other countries, demonstrate that progress can be achieved, and that Action Plans can be a very effective tool when properly designed and implemented. We must learn from these experiences if we are to replicate such successes with action plans in other countries, and in relation to other grave violations. Today's meeting is an important contribution to the process of learning lessons and promoting best practices.
The EU remains deeply committed to supporting the CAAC agenda. In 2003, the EU first adopted Guidelines on Children in Armed Conflict, which were later updated and supplemented by an implementation strategy. EU-funded projects provide vital assistance to children associated with armed forces and groups, and children impacted by armed violence, in a range of countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. EU projects support efforts to prevent recruitment and use, to secure the release of child soldiers, and to ensure their comprehensive and successful reintegration through long-term interventions.