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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
With regard to the protection and promotion of the rights of the child, it must be stressed that thanks to combined efforts of states, regional and international organisations, civil society, communities and families, we have achieved remarkable progress. However, it does not mean that enough has been done: children continue to suffer from violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation, poverty, inequality and other forms of discrimination; unprecedented numbers of children are denied or have limited access to education, healthcare and justice; children are victims of harmful social norms and practices, social unrest, economic crises as well as natural and man-made disasters.
During this year's session of the Third Committee, together with our partners from GRULAC, we will introduce our annual resolution on the rights of the child. This regular GRULAC-EU cooperation mirrors the strong and so much needed commitment to further protect and promote the rights of the child. This year, it will be an omnibus resolution allowing us to have an overview on the progress made and remaining challenges just a year ahead of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and exactly at a time when we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Both documents leave no doubt that the rights of the child are human rights and that these are indivisible, universal and inalienable.
The UNCRC, as the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, strongly guides the EU policy, legislation and financial programmes that have an impact on the rights of the child. The EU takes this opportunity to renew its call to state parties to withdraw any reservations contrary to the purpose of the Convention and to its Optional Protocols as well as to continue to raise awareness of the importance of the third Optional Protocol on a communications procedure.
As laid down in Article 3 of the Treaty on EU, the protection of the rights of the child is a core commitment of the EU in internal and external policy. In the line with the key principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that is to leave no one behind, and with the UNCRC general principles and articles, the EU and its Member States are committed to strengthen its efforts to ensure that all children are reached by their policies and actions to enjoying their rights. Special attention shall be given to those who are in disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalised situations, including indigenous and minority children, and children with disabilities. The holistic approach to the life of a child should be kept in mind: investment is needed from early childhood development to adolescent time and the transition to adulthood, seizing every life opportunity for boys and girls to reach their full potential.
The EU ensures the protection of the rights of the child through the implementation of specific Guidelines, including on Children and Armed Conflict and on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child. The latest, revised in 2017, provide the EU institutions and EU Member States with a comprehensive toolbox on how to work towards strengthening the protection and promotion of the rights of the child in partner countries. Strongly grounded in the UNCRC and the General Measures of Implementation as set out in General Comment No. 5, the Guidelines promote the full enjoyment of rights in the Convention and advocate for a systems-strengthening and rights-based approach. It is important that children have the right to express their views freely in all matters affecting them, and that views of the child are being given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity as reaffirmed in article 24 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and UNCRC.
Violence against children has long-term economic costs that are to be borne by individuals, families, communities and societies. There can be no sustainable and inclusive development without a firm commitment to eliminate all forms of violence against children. The EU aims to ensure that its policies and actions support the strengthening of child protection systems, as this is the most effective way of ensuring all children are reached. Based on this, the Commission drew up 10 principles for integrated child protection systems.
The EU is stepping up efforts to prevent child poverty, social exclusion and the cycle of intergeneration poverty. It does so through the Europe 2020 Strategy, EU funds such as the European Social Fund, or the European Pillar of Social Rights, and particularly Pillar 11 on childcare and support to children.
Education is a right for all, enriched in human rights treaties, and is a core part of the sustainable development goals. We are aware that the lack of or limited access to quality education is both a root cause and a consequence of violations of the rights of the child. Ensuring that all children receive quality education from early childhood education, schooling and care through every stage of the learning cycle, is fundamental to protect their rights. We support initiatives to provide opportunity for at least 12 years of quality education for all girls and boys – for their own benefit and in the wider interests of their families and societies.
The EU and EU Member States extend this approach externally also by playing a vital role in the field of education in emergencies. As a humanitarian donor, the EU takes a lead in this field by scaling up the funding from the humanitarian budget to address barriers that children face in humanitarian emergencies in accessing, remaining in and re-entering education. With the Communication on education in emergencies and protracted crises adopted in May 2018, the EU commits to support children affected by humanitarian crises with access to safe, inclusive and quality formal and non-formal learning opportunities at the all levels, in particular at the primary and secondary levels. It also supports alternative pathways for return to education and promotes the integration of displaced children into national education systems while working on durable solutions for host communities.
As an international community we need to pay particular attention to specific risks and therefore needs of children who suffer the effects of armed conflicts and its atrocities: violence, killing and maiming, recruitment and use by armed forces and criminal groups and gangs, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual abuse, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access in contravention of international humanitarian law. Children exposed to extreme violence are at high risk of suffering from severe trauma, toxic stress, and often do not receive needed psychosocial support. The EU engages in a comprehensive range of projects to provide assistance to children in conflict situations: we support efforts to prevent recruitment and use, to secure the release, and to ensure the reintegration of child soldiers through long-term interventions.
Girls are particularly at risk of harmful practices, including child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. For instance, the EU supports UNICEF–UNFPA global programmes to accelerate actions to end child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation. In September last year, we also launched our ground-breaking EU-UN Spotlight Initiatives, committing €500 million to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. Since June 2017, the EU also leads the 'Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies'. The EU is also a strong actor for the strengthening of national health services in order to reach universal and sustainable health coverage for all boys and girls.
Children at risk of displacement and trafficking require appropriate protection in countries of origin. Refugee and migrant children, and children at risk of trafficking require appropriate protection in countries of destination and along the entire migratory route. Children on the move are exposed to serious risks and may suffer from extreme forms of violence such as exploitation, physical, psychological and sexual abuse, trafficking and more. Risks are exacerbated when children travel unaccompanied or are obliged to share overcrowded facilities with adults who are strangers to them. Regardless of the actions taken or policies proposed, we shall promote compliance with existing international legal obligations in relations to the rights of the child and to uphold the principle of the best interest of the child at all times and in all decisions and actions regarding children. The Communication on the protection of children in migration, adopted in April 2017 proposes actions to be undertaken by the EU and includes recommendations to the EU member States to strengthen the protection of migrant children.
Children continue to be trafficked, for sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced criminal activities, and more. The EU remains committed to supporting anti-trafficking objectives and priorities within and outside the EU, including addressing specific needs of child victims. Prevention must remain the cornerstone, by countering the culture of impunity for all perpetrators. The EU will continue encouraging states to criminalise those knowingly using services exacted from victims of trafficking, and supporting national authorities in their efforts to step up investigations and prosecutions and enhance law enforcement and judicial cooperation.
The EU continues to promote democratic governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights also through supporting the establishment of child-friendly . Substantial progress has been achieved across the EU enlargement, neighbourhood and Central Asia countries where the combination of policy advocacy, technical support and service-delivery has helped advance the rights of the child that enter in contact with the law either as victims, witnesses or alleged offenders. For rights to have a meaning, children must have access to fair, timely and effective remedies to redress violations. States have clear obligations under the UNCRC to ensure that effective and child-sensitive procedures are available and accessible to all children. Opportunities for alternatives to detention, aligned with the best interest of the child, remain limited worldwide thus the EU is working with partners to strengthen alternatives to imprisonment for children.
We wish to take this opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of birth registration. Access to identity is a pre-requisite for the exercise of other rights, including access to healthcare, education, social protection, etc. Administrative steps shall be taken to ensure that every child is properly registered and issued with the documents to prove it, without prejudice to the question of permanent residency or acquisition of citizenship but with the understanding that lack of registration has serious repercussions on children and the whole society.
The EU strongly supports the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including inside global supply chains. Last November, the EU actively participated in the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, held in Buenos Aires, and supported the Declaration on Child Labour, Forced Labour and Youth Employment. In the framework of the 2030 Agenda the EU supports the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, and the efforts to end child labour in all its forms by 2025.
The EU and EU member States are increasingly aware of the significant harm caused to children by many institutions where they are at high risk of physical and psychological violence and degrading treatment. The EU supports quality of alternative care solutions for children deprived of a parental care and the transition from institutional to community based-care, addressing the roots causes leading to the separation of children from their family.
Through bilateral and multilateral cooperation, the EU will continue to pursue political dialogue in order to promote and protect the rights of the child. The EU will also continue its cooperation with the UN bodies and Special Representatives of the Secretary-General, regional organisations and civil society organisations and national governments.
Promoting and protecting the rights of the child is crucial for sustainable development of our societies and as such essential to guarantee stability, security and prosperity. Ensuring that children can reach their full potential and that their voices are heard and amplified, we are contributing to a better shape of our future.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
 COM(2018) 304 final
 COM(2017) 211 final.