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I have the honour of speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States. I would like to thank the co-hosts of today's event — the Missions of the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Belgium and France.
We welcome the focus of this event on situations of shrinking humanitarian space. It is vital that child protection actors maintain their engagement with parties to conflict even in the most difficult contexts.
We must also strive to open up that humanitarian space, and ensure that humanitarian actors are given unimpeded access to children. The denial of humanitarian access, one of the six grave violations of the CAAC mandate, has had an appalling impact on children in a range of conflict situations.
Child protection experts, including child protection advisers in UN peacekeeping and political missions, play an indispensable role in countries affected by conflict. They do vital work in challenging environments, engaging with parties to conflict on an ongoing basis, and they deserve the full support of all UN Member States.
Peacekeeping missions in particular have a crucial role to play in preventing grave violations against children in armed conflict, and we strongly encourage the inclusion of appropriate child protection provisions in all United Nations peacekeeping mandates, including for regional peacekeeping operations.
The EU 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, including the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism and the Secretary-General's Annual Report. We welcome the unanimous adoption of Security Council resolution 2427 in July 2018 on this important topic, with a record number of 98 co-sponsors. We also welcome the progress that has been made in signing and implementing Action Plans, including in the Central African Republic. We also welcome the ratification by the Central African Republic in 2017 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
We must remember that children should be treated primarily as victims in times of armed conflict. The EU has long been committed to the protection of children in armed conflict. 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 in a range of conflict situations. We 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, following a rights-based approach. To provide one example — in the Central African Republic, the focus of today's event, the EU is supporting the reintegration of children associated with armed groups, and the development of a protective environment to reinforce sustainable reintegration. The EU also supports advocacy towards non state armed forces and armed groups in order to increase the protection of and prevent the recruitment of children by these groups.
We have significantly stepped up our efforts to support children affected by armed conflict. In the EU's Communication on Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises, adopted last May, children associated with armed forces and groups are among the prioritised children. The EU's commitment to education in emergencies now amounts to 10% of the humanitarian budget, far above the global average. In 2018, EU humanitarian funding for education amounted to 90 million EUR, supporting children in over 50 countries. The EU is strongly committed to the protection of schools and education in situations of conflict, in line with the principles of international humanitarian law, and welcomes initiatives that build on the existing framework in a complementary manner, such as the Safe Schools Declaration and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, to be evaluated at the Third International Conference on Safe Schools, which will take place in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, in May this year. We are also intensifying our work to combat the scourge of sexual violence against girls and boys in conflict. In 2018 alone, the EU allocated over 14 million in humanitarian aid for the prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence worldwide.