European Union External Action

children, child rights, end child labour

Let children be children

2021 is the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

Every child deserves a peaceful and secure childhood and the chance to go to school. This is still being denied to around 160 million children around the world who are engaged in child labour.

Child labour deprives children of their childhood. It interferes with their schooling and time meant for play, harming them mentally, physically, socially, and morally.



This page compiles some initiatives by the EU, and those together with partners, to protect children and recognize their rights and celebrate childhood.


International Day to Protect Education from Attack

Around the world, attacks on children continue unabated, as warring parties flout one of the most basic rules of war: the protection of children. The protracted nature of conflicts today is affecting the futures of entire generations of children. Without access to education, a generation of children living in conflict will grow up without the skills they need to contribute to their countries and economies, exacerbating the already desperate situation for millions of children and their families. International Day to Protect Education from Attack draws attention to the plight of more than 75 million 3-to-18-year-olds living in 35 crisis-affected countries and to their urgent need of educational support.

Climate and environmental hazards are having devastating impacts on the well-being and future of children. In many parts of the world, people are facing multiple climate-related impacts such as severe drought and flooding, air pollution and water scarcity, leaving their children vulnerable to malnutrition and disease. Almost every child on earth is exposed to at least one of these climate and environmental hazards. Without urgent action, this number will go up.

The climate crisis is a child rights crisis presents the Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), which uses data to generate new global evidence on how many children are currently exposed to climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses. A composite index, the CCRI brings together geographical data by analyzing 1.) exposure to climate and environmental hazards, shocks and stresses; and 2.) child vulnerability.

Boy with Albinism © Dieter Telemans

“I used to be very afraid when going to school and struggling to concentrate on my studies” says Chinsisi, a 14-year-old brave boy with albinism defying odds to remain in school and study. Object of myths fuelled by superstition, people with albinism like Chinsisi, face multiple forms of discrimination worldwide.

“I have never gone to school because my parents do not have resources”, says Ruth, a 14-year old girl from Cameroon. "I am aware of the dangers down there in the mine, […] but I do not have another choice”. COVID-19 exacerbated the root causes driving children like Ruth into work. 2021, the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, is the time to redouble our efforts to get back on track

end child labour

The event is part of a "Week of Action” to mark the World Day against Child Labour during this special year, the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

On the occasion of the World Day Against Child Labour, the EU, together with its main partners, will organise a music concert to increase awareness of child labour on Friday, 11 June 2021. In joining hands with our partners, we believe we can ‘Act, Inspire and Scale Up’ our efforts in giving children the future they deserve. The best 10 songs selected during last year’s “Song Contest Against Child Labour” will be performed. The show will be interjected with key notes from high level speakers and new images and video-snippets on child labour in Ghana.

gold miner cameroon

At least 1 million children aged 5-17 work in gold mines around the world, according to the International Labour Organisation.

UNICEF is urging the Government and businesses to provide greater investment and greater access to scale up tailored, holistic and community-based parenting programmes and services to support parents and caregivers, especially for the most vulnerable families.

Participation was the highest we have had to date, with students from almost all Departments around Uruguay

‘Act, Inspire and Scale-up’ in Agriculture and Value Chains - About 71% child labourers are in agriculture, including fishing, forestry, and farming. Agriculture is the only sector where child labour has increased, having an additional 10 million child labourers between 2012 and 2016. FAO identifies household poverty and food insecurity as the main driver of child labour in agriculture.

The EU Delegation in Rome organised a ‘Virtual Symposium on Ending Child Labour by 2025’, bringing together its partners to discuss the most critical challenges to accelerate progress towards meeting the SDG Target 8.7, the most pressing problems and barriers that need to be addressed, the impact of Covid-19, the key ingredients of successful partnerships, as well as how to inspire and scale up action on the way ahead.

Vaccines work. The delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations and ensuring that children’s routine immunization happens during the pandemic are both critical to public health. For this reason, during this year’s World Immunization Week, Ministry of Health, EU Delegation to Montenegro, UNICEF and WHO call upon parents to ensure that their children receive routine vaccines while adhering to the #DistanceMaskHands measures.


NUR-SULTAN & BISHKEK, 21 April 2021 – Today, governments officials from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan discussed collaboration on protecting migrant children in Central Asia, exchanged cross-border information and case studies during an online meeting organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) under the EU-funded project. The discussion involved representatives from Kazakhstan's Human Rights Commissioner, the European Union, the Regional Representation of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and UNICEF.

As the beginning of the Syrian uprising is marking its very sad 10th anniversary, the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva hosted a virtual debate in the context of the ‘Brussels V Conference on Syria’ to discuss the situation of the most vulnerable group hit by the conflict – the children. The ten year-long conflict in Syria had a huge impact on children and their well-being. A whole generation of children has known nothing but war.

Child rights

The new comprehensive EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child and the European Child Guarantee are major policy initiatives put forward by the European Commission to better protect all children, to help them fulfil their rights and to place them right at the centre of EU policy making. Both initiatives have been informed by extensive consultations with citizens, stakeholders and, most importantly, more than 10,000 children.

The European Commission through its Directorate-General for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) allocated 945,000 euros to UNICEF’s humanitarian response in the aftermath of Eta and Iota in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. Around 37,000 most vulnerable people hit by the hurricanes will benefit from the EU's support.

The European Union (EU), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency announced the launch of the new EU Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration programme to strengthen child protection systems and provide alternatives to immigration detention.

“Children have a key role to play in building a present and a future where peace will prevail. It is our responsibility to enable them to be such agents of change”, says EU-UN statement on International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers

Every child deserves a peaceful and secure childhood and the chance to go to school. This is still being denied to around 152 million children around the world who are engaged in child labour. Half of these are suffering the worst forms of child labour. 2021 has been designated the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour and it’s time to re-double collective efforts and consign child labour to history

Despite tremendous improvements made in the past century, there are still 152 million children engaged in child labour. Moreover, COVID-19 could possibly reverse years of progress as the world is seeing a rise in child labour for the first time in 20 years. Today the International Year Against the Elimination of Child Labour was launched through an online event, giving stage to a number of 2021 Action Pledges by the European Commission, Argentina, South Africa, FAO, UN Global Compact, IOE, ITUC, IOM and many more.

If one word could describe young Mariam Konan Rasheed, it would be resourceful. Stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 33-year-old Jordanian came up with the most entertaining way to educate her younger peers: online educational videos.

On International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, the EU reaffirms its commitment to end an atrocious practice that still takes place in around 20 countries in the world.


Um Zakaria's story: a glimpse of hope for the future

Um Zakaria has a family of 10. She lives in northwest Syria. Her family was forced to move due to artillery shelling. The language and speech development of her children has been delayed and looking for help, Um Zakaria's family visited the physical therapy centre in Armanaz.

Save the Children - Providing education to Syrian children on the ground

Education is a human right, but not a reality for all children. Many children in Syria have no access to school. Supported by the EU, Save the Children is working on the ground in Syria for every child's right to quality education.

Story of Jinan Shiekho - A 12-year old Syrian girl

Jinan Sheikho, 12 years old, lives in Al-Rai town, countryside of Aleppo. She lost a leg when a bomb dropped on her home in Tadef city. Her injury did not prevent her from finishing school and continuing the crafts she loves. This is her story.

NLG side-event to Brussels V Conference -
5 ways to get your kids to finish homework
International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers 2021
From Geneva to the world: #EU4Children

On the occasion of this year's Human Rights Day, we launched the episode that showcases the EU’s commitment to protecting and upholding human rights and its engagement at the Human Rights Council. The video focuses in particular on the EU’s efforts to promote the rights of the child.

EU Water Facility funded school sanitation project in Lesotho



Press Releases

7 May 2021, New York - Statement on behalf of the EU and its Member States at the Security Council Arria Open Debate on the Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on violations against children in situations of armed conflict

The European Union Office in Kosovo and the Council of Europe office in Pristina wish to mark the Diversity Day, 26 April by evoking the lessons learnt from the COVID – 19 pandemic with a specific focus on its effects on the most vulnerable children.

With 897 million school children around the world affected by disruptions to their education, senior officials from UNICEF and the European Union reiterated their support to ensure the right to education for all.

The Commission has today adopted the first comprehensive EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, as well as a proposal for a Council Recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee, to promote equal opportunities for children at risk of poverty or social exclusion. In preparation of both initiatives, the Commission, in association with leading global child rights organisations, collected the views of over 10,000 children.

This strategy’s overarching ambition is to build the best possible life for children in the European Union and across the globe. It reflects the rights and the role of children in our society. They inspire and are at the forefront of raising awareness on the nature and climate change crises, discrimination and injustice. They are as much the citizens and leaders of today as they are the leaders of tomorrow.This strategy seeks to fulfil our shared responsibility to join forces to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of every child;and to build together with children healthier, resilient, fairer and equal societies for all.

Madam President,

The EU thanks the Special Representative for her update. We remain strong supporters of the mandate and also welcome the particular efforts made in the previous year to act as a bridge-builder between actors in response to the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joint statement by EU High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba on the occasion of the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers

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