On the occasion of the Universal Children's Day on 20 November, the European Commission made the following statement:
“Today we stand united in our determination to protect and to promote the rights of all children everywhere. These rights are universal, indivisible and inalienable. Every single child has the right to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment – free from any form of violence, abuse, harassment or neglect. It is our collective task to do everything we can to ensure that these rights are respected and ensured for every child, everywhere.
Our aim is to ensure their access to safe, inclusive and high-quality learning opportunities. Starting from early childhood, the EU invests to make sure that children receive nutrition, health-care and education, and to tackle child labour. Through Europe 2020 Strategy, the European Social Fund, as well as the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU is stepping up efforts to prevent child poverty and social exclusion. And in this digital age, the EU helps to create a safe, empowering, child-friendly environment in the digital sphere where minors are protected from unlawful processing of their personal data and from harmful audio-visual content online.
Armed conflict, poverty, natural and man-made disasters, or displacement naturally take their hardest toll on children. The European Union is at the forefront of supporting children, especially those most vulnerable and affected by crises, both inside the EU and abroad. We work with our partners to provide access to psychological support and trauma treatment, helping to protect and reintegrate children who were associated with armed forces and groups around the world. We are helping partner countries to strengthen juvenile justice systems, in line with international standards to protect children and minors. All in all, the EU provides 10% of its humanitarian aid budget for in education in emergencies. This is far above the global average and the EU therefore calls upon global partners to follow suit.
The EU also contributes to protecting all children in migration, whether they are unaccompanied or not. The interests and the rights of children must be safeguarded and protected at all times: to receive appropriate accommodation, health care, access to education as well as guardianship where needed. In combating trafficking in human beings, children also remain at the core of the EU agenda. Our ultimate goal remains to prevent and ultimately fully eradicating this crime, including by countering the culture of impunity for actors involved in the trafficking chain.
Our efforts are also focused on the fight against harmful practices for children in Europe and abroad. In over 30 countries, we are addressing child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation with a focus on protection, access to education and healthcare, as well as on strengthening enforcement mechanisms and helping to change social norms. We are also actively fighting the dissemination of child sexual abuse material online.
We do all this and more because we are convinced that investing in children throughout their journey to adulthood is first and foremost a moral duty towards them. But it is also an essential investment in a better future for all of us. On this day, therefore, we reaffirm our commitment to redouble our efforts and also call upon all partners worldwide to help work towards the day that no child is left behind.”
At home or in our external action, whether in situations of conflict, migration, poverty, when deprived of liberty or in contact with the law, children's rights need to be protected and promoted.
We invest to provide all children with education as it offers protection and hope for a better future. The Commission's Communication on education in emergencies and protracted crises, presented this year, underpins our work to support children affected by crises with access to safe, inclusive and quality learning opportunities at the primary and secondary levels.
The EU invests to protect children on the move at all stages of their migratory journeys. This year, the EU has launched a regional programme to guarantee access to national child protection systems to children affected by migration in Asia. We continue to support Member States to implement the measures proposed in the Commission's Communication on the protection of children in migration.
We continue to invest in combating violence against children. To reach their full potential, boys and girls need protection from all forms of violence, abuse and neglect. Building a stronger child protection systems is the best entry point, in line with the EU Guidelines on the Protection and Promotion of Rights of the Child. The EU also invests to develop alternative care for children and to provide children with appropriate support to participate in community life and to access mainstream services.
The EU supports long-term reintegration of children associated with armed forces and groups, for instance in Colombia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo or Yemen. For example, we provide Congolese children with access to psychological support and trauma treatment. We also invest in the physical and psychosocial protection of children in humanitarian crises. In 2017 alone, the EU allocated almost €100 million to this end.
We also work closely with civil society and United Nations agencies in the fight against harmful practices against children, addressing child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation in over 30 countries, focusing on access to education and healthcare, strengthening enforcement mechanisms and changing social norms. In September, jointly with the UN, we launched the Latin American segment of the Spotlight Initiative.
We also invest in eliminating child labour. Today, the Commission is launching a new project entitled ‘Clear Cotton' aiming to eliminate child labour and forced labour in the cotton, textile and garment value chains. With a view to achieving Target 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda (to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers), the EU presented in 2017 pledges at the IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour in Argentina.
We also invest to reinforce the protection of minors and children in the digital and audio-visual world. The EU's General Data Protection Regulation identifies children as “vulnerable natural persons” and underlines that processing children's data is an activity that may result in risk “of varying likelihood and severity”. In 2018, we adopted a revised Audio-visual Media Services Directive that requires Member States to adopt measures to protect children from harmful content on television, on-demand services and, for the first time, on online video-sharing platforms. The #SaferInternet4EU campaign launched under the EU's Better Internet for Kids Strategy with the aim to support children in learning to express themselves and critically assess what they discover online so as to help them turn into responsible and resilient digital citizens.
Further, the INHOPE network of hotlines counters the dissemination of child sexual abuse material online.
Children in contact with the law need our support. In neighbourhood countries, we have been working on reforming the justice sector and proceedings to ensure children's rights are protected. In Lebanon, a programme is being implemented, which seeks to strengthen juvenile justice in line with international standards. In Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan, we support reform efforts in the area of justice.
Finally, together with our partner countries, we continue to build civil registration and statistic systems for efficient delivery of birth certificates, notably in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Uganda and Zambia.