– Check against delivery –
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
The Acceding Country Croatia*, the Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, and Serbia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia, align themselves with this declaration.
1. Without doubt, children are among the most vulnerable and therefore need our special attention and protection. This has been widely recognized by the international community, illustrated by the fact that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the human rights treaty with the highest number of ratifications. Major progress has been achieved since the adoption of the Convention more than 20 years ago. Still, much remains to be done.
2. The promotion, protection and respect for the rights of the child remain high on the EU’s agenda. The Treaty of the European Union today explicitly requires the EU to promote the protection and the respect for the rights of the child. This is embodied by the “EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child” which was adopted last year. The Agenda aims at stepping up efforts in protecting and promoting the rights of children in all relevant EU policies and actions. The agenda’s 11 concrete actions include contributing to children’s wellbeing in different areas, such as children involved in judicial proceedings, children at risk of poverty, child victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking, children with disabilities, children seeking asylum, and Roma children. The 2012 European Forum on the rights of the child will focus at the role of child protection systems, and how they interact with other systems, for example in the context of child-friendly justice or in assuring the protection rights of children with disabilities. Furthermore, in 2010, the EU adopted a four-year Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors, providing a common EU response to this phenomenon in a child-friendly manner. The EU will also continue to prioritise funding for children in humanitarian crisis. For example, in 2011, the EU has contributed more than 70 million euro to UNICEF’s humanitarian work.
3. Earlier this year we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography as well as the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. These optional protocols have immensely contributed to achieve higher levels of child protection. Nevertheless, universal ratification still remains an important goal to achieve. Therefore, this year, the EU launched a lobbying campaign promoting the ratification of these instruments as well as of ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour. At the same time, the EU renews its call to states parties to withdraw any reservations contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols. The new Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure that allows for individual complains of those who’s rights are concerned- eventually the children themselves- is an indispensible tool to complement the established child protection system. The EU believes that ensuring that children are being heard and have access to justice is of utmost importance in order to improve the position of children. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union requires the EU to take children’s views into considerations on matters which concern them in accordance to their age and maturity. The EU will collect data on EU Member State legislation, policy and practice to respect UNCRC Article 12 (the right to be heard) in all settings.
4. Far too many children in too many parts of the world continue to suffer tremendously from armed conflict. These children are particularly vulnerable and are exposed to multiple risks- among them recruitment by armed groups, sexual abuse and exploitation or trafficking. The vulnerability of indigenous children may be particularly apparent in times of conflict and civil unrest since their communities are often a target of violence. The EU welcomes the attention that is given by the Security Council to address the issue of children in armed conflict and supports the ongoing efforts to deal with the unacceptable issue of impunity and persistent perpetrators. More must be done to combat impunity. The EU in this context welcomes the adoption of Security Council resolution 2068 and reaffirms its commitment to the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1612, 1820, 1882 and 1998. We highly appreciate the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on children and armed conflict. We thank former SRSG Radhika Coomaraswamy for her tireless efforts and offer all our support for the new SRSG Leila Zerrougui. The EU will continue to strive to improve the life of children in and affected by armed conflicts with concrete actions, as envisaged in its 2010 Implementation Strategy of the EU Guidelines on Children in Armed Conflicts.
5. Regrettably, violence is still a frequent dimension of children’s lives. According to research findings, every year between 500 million and 1.5 billion children across the globe suffer from some kind of violence. Domestic violence, forced marriages, child labour, bullying at school, female genital mutilation and child prostitution are still part of many children’s life. The European Union gives attention to these problems through its programmes for external action and through its funding programmes within the EU. Violence on the internet is becoming an increasing focus of attention. Furthermore, protecting children victims of trafficking in human beings and enhancing cooperation with third countries and international organisations are key actions under the newly adopted EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016. Making the justice system more child-friendly in Europe is also a key action item under the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child adopted last year. A major study is now underway to collect data on children’s involvement in judicial proceedings in the EU. The EU has also addressed the specific needs of children, for example, in a new legislation establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime.
6. The EU would like to express its sincere gratitude to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children for her continuous and most effective efforts to accelerate progress in children’s protection from all forms of violence. Through her many initiatives Marta Santos Pais has filled the mandate with life, raised awareness, and functions as a true advocate for children’s rights. Her mandate is shaped by the United Nations Study on Violence against Children and its strategic recommendations and promotes children’s protection from violence as a human rights imperative. The EU calls for the extension of the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, in order to continue the indispensable work undertaken in the implementation of the study’s recommendations.
7. As in past years the EU looks forward to presenting, together with our partners from GRULAC, the annual omnibus resolution. This year we focus on the needs of a particular group – indigenous children. The Secretary-General’s report shows that more of our efforts are needed to guarantee that indigenous children will have equal opportunities and will no longer suffer extreme forms of exclusion and discrimination. This year’s theme offers an opportunity to bring issues affecting indigenous children to the forefront of the global agenda.
8. The report of the Secretary-General shows that indigenous peoples continue to be over-represented among the poor, the illiterate and unemployed, constituting about 15 percent of the world’s poor. Education proves essential to improve the situation of indigenous children. Education also is an important tool to maintain and to enhance understanding of indigenous cultures, languages and traditions. The rights of indigenous peoples are a priority under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, which is one of the EU’s tools for supporting concrete human rights projects across the world. The goals are to increase indigenous peoples’ rights and capacity to control their own individual and collective social, economic and cultural development. The EU has been supporting the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
9. The EU is integrating indigenous people’s rights into all aspects of EU’s external policies. In June this year, the EU adopted a new EU human rights strategy in which, in addition to the promotion and protection of children’s rights, a strengthened policy on indigenous peoples’ rights is indicated as one of the priorities. The EU has committed itself to take a new look at the current policy and further developing it in the context of the UN Declaration and in preparation for the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
10. Poverty, with all its facets, impacts on the life of children in all parts of the world. Although we have seen rapid progress in reducing child mortality and improving education in the context of the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, much still needs to be done. That is why children rights need to be an integral part of the Post- 2015 development agenda. Child poverty is also of concern within the EU and the Commission will be adopting a recommendation on child poverty in the coming months.
11. Through bilateral and multilateral co-operation, the EU continues to pursue political dialogue in order to promote and protect the rights of the child. The EU will further intensify its cooperation with the UN system, regional organizations, NGOs and civil society. The EU reiterates its support for UNICEF, the Special Rapporteurs and Representatives, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, national and other relevant actors. Our multilateral commitment is also exemplified by the resolution on the rights of the child that we annually introduce together with our partners from GRULAC.
12. Children are our future. Logically, the way we treat, protect, promote and care about children will define the future of our world. It is our hope that, in the very near future, every child, irrespective of origin, sex, language, religion, or status can enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant human rights instruments.
* Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process