13 October 2016, New York – European Union Statement delivered by H.E. Joanne Adamson, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, General Assembly Third Committee Item 64: Promotion and Protection of the rights of children
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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.
Millions of children are missing out on decent healthcare, water and sanitation, social services, or quality education. They are exposed to multiple forms of violence not only because they are poor but also because they face discrimination – based on their ethnic background, religion, gender, the region of the country they live in, a disability, their sexual orientation, their migrant or refugee status or other aspects of their identity. The challenge ahead for all states is to tackle growing inequalities more effectively and target regions where children are most trapped in poverty.
The 2030 Agenda can advance the rights of the child by reducing inequalities and addressing discriminatory and financial barriers that stop children from surviving, thriving and learning. In this sense, it is key in addressing the root causes of the migration and refugee crisis. The pledge to “leave no one behind” will be at the core of our implementation efforts and the promotion of children and youth as “critical agents of change”.
During this year’s session of the Third Committee, together with our partners from GRULAC, we will again introduce our annual resolution on the rights of the child. This year, the theme of the resolution is Migrant Children.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) – the most widely ratified human rights treaty- is an integral part of the EU fundamental rights policy. The EU would like to renew its call to state parties to withdraw any reservations contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention and its optional protocols.
Already eleven Member States of the European Union have ratified the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on a Communications Procedure, which entered into force in 2014. We stress the importance of this new instrument.
To achieve our commitments to children, the EU strongly promotes the General Measures of Implementation (GMI) of the UN CRC as set out in General Comment No. 5. These measures advocate a systems-strengthening approach, through legislation, budget allocations, the establishment of coordinating and monitoring bodies – governmental and independent – comprehensive data collection, disaggregated by gender, age and disability, awareness-raising and training and the development and implementation of appropriate policies, services and programmes.
The EU is currently in the process of revising the EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child. These revised Guidelines focus specifically on the importance of adopting a rights-based approach to the implementation of the GMI of the UN CRC.
However, legislation, policies and programmes cannot be implemented without sufficient financial resources . The EU welcomes General Comment 19 of the UN CRC on Public Budgeting which will specifically assist States in the implementation of article 4 of the UNCRC in relation to public budgets. The 2030 Agenda has also strengthened the obligations for our States Parties to invest in children, spanning across all sectors and goals.
The EU is deeply concerned by the situation of migrant and refugee children, in particular taking into account the different gender- and age-based needs of girls and boys as well as children with disabilities. Currently, 1 in 4 asylum applicants in Europe is a child. In 2015, more than one million refugees arrived in Europe of which 31% were children, including 90.000 unaccompanied children. Migrant and refugee children need to be treated first and foremost as children, following relevant procedural safeguards of asylum procedures and taking into account the guidelines of the Council of Europe on child friendly justice. Migrant and refugee children are particularly vulnerable to all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation, including sexual violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, trafficking or to going missing. The protection of migrant and refugee children in full respect of the best interests of the child principle is a priority for the EU.
The EU and its Member States remain committed to achieving a more humane, fair and efficient common European asylum policy, a better-managed migration policy, and to providing enhanced procedural guarantees to vulnerable asylum-seekers, including– and in particular – to unaccompanied children. Taking into account, as a primary consideration, the best interests of the child, we will seek alternatives to their detention where possible. Detention of children remains a measure of last resort with guarantees that must be respected, and should only be used for the shortest appropriate period of time, with access to healthcare, education, to personnel, and facilities which take into account the age of the child and their protection needs. The EU will devote the 10th European Forum on the rights of the child in November 2016 to the topic of the protection of migrant and refugee children.
Protecting child victims of trafficking and enhancing cooperation with third countries and international organisations is an important EU priority and component of the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings (2012-2016). Work is ongoing to implement the 2011 EU Anti-Trafficking Directive which prescribes a set of provisions for child victims, including unaccompanied children. To prevent children from going missing and to ensure their equal access to protection, we need to ensure that children are systematically identified as such, are registered, afforded care and protection, and allocated a guardian.
Migrants and refugees are exploited by criminal networks involved in trafficking in human beings which target the most vulnerable, in particular children. We must address and eliminate the demand that drives all forms of child trafficking, whether child sexual exploitation or child labour or any other despicable form of exploitation.
We are deeply concerned by the manner in which terrorist groups such as Da’esh are indoctrinating and exploiting children, forcing them to witness or carry out actions of extreme violence, and in the worst cases, using them as suicide bombers. The EU welcomes that the UN has highlighted this issue in their Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism [(1)The UN document referred to above is the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism: http:/www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/70/674].
Within the EU, the Radicalisation Awareness Network will examine the issue with a view to developing guidance and best practices for those practitioners who may come into contact with child returnees.
Education in emergencies and protracted crises remains a top priority for the EU. We welcome the increasing global momentum in support of education, at international fora such as the World Humanitarian Summit and 19 September Summit for Refugees and Migrants. We support the newly launched ‘Education Cannot Wait’ platform that links up humanitarian and development actors for a more effective delivery of education in emergencies.
The EU invests heavily in education for all children. The EU has provided a substantive contribution in increasing and ensuring access to quality education in crisis environments for host communities and internally displaced and refugee children and young people. We promote the equal access to education for all children, including children with disabilities and those otherwise marginalized or discriminated against. In 2016, the EU increased funding to education in emergencies to 4% of its humanitarian aid budget. This year we will support the education of over 2.3 million children affected by conflict in 42 countries around the world.
Recent figures show that more and more children are recruited and used by armed forces, groups and gangs and are impacted by armed violence all over the world. With a focus on community-based approaches, the EU is promoting a comprehensive approach by supporting the identification, demobilisation and long term reintegration of former child soldiers and to prevent their recruitment. The situation in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, the Sahel and in other countries presents unprecedented challenges including the traumatising impact of violent extremism on children. The EU continues to support the efforts of the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on violence against children and children and armed conflict.
In fulfilling target 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda the EU will strengthen its efforts in the elimination of child labour in all its forms by 2025 by promoting responsible supply chains in sectors where child labour is highly prevalent. The EU will work to enhance access to education, legal and social protection, and to improve family livelihoods. The EU will support measures to implement minimum working age and adequate working condition requirements in accordance with ILO core labour standards.
The EU is at the forefront of the protection, fulfilment and enjoyment of all human rights of women and girls. The EU fully supports the the Istanbul Convention. Combating gender-based violence and protecting and supporting victims is one of the five priorities set out in the Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality 2016-2019.
The EU is funding transnational projects to combat harmful practices and is ready to commit € 19 M to UNICEF and UNFPA global programmes and actions to address child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation and Gender Biased Sex Selection.
There can be no sustainable and inclusive development without a firm commitment to invest in all children. Every state has the obligation to ensure that the protection of the rights of all children, including the most marginalised children, is included in every single action and policy. It is a grave injustice to leave any child behind.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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