European Union Strategy on the Rights of the Child
UNICEF calls on EU Institutions and Member States to ensure that the Strategy includes a strong external dimension.
What has the EU done on children’s rights?
Guided by Article 3 of the Lisbon Treaty1 , which promotes the protection of child rights, the EU has helped improving children’s lives. It has inspired legislative changes to better protect children, developed policies, guidelines and tools, and funded action plans, both within and outside of the EU.
Progress has been been tremendous, but challenges to the realization of all rights for all children remain, especially for the most vulnerable - whether it is climate change, the COVID pandemic, conflicts, irregular migration or economic crisis. These global challenges, which often impact children first and foremost, threaten to reverse decades of gains and investments.
Outside of Europe, despite some progress, the situation is still dire for many children, who continue to face extreme poverty, discrimination and inequality. In Europe, for the first time in a generation, people are worried that their children might not have a future as bright as they had: 23.5 million of children are at risk of poverty. Global trends, like climate change, impact of digital technologies and protracted conflicts are impacting children’s lives quite rapidly.
The EU is investing significant resources to promote children’s rights and deliver life-changing programs affecting every child, everywhere, as defined in the framework of its commitment to the Agenda 2030.
New challenges and opportunities are emerging: children and new technologies -from digital learning, artificial intelligence to life-saving innovations and the social media; impact of climate change on children and their role as agents of change; children in migration; mental health; increasing, politically sensitive impact of armed conflicts on children; and the participation of adolescents and young people in decisions that affect their lives. In addition, emerging developments and events that exacerbate existing challenges, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic impact on children, call for crisis resilience measures to protect children.
Therefore, there is a pressing need to refresh the relevance and urgency around implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child for the 21st century.
The new EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child offers a unique opportunity to make child rights part of the political agenda of the EU, of its policies, actions and investments with a holistic, comprehensive and rights-based approach.
This new framework will translate the EU policy and political commitments to child rights into a set of concrete objectives necessary for achieving results for children, including promoting investment in children, efficient coordination, implementation, monitoring, impact assessment, and reporting of EU activities to address existing gaps.
1 Article 3(3) of the Treaty on European Union explicitly requires the EU to promote the protection of the rights of the child, and the Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union recognizes that children are independent and autonomous holders of rights.
Why is this important and what does a strategy on children’s rights mean?
The proposed strategy will be the policy guidance and roadmap for the EU Institutions and Member States (MS) to plan their actions and structure programs aiming to promote and protect children’s rights in the coming years. In 2011, the European Commission (EC) set out the first strategic document trying to emphasize children’s rights in various EU areas of intervention.
Recognizing the need to have a comprehensive and harmonized approach to child rights (this was a formal ask by UNICEF and all child rights organizations during the European election), the President of the EC, Ursula von der Leyen, delegated to the Vice President of the EC, Ms. Šuica, the task to develop a comprehensive Child Rights strategy, in coordination with other relevant Commissioners (e.g. Crisis Management, International Partnership, Justice, etc).
The Strategy will be structured on different pillars covering violence, social inclusion, digital, heath and child friendly justice. Horizontal pillar will be SDGs and vulnerable groups.
Call to Action: Ensuring an ambitious external dimension in the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child
As the EU is developing its Strategy on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF calls on EU Institutions and Member States to ensure that the Strategy includes a strong external dimension.
Read our Call to Action.
Joint Position Paper on a Comprehensive Child Rights Strategy
The EU’s intention to develop a comprehensive Child Rights Strategy represents an important opportunity for the EU to champion the rights of the child within its borders and across the world.
The Joint Position Paper on a Comprehensive Child Rights Strategy presents a set of key principles to guide the Strategy as well as priorities and actions for the European Institutions, Member States, and partner countries to take.
The principles and priorities highlighted in this position paper are core principles enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its General Comments. They are also aligned with the UN 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Towards an EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child: addressing the challenges of the 21st century
UNICEF has recently released Towards an EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child: Addressing the challenges of the 21st century, a brief which provides analysis and recommendations on some of the most pressing priorities of our time: the impact of climate change on children; children and new technologies; mental health; and children in migration.
How the EU responds to these challenges will determine the future of children and in turn, will be instrumental for the success – or failure – of its whole Strategy.