Twenty-five years ago, world leaders were united behind a common vision: to promote and protect the rights of all children.
The adoption of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child was a landmark moment: For the first time, children were recognized as the holders of a unique set of rights — education, leisure, participate in society, health and protection.
We’ve come a long way in those 25 years. For example, the number of children under the age of 5 that die each year from preventable causes has almost halved globally, and almost 50 million more children are in school. Yet the fact remains that we are a long way from realizing the vision set out in the CDC. Children’s rights are still violated daily, in the European Union and globally. Today, 57 million children are still unable to go to school and 250 million children are either out of school or not learning. Up to 1.5 billion children experience violence annually. Almost 27 million European children are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
While the EU has played its part in the progress made, it must also accept responsibility for the gaps which remain. Too often, despite promises on paper, Brussels has failed to live up to its commitments to children. The current Human Rights Strategic Framework and accompanying Action Plan, for example, is a case in point. While this had the potential to make a positive and lasting difference to the lives of children around the world, many of the proposed actions — such as the campaign aimed at eliminating violence against children — were never implemented.
On the 25th anniversary of the CRC, we want more EU action on these three topics to fulfil the bloc’s commitments to children:
1. Develop a strategic and comprehensive human rights framework. The protection of children’s rights is an explicit objective in the EU’s internal and external action thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, and the new EU leadership has a golden opportunity to address previous shortcomings and realize the bloc’s objectives in this area. The newly appointed European Commission must actively develop a comprehensive vision for the future of the EU’s policies and legislation that will impact on children within and outside of Europe. It must do this through tools such as Policy Coherence for Development, as well as through specific policies on children’s rights. The European Commission and European External Action Service must therefore strive to deliver a much more strategic and comprehensive human rights framework when it is renewed in 2015. Crucially, there must be concerted action by EU delegations to implement the framework.
2. Ensure adequate and sustained investment in children’s rights. This must be backed up by adequate, sustained investment in programs which take a holistic approach to promoting children’s rights. Through the “child well-being” budget line in the 2014-2020 Development Cooperation Instrument, the EU has the ability to do precisely this. Working in concert with other budget lines affecting children, such as those covering health, education and gender equality, the EU has the means necessary to ensure the rights enshrined in the CRC are fulfilled.
3. Emphasize participation, equality, inclusion and accountability post-2015. Globally, the EU must push for a post-2015 framework that places the rights and the well-being of children at its center, with a strong emphasis on participation, equality, inclusion and accountability. Given the universality of the future framework and its wide scope in covering social, economic, environmental and governance issues — all of which are critical for children — the EU must ensure that the goals and targets are both ambitious enough and relevant for implementation internally in the EU as well as externally. Sustained and long-term action is required for all children to claim their rights. Investing in the survival, development, protection and participation of all girls and boys is essential for the promotion of sustainable development, the fulfilment of human rights, and addressing structural inequalities and intergenerational poverty.
As the EU’s new leaders take over the reins, they must push for children’s rights to be mainstreamed throughout all the bloc’s development work. Change requires action, and action requires political will and real investment. Good intentions are not enough. The EU should play its part in making the promises of the CRC a reality for all children.
In addition to the authors and their organizations, this article is also co-signed by the Alliance for Childhood European Network Group, Eurochild, Missing Children Europe, PICUM and SOS Children’s Villages.
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