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EU guidelines on the rights of the child

The European Union (EU) sets out guidelines forming the basis for the protection of the rights of the child in its external policy. These aim to favour an overall approach to the rights of the child, to strengthen the efforts currently being made and to improve coherence between activities in this field. The EU seeks to promote its objectives actively in its relations with non-EU countries and in international fora.

ACT

EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child . Approved by the Council on 10 December 2007 [Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

In spite of the existence of many international instruments, standards and commitments on the rights of the child and the progress made in this field, the daily reality for millions of children worldwide is in sharp contrast to these commitments and objectives.

Many children face many threats and lack opportunities for access to education and health and social care. They are victims of the worst forms of child labour, violence, sexual abuse, diseases, armed conflict and are exposed to discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion. Girls face specific risks and require particular attention.

Consequently, these guidelines reinforce the action of the European Union (EU) for the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in its external relations and encourage an overall, strategic approach to these issues. They complement the EU guidelines on children and armed conflict.

To achieve its objectives, the EU will use operational tools, such as:

  • political dialogue, by including children’s rights in negotiations and discussions held within international or regional organisations and with non-EU countries;
  • démarches, to react to topical issues with an impact on children’s rights and to remind non-EU countries of the need to take appropriate measures to protect children;
  • bilateral and multilateral cooperation to draw up humanitarian assistance and development aid programmes, placing the emphasis on children’s rights, and to raise the question of children’s rights in all areas of the EU’s external action;
  • partnerships and coordination with international stakeholders, such as the United Nations, regional organisations, the European Forum on Children’s Rights, research institutions, public-private partnerships, but also civil society and international financial institutions.

The guidelines provide for action to be taken in the context of relations with non-EU countries and in multilateral fora.

Implementation

The EU proposes general action to implement these operational policies in its relations with non-EU countries, including:

  • encouraging non-EU countries to adhere to relevant international instruments and standards and to cooperate with the various existing mechanisms, such as those of the United Nations, as well as regional instruments, including those of the Council of Europe;
  • urging the reinforcing of capacity for the promotion and protection of children’s rights at national level, by drawing up strategies and developing or strengthening governmental mechanisms;
  • improving monitoring processes and structures, such as databases and surveillance systems, as well as promoting research on the rights of the child, establishing national independent institutions and promoting the participation of civil society;
  • offering more resources for the promotion and protection of children’s rights;
  • encouraging and supporting the review of national legislation on the promotion and protection of children’s rights to ensure better consistency and compatibility with international standards and instruments;
  • combating the violation of children’s rights and ending the existing impunity;
  • encouraging more effective participation by children in decision-making and the implementation of policies affecting them and facilitating their participation;
  • enhancing families’ and other caretakers’ capacities to carry out their roles fully with regard to the protection of children’s rights;
  • furthering the implementation of awareness-raising programmes on children’s rights by promoting campaigns or incorporating the rights of the child in school curricula.

Within the framework of these guidelines, specific action will be taken in priority areas on the basis of separate implementation strategies. The priority areas are selected for a two-year period. The first priority chosen refers to all forms of violence against children. The objectives, operational part and country-specific implementation strategy, actions, monitoring and assessment of the implementation are detailed in Annex 1 to the guidelines.

The Council Working Group on Human Rights (COHOM) is responsible for the implementation and monitoring of these guidelines, in coordination and close cooperation with other Council working groups.

Background

The EU has undertaken to respect human rights in general and children’s rights in particular under international and European treaties. It adheres to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, promotes the implementation of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and supports the United Nations action plan "A World fit for Children ".

The EU has for years been pursuing various actions relating to children and armed conflict, raising the issue of children’s rights in dialogues with non-EU countries and in the context of the enlargement process. In addition, the EU has created a European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, which enables initiatives to be promoted in this field. It integrates the respect of children’s rights into its development policy too, as laid down in the European Consensus on Development.

Last updated: 09.12.2010
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