It is always said that children will shape the world of tomorrow. It is also said that societies should invest in their future in order to become inclusive, stable and prosperous. Although a logical correlation can be made from these statements, over 600 million children live in poverty, and one in four lives inside the EU. If one looks closer into these data, several questions come to light: are we investing enough in “our future”? What role should the EU play?
These concerns were raised months ago by ‘The Child Rights Action Group’ (CRAG), an informal network of child-focused organisations. Intensive talks among its members led to the so-called ‘Child Rights Manifesto’ at the end of last year. The text reads that calls thee European Parliament (EP) should to perform in a more active manner to help uphold children’s rights, as “lives of children worldwide are affected daily by EU policies, legislation and actions.”
The Manifesto was once again in the spotlight. Last week, one of the Members of the EP (MEP), Jean Lambert, Member of the EP (MEP), hosted a pre-election dialogue last week on children’s rights. The CRAG took this opportunity to bring the Manifesto back into focus, calling on members of the EP to support it ahead of the elections in May.
“Realising the rights of every child, everywhere”
The EP must have the institutional capacity to promote the interests of children in every aspect of its work, and should guide the EU institutions’ efforts in fulfilling existing legal obligations.
The Manifesto calls on the EP to support the EU in becoming a champion of children’s rights, both within Europe and around the world and contains specific proposals about the important role the new Parliament can play. It outlines that the EP must have the institutional capacity to promote the interests of children in every aspect of its work, and should guide the EU institutions’ efforts in fulfilling existing legal obligations.
MEPs should also ensure that the EU champions and implements a comprehensive post-2015 agenda with a clear focus on “realising the rights of every child, everywhere”. In particular, the Manifesto stresses that funding needs to be secured for children in EU external financing instruments.
Going across all policy sectors
A Question & Answer session shed light on how the Manifesto would be put into practice. MEP Jean Lambert opened the discussion by emphasising the importance of children’s rights in the run up to the EP elections, and recalled the manifesto builds on the changes in the Lisbon Treaty that impact on children. “An important message in the Manifesto is that every child should be treated first and foremost as a child. This needs to be built into the policies of the EU, “she said.
Among some other remarks, MEP Timothy Kirkhope bemoaned that no one seems to track what part of the budget has been spent on children and stressed that making children more visible in policy-making and engaging them in decision-making is crucial. For her part, MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt called for a mainstreamed and horizontal approach towards children’s rights. “We must join forces to keep the children agenda high in a more important way […] We need to strengthen and develop the work of the existing Children’s Alliance in the EP,” she added.
One of the main discussions was the establishment of a permanent mechanism in the next EP with explicit responsibility for protecting and promoting children’s rights across all policy sectors. Being the first to touch upon this topic, MEP Zita Gurmai emphasised the need to create this mechanism to ensure that the EU’s children’s policy is being implemented on at all levels. “CRAG is right to look for a permanent mechanism in the new Parliament to promote child rights – it should be a full horizontal policy mainstreamed in all committees. We tried to do the same for women’s rights. The parliament needs to assess the impact on children of all its major policies on children.”
The possibility of forming inter-groups and task forces to mainstream children’s rights and include child participation is also on the cards, and seems to be widely accepted. As a matter of fact, MEPs such as Gabriella Zimmer, have already voiced their support. “There is a need for lobbying for an Intergroup on Children’s Rights -currently there is only one on the Family. We need cross-political grouping agreement,” MEP Zimmer stressed.
What seems to be clear for all is that MEPs can make a difference. They can lead change by placing children’s rights at the heart of EU policies. Nonetheless, these discussions will gather pace and take shape as the elections approach. Plan, together with the CRAG, will certainly continue to discuss with EP election candidates to ensure that the new Parliament becomes a real global champion of children’s rights.
For the moment, MEPs can already commit by signing the ‘Child Rights Manifesto’ online. A simple click can be the start of improving the lives of millions of children.
Plan EU Office, as a member of CRAG, has been actively involved in developing the Child Rights Manifesto and the #childrightschampion initiative. For more information, please visit: http://childrightsmanifesto.eu/. A list of candidate MEPs who have signed the Child Rights Manifesto will be published and made available to the public in advance of the European Parliament Elections in May.