Today, 18,000 children under the age of five still die every day from preventable causes; as many as 1.5 billion children are at risk of violence annually; and 1 in 3 children in developing countries are malnourished. These are just some of the statistics which prove that, while much progress has indeed been made, much remains to be done.
The EU has a key role to play in changing this picture and fulfilling the rights of all children – both within the EU and beyond.
We therefore welcome the renewed commitment from the European Parliament to this cause, through the adoption of a comprehensive resolution marking the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Below, we outline our thoughts on the resolution, with five things we like a lot and five things we like less.
Five things we like a lot
1) The resolution is clearly rooted in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, with references and specific calls relating to each of the four general principles (non-discrimination, best interests of the child, survival and development and participation) as well as strong calls to strengthen child protection in a more systemic way.
2) It calls for greater child participation in the European Parliament’s activities, and calls for the Commission, Member States and local authorities to explore ways to increase children and young people’s involvement in decision-making. This is important, because we know that involving the people concerned by a decision in the decision-making process always leads to a better outcome.
3) It sets out the Parliament’s support for the child rights manifesto – a call to action issued to MEPs by 14 civil society organisations, including Plan, to ensure the rights of all children are better respected and promoted in all the Parliament’s work. The manifesto calls for the European Parliament to become a champion of children’s rights, ensuring that commitments on paper are translated into concrete results for children.
4) It calls for ‘focal points’ for children’s rights within each parliamentary committee to be appointed, to ensure the mainstreaming of children’s rights in every policy and legislative text adopted. This is a major step forward and something children’s rights organisations, including Plan, have been calling for for many years. Only through coordination and collaboration between committed focal points will the mainstreaming of children’s rights throughout the work of the European Parliament become a reality.
5) It calls on the Commission to propose an ambitious and comprehensive child rights strategy and action plan for the next five years. This strategy must go beyond the 11 actions identified in the EU Agenda on the Rights of the Child, taking a comprehensive and holistic approach to children’s rights which must be mainstreamed throughout all the EU’s work.
Five things we like less
1) It claims that “children’s rights are at the heart of EU policies”. While we would like this to be true, it is definitely not the case in areas such as economic and financial affairs, trade, agriculture, fisheries, or industry, for example.
2) There are repeated references to children being “vulnerable”. We would urge all actors to avoid this type of victimising terminology, which does not recognise the great resilience all children are capable of manifesting. A child is not inherently vulnerable – they are at risk as a result of adults exploiting the fact that they are smaller, less strong, and have less experience.
3) It calls for the Millennium Development Goals to be a top priority, when the reality is that they expire in 10 months. Rather than focus on the MDGs, the resolution should have called on the EU to agree an ambitious, transformative and comprehensive post-2015 sustainable development framework, and to implement every goal and target at home as well as supporting other countries to do so abroad.
4) While it recognizes the importance of gender equality and girls’ rights in general, it fails to address the gender-age nexus – a girl of five, for example, has a very different set of needs than a girl of 15.
5) While we welcome the resolution’s call for greater coordination and mainstreaming of children’s rights in EU legislative proposals, policies and financial decisions it misses the opportunity to call for more detailed impact assessments, which are needed to determine the potential effects of EU policies on children’s rights before the adoption of the policy. The EU currently undertakes too few impact assessments, and when they are carried out, there are no questions specifically relating to children’s rights. In order to ensure policy coherence for sustainable development, it is essential that services work together before any policies are adopted, rather than simply monitoring their compliance with the acquis on children’s rights afterwards.