Reviewing one of the EU's foreign policy priorities: the Rights of the Child

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In December 2011 Catherine Ashton reaffirmed the centrality of the rights of children to EU human rights policy

"The EU was instrumental in the establishment of the position of Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and in fact the EU Guidelines expressed unequivocal support to its role. My mandate is therefore an important and tangible human rights mechanism endorsed by the Guidelines, which in turn have remained a critical reference to my work as Special Representative."

This was one of the messages that the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Violence against Children, Ms. Marta Santos Pais conveyed to the audience on 16 February 2012 at an expert meeting in Brussels, organized by the European External Action Service.

Ms. Santos Pais' words articulately illustrate the EU's longstanding commitment to the Rights of the Child as well as its support to the multilateral human rights mechanisms.

The EU's external policy on Children Rights is underpinned by the EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict and the EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child . The two Guidelines present an integrated and holistic approach to children rights, focusing on all rights of the child and all children.

The EU mobilized substantial resources to implement its policy on children, for example through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and the thematic programme Investing in People, mounting up to 101.8 million Euros for the period 2007-2013. The EU is also one of UNICEF's major donors and partners.

To strengthen the Europe's action and visibility in the filed, the EU recently appointed Human Rights focal points in every EU Delegations. They have become useful partners for local civil society and international organisations. Within the next three years, they will dedicate more time and efforts to promoting children rights since more than a half of EU delegations decided to focus their work on children. This is in line with the legal commitment introduced by the Lisbon treaty to promote children rights in the contacts of the European Union with a wider world.

In addition, last December, the High Representative Catherine Ashton reaffirmed that Children Rights is one of the European Union's priorities in its external Human Rights policy in the Joint Communication "Human Rights and Democracy at the heart of EU External Action ".

Consultation with civil society

The consultations with civil society and international organisations helped to re-focus the attention of the European Union to a number of issues.

For example, internally, the EU improved child participation in all decisions affecting children, it has taken initiatives to empower them and provide child friendly versions of EU documents. More could be done to strengthen the capacity of the EU delegations to work closely with youth associations and to integrate children in the programming of child-related assistance. It would be good to build further on the good practices that exist; like Barbados, where the EU delegation pays visits to summer camps to engage in a dialogue with children or Kenya, where the EU delegation held a consultation with children to assess the effectiveness of EU action in that country.

Some other recommendations to the EU which were formulated include reinvigorating a holistic approach, focusing on child protection systems and better targeting gender specific violations.

Also, building synergies between the different EU Human Rights Guidelines to strengthen the EU's Human Rights policy.

These recommendations and other comments received throughout the review process will be taken into account, with the intention of adopting the updated EU Guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child in summer 2012.