EU support to children affected by armed conflict

Baalbek, Lebanon, 2008 © EC / ECHO / Samuel RodriguezBaalbek, Lebanon, 2008 © EC / ECHO / Samuel Rodriguez

Children affected by armed conflict remain among the top human rights priorities of the European Union in the 2012 Human Rights Strategy and its Action Plan . The main reason is that armed conflicts still affects a great number of children and pose serious threats to their survival, development and life opportunities.

For example, over 1 billion children lived in the conflict zones in 2009. In 2011, 28 million of those children were out of primary school education; 7 million were refugees and 12,4 million were internally displaced. It is also estimated that approximately 250 000 children are used directly in conflict at any given time.

The EU has a well established policy on children and armed conflict: In 2003, the Council adopted the EU Guidelines on children and armed conflict(revised in 2008) and in 2010 it has revised its Implementation Strategy .

The EU and its Member States are among major provides of assistance to children affected by armed conflict. In 2008-2012, they spent more then 300 million € pdf - 262 KB [262 KB]  to help demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers, to assist child victims through psycho-social and socio-economic reintegration, to support transitional justice or to involve children in prevention activities. The decision in 2012 to use the Nobel Prize award* to support children affected by armed conflict, in particular by giving them access to education, is emblematic of a long-term commitment of the EU to children associated with armed conflict.

The EU and its Member States are also helping to promote and develop child protection agenda at the UN, in particular in the General Assembly. In cooperation with the group of Latin American countries, the EU promoted the establishment of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on children and armed conflict. The EU works closely with the Special Representative L. Zerrougui: Today, the High Representative/ Vice-President C. Ashton issued a joint statement on International day against the use of child soldiers.

In 2012, the EU lobbied many countries around the world to promote the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the rights of the Child which increases the threshold for direct involvement of children in armed conflict to 18 years. Seven States ratified the Optional Protocol in 2012. This is an important step towards universal ban on the use of children during armed conflict.

The EU engaged also with the African Unionin dialogue and cooperation on children associated with armed conflict.

Crisis management is another area where the EU actively promotes child protection issues. For example, the EU developed the Checklist for the integration of the protection of children affected by armed conflict into CSDP operations . Most recently, the EU has been working with the Save the children to develop minimum standard pre-deployment training modules on child protection, gender and human rights for CSDP staff. The modules should be available for training of EU Member States' military and civilian staff by the end of 2013.

Such capacity building initiatives are important for improving protection of children by the EU staff in the field. In Mali, for example, the forthcoming EUTM will train Malian armed forces on child protection, human rights and international humanitarian law.

Colombia, 2008 © Save the Children UK

*Nobel Prize award Links:


The EU supports education projects for children in conflict. Click on the posters below prepared by DG Echo: