Issues - Rights - EU Presidency statement
EU Presideny Statement - The rights of children
Summary 22 October 2001: Intervention on behalf of the European
Union by Ms. Birgit Stevens, First Secretary at the Permanent
Representation of Belgium to the United Nations. Promotion
and protection of the rights of children (New York)
I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European
Union. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe associated
with the European Union Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia,
Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia,
Cyprus, Turkey and Iceland align themselves with this statement.
(Special Session on Children)
In recent months, the rights of children have
had pride of place on the international agenda. The preparatory
process for the General Assembly Special Session on Children,
including the regional preparatory conferences, has helped
to create a truly global dynamic on behalf of children. However,
for tragic reasons of which we are all aware, the Special
Session on Children has had to be postponed to a later date.
This dynamic on behalf of children will not
evaporate in the month, which remains before the Session itself.
We shall continue to put the higher interests of children
at the very heart of our actions, as laid down in the Convention
on the Rights of the Child. We shall ensure that our attention
to children, especially those living in particularly difficult
circumstances for whom the international community was prepared
to reinforce its commitment at the Special Session, does not
falter. We shall redouble our efforts to ensure that the voices
of children are listened to more attentively at national and
international level: children, including adolescents, must
be able to exercise their right to express their opinions
and to participate in the decision-making process so that,
with them, we can continue to build the world that children
deserve. The European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights
solemnly proclaimed on 7 December 2000 contains aspects relating
to children's rights, including the right to express their
The European Union reaffirms its commitment
to participate constructively in the negotiations on the final
document, which should define effective strategies to improve
the promotion and protection of children's rights in practice.
It will continue to defend with vigor the principles in which
it believes in order to arrive at a strong declaration, together
with an ambitious and visionary action plan.
So as not to prejudge the negotiations in the
Preparatory Committee for the Special Session, which are currently
suspended, GRULAC and the European Union will introduce a
procedural resolution under this agenda item for the Third
Committee, rather than the traditional omnibus resolution.
(Convention on the Rights of the Child)
5. First and foremost, our actions must be guided
by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. That remains
the instrument of reference, the essential legislative basis
for achievement of children's rights. The European Union,
together with a very large majority of delegations, is anxious
to reflect the primacy of this approach to children's rights
into the final text of the Special Session on children. The
European Union considers it of paramount importance that the
States parties to the Convention actually implement its provisions
and that those who have not yet ratified it now do so. The
European Union is extremely concerned about the number of
reservations which have been lodged with regard to the Convention
and continues to urge Member States to review and withdraw
those reservations, which are contrary to the spirit and purpose
of the Convention.
The European Union also calls on Member States
to sign, ratify and apply the two Optional Protocols to the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, one on the involvement
of children in armed conflict and the other on the sale of
children, child prostitution and child pornography.
The European Union welcomes the work accomplished
by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and wishes to
express its support for the Committee's efforts in promoting
and protecting children's rights. It is important that the
amendment to Article 42(2) of the Convention allowing the
membership of the Committee to be extended should enter into
force and therefore that the States which have not yet done
so should give their agreement.
(Children and armed conflict)
The Secretary-General's report on children and
armed conflict draws our attention to the dramatic and devastating
impact which armed conflicts have on entire generations. It
is encouraging that more and more efforts are being made to
understand and analyze the problem. However, these should
lead to clearer coordination of political will and tougher
action to protect those who are dearest to us.
Entry into force of the Optional Protocol on
the involvement of children in armed conflict, which sets
the minimum age for taking part in hostilities at 18, will
constitute a remarkable advance. The European Union calls
on States also to sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the
International Criminal Court, which classifies the enlistment
of children under 15 years of age and their participation
in combat as war crimes. In the final document of the General
Assembly Special Session on Children, the European Union wishes
to include firm commitments on the protection of children
affected by armed conflict, particularly child soldiers and
children in need of humanitarian aid.
The European Union welcomes the inclusion of
the issue of children in armed conflicts in the Security Council's
proceedings. The European Union fervently hopes that the Security
Council will, in the course of the planned debate on children
in armed conflicts, adopt an ambitious resolution designed
to recommend a positive response to the calls made by the
Secretary-General in his last report on the subject. Inclusion
of the protection of children in peacekeeping operations,
such as MONUC in the DRC and UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone, constitutes
one example of tougher action on behalf of children affected
by armed conflicts. Political and operational mandates for
restoring, maintaining and building peace should always include
special provisions on the protection and help to be given
The European Union would like once again to
express its appreciation in this forum of the work accomplished
by the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Mr Otunnu,
and by many non?governmental and international organizations,
such as UNICEF, which are doing a remarkable job in the field.
The EU wishes in particular to salute the efficiency and devotion
of UNICEF in making a decisive contribution to the promotion
and protection of children's rights. The European Union would
also like to pay homage to Ms Graça Machel who, through
her dedication, is contributing to the growing awareness of
the tragedy of children affected by armed conflict.
(Protection against violence and exploitation)
Children have the right to be protected against
all forms of violence and torture, mental or physical abuse
or brutality, neglect or negligence, ill treatment or exploitation.
The EU is in favor of unequivocal language on this subject
in the final document of the General Assembly Special Session.
A better understanding of the many aspects of
violence against children will enable us to formulate strategies
and target our action more effectively to help the millions
of children who are victims of violence. In this context,
the European Union appreciated the discussion day organized
at the end of September in Geneva by the Committee on the
Rights of the Child, on the topic of violence against children
at school and in the family. The European Union hopes that
the Committee's recommendations will be taken into account
in the formulation of measures to eradicate this scourge.
That discussion was the second part of the general discussion
on the topic of violence against children, which began in
2000. The European Union supports the Committee's call for
the creation of a working party to study the issue of violence
against children in depth.
Children continue to be victims of many forms
of sexual exploitation, such as prostitution, pornography,
the sale of children, acts of pedophilia and sexual abuse
within the family. Here, too, greater awareness and an in-depth
study of the problem should lead to constant tougher action.
Such action must go beyond national borders, since the crime
of sexual exploitation of children also goes beyond them.
Such crime is increasingly professional and makes use of advances
in new technology, turning to its own advantage the openings
provided by globalization: ever more sophisticated cross?border
organizations, possibilities offered by the Internet, prostitution
networks, sex tourism, etc. In European Union Member States
a number of measures, both national and international, have
been introduced to combat the sexual exploitation of children.
The European Union has put the STOP and DAPHNE programmes
in place and will continue to step up its action at all levels.
All its Member States have signed the Protocol on the sale
of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
The European Union welcomes the work done by
Ms. Calcetas-Santos, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual
exploitation of children. The Union also welcomes the opportunity,
which will be given to the international community at the
Yokohama Conference against Commercial Sexual Exploitation
of Children (17 to 20 December 2001) to take stock of action
in this sector since the Stockholm Congress. Like the UNGA
Special Session devoted to children, the Yokohama Conference
will also be an opportunity to make further progress.
Unfortunately, sexual exploitation is not the
only form of exploitation of children. According to ILO estimates,
250 million children aged from 5 to 14 work to earn a living.
Nearly half of those children work full time every day of
the year and 70% of them do so in a dangerous environment.
An even larger number of children are involved in "invisible"
work or are exploited in conditions of virtual slavery. The
eradication of any form of exploitation of children must be
a priority for all States. The European Union calls on those
States, which have not yet done so to ratify Convention No
182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor and calls on the States,
which are parties to it, to begin carrying out their commitments
under that instrument immediately.
The General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS
has stressed the need to provide special assistance for children
who have been orphaned or affected by HIV/AIDS. The Community
and the Member States have undertaken to draw up and implement
an Action Programme on three transmissible diseases, namely
HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, including strategies designed
to ensure a favorable environment for orphans and girls and
boys infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. The international community
has also undertaken to guarantee non-discrimination and full
and equal enjoyment of all fundamental human rights for children
affected by HIV/AIDS. The European Union will do everything
in its power to carry out the undertakings given.
This respect for the fundamental rights of the
child must also be the lodestone for our policy on health
in general. Our children and our adolescents have the right
to a healthy life and the promise of a future. The EU will
unstintingly work to ensure that the rights to reproductive?health
care and services for boys and girls, rights accepted in all
the basic documents of the major UN conferences, are not called
into question in the final document of the Session.
(Justice for juvenile offenders - death penalty)
Allow me first to broach a specific question
to which we are particularly attached. As it is doing in the
preparatory process for the Special Session on children, the
European Union wishes to make a special appeal to those countries
which, although few in number, retain the death penalty for
those who were minors at the time of the offence. It is indispensable
that measures be taken in order to respect the Convention
on the Rights of the Child and the principles developed by
the United Nations in this area. The European Union would
express its deep concern at the use of torture on children
and calls on all States, which have not yet done so to ratify
the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
Degrading Treatment or Punishment and to comply with it.
(Economic, social and cultural rights)
The European Union believes that the building
of the world that children deserve can only be achieved if
we are prepared to invest in our children. That means investing
in education, which can ensure their future, in their health,
in their well-being and in their personal development. Enjoyment
of the economic, social and cultural rights of children is
of the utmost importance for their development. It has been
proved that investing in primary education, particularly the
education of girls, is the most productive decision a society
can take. We must reduce the marginalization of disadvantaged
children who are in the front line for the horrors of poverty
and the lack of equal opportunities. This means we must invest
in the right to education, as that constitutes an essential
element in the fight against exclusion. The European Union
attaches considerable importance to the conclusions of the
Conference on Education for All, held in Dakar in April 2000.
In accordance with the Dakar Framework for Action, which was
approved on that occasion, the EU is convinced that education
is a fundamental right and the key to sustainable development
and peace within and between countries.
The European Union would also take this opportunity
of reiterating that it is important that the education of
children include education in human rights, tolerance, citizenship
and the exercise of democracy.
Finally, it is important to stress that no child
should be a victim of discrimination. Non-discrimination is
one of the major principles of the Convention on the Rights
of the Child. The World Conference against Racism, Racial
Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance has recognized
that many victims of racism and other forms of intolerance
our children and in particular girls. It calls for the incorporation
in programmes to combat racism of special measures giving
priority to the rights of children who are victims of such
The European Union notes that discrimination
against women and girls unfortunately persists. We therefore
recognize that the gender aspect must be incorporated in all
our policies on young people. We must consider the kind of
action needed to eliminate discrimination. It is of paramount
importance that particular attention should be paid to girls
when dealing with violence, exploitation, reproductive rights
and female genital mutilation.
The European Union wishes to reiterate the importance
of full integration of handicapped children into society.
Many children suffering from handicaps do not enjoy the right
to participate in the same activities as other children, including
family life. Access for handicapped children to education
and social services, and respect for all their rights, must
The European Union undertakes to combat all
forms of discrimination against children so that all children,
both boys and girls, can participate on an equal footing in
the building of a world that does justice to children.
EU source: EU Presidency
UN forum: Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural