The European Union is committed to building a better present and a better future for all children, also in line with the EU Strategy on the rights of the child, the Youth Action Plan in EU external action and the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy .
On this World Children’s Day, the EU is particularly concerned for the well-being of children living in situations of armed conflict, forced displacement and protracted humanitarian crises. Unfortunately, our television screens and social media feeds are full of the daily horrors inflicted upon children around the world – be it from Gaza to Ukraine, terrorist attacks in Israel, from the Sahel region to Yemen and Myanmar.*
Children do not start conflicts; they deserve and need peace.
Children affected by armed conflict suffer from serious violations of their rights, including abduction, killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the denial of access to humanitarian aid. Children are inherently more vulnerable to the immediate and longer-term consequences of such emergencies, which increase their vulnerability to trafficking, threaten their physical and mental health, deprive them of access to basic social services, health care, education, and parental care, and undermine their right to life, development, and opportunities to reach their full potential.
The situation of children is our key focus, and we aim to mitigate the threats faced by them and ensure their lives and their rights are preserved. In this regard, we wish to reiterate the child-centered approach of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2712 on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and the need for full, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostels held by Hamas and other groups, especially children.
The EU is committed to putting children at the heart of its efforts to prevent and respond to such emergencies. In its work to ensure the protection of children affected by armed conflict, the EU is guided by relevant international and regional norms and standards on human rights and humanitarian law.
We support child protection in the EU’s external action through political dialogue with partner countries and by funding a wide range of programs promoting children’s rights. It is critically important that we make collective progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for children across the globe, especially the most vulnerable ones. Every child deserves a healthy and safe childhood, full and harmonious development of their skills and personality, in a supportive and nurturing family, school, and community environment.
The EU recognizes that poverty, inequalities, lack of educational opportunities, social exclusion, and discrimination remain significant barriers to the well-being, as well as physical and mental development, of children. We must address these challenges head-on, because children living in poverty face a higher risk of experiencing limited access to education, healthcare, nutrition and opportunities to reach their full potential.
Climate change poses a significant threat to the well-being of children worldwide. Actions to address and mitigate these effects are needed to protect future generations. By investing in renewable energy, promoting sustainable practices and supporting child participation and climate education, the EU aims to empower children to become key actors in combatting climate change. Therefore, child and youth participation is an EU priority to empower children and young people as active citizens, and as agents of change in the EU and globally.
In today’s digital age, the EU recognizes the importance of protecting children online, including from sexual abuse. Mental health is a growing concern among children, and the EU has taken significant steps to address this issue, not least by working towards a safer and healthier digital space for children. The EU aims to ensure that children receive the necessary support to respond to children’s needs in an integrated way, to thrive and reach their full potential and remains determined to prevent and safeguard children from violence, abuse, and exploitation, whether online or offline, using all the tools available, including legislation.
For every child, every right.
Through its various initiatives and commitments, and in line with the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child and its first ever Youth Action Plan in EU external action, the EU continues to work towards building a world where every child can grow, thrive, and participate fully in society.
The EU is committed to supporting child protection in its external action, including through political dialogue with partner countries and the funding of a wide range of programs promoting children’s rights. Furthermore, as a priority initiative in 2024, the Commission will present a recommendation, taking into account children’s voices to support the development and strengthening of integrated child protection systems within the EU.
The EU is also committed to advancing children’s education as a cornerstone of its humanitarian and development policy and programming, recognizing the pivotal role education plays in strengthening children’s resilience and offering them hope for a better future. The EU has increased its support to education from 7 to at least 10% of its funding under international partnerships and consistently allocates 10% of its humanitarian aid budget to education in emergencies, benefiting over 2 million crisis-affected children on a yearly basis.
By working together, we can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and create a world where all children can thrive. The European Union has made progress on the SDGs for children in the EU and across the world, but more is needed to ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential particularly on SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 4 (Quality Education ), and SDG 5 (Gender Equality). For example, the EU has implemented policies to reduce poverty among children, invested in education and childcare, and taken steps to promote gender equality. The EU has also made progress on other SDGs for children, such as health, nutrition, and child protection.
The EU is working to combat child poverty through various initiatives, including the implementation of the European Child Guarantee. This initiative aims to provide all children at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Europe with effective and free access to healthcare, education, nutritious meals, as well as effective access to adequate housing. The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan sets a target for 2030 to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU by at least 15 million, at least 5 million of whom should be children. EU funding for research to support policies for children and youth is key.
Child participation is a priority of the EU, responding to children’s rights to be heard. Responding to children’s call for greater engagement in democratic life, the European Commission has created an EU Children’s Participation Platform. This hub is connecting child participation mechanisms at local, national and EU level, and involves children in the decision-making processes at EU level. Through its Youth Action Plan in EU external action, the EU also makes children and young people actors of change for more democratic, equal, inclusive and peaceful societies in the world.
Children’s mental and physical health is part of the priorities in the area of health and the EU’s work under the EU’s Global Health Strategy. To address mental health challenges, the Commission adopted a Communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health in June 2023. It focuses on supporting children and young people through a number of flagship initiatives, such as a network on mental health, a prevention toolkit and activities aimed at better protecting children’s health in the digital environment and on social media. Vaccination It is essential for children, but many are still unvaccinated in Europe. The EU is working to increase vaccination rates and strengthen EU cooperation on vaccine-preventable diseases, specifically cancers and will present a new Recommendation on vaccine preventable cancers. The EU will also review the 2009 Council Recommendation on smoke-free environments to better protect children from second-hand smoke and emerging products. This will contribute to the achievement of a Tobacco-Free Generation.
Our Better Internet for Kids (BIK+) strategy gives children the tools and competences to navigate the digital world safely and confidently and supports child online safety through Safer Internet Centers around Europe and the BIK+ portal. The Digital Services Act (DSA) is a new law that sets rules for online platforms operating in the EU. The DSA aims to protect children’s privacy, safety, and security online, and to ban targeted advertising to children. It will be fully applied as of February 17, 2024. It applies to very large online platforms and very large online search engines that reach more than 45 million users in the EU. It requires these platforms to assess and mitigate the risks that their services pose to children’s rights.
Protecting children from child sexual abuse is also a priority at EU level. The EU strategy for the period 2020-2025 sets out a comprehensive response to the growing threat of child sexual abuse both offline and online, by improving prevention, investigation, and assistance to victims. On 11 May 2022 the Commission adopted to proposal for a Regulation on preventing and combating child sexual abuse. The proposal aims to reduce the prevalence of child sexual abuse and to support victims through obligations on online service providers aimed at preventing and combating those crimes, and through the creation of a dedicated EU agency, the EU Center to prevent and combat child sexual abuse. The EU is taking comprehensive action to protect children from trafficking and migration challenges. With nearly one in four victims of human trafficking in the EU being a child, the EU is committed to preventing and combating this crime, and to supporting and protecting child victims. The Anti-trafficking Directive provides specific assistance, support, and protection measures for child victims of trafficking in human beings. The EU Strategy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings (2021-2025) also takes a comprehensive approach, emphasizing the protection of victims at all stages, with a particular focus on child victims. In addition, the EU has a comprehensive policy framework for the protection of migrant children, including those fleeing from war in Ukraine. The EU also cooperates closely with key stakeholders and partners, including civil society and UN agencies.
The EU has a longstanding commitment to working towards the elimination of child labor and has set a target to end child labor in all forms by 2025, as laid out in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024. The EU is also joining Alliance 8.7, the global partnership to end forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour.
For More Information
EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child
Better Internet for Kids (BIK+) strategy
Digital Services Act
EU Strategy on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings
EU Strategy for a More Effective Fight Against Child Sexual Abuse
European Child Guarantee
European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan
Communication on a comprehensive approach to mental health
EU’s work on vaccination
EU’s work on tobacco control