Written by Conall Devaney
20 November 2014 is Universal Children’s Day. This annual event is promoted by the United Nations, with member countries encouraged to raise awareness of issues which specifically effect children such as potential infringements on their basic rights, access (or lack of) to education and both the physical and psychological abuse which many children continue to suffer across both the developed world and third world countries.
On this occasion, EPRS has published a new in-depth analysis on Violence towards Children in the EU. It details the main problems in this area still afflicting children today and makes clear that violence against children is not just confined to the family home, but also takes place in educational establishments, day care institutions and medical centres and online, where children are considered to be particularly at risk. The analysis provides detailed statistics on the reporting of incidents of child abuse across countries and points to the continuing difficulty in quantifying and indeed defining such abuse.
A 2006 report conducted by the United Nations emphasises that abuse against children is not confined to any particular societal group, ethnic race or particular continent but that it is a worldwide problem. The United Nations also points out that one of the biggest difficulties is that in many incidents, accurate documentation of what actually happens is often lacking or not shared between authorities, or the response is simply small scale and inadequate.
With the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty the European Union now officially recognises the protection of children’s rights as one of its fundamental goals, both internally and externally. Article 3 TEU states that the EU has an obligation to promote the protection of the rights of the child. Although measures to ensure the protection of children fall under the remit of individual Member States, the EU nevertheless seeks to establish a framework for dealing with such issues. The EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child (2011) is structured around three general principles: making the rights of the child an integral part of the EUʼs fundamental rights policy; basing future policy-making on reliable data and cooperating with stakeholders through the European Forum on the Rights of the Child. The Agenda identifies four priority areas in which various actions are planned: child-friendly justice, vulnerable children, children in the EUʼs external actions, and child participation and awareness raising.
The EPRS analysis also highlights some of the inter-institutional achievements of the past few years, including the joint adoption by the Council and Parliament of a 2011 Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, the Directive on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and the Directive on the rights of victims of crime. The text notes that the EP in particular has been proactive in establishing basic EU-wide principles concerning the safety of children.