EU Strengthens Protection for Children in Armed Conflict with Updated Guidelines

Human Rights, World News

The European Union has taken a significant step to protect children caught in the crossfire of conflict and war by revising its Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) guidelines. The update, adopted on 24 June 2024, strengthens the EU’s commitment to the CAAC agenda and provides a more robust and comprehensive framework for protecting children affected by armed conflict.

The revised guidelines aim to enhance prevention and post-conflict support and empowerment, as well as strengthen accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The guidelines are part of the EU’s comprehensive toolbox for addressing child protection in armed conflict, including conflict prevention efforts, humanitarian aid, political engagement, long-term peacebuilding, and crisis management missions and operations.

The UN Secretary-General’s latest report on the topic, published on 13 June, highlights a 21% increase in grave violations against children in conflict situations in 2023. The highest numbers were recorded in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar, Somalia, Nigeria, and Sudan.

High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell emphasized the importance of the revised guidelines, stating that children worldwide endure the devastating impact of conflict, often being exploited, recruited, maimed, killed, or suffering long-term physical and mental trauma.

The update also includes a revised Checklist for the Integration of Protection of Children Affected by Armed Conflict into the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) Missions and Operations. This operational tool provides guidance for planning and conducting operational activities for more than twenty crisis management missions.

The EU’s revised guidelines and CSDP Checklist acknowledge the evolving nature of warfare and the increased threats faced by children in conflict zones, including new technologies and the indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in populated areas. They also reinforce alignment with the mandate of the UN Secretary-General and promote closer cooperation with the UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict.

The EU’s commitment to protecting children in armed conflict is part of its broader strategy to promote, protect, and fulfill the rights of the child. This includes eradicating child labour, fighting child marriage, investing in education around the globe, and protecting children from all forms of violence, abuse, and neglect, including in a humanitarian context.