Every year, the European Union External Action (EEAS) organizes full-day trainings on the EU’s key human rights priorities for its staff. The EU has made human rights a central aspect of its foreign relations and expresses this focus in political dialogues with third countries, in its development policy and aid, and in its participation in multilateral forums, such as the United Nations. Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict has been part of the trainings given by the EEAS on children and armed conflict (CAC) since 2013.
On 24 June, the EEAS 2015 training on CAC took place with participation from EU delegations in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America, South-East Asia, and the Caucasus region. Headquarters personnel, as well as Member State delegations to the EU, and NATO personnel were also present. The training was organized in cooperation with UNICEF, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and NGOs such as Plan International, Human Rights Watch, and Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict.
One of the main takeaways of the day-long training is the broad range of political and financial instruments available to EU staff in support of children caught up in armed conflict. First, the EU adopted Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict in 2008, which have since been updated. While EU guidelines are not legally binding, they have been adopted at the ministerial level, and thus represent a strong political signal that they are priorities for the Union. The Guidelines also feature as a key action under the promotion and protection of children’s rights, which is included in the EU’s Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy and its accompanying Action Plan for implementation. Delegations around the world may apply political dialogue and demarches, or use multilateral cooperation in support of their implementation. Another tool at the disposal of the EU to further its objectives on children in conflict are its crisis management operations, or trainings provided to security sector actors in third countries. With 139 EU Delegations and Offices operating around the world, these available tools and instruments offer a wide scope to support children caught up in conflict.