On 29 May 2017, Ambassador Marlene Bonnici launched the ‘EU Group of Friends of Children’ on behalf of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU at an event in Brussels, which also adopted the group’s Terms of Reference.
The new landmark Group, which is based on a parallel group in New York, provides an informal platform for EU Member States to discuss priorities and policies concerning children, such as children suffering from severe hunger, improving international respect for children’s rights, and improving efforts for safeguarding children who are refugees. The intended philosophy is to address these issues holistically rather than through traditional silo approaches to policy making, which often ignore the complexities of the issues.
Addressing the meeting, Ambassador Bonnici stated: “This shared commitment comes with an important responsibility, in our respective capacities and roles, to ensure that policies with an impact on children are designed, implemented and monitored in line with their best interests.”
The ‘EU Group of Friends of Children’ has been called for by various Member States, as well as stakeholders, for several years, but had never materialised. At the beginning of January, the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU took it on itself to commit to finally launch and operationalise the Group before the end of its six-month term. Today’s event brings this pledge to fruition.
The Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU is particularly grateful to UNICEF for their invaluable contributions and for helping mobilise support for the Group, including Ms. Noala Skinner, Director of UNICEF Brussels, and Mr. Ted Chaiban, Director of Programmes, UNICEF, who both attended the launch event in Brussels.
According to UNICEF, around 28 million children in the world have been forcibly displaced and around 1 in 8 of the world’s migrants are children. Even more shockingly, around 1 in 200 children in the world is a refugee, while nearly 160 million children live in areas of high and extremely high drought severity.
Ambassador Marlene Bonnici expressed her gratitude for the fact that all 28 EU Member States have supported the establishment of the Group and become members, showing unprecedented commitment to address the horrific abuse and suffering of the most vulnerable demographic.
The ‘EU Group of Friends of Children’ will be Chaired by the rotating Presidencies of the Council of the EU.