Every anniversary is special, but not every anniversary can be a catalyst to create a just, peaceful and sustainable society.

However, this week is the second anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of targets decided by the United Nations in 2015 which aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for everyone across the globe.

Children are at the heart of these targets, and investing in them is key to achieving the Goals. Yet gender discrimination and the failure to protect children on the move from violence and exploitation are just two of the major obstacles to be overcome before children across the world can benefit from the realisation of the SDGs.

One of the most influential parties to take it upon themselves to implement the SDGs is the European Union (EU). By signing the declaration to fulfil them, the EU sent a message to the entire planet that it would translate this global agenda into EU action.

Protecting children on the move

Yet children on the move continue to have their rights violated both heading towards and within the EU – directly contradicting the goal of reducing inequality both within and between countries. Rather than forcing children to undertake dangerous journeys to reach European shores, the EU must open up safe, regular pathways which both children and adults on the move can use to reach Europe.

The EU must also ensure that any cooperation with countries outside the bloc on migration issues fully respects the human rights of children and anyone else travelling through those countries – and must not in any way use overseas development aid as a way or curbing migration. This money should never be used to stop people from moving by violating their human rights, but channelled instead into activities seeking to match the true spirit of the SDGs.

Empowering women and girls

The EU can also get the SDGs second anniversary into full swing by stepping up its efforts to empower women and girls worldwide, as gender-based violence is one of the most prevalent human rights abuses on the planet.

Terre des Hommes is already a member of the Girls Advocacy Alliance – a coalition aiming to free girls and young women from all forms of gender-based violence, and to ensure they are economically empowered. The EU must also commit to guaranteeing the rights of women and girls across the globe by doing its part to meet the fifth Sustainable Development Goal of gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls.

Putting children first

Lastly, the EU must put children at the heart of its methods to meet the SDGs. Children and young people should be the main participants in their own development, and giving them the chance to directly influence the decisions affecting them will go a long way towards accomplishing these goals in their entirety.

Children around the world currently face scourges such as poor health, lack of education, environmental degradation, gender discrimination and a failure to protect them from violence and exploitation. On the SDGs second birthday, the EU must grant children around the world their birthday wish and help create a future where children are not haunted by these ills.