|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5494th Meeting (AM & PM)
SECURITY COUNCIL REITERATES COMMITMENT TO ADDRESS IMPACT OF ARMED CONFLICT
ON CHILDREN, DETERMINATION TO IMPLEMENT LANDMARK 2005 RESOLUTION 1612
Presidential Statement Welcomes Progress in Monitoring, Reporting Mechanism;
Special Representative, UNICEF Head, 38 Others Address Issue in Day-Long Debate
The Security Council reiterated today its commitment to address the widespread impact of armed conflict on children, as it held an open debate on issue.
In a statement read out by Jean-Marc de La Sablière (France), its President for July, the Council also reiterated its determination to ensure respect for its resolution 1612 (2005) and all previous texts on children and armed conflict, which provided a comprehensive framework within which to address the protection of conflict-affected children.
The Council underscored the importance of a sustained investment in development, especially in health, education and skills training, to secure the successful reintegration of children into their communities and prevent re-recruitment. The specific situation of girls exploited by armed forces and groups must be recognized and adequately addressed.
Also by that statement, the Council welcomed the appointment of Radhika Coomaraswamy as the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. It also welcomed the fact that its working group on children and armed conflict had achieved commendable progress in its implementation phase, and was now discussing specific reports on parties in situations of armed conflict.
The Council welcomed the ongoing implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict, and looked forward to receiving the forthcoming independent review of that mechanism. Acknowledging that the application of the mechanism had already produced results in the field, the Council welcomed the efforts by national governments, relevant United Nations actors and civil society partners to make it operational.
Speaking in his national capacity, Mr. de La Sablière, said it was impossible not to think of the children in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, innocent victims in a conflict that had noting to do with them. He was also thinking beyond the Middle East, concerned for the well-being of the more than 300,000 children actually taking part in armed conflicts around the world. Nearly half the children trapped in armed conflict were girls, often single mothers, who even when conflicts ended and children were “liberated”, often lived on the margins of society. Without effective reintegration, they were potential factors in the resurgence of crises.
Noting the arrest of Thomas Lubanga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his transfer to the International Criminal Court, he said that impunity was shrinking for those who perpetrated crimes against children. The Council was following the matter in detail in its working group set up under resolution 1612. At its most recent meeting, that group, headed by France, had examined in detail the situation of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and would examine other situations and submit its assessments and recommendations to the Council, which must be ready to use the full arsenal of available measures to punish those who defied its authority by refusing to comply with relevant resolutions. The international community must work more on the link between security and development, since the absence of a future for children undermined prevention and demobilization efforts.
Addressing the Council earlier, Ms. Coomaraswamy said resolution 1612 demonstrated that the Council was committed to going beyond words to specific actions in endorsing a monitoring and reporting mechanism. Through the resolution, the Council also expressed its intention to combat impunity through possible targeted measures against repeat violations of children’s rights. However, despite the groundswell of support for the resolution and the monitoring reporting exercise, and the fact that the situation of children in Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had improved markedly, children continued to suffer. More than 250,000 of them continuing to be exploited as child soldiers by armed forces and groups around the world. Tens of thousands of girls were subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence. Abduction of children was becoming more systematic and widespread. Since 2003, more than 14 million had been forcibly displaced within and outside their home countries, and between 8,000 and 10,000 had been killed or maimed each year by landmines.
Recounting the story of “Abou” from Sierra Leone, she said he had been abducted by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) from his school at the age of 11. Four years later, he had become a killer and a feared RUF commander, one of its youngest. Demobilized by the United Nations at 15, he had received amnesty for atrocities and, although his community had accepted him back, many were still afraid of him and he was quite isolated. Abou had disappeared six months after being reunited with his family. Haunted by “bad spirits” in his community, he had been among children disarmed and demobilized three years later in Côte d’Ivoire, where he had been recruited to fight for the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). He had told United Nations staff in an interview that he had left because fighting was the only thing he could do well, but Sierra Leone was now at peace.
She said the story illustrated a terrible tragedy: the trauma of children and the communities that they had been forced to brutalize; the tremendous challenges to successful healing and reintegration of children in the aftermath of conflict; and the recycling of children into conflicts that shifted across borders.
Also addressing the Council, Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that, despite the Security Council’s active involvement in the issue over the years, particularly its establishment of an effective monitoring and reporting system that would help understand the extent and severity of violations against children, there was still much work to be done. Indeed, the killing and maiming of children, abductions, attacks on schools and hospitals, sexual violence, child recruitment and denial of humanitarian access –- the six categories of children’s rights violations covered by Council resolution 1612 –- continued to be characteristic of many present-day conflicts. UNICEF, with its partners, had begun to implement the monitoring and reporting mechanism. Baseline situational assessments were being finalized to help refine monitoring and reporting systems at the national level. Technical support and guidance had been provided through country visits to Nepal, Burundi, Somalia and Côte d’Ivoire.
Another devastating consequence of today’s wars was sexual violence, which represented a significant threat to children, particularly girls, she said. More than 40 per cent of reported sexual assaults were perpetrated against girls under the age of 15. Violence against women could often be used as a war strategy and, overall, sexual violence was often associated with an increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS. On the spread of small arms and light weapons, the Council should encourage respect for arms embargoes, including the criminalization and punishment of violators. The safety and security of those entrusted with implementing the Council’s relevant mechanisms must be ensured and under no circumstances should United Nations staff and the Organization’s humanitarian partners be targeted while carrying out their roles in monitoring and response.
Marie-Madeleine Kalala, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said her country’s Government had implemented national legislation, as well as several international legal instruments with respect to protecting children. The Democratic Republic of the Congo ranked third among African countries in the establishment of a national action plan in accordance with the provisions of the Declaration adopted by the 1993 Vienna World Conference.
She said her Government had spared no effort with regard to protecting children. In 1999, despite the prevailing state of war, it had organized, together with non-governmental organizations, a vast forum in Kinshasa on the demobilization of child soldiers, which had drawn experts from many African, European, Asian and American countries. That campaign had provided new impetus to the perception of the phenomenon of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
However, the country faced a number of constraints, particularly those involving the location of the children’s families, she said. There were also continuing tensions in some parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A solution must be found urgently. UNDP’s overall financing for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was $200 million, of which only $5 million was committed to children associated with armed forces and armed groups. Today, 14,000 children were still to be demobilized, while the funds for that task had been totally exhausted.
Others who addressed the Council included Ad Melkert, Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, and Ian Bannon, Acting Director of the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Network.
Also taking part in the debate were the Secretary of State in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (on behalf of the European Union), and the Director-General, International Law and Consular Affairs Section, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia.
Also speaking were the representatives of United Republic of Tanzania, United Kingdom, Argentina, Peru, Ghana, Japan, China, United States, Greece, Qatar, Russian Federation, Denmark, Congo, Canada, Sri Lanka, Uganda, San Marino, Slovenia (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Venezuela, Guatemala, Brazil, Myanmar, Liberia, Egypt, Colombia, Benin and Israel.
The Observer for Palestine also participated in the debate, as did a representative of the non-governmental organization Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict.
Beginning at 10:12 a.m., the meeting was suspended at 1:15 p.m. It resumed at 2:40 p.m. and adjourned at 4:20 p.m.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2006/33 reads as follows:
“The Security Council reiterates its commitment to address the widespread impact of armed conflict on children and its determination to ensure respect for and implementation of its resolution 1612 (2005) and all its previous resolutions on children and armed conflict, which provide a comprehensive framework for addressing the protection of children affected by armed conflict.
“As part of this comprehensive framework, the Security Council welcomes the progress made since the adoption of resolution 1612, in particular in the three following areas:
-- the Security Council welcomes the appointment of a new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy. The Security Council also welcomes her field activities in situations of armed conflict and her intention to carry out new visits in such situations. The Security Council urges parties to armed conflict to cooperate with the Special Representative, as well as with UNICEF and other relevant United Nations entities, with a view to ending recruitment and use of child soldiers in violation of applicable international law and all other violations and abuses committed against children by parties to armed conflict.
-- the Security Council welcomes the ongoing implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict, invites the Secretary-General to accelerate it in accordance with resolution 1612 and looks forward to receiving the forthcoming independent review on the implementation of this mechanism. The Security Council acknowledges that the application of the mechanism has already produced results in the field and welcomes the efforts by national Governments, relevant United Nations actors and civil society partners to make the mechanism operational. The Security Council therefore invites relevant States affected by armed conflict that are not yet involved in the implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism to join it on a voluntary basis, in cooperation with the Special Representative and UNICEF.
-- the Security Council welcomes the activities of its working group on children and armed conflict, as outlined in the report by its chair (S/2006/497). The Security Council welcomes the fact that the Working Group has achieved commendable progress in its implementation phase and is now discussing specific reports of the Secretary General on parties in situations of armed conflict. The Security Council invites the Working Group to propose effective recommendations for consideration by the Council.
“The Security Council underscores the importance of a sustained investment in development, especially in health, education and skills training, to secure the successful reintegration of children in their communities and prevent re-recruitment. The specific situation of girls exploited by armed forces and groups must be recognised and adequately addressed.
“The Security Council calls for a reinvigorated effort by the international community to enhance the protection of children affected by armed conflict. In this regard, it invites all parties concerned, including Member States, regional organisations, relevant United Nations entities acting within their mandates including UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, OHCHR, ILO and UNESCO, international financial institutions including the World Bank, as well as civil society, to build partnerships to that effect. In particular, the Security Council invites donors to provide additional resources to fund the development of the monitoring and reporting mechanism and the reintegration of children. The Security Council also looks forward to the contribution of the newly established Peace-building Commission and Human Rights Council to this effort.
“The Security Council looks forward to the next report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 1612 (2005) and its previous resolutions on children affected by armed conflict, to be submitted by the Secretary-General by November 2006, and expresses its determination to address this important issue.”
The Security Council met this morning to hold an open debate on children and armed conflict.
RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said that watching events unfold in the Middle East was a reminder that children often bore the brunt of physical and psychological trauma caused by armed conflict. It was the desire to protect children that had united the world a year ago, when the Security Council had passed its landmark resolution 1612 (2005).
Noting that the resolution was novel in a number of ways that gave it prominence, she said it was a testament that the Council was committed to going beyond words to specific actions in endorsing a monitoring and reporting mechanism. Through the resolution, the Council also expressed its intention to combat impunity through possible targeted measures against repeat violations of children’s rights. The Council had also called for specific actions to stop the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, giving parties a framework to ensure compliance. Further, the Council’s working group on children and armed conflict and its bimonthly meeting schedule ensured that the Council was seized of the issue of children and peace and security throughout the year.
However, she pointed out, though the groundswell of support for the resolution and the monitoring reporting exercise had been strong and the situation of children in Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had improved markedly, children continued to suffer. More than 250,000 of them continuing to be exploited as child soldiers by armed forces and groups around the world. Tens of thousands of girls were subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence. Abduction of children was becoming more systematic and widespread. Since 2003, more than 14 million had been forcibly displaced within and outside their home countries, and between 8,000 and 10,000 had been killed or maimed each year by landmines.
Recounting the story of “Abou” from Sierra Leone, she said he had been abducted by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) from his school at the age of 11. Four years later, he had become a killer and a feared RUF commander, one of its youngest. Demobilized by the United Nations at 15, he had received amnesty for atrocities and, although his community had accepted him back, many were still afraid of him and he was quite isolated. Abou had disappeared six months after being reunited with his family. Haunted by “bad spirits” in his community, he had been among children disarmed and demobilized three years later in Côte d’Ivoire, where he had been recruited to fight for the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). He had told United Nations staff in an interview that he had left because fighting was the only thing he could do well, but Sierra Leone was now at peace. The story illustrated a terrible tragedy: the trauma of children and the communities that they had been forced to brutalize; the tremendous challenges to successful healing and reintegration of children in the aftermath of conflict; and the recycling of children into conflicts that shifted across borders.
As today is an important milestone of Security Council resolution 1612, the response of the Council to its first substantive report on children and armed conflict presented a key opportunity to put in place measures to spare more children the fate of Abou, she said: “The world is watching and the children are watching. We must not fail them.”
ANN M. VENEMAN, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said children continued to be targeted in today’s armed conflicts and, since 1996, some 2 million had been killed during wars, while another 12 million had been left homeless. Another 6 million or so had been left injured or physically disabled. Children were the first to suffer the poverty, malnutrition and ill health resulting from the disruptions cased by war. The children used by armed groups or displaced from their homes by war, orphaned or separated from their families, and who were targeted by gender-based violence, experienced violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms, including their rights to survival, well-being and development. In every region of the world, girls and boys endured the consequences of being caught up in wars, she said.
Despite the Security Council’s active involvement in the issue over the years, particularly its setting up of an effective monitoring and reporting system that would help understand the extent and severity of violations against children, there was still much work to be done, she said. Indeed, the killing and maiming of children, abductions, attacks on schools and hospitals, sexual violence, child recruitment and denial of humanitarian access –- the six categories of children’s rights violations covered by Council resolution 1612 (2005) –- continued to be characteristic of many present-day conflicts. “Some practical and concrete actions require our continued collective support and attention. In addition to the need for an effective monitoring and reporting mechanism, there are three areas of particular concern to children that are directly relevant to resolution 1612, including the use of children by armed forces and groups, gender-based violence, and small arms and light weapons,” she said.
UNICEF, with its partners, had begun to implement the monitoring and reporting mechanism, she continued. Common terminology and a minimum set of indicators for the six categories of grave child rights violations had been developed. Baseline situational assessments were being finalized to help refine monitoring and reporting systems at the national level. Technical support and guidance had been provided through country visits to Nepal, Burundi, Somalia and Côte d’Ivoire. She stressed that girls and boys were sometimes directly involved in combat, but were also frequently exploited indirectly, as messengers, informants, cooks, porters or used for sexual slavery. Their recruitment could be forced, but was also commonly a result of the absence of socio-economic opportunities. Therefore, prevention, demobilization and reintegration programmes needed to be comprehensive, by providing children with education, vocational training, psychological support and protection against persecution or exploitation.
Another devastating consequence of today’s wars was sexual violence, which represented a significant threat to children, particularly girls. She said that over 40 per cent of reported sexual assaults were perpetrated against girls under the age of 15. Violence against women could often be used as a war strategy and, overall, sexual violence was often associated with an increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS. On the spread of small arms and light weapons, she called for the Council to encourage respect for arms embargoes, including the criminalization and punishment of violators. She also stressed that the safety and security of those entrusted with implementing the Council’s relevant mechanisms must be ensured. Under no circumstances should United Nations staff and the Organization’s humanitarian partners be targeted while carrying out their roles in monitoring and response.
AD MELKERT, Associate Administrator and Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that, for UNDP and the broader development community, children and youth were significant partners in building sustainable peace, in preventing violent conflict and in contributing to development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Children and youth were not just victims with special needs; they were powerful agents for reconciliation and positive change. Many of UNDP’s programmes and policies were increasingly premised on that core belief. For example, UNDP and development partners in South Sudan had not only supported disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes for underage persons, but had also recently helped to organize a youth peace conference, to help young persons identify ways in which they could contribute to a sustainable peace. Similarly, in Sierra Leone, UNDP had supported the National Youth Councils, in order to give young persons the skills to re-engage in the process of governance by electing their councils, which had official decision-making powers at both the district and national levels.
Recently, he said, UNDP had completed a detailed assessment of the issue of youth and violent conflict. It had identified concrete ways for providing young people with the opportunities to contribute towards building lasting peace. Those included their engagement in conflict management and peacebuilding initiatives, the provision of concrete skills in reviving agriculture, and training in leadership skills. Promising as those beginnings were, they were still too tentative and too few if a “critical mass of impact” was to be achieved. In recent years, the international community had built up an impressive array of norms and legislation for the protection of the rights of young persons. However, equally strong policies that made young people active agents for peace must be put in place. In Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, for example, a particular emphasis on initiatives for the political and economic empowerment of youth should be incorporated. As billions were spent in reconstructing post-conflict societies, more should be invested to establish national service schemes that provided youth with life skills to help rebuild their communities.
IAN BANNON, Acting Director, Sustainable Development Network, World Bank, said that, in the past 10 years, the World Bank had considerably expanded its work on armed conflict. It had increased research on conflict and development, and adopted more flexible instruments, approaches and financing mechanisms to support countries in transition. The research had explored the reinforcing linkages between poverty and conflict, and the special needs of vulnerable groups. Among the vulnerable affected by conflict, clearly, children were most at risk. More than 300 million young people below the age of 25 lived in countries affected by conflict, representing nearly one fifth of the world’s total population of children and youth. Children and youth living in conflict settings faced an array of complex and urgent needs.
As with most Bank activities, he said, analytic work underpinned its policy and operational interventions. Recent studies, for example, had sought to provide guidance on the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers in Africa, and on reaching education objectives in countries affected by conflict. The Bank had also been interested in better understanding the effects of so-called “youth bulges” in conflict and instability. Youth bulges made countries more unstable and, thus, more susceptible to armed conflict. But, youth were not the problem, not the enemy. The challenge, therefore, was to expand employment and livelihood opportunities for young people, and give them a voice and influence on decisions that affected their lives. Recent research was also focusing on the way young men in Latin America and Africa constructed their sense of identity and why that definition of masculinity was often based on the exertion of power through violence.
Children and youth had recently become a special focus for the Bank, he said. Three years ago, it had established a Children and Youth Unit in the Human Development Network, which worked across the institutions in a number of cross-cutting areas, such as education, health, social protection and social development, including the special needs of children and youth affected by conflict. That year’s World Development Report had focused on children and youth. All that work was highlighting the multidimensional needs of children and youth, from protection against violence to education and training, to psychosocial support. Protecting children and youth from violence was an urgent priority, but it must be understood that young people in conflict faced a simultaneous and more complex transition -– from conflict and childhood to peace and adulthood.
In addition to the Bank’s normal projects, it also had several grant facilities that supported conflict-affected countries, fragile States and the special needs of young people. A multi-agency programme – the Multi-Donor Demobilization and Reintegration Programme -- in the Great Lakes region of Africa currently targeted 450,000 ex-combatants in seven countries. The Programme also supported special projects complementary to national programmes designed to more effectively provide demobilization and reintegration support in emergency circumstances or to specific groups, such as children associated with armed groups. Since 2003, the Programme had funded six special projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a budget of $20 million for the prevention of the recruitment, and efforts towards demobilizing, tracing and reintegrating specific groups, such as children, associated with armed groups. As a result, of the estimated 25,000 children with various fighting groups, some 19,000 had been released and/or demobilized. The Bank understood the need to work hand in hand with the United Nations system. Supporting children affected by conflict was an investment in a more secure and peaceful future for all.
MARIE-MADELEINE KALALA, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, welcomed the Council’s continuing and growing interest in the situation of child soldiers, saying that the Secretary-General’s latest report described the situation prevailing in her country in recent years. However, it must be pointed out that the violations highlighted in the report were perpetrated principally by armed groups, and the Government had made significant progress in prevention and protection. The Democratic Republic of the Congo had implemented national legislation, as well as several international legal instruments, with respect to protecting children, and ranked third among African countries in the establishment of a national action plan in accordance with the provisions of the Declaration adopted by the 1993 Vienna World Conference.
She said the Government had spared no effort with regard to protecting children. In 1999, despite the prevailing state of war, it had organized, together with non-governmental organizations, a vast forum in Kinshasa on the demobilization of child soldiers, which had drawn the participation of experts from many African, European, Asian and American countries. That campaign had provided new impetus to the perception of the phenomenon of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In May 2004, the Government had worked with UNDP and World Bank partners to establish a national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme.
Its implementation had had encouraging results, she said. Out of 33,000 children associated with armed forces or armed groups, some 19,054 had been placed in transition support structures, with a view to their transition from military to civilian life and socio-economic reintegration. On 30 June 2006, of 19,054 child soldiers already demobilized from armed forces and armed groups, 12,471 had been reunited with their respective families, and of those, 9,717 were back in school, while some 6,312 were being reintegrated into the economy.
However, the country faced a number of constraints, particularly those involving the location of the children’s families, she said. There were also continuing tensions in some parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A solution must be found urgently. UNDP’s overall financing for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was $200 million, of which only $5 million was committed to children associated with armed forces and armed groups. Today, 14,000 children were still to be demobilized, while the funds for that task had been totally exhausted.
On behalf of the European Union, PERTTI TORSTILA, Secretary of State of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, said that the situation of children affected by armed conflict remained grave. As one serious example, he continued to have deep concerns about the negative impact, including the health and psychological consequences, of violence on the present and future well-being of children in the whole Middle East region. Killing or maiming of children, recruiting or using child soldiers, attacks against schools or hospitals, rape or other grave sexual violence against children, abduction and denial of humanitarian access had been identified by the Secretary-General as the six grave violations that should receive priority attention. The urgency of attention needed and action to be taken remained crucial. In order to end impunity, grave and persistent violations must lead to targeted and concrete measures.
He said that the Union was encouraged by the work carried out by the monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict. Dialogue with parties and concrete time-bound action plans were central. Also welcome were the efforts of United Nations field teams. Among other developments, the presentation of the first country report on children and armed conflict by the Democratic Republic of the Congo was important. He urged that its recommendations be taken up effectively, in order to secure strengthened action for the protection of war-affected children in that country. The Union also considered it important to further develop the practice of reporting on specific situations, as well as to take full use of the reporting and briefing by the Special Representative, in order to provide the basis for the Security Council’s consideration of concrete steps.
For its part, the Union was determined to continue to mainstream children and armed conflict issues into its advocacy, policies and programmes, he said. The Union had continued to actively implement its 2002 Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict. Action -- political or financial -- had been focused on selected priority countries. At the same time, urgent solutions in other conflict areas had been closely monitored.
IGOR GREXA, Director-General, International Law and Consular Affairs Section, Ministry of Foreign Affair of Slovakia, said energetic humanitarian and development efforts were needed to effectively address the myriad grave violations of children’s rights during wartime. He welcomed and supported the early efforts of the working group, as well as its assessment of the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and would call on the group to pay close attention to the contributions of civil society in all matters related to children in armed conflict. He also supported the idea of creating a “tool kit”, but urged the working group to carefully consider its elements.
He said that Slovakia also supported the presidential statement that was to be adopted at the close of today’s meeting, particularly in that it highlighted the importance of synergy between all members of the international community, particularly non-governmental organizations, civic actors and private institutions. Urging the Council to remain actively engaged in this important area, he said: “We are all going to be judged by our children. It’s as simple as that.”
TUVAKO N. MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said significant progress had been made since the Council’s adoption of resolution 1261 in 1999, its first on children and armed conflict, in identifying all the major categories of violations against children and the need to include concerns about children in peace negotiations, peace accords and post-conflict programmes for rehabilitation and rebuilding, as provided for in the most current resolution 1612. Some regional organizations, particularly the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had gone even further, by adopting a peer review framework on the protection of children, as well as establishing a child protection unit in its secretariat. The European Union had also adopted Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict.
While commending the efforts of the United Nations family and non-governmental organizations in saving children affected by armed conflict and reports that thousands of child soldiers had been demobilized by 2003, he noted that a significant number of children were still victims of armed conflict, especially in Africa. Furthermore, recruitment of children into armies and militias had continued, with a reported 300,000 child soldiers in more than 30 countries around the world. To curb that trend, the United Republic of Tanzania advocated a strong monitoring and reporting mechanism to ensure that appropriate measures be taken against armed groups and individuals who recruited child soldiers, including girl soldiers and girl slaves, as well as action to save them from their ordeal, including their rehabilitation into society and sending them back to school.
He expressed appreciation for the incorporation of the issue of children and armed conflict into the mainstream of the Council’s work in peace and security, and its inclusion in Council fact-finding missions and in country-specific reports. But, while the United Republic of Tanzania endorsed fully the child protection aspect as part of the mandate of peacekeeping missions, more could be done by comprehensively addressing the underlying causes of recruitment of child soldiers and child abuse in general. In the context of Africa, those causes were no different from root causes of armed conflict in the first place. The United Republic of Tanzania, therefore, called for serious, collective and concerted efforts to assist African countries in situations of armed conflict, those in post-conflict stages, as well as neighbouring countries bearing the brunt of armed conflict through the hosting of refugees, including children.
KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) welcomed the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary–General, particularly on her first visit to Uganda this past June. The violations of children’s rights in that country were egregious, even by the awful standards that had been highlighted by today’s meeting. She called on all the parties in that country to ensure that children were protected and their rights promoted. She said that the pilot phase of the monitoring and reporting mechanism was now under way and was already providing valuation information. Many people had contributed to its effectiveness, thus far.
But, the current situation in the Middle East demonstrated how vulnerable children were to the effects of armed conflict, she said. Ultimately, the Council’s overall success would be judged by the impact its activities had on the lives of children. That depended on the will of Governments and armed groups to address and correct the situation. The Council must step up its efforts to put pressure on Governments and armed groups, so that they would live up to their obligations under resolution 1612.
CESAR MAYORAL ( Argentina) said that, despite international efforts in recent years, children were still victims of forced recruitment and grave violations and abuses by armed groups. That complex issue required the adoption of, and ample focus on, political, legal and socio-economic measures. For example, it was important for the Council to send a clear signal to all responsible parties that the international community would not continue to tolerate violations against children in conflict situations. Also necessary was support for the monitoring and reporting mechanism, ensuring its operation in all conflict situations, in order to gain better information about the situation of children in the field. The working group for children in armed conflict should establish a better coordination with existing sanctions committees, in order to consider the possibility of imposing sanctions against those responsible for the most flagrant violations against children in armed conflict.
In addition, he said that the working group must continue its activities, speeding up its tasks and developing all aspects of its mandate. It should also consider other issues relating to the special vulnerability of children in conflict, such as the need to integrate all aspects regarding development and achieving better involvement of regional organizations. It was necessary, as well, to reinforce disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, so that the victims had real opportunities to reintegrate into society. The final goal was the adoption of measures that would ensure the conflict parties responsible for committing the most flagrant violations against children heeded the Council’s resolutions. In that way, a real improvement in the situation of children in the field could be achieved. The violation of the rights of children in conflict not only affected peace and security, but also had grave consequences for the current and future development of affected States.
Argentina reiterated its commitment to work towards the adoption of concrete measures aimed at improving the lives of children who daily suffered the consequences of conflict.
ROMY TINCOPA ( Peru) said that resolution 1612 provided a formal and detailed structure to protect children affected by armed conflict, and offered the key elements for assuring vigilance on the rights of children in the field. Peru firmly supported the universal principle that all parties to armed conflicts should respect all human rights of children in every circumstance.
Peru welcomed the progress made since the resolution’s adoption, he said, mainly with respect to the appointment of the new Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. That appointment expressed the international community’s will to contribute with permanent and concrete solutions to the unacceptable situation of children affected by conflicts; the ongoing implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism; and the establishment of the working group, which showed the Security Council’s concrete commitment to the promotion and defence of the rights of children in armed conflicts.
She stressed the need to incorporate cooperation and technical assistance to generate and increase national capacities that would allow the implementation of policies to prevent human-rights violations. The international community should continue to use all the instruments and mechanisms available to end violations of the human rights of children involved in armed conflict. In addition, impunity must end and those responsible for grave abuses against children should be prosecuted. In that regard, Peru commended the International Criminal Court’s action to arrest Thomas Lubanga last March for his recruitment and use of children in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
United Nations peacekeeping operations and relevant international entities, as well as non-governmental organizations, should include offers of education and human rights training in their mandates, she said. There was also a need for parties to armed conflicts to support the Special Representative’s work in the field, as well as that of UNICEF and other relevant United Nations entities. The working group should play a key role in the implementation of recommendations arising from the review of reports, the application of which would be important in preventing worse violations. The working group should also finalize the review of the reports of the monitoring and reporting mechanism, so that it could move to examine the recruitment and use of children in conflicts.
L.K. CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) said resolution 1612 had emphasized the Council’s desire to end impunity and ensure the protection of children in armed conflict. He welcomed the efforts of Child Protection Advisors, UNICEF staff and the Council’s working group on children in armed conflict to implement the elements of the resolution. But, it was clear that the situation was still grim and that much remained to be done. Recent reports had indicated, among other things, that children continued to be bear the brunt of armed conflict and were often deliberately targeted by warring parties. Obstruction of humanitarian assistance was another key concern. And even more disturbing was that grave violations perpetrated against children often went uninvestigated and, therefore, unpunished.
With that in mind, Ghana believed that it was now time to isolate and apply sanctions against such recalcitrant parties, he said. Compilation of information on violations against children would remain of little relevance, if it did not serve as a trigger for action to hasten compliance with resolution 1612. The lack of political will to fully respect applicable international rules remained a key impediment to protecting children in times of conflict. Ghana would note that the prime responsibility for providing such protection fell upon State authorities and other non-State actors.
He, therefore, reiterated his delegation’s call on such parties to strictly comply with relevant rules and principles of international human rights, refugee and humanitarian instruments, and take the necessary action for complete and unconditional release of all children in armed forces and armed groups. He also called on the international community to strengthen its resolve to fight against those who acted with impunity and were engaged in the de facto recruitment and use of child soldiers. Persecution and conviction of those persons for such egregious crimes would serve as a long-term deterrent. To that end, the United Nations must be geared towards developing national institutions and promoting recourse to international justice. In cases where a national legal system failed, the global community had the duty to employ the full range of judicial mechanisms available to it. In that respect, Ghana considered the relevant investigations under way at the International Criminal Court as positive developments.
KENZO OSHIMA ( Japan) welcomed the establishment of the monitoring and reporting mechanisms in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Somalia and the Sudan, as well as the fact that similar mechanisms were being established in Sri Lanka and Nepal. Japan strongly hoped that the information provided by those mechanisms would give an objective and reliable picture of the situation of children in armed conflict, thereby providing the basis for appropriate actions. Japan also appreciated and supported the activities of the working group established under resolution 1612, which was actively implementing its mandate. As its important first step, the working group had reviewed the Secretary-General’s first report on children and armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in June, which was based on information provided by the monitoring and reporting mechanism.
He expressed deep concern about the situation of children drafted or abducted by parties involved in armed conflict and who were forced to engage in fighting or mobilized to work for combatants. Child soldiers were deprived of the opportunity for education and sound growth. Additionally, as many former child solders had lost their parents or were unable to obtain appropriate assistance for reintegration into their communities, they were often pressed into service once again with armed forces and armed groups. Special assistance should, therefore, be given to assisting reintegration programmes as part of the process of disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating the child soldiers.
Japan had been advocating the concept of human security to protect and empower ordinary people, especially the most vulnerable, he said. In line with that concept, the Government had extended assistance for the consolidation of peace, supporting projects of such international organizations as UNDP and UNICEF, principally in African and Asian countries. There were approximately 120,000 former child soldiers in Africa, most of them in the Great Lakes region. It was of the highest importance to help children associated with armed forces and groups to return and be reintegrated into their families and communities. Japan had supported projects for the rehabilitation of former child soldiers in the Great Lakes through UNDP and for the reintegration of demobilized children, as well as community support in Liberia in 2006. Japan had also supported the interim disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme for the Sudan in 2005.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said the Council should step up its efforts to prevent conflict and maintain peace. Stemming and reducing armed conflicts at their source would protect children by creating the objective conditions for that task. As a vulnerable group, children were most susceptible to harm in any outbreak of armed conflict, and the Council should, therefore, seek to resolve conflicts and take effective measures within its mandate to reduce the number of armed conflicts. At the same time, the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations should be strengthened, in an effort to improve the humanitarian situation in conflict areas. Only when various groups, including children and civilians, enjoyed a more secure living environment would it be possible to avoid many tragedies at their source.
He stressed the need to respect and support the role played by the Governments of the countries concerned when dealing with the issue of children and armed conflict. Resolution 1612 stressed the primary role of Governments in providing effective protection and relief to all children affected by armed conflict, and its operative part made repeated reference to their important role. Conflict situations had their own specificities and complex causes, and it was imperative, therefore, to cooperate with the Governments concerned in using the monitoring and reporting mechanism to collect information and carry out work on the ground, in a concerted effort to avoid harming children. Many national Governments had adopted strategies and plans protecting children and prohibiting the recruitment of child soldiers.
The work of the monitoring and reporting mechanism and that of the working group should be further improved and enhanced, he emphasized, noting that, since its establishment, some progress had been made in the mechanism’s functioning. China hoped that the Secretary-General could sum up its strengths and weaknesses, so that improvements could be made in the next stage of the Council’s work. The mechanism’s primary objective was to collect information, and it was up to the working group to discuss and agree on specific actions. Over the past year, the working group had reached consensus on such areas as the terms of reference and the programme of work. Substantive work had already begun, and China expected the Working group to use its expertise in that area, as well as to put forward effective suggestions on the protection of children in armed conflict.
MARY CATHERINE PHEE ( United States) said it was important for the Security Council, other United Nations bodies and Member States to ensure that the issue of children in armed conflict remained a key focus of the international community. The United States recognized the agonies children faced, as well as the agonizing consequences of the violation of their rights, particularly recruitment into armed forces in places like Southern Sudan and Burma, which was said to have the largest number of child soldiers.
She went on to say that children were still subjected to widespread violence or were forced to participate in acts of extreme violence -– including the beating or hacking to death other youth who refused to participate in armed activities -– in Uganda and parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Indeed, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had waged a years-long bloody civil war that had been characterized by its devastating effects on children in the region, including abductions and forced recruitment, among others. She went on to highlight the situation in Colombia, where reports of forced recruitment by armed groups, for use as cooks or informants, as well as fighters, and violence against children were commonplace. She said that the United States was committed to addressing the problem of children in armed conflict and looked forward to working with the Council further on the matter.
MARIA TELALIAN ( Greece) said that, despite the international community’s active efforts over the past decade to protect and ensure the rights of children caught in conflict, thousands were still being killed or maimed every year. Defenceless children and youth continued to be raped or abducted, in direct violation of the most basic principles of international law. Children were also being forcibly recruited into armed militias, with serious implications for the long-term peace and stability of many countries and regions. She added that the number of children dying in silence every day from disease and malnutrition in Africa’s refugee camps, largely due to limited or no humanitarian access, was also a key concern.
All that indicated that much remained to be done, she said, calling on the international community to focus its attention on implementing existing international instruments. But, the issue was so complex and urgent that it also required political will and the active involvement of national Governments as a necessary condition. At the same time, States should address prolonged impunity. Indeed, those responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law against children should be brought to justice, in order to secure justice and dignity for victims.
She said that finding overall solutions required hard work, cooperation and coordinated activities on national, regional and international fronts. Dialogue with all parties to armed conflict was also needed and, furthermore, effective peacebuilding strategies should be developed in post-conflict societies, in order to prevent them from a relapse into fighting. To that end, it was essential that all disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes include provisions addressing the specific needs of children associated with armed groups, such as reunification with their families, medical support, education and vocational training.
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER ( Qatar) said there was no greater suffering than that of the innocent children in the massacre currently taking place in Lebanon. For the past two weeks, they had been subjected to murder and maiming, as well as being denied humanitarian relief, in violation of the rights of children under Security Council resolution 1612 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in addition to numerous international conventions. It was deplorable that children, who were not responsible for the mistakes made by adults, should suffer destruction, devastation and displacement and it would be wrong for Council members to shirk their responsibilities. The critical situation made it incumbent upon the Council to respond promptly to Lebanon’s appeals for relief.
Stressing his country’s recognition of the importance of concrete results in the areas of vision and initiatives, he said it was also necessary to think creatively in developing the plan of action and the substantive framework regarding children in armed conflict. Qatar proposed increased coordination between the working group and the Council’s subsidiary organs to punish the perpetrators of crimes against children. There was also a need to increase the number of child-protection consultants in peacekeeping operations. Qatar also proposed the formulation of a comprehensive strategy to protect children affected by armed conflict. In that context, it would be appropriate for the Security Council to adopt a new approach or strategic framework focusing on education in the protection of conflict-affected children. Post-conflict peacebuilding required an integrated framework to provide sustainable education systems that would not only educate the young, but also build nations and provide generations with a common identity.
ILYA ROGACHEV ( Russian Federation) said the issue of children in armed conflict continued to be a high priority for the United Nations system. At the same time, Governments were not absolved of their duties to protect and promote the rights of children. It was now necessary, nevertheless, to ensure the continued effectiveness of the Council’s monitoring and reporting mechanisms, particularly in war-affected countries. Russia was hopeful that the working group would continue to accelerate its activities, and that the panel would widen its focus beyond Africa. He called for a non-selective approach to that end.
He also called on the Council to support Special Representative Coomaraswamy in her work, as well as the activities of all the Organization’s relevant child protection mechanisms. The international community must continue to ensure humanitarian access to conflict zones, child protection in refugee and internally displaced persons camps, as well as step up efforts to end child soldiering and recruitment. The Russian Federation believed that the matter required a comprehensive, system-wide approach, and would call for coordinated activities throughout the United Nations.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ ( Denmark), aligning herself with the European Union, said it was clear that some aspects of the child-protection framework must be reviewed in the future. The scope of both the monitoring and reporting mechanism and the working group must be made truly thematic in nature, covering all situations of concern. Furthermore, the Security Council must reaffirm its willingness to use all the tools at its disposal, and not shy away, even if the situation called for more difficult measures, such as sanctions, referral of violators to international courts or stronger enforcement of peacekeeping mandates to protect children. However, the immediate objective for the next 12 months should be to develop the established protection framework for children. Denmark looked forward to engaging in substantial discussion on future reports presented to the working group, and to translating those discussions into concrete results on the ground.
Underscoring the need to involve a broad variety of actors to ensure the overarching objective of protecting children, she said it should now be clear that the eyes of the international community were firmly on the actions of all parties involved in armed conflict, be it in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Uganda or Sri Lanka. All parties must be held accountable for the failure to fulfil their obligations to end all violations and abuses against children. The Council also expected national Governments to do their utmost to facilitate the establishment of the protection framework, cooperate with national monitoring and reporting task forces and support dialogue between warring parties. Denmark commended the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka and Uganda for their constructive cooperation with the working group, and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and UNICEF on the establishment of national monitoring and reporting mechanisms.
She emphasized that the active involvement of civil society was essential, adding that, without the dedicated work and courage of many national and international non-governmental organizations on the ground, it would not be practically possible to establish and maintain the protection framework for children in armed conflict. Denmark looked forward to even closer future cooperation among the Security Council, United Nations entities and civil society. It had been extremely encouraging to witness the strengthened cooperation between UNICEF and the Special Representative’s office, and Denmark strongly supported that expanded partnership. The past 12 months had demonstrated that, when the Security Council displayed the necessary political will, genuine advances could be achieved in the protection of children affected by armed conflict. Such determination would unavoidably translate into a greater willingness by donors to provide the adequate resources, allowing all involved to reinvigorate their efforts in areas where support was needed.
BIABAROH IBORO (Congo) said that, just a year after the adoption of resolution 1612, Congo was happy to note the progress made in its implementation, particularly with regard to the terms of reference; the establishment of national monitoring and reporting mechanisms in a growing number of countries; the appointment of a new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; and the issuance of the Secretary-General’s first report on a specific country, in the present case the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He said that his own country, having been the theatre of successive civil wars between 1993 and 2002, knew well the heavy price that children paid in conflicts, which exposed them to such precarious situations of vulnerability as rape, pillage, torture, murder and drug abuse, among others. The Council’s intervention in 1998 had resulted in the adoption of numerous resolutions. Thanks to those actions, the establishment of various forms of protection for children in armed conflicts now formed an integral part of the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations. There was a need to examine their implementation in terms of ending the recruitment of children and strengthening the humanitarian activities of United Nations organizations, a gradual refining of the mechanism and more robust measures in terms of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. There was also a need to stress education, as well as psychological and social treatment. The direct role of the Security Council was well established, and it must act in the better interests of children.
Council President JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France), speaking in his national capacity, said that it was impossible not to think of the children in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory today, innocent victims in a conflict that had noting to do with them. He said he was also thinking beyond the Middle East, and was concerned for the well-being of the more than 300,000 children actually taking part in armed conflicts around the world. Many more were suffering the effects of those conflicts. “This is an unacceptable state of affairs,” he declared, adding that many such children, often the very young, were forcibly recruited -– some, sadly, even volunteered out of desperation -– to serve as soldiers, scouts, informants, servants or sexual slaves. Others were victims of indiscriminate attacks.
Nearly half the children trapped in armed conflict were girls, often single mothers, he went on, adding that, even when conflicts ended and children were “liberated”, they often lived on the margins of society. Without effective reintegration, they were potential factors in the resurgence of crises. He said that the Security Council had assumed its responsibilities in addressing the situation in 1999 and had, in 2005, on the initiative of France and Benin, adopted a series of resolutions that had progressively increased the pressure on the perpetrators of serious violations of children’s rights. Today, the Council and the wider international community had all the instruments needed to combat the scourge, including precise standards set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol, the relevant child protection mandates of the Special Representative and UNICEF, and the monitoring mechanism set up under resolution 1612.
Noting the arrest of Thomas Lubanga and his transfer to the International Criminal Court, he said that impunity was shrinking for those who perpetrated crimes against children. He also said that, overall, the Council was following the matter in detail in its working group set up under resolution 1612, which was on the verge of, among other pluses, agreeing on a “toolkit”. At its most recent meeting, that group, headed by France, had examined in detail the situation of children in a specific armed conflict, that of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The panel would examine other situations between now and the end of the year and submit its assessments and recommendations to the Council. The period ahead would be a real test for the working group, he said, assuring the Council that it would strive to “redouble its efforts to reduce the gap between our actions here and its tangible effects on conflict situations”.
To that end, he said that, among other things, the Council must publicize more of its efforts to ensure, protect and promote the rights of children. Today’s debate was one way to do that. The Council must also underscore its wish to encourage and provide concrete support to cooperation between the United Nations and the parties exploiting children. He highlighted Ms Coomaraswamy’s first field visit –- to Uganda –- in that regard. Other visits would follow shortly. Yet, let no one doubt the Council’s vigilance towards all those who fuelled the vicious cycle of violence.
The Council must be ready to use the full arsenal of available measures to punish those who defied its authority by refusing to comply with relevant resolutions. Lastly, he said the international community must work more on the link between security and development, since the absence of a future for children undermined prevention and demobilization efforts. To that end, he stressed that France would make a further contribution of €5 million to support UNICEF’s action plan and Ms. Coomaraswamy’s activities towards the implementation of resolution 1612. Technical assistants would be deployed in areas most affected, and the first would be based in the Great Lakes region to help the national commissions tasked with demobilization and reintegration of children.
GILBERT LAURIN ( Canada) welcomed today’s debate and said that the Council has a pivotal role to play in ensuring that the commitments made by the international community to protect girls and boys in war-torn and post-conflict societies were fulfilled. In the past, a lack of accurate and verifiable information concerning atrocities being committed against children had been an excuse for inaction. But, resolution 1612 (2005) had recognized that deficit and represented an important step towards carrying out effective measures against the use of child soldiers. It had set in motion a groundbreaking effort to coordinate the collection of information on violations and violators in specific countries and ensure their accountability.
He called on the international community to ensure that the mechanisms created under resolution 1612 were operational, inclusive and coordinated among the various actors involved. All must ensure that the mechanisms were accountable. The goal of monitoring and reporting activities was not to collect information for periodic reports, but to stop violations of children’s rights, to get timely action in cases where violations had been committed and to end impunity. He added that the new mechanisms had been adopted to bridge the gap between international norms and the grim reality faced by too many children caught in armed conflicts. Canada welcomed the creation of the Council’s relevant working group as an opportunity to translate the Council’s commitment to develop more effective strategies for specific situations. He called on the United Nations to make the most of national action plans to create incentives, as well as punitive measures, with time-bound, progressive targets and measurable results.
PRASAD KARIYAWASAM ( Sri Lanka) said that it was the responsibility of each State and, indeed, the entire international community to protect and promote the welfare of children and ensure they did not fall victim to abuse in any way. The fate of innocent children caught in armed conflict was one of the most serious concerns facing the international community, and recruitment or forced conscription of children by armed groups stood as one of the most abominable crimes of the day. He said that States, which had the responsibility to protect children whether in times of peace or conflict, had their human rights records reviewed periodically by international organizations and monitoring bodies. It was, therefore, necessary for the Council’s working group to focus on non-State actors and those who were not bound by, nor had any respect for, international treaties and norms. That would help ensure that States were not burdened with multiple reporting responsibilities, and that non-State actors would be brought under a punitive regime.
Turning to the situation in his country, he said that, for the past 20 years, detestable crimes had been committed by the Tamil Tigers against young children, particularly Tamil children, living in the north and east. It was no secrete that the situation had scarcely improved -- a fact well-documented by UNICEF, which had taken the lead in bringing the sad situation to the public’s attention -- as many of those children were still being forcibly conscripted for battle against the Sri Lankan army and civilians. He said that some had even been “programmed” to be suicide bombers. As an affected country, Sri Lanka would urge the international community to take swift and decisive action to end the impunity enjoyed by non-State actors who continued to abuse children. “Let us not fail in our responsibility to ensure a safe and secure world for our children,” he said.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA ( Uganda) began his statement responding to comments from Canada’s Ambassador, who had again called for the situation in northern Uganda to be put on the Council’s agenda. For reasons known only to itself, Canada had waged a relentless campaign to that effect, as if putting the matter in the Council’s purview would work wonders and resolve outstanding issues and concerns overnight. Indeed, at this very moment, the Ugandan Government was in consultations with representatives of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). There was no need for Canada’s relentless campaign. Further, Uganda would provide all assistance to and cooperation with Ms. Coomaraswamy, as she undertook her duties in earnest.
He said that the war instigated by the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda over the past 19 years had been a source of concern for his Government, as well as the wider international community. Over the years, LRA’s methods had been characterized by the abduction of children for use in its ranks, summary killings and various forms of sexual and gender-based violence, such as rape and defilement. He was happy to point out, however, that, during the past few years, particularly after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudanese Government and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), marked progress had been achieved and the threat posed by LRA had been drastically reduced. The Ugandan Government was closely collaborating with the international community to devise a mechanism that would deal a decisive blow to LRA.
At the same time, the Government was involved in peace talks with LRA and hoped that the talks would come to fruition and lead to the demobilization of the rebel combatants, as well as their reintegration into society. He added that, when the Special representative had recently visited his country, a four-principle understanding on the way ahead had been reached, including agreement on an action plan to, among other things, remove children if and when found in armed forces and to monitor implementation of various national laws, international conventions and protocols against the recruitment and use of children in armed forces. The understanding also called for the strengthening of existing independent procedures for joint access to military institutions, and a review of existing laws to cover the crime of aiding and abetting the recruitment of children in the armed forces by civilian officials.
DANIELE D. BODINI ( San Marino) said that, since the adoption of resolution 1612, more and more children were being killed or were being turned into “killer children”. While the work of the Council and its relevant working group was to be applauded, much remained to be done to end that catastrophic situation. In fact, every time a child had been abused or killed, not only did a human life end, but dreams and contributions to the collective future died as well. When a child was forced to become a killer, for whatever reason, whether religious, political or ethnic, an even greater crime was committed, namely that that child fell prey to hatred and violence that could, in the end, destroy entire societies.
“We have to stop this diabolical and vicious cycle that tarnishes the lives of our children,” he declared, calling on the international community to forge moral values that would lead to improvements in lives and livelihoods worldwide, so that conflicts would not flare up or drag on in the first place. The Council, affected Governments, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations had to coordinate and improve their working methods, in order to prevent abuses and bring the criminal adults that took advantage of those youth to justice to assure the re-establishment of a peaceful society.
ROMAN KIRN ( Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, said that children affected by armed conflicts were deprived of education and health, among other things. They were both victims of violence and the perpetrators of violent acts. Children and youth also fell victim to landmines and suffered sever psychological stress. Without concrete action, the international community faced the prospect of losing entire generations through violence. Indeed, children killed during conflict could perhaps have formed the basis of reconciliation efforts that might have restored some war-torn societies, he said.
The Human Security Network supported the implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism under resolution 1612, as well as a specific focus on children in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes. He went on to say that atrocities committed against children in armed conflict and situations of protracted violence posed a profound challenge to international law. Massive and gross violations of the rights and dignity of children continued unabated, he said, urging all States that had not done so to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, as well as the International Labour Organization Convention on eliminating the worst forms of child labour and other relevant international legal instruments.
FRANCISCO ANZOLA ( Venezuela) said that the Council’s action in the area of children and armed conflict should complement the role of the General Assembly. The Government of Venezuela recognized the work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and, at the same time, commended that of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative. It was important that they carry out their work in close cooperation with States.
Underscoring the vital importance of giving priority to child soldiers in peace negotiations regarding disarmament, demobilization and reintegration after the conflict, he said that protection during and after conflict would prohibit the recruitment of those under the age of 18. Venezuela was concerned about laws whereby minors might be brought to trial after deserting from the armed forces, after having enrolled with permission from their parents. What law applied to them? Some provisions of the Protocol had not been examined adequately.
He stressed the need to tackle the root causes of recruitment of minors in all parts of the world, describing it as an essential prerequisite. Some youth joined because of poverty and hunger. It was important to recall the 2002 General Assembly special session on children, which had noted that chronic poverty continued to be the main cause. Venezuela rejected any use of children in armed conflict, deplored impunity and resolutely supported the adoption of measures to ensure the demobilization of minors. Venezuela was also deeply concerned about the situation of Lebanese and Palestinian children, and called on States to fulfil their obligations in that regard.
JORGE SKINNER-KLEE ( Guatemala) said that his country had suffered more than three decades of armed conflict and understood well its devastating effects on children and youth. It also understood the importance of enhanced disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, as well as the need to curb the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons. As Guatemala’s Government continued to boost its efforts to protect and promote the rights of children, it looked forward to the expanding duties of the Special Representative, as she undertook the important tasks that she had been mandated to consider. He said the United Nations and the wider international community should expend every effort to end recruitment or forced conscription of children by armed forces, as well as to bring an end to impunity for all those who continued to ignore and flout resolutions of the Council to that end. He also called for particular attention to gender-based violence carried out in armed conflict situations.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for Palestine, expressed his regret in saying that it was very difficult for the Security Council to assert credibility or claim success in dealing with the protection of children in armed conflict, when it had repeatedly failed effectively to respond to the need for protection of Palestinian and other children in the Middle East. That need had been particularly urgent over the past several weeks, during the latest Israeli aggression against the besieged Gaza Strip and its captive civilian population, including children, many of whom had been killed, injured, maimed, left homeless, orphaned, terrorized and traumatized by the occupying forces. Without the international community’s protection, the Palestinian death toll in just the past few weeks had surpassed 100 people, at least 16 of them children. Even more tragic, the number of Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli occupying forces since September 2000 had now surpassed 4,000, including more than 800 children.
He said that the deaths of Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli occupying forces were usually given only a cursory investigation. Israeli occupying forces were rarely indicted for the killing or injury of civilians and convictions were almost unheard of. That had fostered a culture of impunity among the occupying forces and heightened the perception that they would not be held accountable for their illegal actions. It was scarcely surprising that Israeli forces often shot excessively, unnecessarily and indiscriminately. One stark example of the occupying Power’s indifference to Palestinian children’s right to life was the decision by an Israeli military court on 15 November 2005 to clear an occupying force commander of a range of charges, including the illegal use of his weapon in shooting dead a 13-year-old Rafah girl dressed in a United Nations Relief and Works Agency school uniform.
PIRAGIBE TARRAGO ( Brazil) said, in the matter under consideration today, the international community was confronted with alarming figures, including the fact that nearly 90 per cent of the casualties in armed conflicts were civilians, mainly women and children. Further, in the last decade, some 2 million children had died as a direct result of conflict, while some 20 million had been forced to flee their homes due to fighting. The United Nations clearly had a role to play in helping to change that reality. Having entered what Secretary-General Kofi Annan had called an “era of implementation”, it was time to ensure implementation of the elements of resolution 1612 towards the promotion and protection of the rights of all children trapped in any way by fighting and war.
Brazil called for a comprehensive approach, one that encompassed social, economic, security and human rights perspectives, and was undertaken jointly by the relevant agencies and programmes of the United Nations system. Such an approach should also address all the aspects of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of children, and should, as well, draw on the expertise of civil society and non-governmental organizations. He stressed that, while it was not realistic to expect the independent review of the monitoring and reporting mechanism created by the Council by they end of the month, it was, nevertheless, important that the conclusions of the review indicate how effectively that mechanism could link the work of the Council and that of other United Nations organs.
KYAW TINT SWE ( Myanmar) said that his delegation had, in previous debates on the same issue, stressed the importance of objective, accurate and verified information with regard to reports before the Council. It had also stressed that the issue of child protection, an issue on which all States placed special importance, must not be politicized. It had also refuted unfounded allegations regarding Myanmar from sources originating from exiles and remnant insurgent groups. Myanmar had an all-volunteer army and those entering military service did so of their own free will. Under the Myanmar Defence Services and the War Office Council instruction 13/73 of 1974, the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces was 18 years.
He recalled that the reports of the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Myanmar had underscored the fact that the insurgent groups in the country recruited extensively among children and used child soldiers. The Government was taking measures to prevent children from being recruited into the insurgent groups. With regard to its own recruitment, the Government had taken effective measures to ensure that, even when they volunteered, no underage children were recruited into Myanmar’s armed forces. Applicants who failed to meet the minimum age requirement were turned away at the recruitment stage. Additionally, those few who slipped through the scrutiny were discharged from the military. The Government had, of its own volition, drawn up an action plan that included protection of children’s rights, prevention measures, promoting public awareness and coordinating with UNICEF.
CHARLES MINOR ( Liberia) said children made up almost half of his country’s population, and they had suffered unjustly during Liberia’s protracted conflict. Too many of them had been victims of brutal killings, rapes, sexual assaults, abductions, torture, forced labour and forced recruitment. He said that some 21,000 Liberian children were known to have been child soldiers, participating in murders, mayhem, rape and destruction of property. But the war had ended, and the country was now involved in the huge task of reconstruction, rehabilitation and renewal and in meeting those challenges, the well-being of its children was foremost in the minds of Liberia’s leadership.
Indeed, the Government’s education programme, one of the country’s more challenging undertakings, was aiming to increase the percentage of children in school, especially girls, as well as to improve the quality of skills and enhance levels of literacy. But, he stressed that, even as Liberia’s new Government addressed issues affecting its own children, it continued to be disturbed by conflicts in other parts of the West African subregion, particularly reports that Liberian children were being recruited to cross the border to fight as mercenaries. And, while his Government would do what it could to curb the practice inside Liberia, he appealed for the United Nations to intervene in the matter.
That meant not just condemning the phenomenon of cross-border recruitment, but bringing to justice all persons who flagrantly violated children’s rights. He also asked for help in bolstering Liberia’s social safety net to support disarmed and demobilized child combatants. The Government was aware that its current scheme did not go far enough, and required assistance to ensure that former child soldiers were put back in families and in schools and provided with the skills they needed to participate fully in civilian life.
MAGED ABDEL FATAH ABDEL AZIZ ( Egypt), while reiterating his country’s support for the Council’s efforts to promote ways to protect children in armed conflicts, expressed astonishment at its exclusion of Palestinian children who were under foreign occupation. They were killed every day, as punishment for the mere expression of their weak voices and refusal to submit to the occupation of their lands, to the imprisonment of their families and to the blockade and prevention of supplies and humanitarian assistance, leading to the denial of all means to a decent life.
There was no doubt that the Security Council’s neglect of the suffering Palestinian children under occupation had encouraged Israel to widen and expand the scope of its military operations to include the children of Lebanon, he said. Under-Secretary-General Jan Egeland had stated to the Council, and confirmed during his latest visit to Lebanon, the extent of the humanitarian tragedy facing a million Lebanese people, due to the disproportionate Israeli military attacks. Among them were a huge number of children suffering the effects of a severe humanitarian crisis due to the Israeli blockade that had led to a lack of food, water, medicine and other essential needs.
He demanded that the Security Council take an immediate decision to widen the scope of the working group to include the children of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Lebanon. Egypt also requested that the Council take immediate measures to guarantee equality between the Palestinian and Lebanese children on one hand, and African children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudan, Sri Lanka, Côte d’Ivoire and Burundi, who were protected by the Council and the United Nations, on the other.
MARIA ANGELA HOLGUIN CUELLAR (Colombia) said that, as a complement to the Council’s work, the Special Representative’s Office must go beyond “formulating the problem” of children in armed conflict and must, jointly with States and relevant United Nations agencies, focus on preventing and finding lasting solutions to the phenomenon for specific situations. To that end, Colombia would suggest to the Council that, in addition to documenting situations on the ground, the monitoring mechanism must present strategies for long-term solutions to address the recruitment of minors by terrorists and other illegally armed groups.
She went on to say that solutions to the problem could only be found by supporting national programmes -- or creating relevant programmes where they did not exist -- that sought to permanently liberate and provide help for children that had been illegally recruited by armed groups. She also echoed other Council members who had called for the strengthening of social and educational programmes that focused on vulnerable children, and added her own call for programmes aimed at enhancing children’s emotional rehabilitation. In that task, Colombia believed that UNDP and UNICEF had an essential role to play. Those two agencies must consolidate their country programmes and proposals to find lasting and sustainable solutions that would guarantee and promote a harmonious and productive life for war-affected children and former child soldiers.
BUKENI TETE WARUZI BECK, speaking on behalf of the non-governmental organization Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, said that it pained to have to tell Council members that, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, serious violations of children’s rights were continuing and even intensifying, especially in the rural areas. The reason was simple; there was nothing in such places to protect them. While United Nations actions in the country had certainly helped, their effect remained limited. The response to human rights violations must be enforced in the cities and towns, as well as in the countryside, in order to put an end to the murder, mutilation and torture of children; the recruitment of child soldiers; attacks against schools and hospitals; rape and other sexual violence; and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Further, it must ensure children’s access to humanitarian assistance, including psychosocial support.
It was particularly troubling to learn that rebels in Bunia continued to recruit children into their ranks, he said, adding that a member of his village had asked to what end were all his reports and charts on the abuses suffered by children, if the perpetrators remained unpunished. Monitoring and reporting on abuses was essential to ensuring protection, but that was not the end of it. There was also a need to confront violations and end impunity for the perpetrators. The Security Council should mobilize the necessary political will, after so many years of promises, to punish the guilty and help the Congolese Government to establish national tribunals in support of the International Criminal Court’s efforts to punish those who violated the rights of children. The children of the Democratic Republic of the Congo expected the international community to end the violence. The moment had come to act. They could wait no longer.
JEAN-FRANCIS R. ZINSOU ( Benin) said that his delegation, along with representatives of France, had, last year, worked hard to successfully conclude negotiations on Council resolution 1612. He congratulated the Council and Member States that had worked to ensure implementation of that instrument. He also praised the work of Ms. Coomaraswamy, as well as that of her predecessor, Olara Otunnu, who had been an equally unwavering advocate for the protection and promotion of the rights of children in armed conflict. For its part, Benin had been pleased with the number of affected countries that had been willing to subject themselves to the mechanisms created under resolution 1612.
The Council must do every thing it could to address specific situations, particularly towards boosting local partnerships and speeding up the actions and activities of local law enforcement agencies to protect and promote the rights of children. He said the reprehensible crimes committed against women should be enough to convince the Council to consider referring certain situations to the International Criminal Court. Such action would be a sure deterrent against impunity. It should also take into account the links between children’s social problems within certain societies and the existence of conflict in those societies.
MOSHE SERMONETA ( Israel) stressed that his country ascribed great importance to the protection of children during armed conflict. They should live without fear of physical, psychological or any other form of suffering, regardless of the national flag under which they lived. Continuing grass-roots efforts must be made alongside Government efforts to protect the rights of all children.
He said that, while many of the most infamous civil conflicts of the last decade had taken palace in Africa, Lebanon was on the brink of becoming a failed State in the Middle East region, because it was being held hostage by the same ideology of hatred and death to which Israel was hostage. The Council was reminded that Israel had withdrawn from south Lebanon years ago, but now faced violence in the north from rockets launched from that very area by Hizbollah with the support of Syria and Iran. In the south, too, Israel’s children had been the victims of barrages of Qassam rockets fired by Hamas, although it had disengaged from the Gaza Strip almost a year ago.
School books from all States all over the region, including some that had taken the floor just minutes previously, regularly preached hatred of Israel, an ideology that must end, he said. Israel wrestled daily with the strategic and practical complexities of the delicate balancing act of fulfilling its obligation and right to protect its citizens, while taking great pains to minimize the suffering of all civilians concerned, for whom it grieved. When there was peace on its borders, Israel would have no interest in conflict. On the other hand, Hamas and Hizbollah had repeatedly shown their callous disregard for life.
* *** *For information media • not an official record