4 August 2009
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE on security council resolution on children and armed conflict

 


Ahead of the Security Council’s adoption of a groundbreaking resolution on children and armed conflict, the top United Nations official on the issue, Radhika Coomaraswamy, and Claude Heller, Permanent Representative of Mexico, today hailed the resolution as a major step forward in the fight against impunity for crimes against children.


Addressing a Headquarters press conference as the Security Council prepared to adopt resolution 1882 (see Press Release SC/9722), Ms. Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and Mr. Heller, Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, pointed out that, under the new resolution, the Council, for the first time, would call upon the Secretary-General to expand his “list of shame” beyond recruitment and use of children.  The annexes to the Secretary-General’s annual report on Children and Armed Conflict would now also include the names of the parties to conflict who were responsible for the killing and maiming of children contrary to international law, as well as those parties who perpetrated grave sexual violence against children in wartime.


The text was also a recognition of the reality of conflict today, where girls and boys were increasingly targeted and victimized, killed and raped, as well as recruited into armed groups, said Ms. Coomaraswamy, adding:  “The Security Council’s focus on recruitment and use and the accompanying threat of targeted measures against persistent violators has resulted in the release of scores of children in conflicts around the world, most recently in the Philippines and in the Central African Republic.”  She was hopeful that today’s expansion would result in equally effective measures with regard to the killing and maiming of children and sexual violence.


Both she and Mr. Heller also welcomed the recent United Nations Peacekeeping Child Protection Policy, which they observed very much responded to the call of the Security Council in its resolutions 1612 and 1882 for increased mainstreaming of child protection across the United Nations system.  Also, the new resolution would trigger the mechanism of monitoring and reporting in a situation where parties to armed conflict engaged in patterns of killing and maiming, raping of children and other violence against children.


The Special Representative commended the broad support of the Council, and particularly the Mexican Chair of its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, as well as a significant number of co-sponsoring Member Sates for their faith in the process and for moving that important agenda forward.


Mr. Heller pointed out that today’s action by the Council was the result of efforts that began three months ago when, under the Mexican presidency of the Security Council, a thematic debate on Children and Armed Conflict was held.  At the end of the meeting a presidential statement committed the Council to a three-month timeline, during which it was to come up with new ways to further the cause of children and armed conflict.  The current resolution was co-sponsored by ten member of the Security Council, and around 30 Members States that were not members of the Council.


The Mexican envoy said the resolution was especially significant, as the Council had not approved any approved any resolution since resolution 1612, which established the Working Group of the Council on Children and Armed Conflict.


He stressed, however, that in order for the new measures to be effective, the cooperation of Member States was needed.  Expressing his gratitude not just for Ms. Coomaraswamy’s office and UNICEF’s, but also for the Council’s support, Mr. Heller added that such “collective support” proved that, where there was the political will to get compromise and where the sensitivity existed to deal with important issues, it was within the Council’s capacity to take action.


In response to a correspondent’s question on punishing violators and the results of targeted measures, Ms. Coomaraswamy pointed out that there had been recent successes in the Philippines, the Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Sudan and also in Nepal.  The parties to conflict in those countries had entered with the United Nations into an action plan as a way to get off the “list of shame” and get the children back into their families.  She said there were some 19 “persistent violators”, and her office was “slowly moving” in the direction of implementing targeted measures.


“This resolution does contain another important part, which is that the Working Group will begin to communicate with the sanctions committees, on specific countries, so that in areas where there are parties recruiting these children, that will be part of the decisions of the sanctions committees.  And that’s in this resolution,” she explained.  Both the Special Representative and Mr. Heller again asserted that success depended on the cooperation of not only Member States, but all the parties concerned in any particular conflict.


To another question, Ms. Coomaraswamy said her office always made a point of including in the Secretary-General’s talking points issues of children and armed conflict whenever he was visiting a country where such an issue was of concern.  On his recent visit to Myanmar, the Secretary-General had raised the matter with the relevant authorities in his meetings.


Another correspondent wanted to know whether the Israeli offensive in Gaza earlier in the year, where some 500 children, according to the correspondent, were killed in 22 days, merited putting Israel on the list of parties to conflict who were responsible for the killing and maiming of children, contrary to international law.  Responding, the Special Representative said that was something that would be considered.  If children were killed or maimed, that process opened up immediately.  A lot would depend on the listing criteria.  “There’s a whole list of other issues concerning this in which we’re having discussions with lawyers to see how exactly to draft the listing criteria, which we will share with the Working Group at the end of this year, before the next annul report”, she explained.


Asked about how the new measures would affect the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and peacekeepers in general in how it worked to protect children in conflict zones, she reiterated that the Department’s adoption of a Child Protection Policy in June this year placed that Department in good stead to deal with that issue.  The policy included the presence of child protection advisors in the field with direct communication to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General; it implied training, advocacy and a lead role and monitoring.  She hoped that policy would be implemented as soon as possible.


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For information media • not an official record