DESPITE PROGRESS IN PROTECTING CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT, GENERAL SITUATION REMAINS ‘GRAVE AND UNACCEPTABLE’, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
DESPITE PROGRESS IN PROTECTING CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT, GENERAL SITUATION REMAINS ‘GRAVE AND UNACCEPTABLE’, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
4898th Meeting* (AM & PM)
DESPITE PROGRESS IN PROTECTING CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT, GENERAL SITUATION
REMAINS ‘GRAVE AND UNACCEPTABLE’, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Special Representative, UNICEF Executive Director Brief Council,
Say Outrages against Children Persist, Rights Violated with Impunity
Despite tangible progress in the struggle to ensure the protection, rights and well-being of children exposed to armed conflict, their general situation remained grave and unacceptable, Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, told the Security Council today.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report, he said that parties to conflict continued to violate the rights of children with impunity, a trend underscored in the past year by particularly tragic experiences of terror, deprivation and utter vulnerability to which children had been subjected in many situations. It was a cruel dichotomy that today the international community possessed, as never before, the means and collective influence to ensure compliance in the protection of children’s rights. The challenge was one of will and choice and, the Security Council must lead the way in taking measures capable of making the “era of application” a reality for children exposed to war.
He said the Secretary-General had presented the Council with comprehensive and universal lists of parties to conflict who continued to recruit children and exploit them as child soldiers. Annex I consisted of some 32 parties in six situations on the Council’s agenda, and Annex II comprised some 22 parties in nine situations that were not on the agenda. Greater and more concerted efforts should be deployed to end ongoing conflicts and address the key factors that facilitated the occurrence and recurrence of conflicts. Hopefully at such a watershed moment, the best interests of children would trump all other considerations.
Also briefing the Council, Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), noted that in the past year efforts to draw global attention to the outrages perpetrated against children had so far fallen far short of what was required. One example of that collective failure had been demonstrated by the denial of humanitarian access in last year’s siege of Monrovia, Liberia, in Afghanistan and most recently in Darfur, western Sudan.
Another devastating consequence of today’s wars was the creation and exacerbation of the conditions leading to HIV/AIDS, she said. Other conditions such as the disintegration of communities, displacement, the separation of children from their families, rape and sexual violence, and the destruction of schools and health services also fuelled the spread of HIV/AIDS. The past year had seen once again the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war and a means to terrorize populations and destroy communities.
Underscoring the importance of effective monitoring and reporting of children’s rights violations, she said they were essential in ending impunity for crimes against children. Monitoring and reporting allowed the development of a record of violations, which was an essential foundation for pursuing justice, accountability and, ultimately, reconciliation.
During the ensuing debate, Council President Soledad Alvear, speaking in her capacity as Foreign Minister of Chile, said that as part of the Council’s monitoring efforts, the identification of parties to conflict that recruited or used children should be kept under constant review. After the parties had been identified, the Council could begin work on the type of measures or sanctions to impose on them, particularly in cases of repeat offenders in the recruitment or use of children as soldiers.
She invited delegates to expand the global movement seeking to ensure that the rights of children in armed conflict were included as a priority issue in the international security agenda and in national and international development policies. Specifically, she highlighted the need to establish a structured monitoring and information mechanism; the adoption of specific measures against countries in violation, as well as repeat offenders; the inclusion in future work of other serious violations; and an emphasis on educational policies to facilitate the reintegration of child combatants into society.
Also during the debate, many delegates emphasized the links between the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, on the one hand, and the proliferation of and trafficking in small arms and light weapons, on the other. Several speakers linked the illicit exploitation of natural resources in conflict zones with the violation of the rights of children and their exploitation as child soldiers.
Other speakers today included Security Council members Brazil, Algeria, Benin, Angola, Russian Federation, Romania, Pakistan, Philippines, United States, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Germany and China.
The Council also heard from representatives of Colombia, Myanmar, Ukraine, Israel, Bangladesh, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), Sierra Leone, Uganda, India, Syria, Egypt and Mali (on behalf of the Human Security Network).
Also speaking were representatives of Japan, Costa Rica, Fiji, Ecuador, Norway, Canada, Monaco, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Armenia and Kenya.
The Council also heard from the Director of UNICEF’s Division of Emergency Programmes.
Today’s meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and was suspended at 1:23 p.m. Resuming at 3:38 p.m., it adjourned at 6:38 p.m.
Children and armed conflict was formally placed on the Security Council’s agenda in 1998. Since then, five resolutions on the issue have been adopted -– 1261 (1999), 1314 (2000), 1379 (2001) and 1460 (2003) -- and each year the Council has held a debate on the issue, based on an annual report of the Secretary-General.
When the Council considered the item today, it had before it the Secretary-General’s report (document S/2003/1053), containing an assessment of progress made (including of follow-up to resolution 1460 (2003)), and recommendations on the way forward.
The report states that child protection has been integrated into the mandates and reports of peacekeeping missions and training of personnel, and Child Protection Advisers are deployed in peacekeeping missions. The scope of international instrument, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 (1999) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, has been strengthened and expanded.
Children’s issues have been incorporated into peace negotiations and peace accords, and over the past years the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have conducted extensive public advocacy activities. In efforts to end impunity for those involved in child-related war crimes, a framework has been developed for the protection and participation of children in judicial tribunals and truth-seeking processes. Efforts to curb illicit exploitation of natural resources, which rob children of their birthright, have gained momentum.
In spite of those developments, according to the report, the general situation for children remains grave and unacceptable on the ground. In the course of 2003, this trend has been underscored by the particularly tragic experiences of terror, deprivation and utter vulnerability faced by children in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Indonesian province of Aceh, Iraq, Liberia, the occupied Palestinian territories and northern Uganda.
The report notes that women and girls are especially vulnerable to sexual violence in times of heightened armed conflict. They are raped, abducted for sexual exploitation and forced into marriages and prostitutions. Refugee and internally displaced women and children are especially vulnerable to sexual and other exploitation by armed forces and groups, and sometimes even peacekeepers and humanitarian workers. When rape is used as a weapon of war, the consequences for girls and women are often deadly because of HIV/AIDS.
As most conflicts today are fought with small arms and light weapons, United Nations agencies have collected data that connect illicit transborder trafficking in small arms to trafficking in children and women. Moreover, approximately half of the 15,000 to 20,000 annual victims of landmines and unexploded ordnance in 90 countries are children, according to the report.
The report also gives information on recruitment of children in armed conflict, describing the situation in Afghanistan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Somalia, Côte d’Ivoire, Colombia, Myanmar, Nepal, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation, Sudan and Uganda, and assesses best practices and lessons learned regarding disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, deployment of Child Protection Advisers, negotiations with parties to conflict, and monitoring, reporting and action.
The Secretary-General recommends, among other things, that children’s issues should be systematically incorporated into all peace negotiations and peace accords, and that child protection should systematically be included in the mandates of all United Nations peace operations. Targeted measures should be taken against parties responsible for the illicit exploitation of natural resources. The Council should take concrete steps where insufficient or no progress has been made by parties in accordance with its resolution 1379 (2001) and 1460 (2003), including imposition of travel restrictions on leaders and their exclusion from any governance structures and amnesty provisions, a ban on the export of small arms and on military assistance, and restriction of the flow of financial resources to the parties concerned.
The Secretary-General further recommends that specific steps should now be taken to ensure that persons responsible for crimes against children will be among the first to be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that greater and more concerted efforts should be deployed to end ongoing conflicts, which are destroying the lives of millions of children, and to addressing the key factors that facilitate the occurrence and recurrence of conflicts.
OLARA OTUNNU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said that the struggle to ensure the protection, rights and well-being of children exposed to armed conflict had reached a watershed moment. Tangible progress had been made in several areas. Sadly, in spite of those advances on the ground, the general situation for children remained grave and unacceptable. Parties to conflict continued to violate with impunity the rights of children. In the course of the past year, that trend had been underscored by the particularly tragic experiences of terror, deprivation and utter vulnerability to which children had been subjected in many conflict situations. That was a cruel dichotomy. And therein lay the imperative for the “era of application” as a purposeful and concerted response.
Today, the international community possessed, as never before, the means and collective influence to ensure compliance and protection, he said. The challenge was that of will and choice. The Security Council must lead the way in taking measures which would create a critical mass; measures that were capable of making the “era of application” a reality for children exposed to war.
The Secretary-General had presented to the Council comprehensive and universal lists of parties to conflict which continued to recruit and exploit children as child soldiers. Annex I consisted of some 32 parties in six situations on the agenda of the Council, while Annex II was composed of some 22 parties in nine situations which were not on the Council’s agenda. “At this watershed moment, I urge you to respond to the lists with concrete action -– action commensurate with the gravity and scope of the violations in question.”
It was necessary to ensure that the protection and rehabilitation of children were systematically incorporated into all stages of peace processes. Regional and subregional organizations had a significant contribution to make to the realization of the “era of application”. In that regard, he particularly welcomed the recent adoption of “Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict” by the European Union and the adoption by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for a peer review framework on protection of children.
The ending of armed conflicts was the beginning of salvation for war-affected children everywhere, he said. That was why greater and more concerted efforts should be deployed to end ongoing conflicts and address the key factors that facilitated the occurrence and recurrence of conflicts. He hoped that at such a watershed moment, the best interests of children would trump all other considerations. On them depended the prospects for future peace and progress in all societies.
Statement by Executive Director of UNICEF
CAROL BELLAMY, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), noted that the past year had demonstrated that efforts to draw global attention to the outrages perpetrated against children had so far fallen far short of what was required. One example of that collective failure to protect children from the ravages of war was the stark picture encountered where humanitarian access had been denied, as witnessed during last year’s siege of Monrovia; in Afghanistan, where the security situation had deteriorated to such an extent that humanitarian workers were unable to access critical areas where children were in dire need of assistance; and most recently in Darfur, western Sudan, which illustrated the life-threatening consequences when access to children and women in need was denied.
Another devastating consequence of today’s wars was that they created and exacerbated the conditions leading to HIV/AIDS, she said. The impoverishment that accompanied conflict often left women and girls so destitute that trading sex for survival became the only option for many. Other conditions such as the disintegration of communities, displacement, the separation of children from their families, rape and sexual violence, and the destruction of schools and health services also fuelled the spread of HIV/AIDS.
She said child soldiers tended to be the face of children and armed conflict, but there were many other ways in which the rights of children were violated during armed conflict. A recent visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo had revealed the devastating impact of sexual violence. Girls, and sometimes boys, were targeted in campaigns of gender-based violence, including rape, prostitution, trafficking, forced pregnancy and sexual slavery. The past year had seen once again the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war and a means to terrorize populations and destroy communities.
Throughout the past several years, UNICEF’s country offices had engaged in dialogue with groups and governments using children as soldiers in order to end that abhorrent practice, she said. An important new tool being released today -– the Guide to the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, jointly prepared by UNICEF and the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers –- would enable child protection advocates to translate the commitment of the Optional Protocol into specific local, national and international actions to end the use of children as soldiers.
Effective monitoring and reporting of children’s rights violations were essential for ending impunity for crimes committed against children, she said. The Secretary-General’s report and the draft resolution on children and armed conflict contained many ideas on improving monitoring and reporting in order to hold accountable those who deliberately targeted, abused or exploited children. Monitoring and reporting allowed the development of a record of violations. In so doing, it was an essential foundation for pursuing justice, accountability and, ultimately, reconciliation.
RONALDO SARDENBERG (Brazil), declaring that creation of a world fit for children guaranteed the future of all humankind, lamented that their situation continued to be alarming, as they were preyed upon by parties to armed conflict around the world. Their vulnerability made them easy victims of all sorts of abuses and gross violations of humanitarian law.
He said it was precisely because the efforts of the international community to address that problem still fell short of what was needed to end the grievous suffering of children in armed conflict that the issue should continue to be taken up by the United Nations system, and most appropriately by the Security Council. In order to maximize the effect of the Council’s actions in that regard, close coordination with the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council was vital, given the complexity of the matter and the two bodies’ central role in assuring assistance to children in need, he noted.
He believed it was necessary to create institutional mechanisms capable of leading the process of engagement with the parties responsible for the involvement of children in armed conflict. Such mechanisms should be responsible, as well, for ensuring that special provisions for children were included in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. Those should bear in mind the stigmatization faced by children in armed conflict; should not require the handing in of weapons for eligibility, but rather be defined by broad criteria, in order to contemplate combatants and those in secondary activities; and the monitoring and follow-up of demobilized children.
Brazil favoured applying graduated and targeted measures with regard to parties that failed to adopt measures, with a view to ending violations concerning children and armed conflict, he went on. For such measures to be implemented, however, they should first rely on precise information, and second, be finely tuned, so as to avoid a problem common to sanctions and the conditioning of assistance, which often delayed and even prevented the provision of humanitarian aid to those who most needed it. Given the persistence of the problem, he urged the Security Council to demonstrate its political will and shoulder the responsibility for maximizing the United Nations response in preventing children from being the victim of choice during warfare.
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said he was gratified that the United Nations, through its organs and institutions, had taken a holistic approach to preserve the interests and protect the rights of children. The momentum created some years ago by the Council had reached a critical phase. That the Council regularly discussed the topic represented the high degree of priority accorded to it. There was now a framework of binding rules and international instruments on the protection of children, complemented by the Geneva Convention.
The qualitative progress had not yet produced the required effects, he noted. That was clear in the Secretary-General’s report, when he stated that the general situation of children remained grave. That was highlighted by the long list of violations and abuses committed against children in armed conflict. It was urgent for the Council to discharge its responsibilities. In dealing with the issue, it was not possible to conceal the underlying causes leading to the birth of conflicts.
He welcomed and encouraged the integration of child protection in peacekeeping missions as an indispensable element of the monitoring effort. It was also essential for monitoring and reporting systems to be based on credible information. To be fully effective, the follow-up system must also be based on precise information. The United Nations had an effective system of monitoring. The central role of the Office of the Special Representative was essential for coordination, monitoring and follow-up. He supported the principle of integrating children’s issues in negotiations and peace agreements so that they became essential components of post-conflict programmes.
He would also like to see the specific situation of children living under occupation to be included on the list of violations. The measures taken by the Council to deal with violations must be targeted so that children did not suffer further from those measures. Monitoring and sanctions would only be enough when complemented by parallel measures, such as increasing resources for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes.
JOEL ADECHI (Benin) said that today’s debate showed the Council’s concern over the situation of children in armed conflict, particularly that of children torn from their communities by warlords who transformed them, through the use of drugs as well as moral and physical violence, into ruthless soldiers serving causes of which they understood nothing.
Noting that the Security Council now had a list of groups and entities that recruited children and used them in armed conflicts, he said it was now up to the Council to take appropriate measures with the aim of punishing with the greatest rigour those guilty of crimes against children. In that context, Security Council resolutions 1379 (2001) and 1460 (2002) should be implemented in letter and spirit, in order to end that odious phenomenon for which responsibility lay not only with non-State actors, but also increasingly with Member States of the United Nations.
Highlighting initiatives undertaken by ECOWAS, he noted in particular the adoption in 2000 of the Accra Declaration and Plan of Action on children affected by armed conflict and subsequent measures taken to implement those documents. The problem remained crucial in the West African subregion, requiring the active participation of the international community to end the recruitment of child soldiers.
He said his country viewed as completely justified the link between the proliferation of small arms, landmines and unexploded ordnance and the violation of the rights of children in armed conflict. It was, therefore, essential to overcome the differences that prevented the international community from overcoming that scourge. The ease with which non-State groups acquired such weapons was completely incomprehensible and made Security Council intervention essential, since it bore the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security.
Another element developing in parallel with the violations of children was the illegal exploitation of natural resources, he said. It fuelled conflicts and made it possible to prolong them indefinitely. The Council must put an end to such practices, in order to allow the peaceful exploitation of such resources by the peoples of the countries concerned and allowing them to promote their economic and social development under a government of their own choice.
ISMAEL ABRAAO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that thanks to the efforts of the Secretary-General, his Special Representative and other relevant United Nations bodies, an international consensus had been reached to end the involvement of children in armed conflict and recognize their rights in conflict situations. The Secretary-General’s report had referred to the advances achieved. The placing of the issue on the Council’s agenda, the adoption of four resolutions and relevant initiatives, such as the integration of child protection into peacekeeping mandates and creation and deployment of Child Protection Advisers, were clear indications of the progress made. Also, important international instruments were in force and concrete agreement had been obtained from parties to conflict.
He fully supported the blueprint for action outlined in the Secretary-General’s report. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes must become an integral part of peacekeeping operations and include specific provisions for the protection of children. The deployment of Child Protection Advisers must become normal practice. The engagement with parties to conflict must be further intensified with a view to obtaining concrete commitments to put an end to violations of children’s rights.
After 25 years of conflict, he said that Angola was in the process of reintegrating thousands of children affected by war. That was being done through the establishment of a youth court to receive complaints of crimes committed against minors, a family localization and recruitment programme to reunite children with families separated during war, and a national free birth certification programme. In 2003, more that 600,000 children affected by conflict had been successfully reintegrated into the educational system. A lot remained to be done, but the Government, civil society and the nation at large were determined, with the assistance of the international community, to turn definitively that dark page of its recent history.
In addition, he fully subscribed to the recommendation that greater efforts must be deployed to end ongoing conflicts and address the key factors contributing to the occurrence and recurrence of conflicts.
ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said that given the magnitude and severity of children’s rights violations in armed conflict, particularly in Africa, the phenomenon could be viewed as a new threat to international relations. The right way to protect children was to prevent conflicts from arising in the first place. The recruitment and use of child soldiers by armed groups and government forces should be strongly condemned as war crimes under international law, and the Secretary-General should identify those parties that continued to use children as armed combatants. However, there was a need for a balanced approach and correct terminology according to the specific situation in each country concerned.
International efforts however, were clearly insufficient, he stressed. National bodies bore the primary responsibility for the prevention of the practice. There was a need to establish the adequacy of their respective justice systems in coping with the phenomenon and, where necessary, international assistance could be provided. Given the transnational nature of the problem in West Africa, monitoring could be undertaken by United Nations missions in Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The sexual exploitation of girls was particularly outrageous, he added, especially when humanitarian and peacekeeping personnel practiced sexual violence against victims who had placed their trust in them. The Russian Federation supported the provision of training of United Nations and other humanitarian personnel in that regard.
MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania) said that the recruitment of children as combatants and the many facets of their exploitation were a shameful reality in today’s world. He was glad that the Council was committed to the issue. A child soldier taken from his family and compelled to confront the horrors of war was not only deprived of his childhood, but his fate as an adult was also compromised. One of the elements of resolution 1460 was its stand on situations where children had been exploited in times of crises, particularly by those delivering humanitarian assistance and peacekeepers. Looking at the Secretary-General’s report, he noted that the key principles to address that situation had been incorporated into the codes of conduct of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).
His country was one of the first to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol on children and armed conflict to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The time had come to ensure that existing standards were effectively applied by the concerned parties. He was in favour of the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism. To use the United Nations network in the field seemed the most suitable solution, while one of the United Nations agencies would have to act as the focal point. He strongly supported the part that the International Criminal Court could play in prosecuting and sentencing those guilty of war crimes against children. He could not forget the progress achieved outside the United Nations by non-governmental organizations and civil society, and encouraged them to pursue their remarkable work on the ground. The Council would soon initiate consultations on a new resolution on further steps to protect children in armed conflict. He was convinced that the text would be rapidly agreed on and soon adopted.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), noting that the Secretary-General’s report covered new ground this year, said that besides listing parties to conflicts on the Council’s active agenda that continued to recruit children, it also listed parties to other conflicts not on the Council’s agenda. Pakistan endorsed the approach of naming and shaming as a useful tool for securing compliance by the parties.
The central challenge now was to ensure the application of the comprehensive body of international standards that had been adopted, he stressed. Although disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes were now an integral part of United Nations peacekeeping operations, the specific needs of children had yet to be addressed within the overall planning and implementation of those programmes.
Concurring with the Secretary-General’s proposal to strengthen the monitoring and reporting mechanism, he stressed, however, that the work already being done by existing mechanisms should not be duplicated. Rather than create new mechanisms, it would be more effective to enforce the existing and operating ones. Moreover, the intergovernmental nature of those mechanisms should be preserved.
Tragically, the Security Council often addressed the plight of children in armed conflict when conflict had ended, he said. At the end of every conflict, there were fewer children to save. It was essential, therefore, to prevent the outbreak of conflict and to address the root causes, which often stemmed from socio-economic conditions.
LAURO BAJA (Philippines) stressed the need for an effective framework for the protection of children involved in armed conflict within the United Nations system, clearly defining the roles of relevant United Nations entities. Spelling out the responsibilities and tasks would be an important step towards ensuring that the critical response areas were covered and that duties were not duplicated. For that reason, he believed the proposals put forward by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, on the development of a monitoring network of organs and bodies in the United Nations were good starting points for identifying and assigning responsibilities based on competencies and expertise.
He said if the Security Council was serious about effecting changes on the situation of children on the ground, it should emphasize conflict prevention by recognizing the root factors of conflict, in particular the lack of development. In many communities, children involved in armed conflict often came from areas lacking in basic social services. His country was also supportive of the Secretary-General’s view on the need to systematically incorporate children’s issues into all negotiations and peace accords, including conducting a dialogue on child soldiers. He added that any step the Council decided to take in addressing the situation of children in armed conflict should be based on reliable data and information. The Council should also ensure that the positive measures it decided on were achievable, and that they were targeted on specifically verified violators. He was of the view that those measures should strengthen and build on the Council’s previous measures and ensure that they were carried out in a systematic manner.
STUART HOLLIDAY (United States) said it was very important that the United Nations, the Security Council and governments keep the issue of children and armed conflict in their focus. His Government recognized the terrible consequences of the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. “Through children we know innocence, love and hope”, he said. “They are the benchmarks of humanity.” It was the Council’s duty to do as much as it could to eliminate the tragedy of children in armed conflict. He fully supported the request in the Secretary-General’s report for all parties in the annexes to halt the recruitment or use of children in armed conflict.
The situation was particularly grave in certain parts of the world, he noted. Burma was thought to have the largest number of child soldiers in the world. The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers had stated that children might represent 35 to 40 per cent of new recruits in Burma’s army. He called on the international community to provide assistance to resettle and reintegrate those children into society. Colombia’s children had suffered greatly from the conflict in that country. Boys and girls, often as young as 10, had been recruited and used for a variety of purposes.
In addition, Congolese groups continued to have children in their ranks despite their commitments to the contrary. Also, there was still a great deal more to be done in Liberia. The Lord’s Resistance Army in the Sudan had abducted more than 14,000 children in the course of the war it has waged against the Government.
The United States supported the request to the Secretary-General to submit another list naming all governments and groups that use and recruit child soldiers. Also needed was the active monitoring of those governments and groups already named, as well as direct dialogue with those concerned to develop action plans to eliminate the use of child soldiers.
INOCENCIO ARIAS (Spain), associating himself with the European Union, said the Council’s decision to debate the issue of children and armed conflict was a positive one, because it showed that there was a high level of awareness about the problem. However, it also had a negative aspect, because the problem was a persistent one and had worsened in some cases. That was not due to the lack of means to address it, but because those means had not been consistently applied.
Underscoring the need to focus on action, he said the recruitment of children as soldiers was one of the keys, but not the only one. There were others, such as the assassination, abduction and abuse of children, as well as sexual violence against girls. The gender perspective must never be forgotten.
While lists of culprits were an important aspect that served as a deterrent and the core of action to address impunity, he stressed that monitoring and reporting called for the precise dissemination of information and for the strengthening of the system at the base and in the field. There was a need to involve non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies, both in the field and at Headquarters. All those elements should make it possible to draft a specific plan of action within a given time frame to overcome the problems posed by the phenomenon of children in armed conflict.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) said that the suffering of a child caught in a war waged by adults was unacceptable. That children should be used in such situations with impunity was “disgusting”. He welcomed the unanimous commitment of the Council to address the issue. Thanks to the commitment of the entire international community, the Optional Protocol on Children and Armed Conflict to the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted. Council resolution
1379 (2001) had created a blacklist of parties to armed conflict that used or recruited child soldiers. Also, resolution 1460 (2002) expanded that list and opened the way to targeted sanctions and provided for more mainstreaming of child protection in peacekeeping operations. The international community now had a complete arsenal of norms. But, despite those advances, despite the naming and shaming, the facts on the ground were just as grim. The question was clear -- what could be done to enhance the existing norms?
The Secretary-General’s recommendations provided a starting point for discussion. The Council also had proposals from the non-governmental organizations it met with last week. While there were many varied proposals, they were all unanimous on one point. What was needed was not more norms but action. Last week, his delegation had submitted a draft resolution to the Council on children and armed conflict. The negotiations would get underway tomorrow and it was hoped that the text could be adopted by the end of January. The text sought set up a specific monitoring mechanism in the field to assess progress made by each armed group referred to in the annexes. That mechanism would use competent actors already in the field and use precise, reliable information to determine further action to be taken. Another element deemed a priority was to encourage action by regional organizations in the field of child protection. He applauded the initiatives of ECOWAS and the European Union in that regard.
EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), associating himself with the European Union, said his country had worked hard in support of efforts to arrest the grim problem of children and armed conflict. The problem was a complex one, which the international community had a responsibility to resolve, and yet it was self-evident that not enough was being done. It was time to focus on results and action.
Citing Graça Machel’s “watershed” 1996 study on children and armed conflict, he said it had explicitly set out the impact of conflict on the lives of children. While commendable progress had since been made, including the establishment of an international framework for the prevention of child recruitment, speakers had pointed out today that the surface had barely been scratched at the national level. In Burma, children as young as 11 years old had been forcibly recruited by the armed forces. In northern Uganda, the world continued to witness the horrific abduction of children by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Such children had nowhere to turn to, having been rejected by their families because of the actions they had been forced to commit. They were locked into a cycle of terror.
Next year’s debate on children and armed conflict needed to establish a plan detailing practical steps to attain measurable progress in arresting the problem, he said. Abuse must be ended, incentives established and actions against perpetrators defined. The United Nations must take system-wide actions to tackle continuing abuse. An institutional road map should establish who would do what, as well as the consequences of inaction.
GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said that he felt a mixture of hope and frustration. On the positive side, there was some encouraging action within the United Nations system and by non-governmental organizations to use resolution 1460 as a strong advocacy tool. On the other hand, little overall improvement could be seen on the ground. Instances where there was some positive development, for example, in Sri Lanka, were rare. And there were many instances where there was no positive development at all or even a worsening of the situation, for example, in northern Uganda, Ituri in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar.
The Council had now arrived at a crossroads, he said. It had to decide whether it wanted to continue to appeal, condemn and entreat or whether it wanted to act. He strongly advocated for the latter. “We must not allow this debate to become an annual ritual of hand-wringing indignation without measurable effect.”
He cited several key issues which should be important elements of the resolution to be adopted. First, it was necessary to reinforce the Council’s message to unresponsive parties to conflict that they had to meet their obligations. Second, action must be taken that made clearer who was in charge of what within the United Nations system. Third, conflict parties that did respond positively should be rewarded by technical and other assistance; those that did not comply should be penalized. Fourth, the Council should enhance its efforts to integrate child protection issues in its deliberations on concrete conflict situations. Fifth, the Council continued to need a list of violators annexed to the Secretary-General’s report.
ZHANG YISHAN (China), stressing the international community’s duty to ensure the most suitable conditions in which children could live the best lives possible, noted, however, that millions of children were suffering the consequences of armed conflict and experiencing abuse, tragedy and helplessness.
In recent years, the United Nations had adopted serious concrete measures against the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, he said. Some peace agreements had been reached with the participation of the United Nations, and other measures had helped to some extent in ameliorating the impact of conflict on children. Those efforts were appreciated.
However, he noted, greater efforts were needed. All parties to conflict should implement their obligations, as well as international laws, relevant to the rights of children. Those who participated in the killing, abduction and abuse of children must be severely punished. China supported an active United Nations role in protecting children in armed conflict and called upon the relevant agencies to strengthen their cooperation to establish integrated solutions for such protection.
The Council President and Foreign Minister of Chile, SOLEDAD ALVEAR, speaking in her national capacity, said that one of the paths to follow to achieve the full application of the legal framework that protected children in armed conflicts was to seek and develop efficient monitoring and information mechanisms that would enable the Council to oversee its application in a more systematic manner. As part of the Council’s monitoring efforts, the identification of parties to conflict that recruited or used children should be kept under constant review. The monitoring of other types of violation and abuses that affected children should also be considered. After the parties had been identified, it would then be time to begin work on the type of measures or sanctions to impose on them, particularly in the case of repeat offenders in the use or recruitment of children as soldiers.
She was convinced that education was one of the key instruments for promoting lasting protecting for children, a conviction that was shared by the members of the Human Security Network, with whose statement she associated herself. It was necessary to design and implement policies and programmes geared both towards the therapeutic healing of the physical and psychological damage done to children who had been abused, and the restoration of rights that were violated in situations of war and armed conflicts.
She invited delegates to expand the global movement seeking to ensure that the rights of children in armed conflicts were included as a priority issue in the international security agenda and of the development policies at both the national and international levels. Specifically, she wished to highlight the following areas: establishment of a structured monitoring and information mechanism; adoption of specific measures against countries in violation, as well as for repeat offenders; inclusion in future work of other serious violations; and emphasis on educational policies to facilitate reintegration into society.
LUIS GUILLERMO GIRALDO (Colombia) said that in situations of armed conflict the worst violations of children’s rights was perpetrated by illegal armed groups devoted to the recruitment of child soldiers. Therefore, the international community should be more explicit in its condemnation of those groups. The Secretary-General’s report indicated that 7,000 children had been recruited by illegal armed groups in Colombia. That was to say that one of every four irregular combatants in Colombia was under 18. According to Colombian non-governmental organizations, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) recruited 80 per cent of those children.
He informed the Council of the results of his Government’s Democratic Security Policy to protect the human rights of all Colombians, particularly children. Among other things, homicide, kidnapping and displacement had started to decrease, and there was an important increase in the levels of demobilized persons from the illegal armed groups, especially minors. In 2003, 64 per cent of the demobilized were between the ages of 14 and 24. However, the illegal armed groups in his country continued to recruit child soldiers, in violation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child that set the age of 18 as the minimum age for recruitment and direct participation in hostilities, and of the Statute of the ICC, which classified as a war crime the recruitment of minors under 15.
Since 1999, his Government had complied with all of its obligations pursuant to international commitments and did not recruit children under 18. He requested that pressure be exerted on the illegal armed groups that continued to violate the rights of Colombian children. The most serious violations, such as massive killings, recruitment and kidnapping of children, committed every day by the illegal armed groups in Colombia, required priority attention, monitoring mechanisms and sanctions.
KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar) said his country had suffered from civil insurgency since independence in 1948. Only recently had Myanmar been able to enjoy the fruits of peace and stability as a result of sustained efforts by the Government to bring about national reconciliation and unity. Until recently there had been 18 armed insurgent groups, out of which 17 had returned to the legal fold. They were now actively engaged in developing their respective regions. Only the Karen National Union remained outside the legal fold and the Government had been successfully carrying out confidence-building measures with the group.
He recalled that last year a member of the Security Council had stressed the need for verification and validity of information before it was presented to the Council. The delegation of Myanmar had also stated that the protection of children should not be politicized. Despite that, the Secretary-General’s report had taken as facts allegations made regarding Myanmar by certain quarters in order to put political pressure on the country.
Emphasizing that his country took very seriously the protection of children, he pointed out that Myanmar was not a country in conflict. Allegations made against its army were the result of interviews with 20 or so insurgents inside a neighbouring country. As was widely known, and specified in the last year’s report by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, it was the practice of insurgents groups to recruit and use child soldiers. The Myanmar Army was an all-volunteer force and those entering military service did so of their own free will.
Under the Myanmar Defence Services Act and the War Office Council instruction 13/73 of 1974, a person could not enlist until he attained the age of 18, he emphasized. Myanmar had neither a draft system nor forced conscription, which was strictly prohibited. In addition, the necessary procedures for preventing the recruitment of underage children were already in place.
MARKIYAN KULYK (Ukraine) called on Member States to move away from general statements to specific action aimed at protecting children who found themselves the main victims of armed conflict. It was incumbent upon Members to build a system of accountability that could not be ignored. In that regard, a systematic, integrated and concerted monitoring and reporting mechanism to provide timely and accurate information on violations of the rights of children in armed conflicts was needed.
He said a “network of actors”, each of whom would bring the “value-added” represented by their respective areas of jurisdiction, competence and expertise, should undertake such monitoring and reporting. They included the Security Council, UNICEF, the Office of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, United Nations peace missions and country teams, as well as other United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations. He believed Members could create a culture in the world that would hold anyone to account, who used children, abused them, and destroyed their innocence, as they would hold anyone that used weapons of mass destruction. But, it might not be enough to impose sanctions on violators of children’s rights. If children’s participation in fighting were to be prevented, causes which forced children to become soldiers needed to be understood. Recruitment of child soldiers was only one aspect of a broader problem, which related to poverty and instability, he added.
In that regard, peacekeeping missions had a crucial role to play in providing protection for children. When designing peacekeeping missions, the Security Council should thus make every effort to protect both children and their supportive environment -- such as schools, hospitals, health centres and religious institutions. Further, once child soldiers had been rescued from armed groups, they should not be left alone to survive in circumstances socially and economically devastated by war. Their sustainable rehabilitation required coordinated efforts and resources from the United Nations system and the international community. It was also important to focus on children in post-conflict reconciliation programmes. Therefore, there was an urgent need for support from the international community for programmes, including advocacy and social services, for the demobilization and community integration of child soldiers.
The meeting suspended at 1:23 p.m. and resumed at 3:40 p.m.
ARYE MEKEL (Israel) said that both Israeli and Palestinian children continued to be the greatest victims of the terrorism that plagued his region. Over the last two years, Palestinian children had been increasingly used as human shields and had been mobilized for terrorist attacks, while the average age of suicide bombers had dropped significantly.
For an ever-increasing number of Israeli children, as well, growing up was becoming a painful experience. Indeed, Israeli children were often the intended and preferred victims of terrorists. Palestinian terrorist groups, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, had directed many terrorist attacks specifically against children, including attacks on school buses, discotheques, pizza parlors and other locations where large numbers of children were known to gather.
He recalled that during the recent General Assembly session, once the resolution on the situation of Palestinian children had been adopted, Israel had tried to rectify that imbalance by introducing a resolution drawing attention to the situation of Israeli children. Unfortunately, a group of delegations sought to distort that resolution beyond recognition. As a result, Israel was compelled to withdraw its text. He hoped that Member States would see that unfortunate incident as a wake-up call to end the politicization and double standards in United Nations debates on issues of universal concern, such as the plight of children.
IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that today some 300,000 children were still being used as child soldiers around the world. An entire generation of children was growing up permanently scarred by the brutalities of conflict. The most vulnerable were the girl children. Far more, as everyone would agree, needed to be done urgently to protect every child victim of conflict. The “era of application” in international child protection standards must replace the “era of rhetoric”. The Council must ensure that parties to conflict respected child protection standards.
The specific needs and vulnerability of children, particularly of the girl child, must be integrated in peace processes and post-conflict disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, recovery and reconstruction. He strongly supported the incorporation of Child Protection Advisers in peacekeeping mandates, and the practice of zero-tolerance on violations of the Code of Conduct by United Nations peacekeepers and associated personnel must continue. Children in post-conflict societies must be ensured access to trauma counselling, education and health services. The culture of impunity surrounding violators of children’s rights must be brought to an end. “We must prevent today’s victim from becoming tomorrow’s perpetrator by inculcating a culture of peace and non-violence in the mind of every child.”
RICHARD RYAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, urged the States and other parties to armed conflict listed in Annexes I and II to immediately stop the recruitment and/or use of girls and boys in situations of armed conflict. In that context, he urged States to accelerate the process of ratification or accession to the Rome Statute of the ICC under the age of 15 or using them to participate actively in hostilities in both international and non-international armed conflicts. As such, he fully subscribed to the views and recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report with respect to the role of the ICC in that arena, and endorsed the statement that concrete steps should be taken to ensure the early prosecution of persons responsible for war crimes against children.
In the last decade, more than 2 million children had been killed in armed conflict and more than 6 million had suffered physical mutilation. Reliable estimates suggested that some 300,000 child soldiers were currently engaged in war operations. Millions of children had become orphans or left homeless as a result of war. The cruel irony, that in armed conflict it was the innocent who were often the first casualties, remained intact.
He then highlighted some recent initiatives undertaken within the European Union. The General Affairs Council of the European Union, on 8 December 2003, approved the European Union Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict, which were the culmination of many months of deliberation. The implementation of those Guidelines and their immediate, effective and sustained mainstreaming throughout all relevant European Union policies and actions was a priority of the Union. He also mentioned “The EU Council Conclusions on cooperation between the EU and the UN on crisis management: protection of civilians in EU-led crisis management operations”, which called for mainstreaming a strong child protection perspective in Union-led crisis-management operations.
SYLVESTER E. ROWE (Sierra Leone) said that an important development not mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report was the fact that among the crimes alleged in the recent indictments in the Special Court for Sierra Leone was the use of child combatants. The crime of conscripting and enlisting and/or use of boys and girls to participate in active hostilities was punishable under
Article 4 (c) of the Statute of the Special Court. That could serve as a deterrent to future attempts to recruit children for combat.
Although the rebel armed conflict in Sierra Leone and the recruitment and participation of child combatants were no longer an issue, and although disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes were under way in Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, he was seriously concerned about the cross-border movement of armed children and youth in the subregion. Those were the “new home-grown mercenaries” who, for one reason or the other, slip through disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, regroup and create new pockets of armed rebellion aimed at ruthless and unending destabilization of the subregion. They were also the precursors of urban criminal elements in post-conflict situations.
He added that secure funding for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, funding that would not depend entirely on voluntary contributions, would contribute significantly to a solution of the problem of child combatants and the whole issue of protection of children affected by armed conflict. Furthermore, if the international community was committed to the protection of children, it should also deal with the root causes of armed conflict, especially those that were directly linked to the illicit trade in small arms, light weapons and natural resources.
CHARLES WAGABA (Uganda), citing the section of the Secretary-General’s report dealing with the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and its allied local defence units, said it was Ugandan Government policy not to recruit anyone under the age of 18 years into the armed forces. That policy was strictly observed, as was well known even to UNICEF’S country office.
He said the situation in northern Uganda, where the Government had been battling the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) for many years, was well known to the international community. The LRA, which had been placed on the United States State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, continued to carry out horrendous and savage acts of brutality against innocent people in northern Uganda, including women and children. The Government of Uganda was dedicated to ending those terrorist acts. It was right and proper that the LRA should appear on the list contained in Annex II of the Secretary-General’s report. The organization deserved to be condemned by all right-thinking people and its leaders brought to justice.
The Ugandan Government was, however, outraged that the report should purport to mention the UPDF in the same breath as the LRA. Not only were the allegations against the UPDF not true, but the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict had been invited on numerous occasions to visit Uganda or send a team to investigate the situation on the ground. He had not found it fit to go to Uganda or to send a mission there, but had chosen to rely on hearsay information gathered on visits to neighbouring countries.
VIJAY K. NAMBIAR (India) said that children had become increasingly involved in conflicts, both as targets of violence and as combatants. The use of children in armed conflict had been aggravated by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons worldwide. While no leniency should be shown on crimes perpetrated on innocent children, it was necessary to see in perspective the fact that many children responsible for reprehensible crimes had often been manipulated by unscrupulous adults to take part in armed conflicts.
The report of the Secretary-General referred to the comprehensive body of instruments, norms and commitments that provided a basis for enforcement of the protection and rights of children exposed to armed conflict. While adhering States stood automatically committed and accountable to such norms, the accountability of non-State actors had not been adequately considered or documented. He cautioned on the recommendation to establish a dialogue and engage in negotiations with parties to armed conflict, particularly when such parties were non-State actors. A process should not be encouraged that would confer on them any legitimacy that they should not have.
On monitoring and reporting, he asked, among other things, how would the Special Representative deal with monitoring the situation of a Member State that was not party to the Optional Protocol or the Statute of the ICC or ILO Convention No. 182? The Special Representative must recognize that neither he nor anyone else for that matter could seek to impose on Member States the standards derived from those non-universal instruments. Also, the report recommends that increasing use be made of the United Nations field presence. Did the country teams, particularly UNICEF, have the necessary expertise to perform that function? Would that be within their mandates?
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said his delegation welcomed the progress made in the field of child protection as described in the Secretary-General’s report. Syria had noted a strong will to face up to the challenges involved. Nevertheless, little had been mentioned about any progress in protecting the children affected by the Israeli occupation of Arab lands, including Syrian territory. In fact, their situation was deteriorating. Palestinian children had been living a miserable life for decades and it had been hoped that the Secretary-General’s report would devote some ink to the denial of humanitarian assistance to them.
He emphasized the importance of avoiding politicization, selectivity and double standards regarding the monitoring and evaluation of children. Syria emphasized the importance of the role of United Nations agencies, especially UNICEF, and that of non-governmental organizations. Syria also attached the utmost importance to the issue of child protection and had been one of the first Member States to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said that for a number of years the Council had been paying particular attention to refugee children, internally displaced children, and those children forcefully recruited and sexually abused in the context of armed conflicts. However, he drew the Council’s attention to a category that seemed to be forgotten, namely, children living under occupation, and particularly Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation. One need only look at the numbers of Palestinian children affected by the occupation to see the importance of that issue. He called on the Council to take up the issue of children living under occupation and deal with it with the same attention with which it dealt with other groups of children in armed conflict.
He also called for the deployment of Child Protection Advisers, as well as increasing their role in peacekeeping operations to mainstream the protection of children. He was glad to see the deployment of such Advisers in several recent peacekeeping missions and hoped that that would continue and more would be deployed. Their presence had been most effective in giving more priority to children’s issues through, among other things, better monitoring and reporting.
One of the most important steps taken by the Council since the last Secretary-General’s report was establishing a list of parties violating children’s rights. That initiative needed further study, such as how to deal with violators and how to ensure that such violations did not occur in the future. In that regard, he stressed the importance of the Secretary-General’s recommendations, including mainstreaming the needs of children in all peace processes, as well as the need for a systematic mechanism for monitoring and reporting.
CHEICK SIDI DIARRA (Mali), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, cited Security Council resolution 1460 (2003), which expressed concern over the persistence of the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. The Secretary-General’s report even mentioned new parties who had given themselves over to those criminal practices.
Pointing out the advances made in recent years in terms of international instruments, he said the development of international standards was not a goal in itself. The ultimate objective and major challenge lay in their implementation. In 2002, the Secretary-General had proposed an era of application, which would include: the inclusion of children’s concerns in peace accords; civil society involvement in raising public awareness; the adoption of guidelines and plans of action, such as those adopted by ECOWAS in 2000 and the European Union in 2003; the establishment of national commissions for the benefit of war-affected children; the adoption of measures to curb the illicit exploitation of natural resources in war zones; the consideration of children’s specific needs in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes; and the deployment of Child Protection Advisers in peacekeeping operations.
He noted, however, that those measures, no matter how systematically applied, should not lose sight of the particularly egregious violations and abuses committed against children over the past year. Besides the massacre and mutilation of children, particularly girls, that had taken place, armed groups had continued to abduct them, either to sexually exploit them or to press them into forced labour. Children also fell victim to landmines and unexploded ordnance. In the face of those overwhelming odds, the Human Security Network recommended the imposition of travel restrictions on perpetrators and their accomplices. It also appealed for the widening of the scope of the list of parties who recruited or used children in armed conflict to cover all situations where those parties existed.
TOSHIRO OZAWA (Japan) believed that the “Back to School” campaigns by UNICEF were among the most important ongoing efforts to rebuild societies in post-conflict countries. They helped to alleviate the individual traumas of children who had endured so much during armed conflict and to give hope to their communities for a better future. As a nation promoting the concept of “human security”, Japan would continue to work together with relevant United Nations agencies, funds and programmes to promote the empowerment of communities, with an emphasis on children and women.
There had been a number of international instruments that aimed to protect children in armed conflicts, he noted. In addition to the framework provided by the Geneva Convention, two additional protocols to that Convention included specific provisions concerning the protection of children. Also, the Rome Statute stipulated that the use of children as soldiers in an armed conflict was a war crime. The issue of children and armed conflict was becoming more and more complex, requiring a more comprehensive approach and better collaboration among United Nations agencies. In that context, he welcomed the Assembly’s decision, at its fifty-seventh session, to request the Secretary-General to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the response of the United Nations system to that issue.
BRUNO STAGNO UGARTE (Costa Rica) said the protection of children in armed conflicts must have pride of place on the Security Council’s agenda, as they were the most vulnerable. The great majority of children caught in conflict situations lost their chance for education and were almost all scarred by the psychological trauma of armed conflict.
He said that over the past year there had been some progress in child protection and the Office of the Special Representative had made great efforts to include the problems of children in the Sri Lankan and Sudanese peace processes. National commissions for war-affected children had been promoted and the Secretary-General’s report was also an important step forward. However, in some parts of the world, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Uganda and Colombia, the situation of minors had worsened considerably.
Urging the Security Council to recommend that all entities listed in Annex II of the Secretary-General’s report refrain from recruiting children and demobilize those among their ranks, he said that any party subsequently recruiting minors must be punished. In addition, resolutions adopted by the Council must include clear and comprehensive provisions on the protection and safety of minors. Every peacekeeping operation must include Child Protection Advisers. Before adopting any sanctions, the Council must evaluate any potentially detrimental effects on children. The Council must also institutionalize permanent mechanisms to monitor the situation of minors in conflict.
ISIKIA R. SAVUA (Fiji) said that he took courage in the Special Representative’s regional strategy. However, while Commonwealth efforts would eventually filter down to its constituent subregions, he believed that the Pacific Islands Forum region needed to be flagged in the Special Representative’s calendar in his “agenda for action”. That would work well with regional security efforts taking shape within the Biketawa Declaration, and also give effect to the cooperation between the United Nations and the Forum.
Unfortunately, he noted, the recruitment of children continued unabated and the Council needed to keep its focus current and dynamic. Yearly updates of its child soldiers list was a practical monitor of the situation. It needed to see feedback from the parties on the list every year. The Council could offer its expertise to those other parties that needed help in formulating action plans, and on implementation of those plans. Member States, especially parties to the Optional Protocol, needed a facility to regularly report on their compliance in a less cumbersome format. It was necessary to consolidate gains, and forge ahead with the era of application, in a holistic manner.
LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said that, despite the international legal framework allowing the United Nations to work towards the extension of protection to children affected by armed conflict, it was necessary to ensure that such instruments were also binding on non-State armed entities. While it was important to cooperate with those who did not wish to harm children, it was also necessary to sanction those who violated their rights.
The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict deserved praise for raising awareness of the plight of war-affected children, he said. The Secretary-General’s report highlighted the intolerable impact and suffering of such children and the seriousness of the violence, sexual exploitation, violence, malnutrition and death suffered by refugee children and those who were internally displaced.
JOHAN L. LØVALD (Norway) said that he was deeply concerned about the situation in northern Uganda, where children were being abducted and recruited as soldiers in large numbers. He hoped that a peace agreement between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) might open a window of opportunity to solve that issue.
Experience had shown that education, as a fundamental element in children’s development, could prevent children from being used for fighting or other military purposes. He was pleased to note that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes had become an integral part of peacekeeping operations, but was concerned that the specific needs of child soldiers had not yet been sufficiently addressed within the overall planning and implementation of those programmes. Also, he felt that the inclusion of Child Protection Advisers should be considered for all peacekeeping operations.
Welcoming the listing of parties in the Secretary-General’s report, he called for the list to be updated and circulated regularly. It should also be expanded to cover other forms of egregious violations and abuses against children in situations of armed conflict. The best way of protecting children was to prevent armed conflict from breaking out in the first place, he noted. That would require fundamental social change in many countries, as well as action against poverty -- a breeding ground for human rights violations, that also gave rise to conflicts and child abuse.
GILBERT LAURIN (Canada), noting that the demobilization of child soldiers was not enough, called for greater attention by United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations to ensure that boy and girl combatants, regardless of how they had been recruited or used, were demobilized and gained access to country-specific child protection and reintegration programmes. In order to be deemed successful, the reintegration of children must include effective strategies to prevent their re-recruitment.
The violation of children’s rights in situations of armed conflict was not limited to their conscription into fighting forces, he pointed out. Discussions of small arms and light weapons must directly address the implications of the proliferation of those weapons for children. It was essential not to lose sight of the staggering cost of the misuse of such arms for children and their communities.
While the Council’s resolutions on Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had included important references to children, he said, on many occasions it continued to ignore child protection in its country-specific discussions. Canada recognized that the Council must be provided with relevant and timely information on which to base its actions and reiterated its call on the United Nations Secretariat to provide it with concrete advice and recommendations on country-specific situations; to report on child protection as a matter of routine; and to give the Council the information it needed to act.
MICHEL BORGHINI (Monaco) took note of the advances mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report, including the definition of norms and establishment of dialogue, and the inclusion of children’s issues in peace processes and peace agreements. However, children continued to be killed, mutilated, raped, abducted, forcibly recruited and exploited. All of that happened in a general climate of impunity. He was aware of the difficulties impeding efforts to put an end to the conflicts surrounding those crimes. Action in that regard needed to be consistent and coordinated. He supported the recommendation concerning establishing dialogue with parties to conflict. He also supported the final recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report, especially those dealing with concrete action, the condemnation of violations committed and the imposition of targeted measures. Concluding, he expressed his gratitude for France’s active role on the issue.
ENRIQUE BERRUGA (Mexico) said that for his country the protection of children in armed conflict situations must be a part of all peace negotiations. The demobilization of children must be sought at all stages of negotiations, as must the avoidance of any resurgence in their recruitment. Attention must also be focused on the special and specific needs of young girl fighters.
The complexity of the child dimension of armed conflict called for a comprehensive response from the various parts of the United Nations system, he said. Any analysis of the issue of child protection must also include the illicit exploitation of resources and the trafficking in and proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The Security Council could take measures to ensure compliance with international law and international humanitarian law, as well as to combat impunity.
YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said that despite important advances presented in the report, there was no place for complacency. Consistent application of the wide set of standards on the ground remained the ultimate challenge for the international community, and particularly for the Security Council. The gap between theory and practice must be dealt with.
He appealed to the Council and to the Secretary-General to take note of the continued grave situation of the conflict-affected children of Azerbaijan. Although there were currently no active combat activities on the ground, as a result of Armenian aggression against his country more than 50 Azerbaijani children were still kept in Armenian captivity, and many others died after being subject to ill treatment. Those were the figures of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), whose representatives were denied access to the places where Azerbaijani children were imprisoned. Some of those imprisoned Azerbaijani children had been forcefully recruited by the Armenian side into the Armenian army for participation in military activities against Azerbaijan.
That was not only inhuman, he said, but was also in gross violation of many international instruments, particularly the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Armenia was a signatory. He would appreciate if future Secretary-General’s reports would reflect the situation with Azerbaijani children, who suffered as a result of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) said his country supported international efforts to alleviate the sufferings of children dragged into conflict. Indonesia was a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and strongly supported the Optional Protocol strengthening the treaty by calling for a minimum age of 18 years for participation in hostilities. Indonesia also paid particular attention to the importance of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes in addressing the issue of child soldiers, especially in the post-conflict period.
He deplored incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children, especially girls in humanitarian crises and conflict situations. In that regard, Indonesia emphasized the importance of special protection for children in refugee camps; and the observance of the Secretary-General’s Bulletin on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, as well as those to improve awareness among United Nations peacekeepers of their responsibilities, especially in their protection of vulnerable populations.
Noting that armed conflicts had generally been kept alive by continuous supplies of weapons, he said children became victims, as well as victimizers, whenever they were involved in armed conflicts. In that regard, it was very pertinent to address the impact on children of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, landmines and unexploded ordnance.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) supported the Secretary-General’s call for an “era of application”. A series of concrete steps should be taken now to effectively enter that era. A first step would be to send the clear message that impunity for those involved in child-related war crimes and abuses had come to an end. If States failed to prosecute abhorrent crimes, including killing and maiming, rape and other grave sexual violence against children, everything necessary must be undertaken to make sure that persons responsible for crimes against children would be brought before the International Criminal Court. Effective monitoring and, where necessary, follow-up action would be crucial to advance the “era of application”. Clear and improved coordination among the players in New York and in the field would be necessary if an effective system of monitoring and reporting was to be established.
The Council, he said, needed to address the issue of children affected by armed conflict more comprehensively in its daily work, particularly through situation-specific resolutions. Monitoring must, of course, not be limited to country situations on the Council’s agenda, but should apply to children worldwide. The Office of the Special Representative could play a continued central advocacy role in that respect. Monitoring of compliance with Council resolutions and application of the relevant standards could only be effective if it was supplemented by specific measures in cases where non-compliance persisted. The Council had an obvious central role to play in that respect, and he welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendations regarding targeted measures against those responsible for recruiting children or other crimes against children.
ARMEN MARTIROSYAN (Armenia) said that, despite the legal safeguards in place, horrendous violations of children’s rights still continued in many parts of the world. It would be naïve to expect that problems of such gravity could be resolved by mere provision of relevant legal norms. He fully supported the Secretary-General’s call for an “era of application” of the internationally agreed norms and standards for the protection of children in armed conflict. Also, he believed the reporting mechanism of States to relevant treaty bodies, including to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, must be strengthened. Also, measures must be elaborated and implemented by the international community and the Council, in particular, to ensure compliance by non-State actors.
As a country hosting about 65,000 refugee children, the issues of such children were of particular concern to Armenia. Despite the current socio-economic hardships in the country, post-conflict rehabilitation of children was at the centre of the Government’s attention.
He said the reference by Azerbaijan to the so-called aggression by Armenia was rhetoric. Also, its reference to the four Council resolutions was a clear attempt by Azerbaijan to apply those resolutions selectively, in a self-serving manner. In fact, it was Azerbaijan which was in violation of those resolutions. Its refusal to enter into direct negotiations with the representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh was a violation of the Council’s resolutions. Armenia had done exactly what the Council resolutions had called on it to do.
JUDITH MBULA BAHEMUKA (Kenya) expressed regret that, despite the existence of various international and regional legal instruments for the protection of children, countries continued to ignore those standards, often with impunity, in a number of ongoing conflicts around the world. The Kenya Government supported the Secretary-General’s proposed measures to alleviate the suffering of children, of which disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes were a key part. As a country that continued to play an important mediating role in regional conflicts, especially in eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa, Kenya urged the incorporation of children’s concerns into national and regional peace initiatives, agreements and peace accords.
As a regular troop-contributing country, Kenya supported pre-deployment training initiatives for peacekeepers in regional and United Nations peace operations, she said. Kenya looked forward to working closely with the Security Council as it sought to endorse the proposals for establishing and implementing an effective monitoring and reporting system. Considering the alarming reports of grave violations against the well-being of children, and in view of the fact that children suffered from the denial of humanitarian access, it was hoped that the Council would support the proposal to expand the list of violations under consideration beyond child soldiering, so as to provide a more comprehensive assessment of the situation of children affected by armed conflict.
Responding to questions and comments, Mr. OTUNNU said that, as the Council began to discuss a resolution on the issue, it was his hope that it would be the occasion for the Council to act in terms of the targeted measures outlined in the Secretary-General’s report. If it should prove impossible for the Council to act, it would be important that it send a clear signal that that was not a postponement, but part of graduated measures the Council intended to take. It was important for the Council to ask parties to prepare, in conjunction with United Nations country teams, specific action plans indicating how and in what time frame they intended to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The parties should also, within a reasonable time, report to the Council with updated progress. Otherwise, the credibility of the Council might suffer.
Second, he was satisfied with the fact that so many delegations underscored that fact that there were other grave violations of children’s rights, in addition to child soldiering, which deserved the attention of the Council. Third, on monitoring and reporting, he took note of the unanimous support expressed for establishing a monitoring and reporting system. The Secretary-General’s report outlined most of the elements in that regard. Now, it was necessary to intensify consultations on how the contributions of various stakeholders, the value-added of those contributions and information could be coordinated and integrated. Fourth, it was crucial for the Council to underscore the role of actors on the ground for gathering information. Beyond the Council, there were other destinations of action -– the Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the International Criminal Court and the Commission on Human Rights. They, too, must become engaged.
He thanked the delegation of India for a very systematic, well constructed and serious critique of the response of the United Nations system to the issue. While he might not agree with all the comments, he did appreciate them and would engage in a bilateral dialogue with that delegation to discuss their comments.
In addition, he said he had listened with deep sadness to the polemic by the representative of Uganda. The Council had enough wars on its hands, so he was not about to embark on a response to that statement. He invited that Government to join efforts to salvage the children of northern Uganda, who were condemned to abominable conditions of human rights abuses and neglect. It was difficult to question the criteria used in producing the lists in the Secretary-General’s report. His Office had relied on information gathered on the ground in producing those lists and the same criteria was used in all situations.
Finally, he thanked the delegation of Chile for their initiative in holding today’s meeting, as well as France for taking leadership in dealing with the issue of children and armed conflict in the Council in recent years.
Also responding, DANIEL TOOLE, Director, UNICEF Division of Emergency Programmes, underlined the importance of the different kinds of child protection monitoring, saying that the agency also monitored the reporting within the peacekeeping missions. It supported the deployment of Child Protection Advisers in peacekeeping missions.
Stressing the importance of ensuring that lessons learned were endorsed once and for all, he said that the demobilization of child soldiers should not wait for peace and for the formal start of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. In addition, it was important to remember that girls had specific needs and were especially vulnerable in conflict situations.
* *** *
* The 4897th Meeting was closed.