|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5936th Meeting (AM & PM)
IN PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT FOLLOWING DAY-LONG DEBATE, SECURITY COUNCIL REITERATES
ITS STRONG CONDEMNATION OF ALL ABUSES AGAINST CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT
The Security Council today expressed once again its strong and equal condemnation of the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, and of their killing, maiming, abduction, rape and other sexual violence against them, as well as the denial by parties to conflict of humanitarian access to children and attacks against schools and hospitals.
Wrapping up a day-long debate with nearly 60 participants, the representative of Viet Nam read out a presidential statement by which the Council, while acknowledging that implementation of its resolution 1612 (2005) had already led to the release and reintegration of child soldiers, reaffirmed the need for States to comply with their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, and for non-State actors to refrain from recruiting or using children in hostilities.
Welcoming the ongoing implementation of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism of its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, the Council recognized the important role of education as a means to halt and prevent the recruitment and re-recruitment of children in conflict areas. It called on all parties concerned to continue to ensure that all children associated with armed forces and groups would be systematically included in every disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process, with a particular emphasis on education.
The Council further reiterated the need for those parties, including Governments and the donor community, to provide appropriate resources and technical assistance in support of national strategies or action plans in the area of child protection and welfare, with a view to ensuring the long-term sustainability and success of programmes for the release, rehabilitation and reintegration of all children associated with armed forces and armed groups.
In his opening statement, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the protection of children in armed conflict as a litmus test for the United Nations and its Member States, saying: “It is a moral call and deserves to be placed above politics.”
Describing the progress made in standard-setting over the last 12 years, he said the international community was now shifting its focus to an era of application. Council resolutions focused in particular on six grave violations: abduction; sexual violence; child soldiers; killing and maiming; attacks on schools and hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access. “Let us not forget that poverty and underdevelopment can make children more vulnerable to exploitation and violence,” he said, adding that only concerted international efforts, involving all United Nations partners, could meet the needs of children in situations of armed conflict.
Opening the meeting, Council President Pham Gia Khiem, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, spoke in his national capacity, stressing that his country had seen several generations of children suffer from the scourge of war. Viet Nam attached great importance to a preventive strategy with the dual objective of preventing armed conflict by addressing its root causes, and preventing children from being affected by armed conflict. Such a comprehensive prevention approach must include the promotion of sustainable development, poverty eradication, national reconciliation, good governance, democracy, the rule of law, respect for and protection of human rights, and the reintegration and rehabilitation of children associated with armed forces and armed groups.
In a briefing to the Council, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, called for targeted measures against 16 persistent violators, and requested the Council to expand the scope of its Working Group to cover all situations of concern and all grave violations against children, especially sexual violence, which, like the recruitment of child soldiers, was always deliberate, targeted and a direct consequence of criminal intent.
Noting that sexual violence received the Council’s special attention in resolution 1820 (2008), she said she looked forward to discussions on the possibility of a new resolution covering all other grave violations or, at the very least, place renewed emphasis on the question of sexual violence against children. Such a resolution should also consider the possibility of setting up a process that would eventually lead to targeted measures against persistent violators.
The Council heard further briefings by Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations; and Kathleen Hunt, Chairperson of the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict. The representative of France, in his capacity as Chairman of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, also briefed Council members.
In the ensuing debate, many speakers agreed with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and urged the Council to provide for the inclusion of other violations, especially rape and sexual violence, in the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism. They further asked for the inclusion of children’s concerns in all peace processes, and of child protection advisers in all peacekeeping missions. Calling for an end to impunity for perpetrators of crimes against children, many speakers supported the work of the International Criminal Court in that regard.
China’s representative warned, however, that the Council should remain focused on its primary responsibility -- the maintenance of international peace and security. By working to prevent conflicts at the root, it would provide children with the best possible protection.
Sri Lanka’s representative pointed out that, in order to end child recruitment, it was important that the Council and its Working Group remain focused on that most urgent task, rather than seek to “broaden the canvas” to include other issues that were not of immediate practical benefit.
Although several speakers asked for targeted sanctions against persistent violators of children’s rights during armed conflict, others cautioned against such a step, with Uganda’s representative warning that demonizing and condemning Member States with the aim of ending “impunity” would only delay and often derail an otherwise noble initiative. The fastest and most sustainable means to solve a problem was not emphasizing punishment, but engaging the parties involved in dialogue. Sanctions only punished the most vulnerable in society and, as history had shown, only served to harden an accused State’s resolve.
The representative of the United States noted that the recruitment and use of child soldiers persisted in many countries, including Burma, Sri Lanka, where the rebel Tamil Tigers had children among its combatants. The recruitment and use of child soldiers by both Government forces and various armed rebels also continued in the Darfur region of the Sudan, while the recruitment of children from camps for refugees and the internally displaced on both sides of the Chad-Sudan border continued. In Afghanistan, the Taliban and other insurgents engaged in systematic attacks on schoolchildren and school buildings in a deliberate attempt to prevent education for girls. The Taliban had also used children as human shields and suicide bombers.
Other speakers pointed to the situation of children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Iraq. Libya’s representative expressed concern over the rising numbers of child victims of suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices or attacks on schools. Children were also victims of arbitrary detention, he said, calling on coalition forces in Iraq to release them immediately.
The representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union), Italy, United Kingdom, Panama, Belgium, Croatia, Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Russian Federation, South Africa, Nigeria, Peru, Australia, Canada, Bangladesh, Israel, Republic of Korea, Austria, Nicaragua and Liechtenstein also spoke.
Others speaking today were the representatives of Japan, Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Germany, Ghana, Colombia, Uruguay, Egypt, Rwanda, Malawi, Côte d’Ivoire, United Republic of Tanzania, Afghanistan, New Zealand, Nepal, Philippines, Myanmar, Tonga (on behalf of the Pacific Small Island States), Benin, Ireland, Liberia and Mexico.
Also addressing the Council was the Permanent Observer of the African Union.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and was suspended at 1 p.m. It resumed at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 6:20 p.m.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2008/28 reads as follows:
“1. The Security Council reiterates its commitment to address the widespread impact of armed conflict on children and its determination to ensure respect for and implementation of its resolution 1612 (2005) and all its previous resolutions on children and armed conflict, and the Statements of its President on 24 July 2006 (S/2006/33), 28 November 2006 (S/2006/48), and 12 February 2008 (S/2008/6), which provide a comprehensive framework for addressing the protection of children affected by armed conflict, as well as the provisions on children contained in other resolutions, including resolutions 1325 (2000), 1674 (2006) and 1820 (2008).
“2. The Security Council reiterates its strong and equal condemnation of the continuing recruitment and use of children in armed conflict in violation of applicable international law, killing and maiming of children, rape and other sexual violence, abductions, denial of humanitarian access to children and attacks against schools and hospitals by parties to armed conflict, while acknowledging that the implementation of its resolution 1612 (2005) has already generated progress, resulting in the release and reintegration of children in their families and communities, through, inter alia, a more systematic dialogue between the United Nations country task forces and parties to the armed conflict on the implementation of time-bound action plans.
“3. The Security Council reaffirms the need for States Parties to comply with their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols thereto, for armed groups distinct from the State to refrain from recruiting or using children in hostilities, and urges states that have not yet done so to consider ratifying or acceding to those instruments.
“4. The Security Council welcomes the ongoing implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict,in particular the efforts that have made possible the implementation of the mechanism in all situations listed in the annexes to the latest Secretary-General’s report (S/2007/757), and invites the Secretary-General, where applicable, to bring the mechanism to its full efficiency, in accordance with resolution 1612 (2005).
“5. The Security Council welcomes the sustained activity of its Working Group on children and armed conflict, as outlined inter alia in the latest report by its Chair (S/2008/455), and as the monitoring and reporting mechanism is being implemented in a growing number of situations of armed conflict, requests the Secretary General to provide additional administrative support in order for the Working Group to continue to fully carry out its mandate in an effective manner.
“6. The Security Council invites its Working Group on children and armed conflict to continue adopting conclusions providing clear guidance to the parties to armed conflict and relevant international actors on the concrete steps that need to be taken in order to respect their obligations under international law, in particular Security Council resolutions on children and armed conflict, and proposing effective recommendations based on timely, objective, accurate and reliable information, to the Council with a view to promoting the protection of children affected by armed conflict, including through appropriate mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations and political missions. The Security Council welcomes the efforts by its Working Group to improve its working methods and encourages it to continue to do so with a view to further improving its transparency and efficiency.
“7. The Security Council commends the work carried out by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, and underlines the importance of her country visits in facilitating better coordination among United Nations partners at the field level, promoting collaboration between the United Nations and governments, enhancing dialogue with parties to conflicts in implementing applicable international law, including their obligations under Security Council resolution 1612 (2005), and thereby securing concrete child protection commitments.
“8. The Security Council also commends the work carried out by UNICEF, as well as other relevant UN agencies, funds and programmes, within their respective mandates, the child protection advisers of peacekeeping operations and political missions in cooperation with national Governments and relevant civil society actors, in enhancing the activities of the United Nations Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting and promoting child protection at the field level, including through implementation of Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) and following-up on the relevant conclusions of the Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict.
“9. The Security Council recognizes the important role of education in armed conflict areas as a means to achieve the goal of halting and preventing recruitment and re-recruitment of children and calls upon all parties concerned to continue to ensure that all children associated with armed forces and groups, as well as issues related to children, are systematically included in every disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process with a particular emphasis on education.
“10. The Security Council reiterates the need forstronger focus by all parties concerned, including Governments and the donor community, on the long-term effects of armed conflict on children and the impediments to their full rehabilitation and reintegration into their families and communities, through, inter alia, addressing the need for providing appropriate health care, enhancing their exchange of information about programmes and best practices, and ensuring the availability of adequate resources, funding and technical assistance to support national strategies or action plans in the area of child protection and welfare, and community-based programmes, bearing in mind the “Paris principles to protect children from unlawful recruitment by armed forces or groups”, with a view to ensuring the long-term sustainability and success of their programmatic response to the release, rehabilitation and reintegration of all children associated with armed forces and armed groups.
“11. The Security Council looks forward to the next report of the Secretary General on children and armed conflict, and reiterates its readiness to continue to review the relevant provisions of its resolutions on children and armed conflict, building on the provisions of resolution 1612 (2005), with a view to further enhancing the comprehensive framework of the protection of children in armed conflict.”
For today’s open debate on “Children and armed conflict”, the Security Council had before it a concept paper conveyed in a letter dated 7 July from the Permanent Representative of Viet Nam to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document S/2008/442).
According to the concept paper, the debate will focus in particular on ways by which the international community as a whole can contribute to long-term and sustainable solutions to the question of children and armed conflict, which has been on the Council’s agenda since 1999, when members adopted resolution 1261. While progress has been achieved, mainly through the Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, the overall situation of children in situations of armed conflict continues to be a serious concern.
The paper notes that, on 12 February, the last time the Council addressed the issue, (see Press Release SC/9246), it issued presidential statement S/PRST/2008/6, which stressed the need for a broad strategy of conflict prevention. Such a strategy must comprehensively address the root causes of armed conflict in order to enhance the protection of children on a long-term basis, including by promoting sustainable development, poverty eradication, national reconciliation, good governance, democracy, the rule of law and respect for and protection of human rights.
According to presidential statement S/PRST/2008/6, a stronger focus is required on the reintegration and rehabilitation of child soldiers. All parties are invited to exchange information about programmes and best practices, and to ensure the availability of adequate resources for national action plans in the area of child protection and welfare. The concept paper states that such a development-based approach can contribute to a long-term and sustainable solution to the issue of children and armed conflict.
Council members also received the annual report on the activities of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, established pursuant to resolution 1612 (2005) (1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008) (document S/2008/455), published today.
Security Council President PHAM GIA KHIEM, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, speaking in his national capacity, said that, with a foreign policy of independence, cooperation and development, his country was committed to working in an active, constructive, cooperative and responsible manner in the Council. Viet Nam was one of the first countries to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child as generations of children there had suffered immensely from the scourge of war, and the country was committed to defending and promoting the best interests of children in every circumstance. “Our concerns for children affected by armed conflict are beyond conventional reasoning.”
Formal and informal action plans had been concluded between parties to conflict in order to halt and prevent the recruitment of children, he said, noting that thousands of children associated with armed groups had been released as a result. Child-protection provisions had been incorporated into the mandates of a number of United Nations peacekeeping missions. However, what had been achieved was too modest. The international community continued to witness the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict in violation of international law, the killing and maiming of children, rape and other sexual violence, abduction, attacks against schools and hospitals. In its presidential statement last February, the Council had outlined a number of measures to move its agenda on the issue forward.
He stressed that his country attached great importance to a preventive strategy with the dual objective of preventing armed conflict in the first place by addressing its root causes, and preventing children from being affected by armed conflict. Such a comprehensive prevention approach must include the promotion of sustainable development, poverty eradication, national reconciliation, good governance, democracy, the rule of law, respect for and protection of human rights, and the reintegration and rehabilitation of children associated with armed forces and armed groups. Such a strategy required cooperation and coordination between the parties concerned and other stakeholders, including regional organizations, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, described the protection of children in armed conflict as a litmus test for the United Nations and its Member States. “It is a moral cal, and deserves to be placed above politics.” Over the past 12 years, the issue had been placed firmly on the international agenda and since then a solid body of international legal standards had been elaborated. The Rome Statute classified the recruitment of children into fighting forces as a war crime and a crime against humanity. The International Labour Organization (ILO) defined child soldiering as one of the worst forms of child labour. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child outlawed child soldiering. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child established 18 years as the minimum age for children’s participation in hostilities.
With that foundation in place, the international community was now shifting its focus from standard-setting to an era of application, he said. There had been encouraging signals that impunity for crimes against children would no longer be tolerated. Council resolutions focused in particular on six grave violations: abduction; sexual violence; child soldiers; killing and maiming; attacks on schools and hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access. The Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict was now operational in 15 situations of concern. In their action plans, several parties to conflict agreed to the release of children from their ranks.
Once released, those children needed support for their full and sustainable reintegration into society, as stipulated in the “Paris Principles”, he said, calling on the international community to strengthen its support for Governments, development partners and others involved in such efforts, including through the mobilization of the necessary resources. “Let us not forget that poverty and underdevelopment can make children more vulnerable to exploitation and violence.” Political will was crucial. Only concerted international efforts, involving all United Nations partners, would be capable of meeting the needs of children living in situations of armed conflict.
RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, reiterated her previous call that the Council consider targeted measures against 16 persistent violators on the “shame list” of the Secretary-General’s report. During a recent open debate she had also requested the Council to advance the agenda and expand the scope of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to cover all situations of concern and all grave violations against children, especially the crime of sexual violence, which, like the recruitment of child soldiers, was always deliberate, targeted and a direct consequence of criminal intent.
Noting that sexual violence received the Council’s special attention in resolution 1820 (2008), she said she looked forward to discussions on the possibility of a new resolution that would include all other grave violations or, at the very least, place renewed emphasis on the question of sexual violence against children. Such a resolution should also consider the possibility of setting up a process which would eventually lead to targeted measures against persistent violators.
She said her Office was currently in the process of convening a research project on the root causes behind children’s association with armed groups. It was hoped that a meeting of child-protection experts would be convened later this month to identify crucial messages and gaps with regard to reintegrating children affected by conflict into society. All relevant United Nations agencies were part of the Task Force on Children and Armed Conflict, focusing on different aspects of the problem. The Office of the Special Representative hoped to facilitate that approach by calling for increased donor support and collaboration to strengthen their programmes on the ground so they could respond adequately to the concerns of children in situations of armed conflict. Programmatic clarity and best practices continued to be an important part of our advocacy efforts, especially during field visits.
The reintegration of children was a long-term process, she continued, pointing out that a recent seminal study by the Harvard School of Public Health had shown that the impact of conflict continued even after 10 years. That was particularly true of those forced to commit violent crimes and those subjected to sexual violence. Most girl children had major problems with social integration because of low level of acceptance by their families and communities. The younger the child recruited and the longer the association with the armed group, the more difficult the adjustment. Another very interesting aspect was that children not associated with armed groups but living in situations of armed conflict displayed the same vulnerabilities. Education had been found to be a key for their successful recovery. It was for that reason that the Office of the Special Representative and UNICEF were considering compiling a manual of best practices, in line with the Paris Principles, an important initiative by the Government of France which set out standards for reintegration programmes.
Stressing the need to ensure accountability and fight impunity, she said that the Council, as the guardian organ of peace and security, would be most effective if it focused on taking firm action against those who, by committing grave violations against children, threatened peace and security. Recent visits to Iraq, Chad, Central African Republic and Afghanistan had revealed the direct effect that the Council’s work under resolution 1612 (2005) was having on the ground, how the Council’s imprimatur resulted in non-State actors entering into agreements and releasing children, how Governments “sit up and listen”, and how child-protection activists were strengthened and empowered. “It is important that we collectively reassert our commitment on this issue so that we may see how we can realistically move the agenda forward.” Iraq and Afghanistan had demonstrated that the nature of warfare was changing and that different, more difficult challenges to protecting children lay ahead. The Council must play its part. Children in those harsh battlegrounds must be able to dream of a democratic world, free of violence and tolerant of diversity, where everyone would live in peace and dignity.
EDMOND MULET, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that, since 2001, specific provisions on child protection had been included in the mandates of more than 12 peacekeeping operations and the Council had adopted six resolutions on children and armed conflict. It had also repeatedly called for integrating protection, rights and well-being of children affected by conflict into all aspects of peacemaking. Currently, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations hosted more than 60 child protection advisers in seven missions. In virtually every mission with child protection advisers, training on children’s rights was a key activity. In 2007, for example, the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) had conducted 126 training sessions for more than 3,200 personnel. The Child Protection Section of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) had conducted training for more than 800 personnel in the last quarter of 2007 alone.
He said that, in 2006, UNOCI, in close collaboration with the national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme and partners, had initiated a dialogue with the parties with the aim of ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers. By 2007, more than 1,400 children had been released from armed groups. Today, more than 3,000 children had benefited from reintegration programmes implemented by UNICEF and partners. The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) continued to lead advocacy efforts for the release of children associated with armed groups in the east. Child protection advisers also played a critical role in monitoring and reporting child rights violations, and the Department had been effective in conducting advocacy on politically sensitive issues. The integrated mission approach ensured that the actors worked closely together and synchronized their efforts on children’s issues.
“We must strive to ensure an environment in which children’s rights are fully respected and their welfare is protected,” he said. The Department contributed to those efforts by the very nature of its operations, which involved helping societies begin to rise from the ashes of conflict and instability. MINUSTAH had been working through the Justice Section and the United Nations police, in close collaboration with UNICEF, on juvenile justice, legal reform and capacity-building. The Democratic Republic of the Congo had recently adopted a comprehensive law on the protection of children, the result of concerted advocacy efforts by all child protection actors on the ground.
ANN M. VENEMAN, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that, besides being killed or maimed, many children also suffered from the indirect impact of war owing to the resurgence of preventable diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles and malaria. Conflict and strife often led to breakdowns in public health services and the rule of law, and contributed to food insecurity, population displacement and continued insecurity. When entire communities were in a state of upheaval, schools could provide safe haven and it was therefore crucial that their sanctity be protected. UNICEF welcomed the endorsement by 92 States of the 2006 Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, and encouraged other States to join that process.
She said UNICEF had a long history of advocating and assisting in the release and reintegration of children used by armed forces and groups. While reintegration was possible, it was a difficult and long-term process requiring long-term commitment. UNICEF worked with States as well as non-State actors to stop the recruitment of children. The 2007 Paris Commitments reinforced the international consensus on the unlawful recruitment and use of children in armed conflict.
Noting that children became associated with armed groups for many reasons, she said they might have no choice or they might view enlistment as their best survival option. Reintegrating them into their communities must be done with an eye to the future stability, not only of the child, but also of society as a whole. Reintegration programmes must avoid stigmatizing the child. They required predictable and sustained funding that would continue to be available despite periods of instability. As northern Uganda and Sri Lanka had shown, children’s lives could be improved by protection measures and reintegration activities, even as political solutions were sought.
She said the purpose of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism was to monitor and report in response to situations where children were victims of conflict in order to reduce occurrences; enhance the accountability of perpetrators; and prevent further grave violations. There were promising signs of progress in Côte d’Ivoire and Sri Lanka three years after the adoption of Council resolution 1612 (2005) had established the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism. However, more must be done to ensure better monitoring, prevention and response to violations against children.
“The best protection for children is to prevent the outbreak of armed conflict and violence in the first place,” she said. Development and post-conflict reconstruction could address the root causes of violence. It was to be hoped that today’s discussions would help strengthen the collective commitment to protect children from conflict and violence. The challenge was immense, but not insurmountable.
KATHLEEN HUNT, Chairperson of the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, said the organization was a coalition of non-governmental organizations that brought together the resources of operational, humanitarian and human rights agencies. Since its first appearance before the Council five-and-a-half years ago, the Council leadership on children and armed conflict had made considerable progress. Thanks to the Task Force mandated under resolution 1612 (2005), the consolidation of efforts under United Nations country teams, peacekeeping operations and the Peacebuilding Commission had demonstrated the enormous potential of the United Nations to prevent egregious violations, respond to them quickly and end impunity.
However, there was no time to lose, she cautioned, stressing that the Council must maintain its momentum and enable the groundbreaking Working Group to carry out its mandate. That meant, first and foremost, overcoming the delays and deadlocks that had impeded conclusions to specific reports, and making use of the range of tools in the Working Group’s innovative “toolkit”. It was equally crucial to ensure timely and adequate disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes for children in countries emerging from conflict.
Through the monitoring and reporting system mandated under resolution 1612 (2005), significant advances had been made, documented by the Watchlist in a study of four countries released before last February’s open debate, she said. However, thousands of children remained under arms, while others were forced into marriage by armed groups, and still others fled their homes under attack. They could only dream of schoolbooks, livelihoods or a peaceful future. “Our statement is a call to action urging each of you, other Member States, regional bodies, civil society and national Governments to respond with the resources and remedies needed to ensure that your historic commitments to children -– and international peace and security -– do not lapse into vacant clichés.”
To that end, she urged the Council to act without delay on the priorities of demanding accountability from perpetrators by imposing targeted measures, when warranted; calling on the Working Group to continue reviewing reports of violations; completing effective conclusions in a timely manner; making practical recommendations for action; and using the full range of actions in its “toolkit”. The Council should also support the strengthening of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism and expand its scope to include sexual violence as a “trigger”. It was essential that donors adequately resource disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes for children. The Council should reiterate its readiness to build on the provisions of resolutions 1612 (2005) with a view to further increasing the efficiency of its key aspects through a new text on children and armed conflict in 2009.
JEAN-MAURICE RIPERT (France), Chairman of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, said its report reflected sustained activity, including positive developments concerning the implementation in a growing number of conflict situations of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism established by resolution 1612 (2005). Its activities had been focused on reviewing reports produced by the Mechanism and adopting their operational conclusions. The Working Group had adopted, in all situations it had reviewed, detailed conclusions that provided all parties concerned with precise indications of measures that must be taken to release child soldiers and promote the protection of children in armed conflict.
As noted by some partners, non-governmental organizations in particular, the Working Group had not used all the tools at its disposal with the same intensity, he said. However, its conclusions remained useful in allowing actors in the field to obtain commitments and results. The Working Group was currently functioning without the use of resources from the Secretariat other than meeting rooms and interpretation “on an available basis”. Given the importance of the subject and the Group’s workload, it was time to revisit that issue.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, he reiterated some key elements that the regional bloc had brought forth on 12 February, such as its support for the analysis and recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s most recent report (document S/2007/757), and the “Ten-Year Strategic Review of the Machel Report”; its condemnation of all violations perpetrated against children; the need for universal implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, and the role that the International Criminal Court had played and could further play in the fight against impunity; and its support for the Working Group and the Special Representative.
The European Union welcomed the Working Group’s adoption of concrete conclusions and called on all parties concerned to implement them. It also encouraged the Working Group and the Security Council to take appropriate measures against parties that continued to perpetrate violations, and called on the Council and the Secretary-General to focus on giving the Working Group the required means to effectively and transparently continue its initiatives for the benefit of children.
Noting that the European Union was financing many projects benefiting children in armed conflict, he said it was imperative that the Working Group’s efforts to end child recruitment and secure more releases be supplemented by strong efforts by the international community to prevent child recruitment and reintegrate children associated with armed groups. Reintegration programmes must take the diverse needs of children into account and be integrated into broader-based actions targeting the communities into which the children would be reintegrated. The programmes must also benefit from long-term donor commitment.
ZALMAY KHALILZAD ( United States) noted that the recruitment and use of child soldiers persisted in many countries. In Burma, for example, military and non-State groups continued to recruit and use children, some as young as 10 years old, and arrest those who deserted. In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers and a Government-supported paramilitary group also continued to use child soldiers. While that group’s initial release of 39 child soldiers was welcome, more must be done to ensure the release of the remaining children. In southern Sudan, there had been a slight improvement in the overall situation concerning children, but that was not sufficient. The recruitment and use of child soldiers by both Government forces and various armed rebels continued in the Darfur region, while the recruitment of children from camps for refugees and internally displaced persons on both sides of the Chad-Sudan border continued.
Pointing out other atrocities, he went on to say that, in Afghanistan, the Taliban and other insurgents engaged in systematic attacks on schoolchildren and school buildings in a deliberate attempt to intimidate and prevent girls from accessing education. The Taliban had used children as human shields and to perpetrate suicide attacks. Another deplorable fact was that girls, and sometimes boys, were often targeted as victims of sexual and gender-based violence. Some 60 per cent of the cases recorded in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo involved victims between the ages of 11 and 17.
It was time to review the Council’s trigger list and see whether it should include sexual violence, he said. Although the Working Group had taken steps forward, its decision-making processes took too long and must be more efficient and effective. Unfortunately, some of its members “talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk”, opposing effective action when it came to doing things. The time had come to move forward in an expeditious fashion, focusing on the violators. Offenders needed to know that, unless they showed measured improvement, the Council would take action and use the tool of targeted sanctions. It was the Council’s duty to stop the violations.
ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy) said the Council’s actions on children and armed conflict had started to produce results, but the necessary protection for children caught in armed conflicts around the world would require a renewed and concerted effort by the international community as a whole. The fulfilment of the Council’s responsibilities was due primarily to the intensive efforts of its Working Group. The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism also contributed to progress in the field through the work of the Special Representative, UNICEF, other United Nations agencies and many non-governmental organizations.
More measures must now be taken, he continued. For example, while more child protection advisers were now deployed in missions around the world, appropriate child-protection training modules for United Nations peacekeepers had still not been developed. They must be approved and applied extensively to help the United Nations address the unacceptable occurrences of sexual abuse by the Organization’s peacekeepers and other personnel. “This is something that is now long overdue.”
He went on to say that child protection must be streamlined into all aspects of peace processes. It must be an integral part of peace agreements and a United Nations priority in dealing with post-conflict situations and reconstruction. Safeguarding children’s fundamental rights, such as that of access to water, was the only way to ensure they would be protected. A new Security Council resolution should be elaborated to factor in the numerous lessons learned since 2005. Once the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on sexual violence was in place, the Council should consider sexual violence against children as a trigger for action.
KAREN PIERCE ( United Kingdom) said that, without the support of non-governmental organizations and civil society, whose field workers often operated at great risk, the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism could not have operated as successfully as it had done. While the United Kingdom welcomed the report of the Working Group, some challenges remained, including the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel. Attacks on schools and the use of explosive devices in Afghanistan had led to an increase in the number of children killed and injured. In Chad, children continued to be killed, maimed, recruited and subjected to sexual violence. The United Kingdom urged Myanmar to cooperate in establishing a monitoring mechanism.
Children suffered disproportionately in conflict and crimes against them should therefore not go unpunished, she said, welcoming the fact that seven individuals alleged to have committed such crimes had been made to face justice. Implementation of resolution 1612 (2005) had resulted in the release of children, and there was an essential need for inclusive, community-based programmes for their reintegration into society. The United Kingdom was encouraged by the work carried out by the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, and felt that children’s participation was fundamental to that work. The Mechanism should be made more accessible for them. The Council and the Working Group should make full use of the range of options available to them. Implementation of the Group’s recommendations was vital.
RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS ( Panama) said the inclusion of children and armed conflict on the Council’s agenda reflected a clear evolution of what was defined as a threat to peace. The world’s awareness of the plight of children in armed conflict had risen, but, notwithstanding the progress made, children continued to be deprived of their rights in situations of conflict. It was imperative to create reintegration programmes and policies with special emphasis on children as victims, and to educate communities.
It was important to tackle the global situation, including the current food price crisis, which made the effects of conflict more adverse, he continued. The United Nations must place itself as a prime mover in addressing such issues, coordinating the work of relevant bodies. It was difficult to broach the question of children and armed conflict without addressing the need to end impunity. Panama supported the efforts of the International Criminal Court to bring to justice all those who violated international humanitarian law, including the rights of the child. Wherever there were sanctions committees, they should also address violations of the rights of the child.
JAN GRAULS ( Belgium) said children and armed conflict was not only a human rights, humanitarian or development-aid issue, but also one of peace and security. The Working Group had carried out structural monitoring of conflict situations where children were recruited and used as soldiers, and it was important to provide it with the necessary support. In the absence of positive responses from the parties concerned, the Council must shoulder its responsibility and adopt targeted sanctions against repeated perpetrators.
The number of children affected by armed conflict remained alarmingly high, and the fight against impunity must therefore remain high on the agenda, he continued. All those guilty of violations against children must be tried and sentenced. That would enable a change of mentality and improve the situation of children. Through the International Criminal Court, the international community now had an adequate legal instrument to try and punish perpetrators of the gravest crimes. The Court could ensure that those involved in the recruitment and use of child soldiers stopped the practice.
NEVEN JURICA (Croatia), aligning himself with the European Union, said the establishment of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism and the creation of the Working Group had raised the profile of the issue and led to a reduction in child recruitment. However, the Mechanism should cover all six grave violations against children in armed conflict. There had been positive achievements on the ground, but the Council must continue to ensure that all parties adhered to Council resolutions and other instruments on children and armed conflict.
He said the United Nations and the international community must ensure that sufficient resources were available for child protection and community-based programmes for the reintegration and rehabilitation of former child soldiers. Stigma should be avoided and children should be allowed benefits without having to identify themselves as ex-child soldiers. The Council should refer to the International Criminal Court those cases in which States failed to address impunity. The Council and the international community needed to adopt a strategy that would address the root causes of armed conflict by promoting development, the rule of law and reconciliation, among other things.
WANG GUANGYA ( China) said his country supported United Nations efforts to promote the protection of children in armed conflict. However, the Council should stay focused on its primary responsibility -- the maintenance of international peace and security. By working to prevent conflicts at the root, it would provide children with the best protection it could. It was important always to respect the role of the Governments concerned. The Working Group should enhance its cooperation with Governments and avoid interfering in internal affairs. Accuracy and objectivity of reporting should be enhanced through cooperation with Governments concerned.
He said that, since the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism had gone into operation, progress had been made in collecting information, but the Mechanism could still be improved. China called on all parties to conflict to respect and protect the rights of children. The Council’s efforts alone were not enough, however, and China encouraged UNICEF, the World Bank and other organizations to play a greater role. It welcomed the positive role played by non-governmental organizations and called for the ratification of the Optional Protocol by those countries that had not yet done so.
HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) said efforts to protect former child soldiers and child victims should be conducted beyond the framework of security or right-based issues and discussed also within the framework of social and economic development. Children separated from their families and living in squalid war-zone conditions needed psychological as well as physical intervention. Unbearable psychological trauma inhibited them from fulfilling their potential. The destruction of education facilities also caused long-term economic and social loss. The international donor community must provide long-term and sustainable assistance to facilitate the full recovery of children without political preconditions.
That approach should include development and humanitarian dimensions underscored by political will, he said, adding that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) must be continuously engaged. However, the best protection from armed conflict lay in prevention and addressing the root causes of conflict. The Working Group must continue to improve its methods, while maintaining its impartiality, transparency, accountability, inclusiveness and constructive cooperation with the particular country concerned. While demands made of parties to armed conflict must be monitored and reported through the Office of the Special Representative, it was equally important to have clear, objective and measurable guidelines in place.
MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) said it was obvious that, without the collective commitment of the international community, the recruitment of children, sexual violence against children and other violations would continue. The situation of children in armed conflict required recognition of their rights, which must be protected. That responsibility lay primarily with States. It was essential to ensure the rule of law and bolster democratic institutions to guarantee the rights of children. The contributions of United Nations agencies and other partners in that field were also needed. To that end, Burkina Faso encouraged the raising of public awareness about international humanitarian law and widespread education on the rights of the child.
He said some objectives of resolution 1612 (2005) had already been obtained, including the cessation of recruitment and the release of children by some armed groups. Burkina Faso invited armed groups and forces still on the annex to the Secretary-General’s report to demobilize children and facilitate their reintegration. The best guarantee would be the adoption of measures to avoid the recurrence of child recruitment, including education of children and giving them alternative opportunities. Such action must be supported by donors and all relevant international structures.
JORGE URBINA ( Costa Rica) said armed conflict was a breeding ground for violations of each and every one of the rights of children. To date, the Council had focused on the direct consequences of armed conflict on children, and now it should direct the same energy to the indirect consequences of conflict, which thwarted the prospect of a better future for many children. In particular, there was a need to review the criteria used by the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, so it could consider in a more appropriate manner each of the grave violations established in resolution 1612 (2005). Recent progress on such issues as sexual violence, as enshrined in resolution 1820 (2008), should be adequately reflected in the Working Group’s approach.
It was also crucial to work closely with affected States in combating impunity, he said. An in-depth analysis of the actions and sanctions that could be applied to repeat violators was needed. Now was the right time to consider the complementary role that the International Criminal Court could play in supporting States in the fight against impunity. Global inequity and neglect of extreme poverty were among the contributing factors leading to conflicts that wrought particular havoc on children. The protection of children associated with armed groups should be part of a broader strategy, particularly where marginalization of particular groups was a factor. Through reintegration, children should have new opportunities for development. Truly effective disarmament, demobilization and reintegration must be inclusive, community-based and geared towards rebuilding emotional trust between children and their families, preventing the stigmatization of victims of child recruitment.
ATTIA OMAR MUBARAK ( Libya) said that, in spite of regional and international efforts, there had been no tangible progress in the situation of children in armed conflict. They were still recruited and re-recruited, while children of both sexes were still victims of sexual and other violence. The parties concerned were urged to prevent child recruitment, release child soldiers and ensure their reintegration into society. Libya called on international financial institutions and donors to finance reintegration and development programmes, while also supporting the United Nations zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual exploitation by the Organization’s peacekeeping personnel.
Expressing concern about children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said 800 of them had lost their lives owing to Israeli actions, and thousands had been displaced. Children were also affected by the separation wall, which prevented them from attending school. Libya was also concerned about children in Iraq, where a number of them had been killed or wounded by suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices or attacks on schools. Children were also victim of arbitrary detention and Libya called on the coalition forces in Iraq to release them immediately. It was to be hoped that the Working Group would refrain from a selective and politicized approach.
IGOR N. SHCHERBAK ( Russian Federation) said the protection of children was a priority for his country, and the reason why the Russian President had recently signed the Optional Protocol. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was nearing universal ratification. The protection of children in conflict was system-wide in nature and required a comprehensive approach and the attention of all the human rights treaty bodies. Attention must be paid to all violations against children, not only recruitment. Long-term measures must be adopted to rehabilitate and reintegrate former child soldiers into society.
He said it was necessary for the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism to function to the full in all situations, and to provide the Council with up-to-date, objective and reliable information. The Russian Federation shared the concern of others over the deteriorating situation of children in Afghanistan and Iraq, which did not receive appropriate attention from the United Nations system. It was the responsibility of all parties, including coalition forces, to protect children, hundreds of whom continued to be detained on arbitrary charges.
DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) said that, even with all that remained to be done to protect children from grave violations, it was encouraging that the Council’s active involvement had translated into concrete results. Some parties to armed conflict had developed formal action plans for halting the recruitment of children and releasing children from their forces. Efforts to include provisions on children in peace processes were gaining momentum, and the incorporation of child-protection requirements into peacekeeping mandates had become systematic. The Working Group’s recommendations had led to positive results on the ground and concrete child-protection commitments had been made by Governments to the Special Representative.
However, it was vital that the long-term needs of children affected by armed conflict not be forgotten, he said. More attention must be paid to the reintegration and rehabilitation of children associated with armed forces and armed groups. They and their communities must be involved in that process since having a future was central to reintegration. Early support for economic growth in post-conflict situations was also important, as was the continued provision of resources for programmes and services. Girls often experienced gender-based violence in armed conflict situations in addition to discrimination during their recruitment and within their societies upon return. Therefore, reintegration and rehabilitation programmes must include measures to address all forms of violence and discrimination against girls. United Nations agencies and civil society organizations must make every effort to assist authorities in finding and helping those girls.
U. JOY OGWU ( Nigeria) said political will and firm commitment to the implementation of peace agreements were crucial to moving the child-protection agenda forward, especially in Africa. Nigeria encouraged the Government and factions in Somalia to commit fully to the implementation of the peace agreement signed on 9 June in Djibouti. They should implement, in particular, the recommendation calling for an end to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Nigeria also supported the deployment of a more robust peacekeeping force in that country.
Calling for a development-oriented approach to children and armed conflict, she said greater attention should be paid to child-focused health care, rehabilitative care, education and the empowerment of women, families and communities, so as to provide a secure environment for children. Good governance, democracy and conflict prevention were vital to building a culture of peace and respect for human rights, including children’s rights. The implementation of existing conflict-prevention mechanisms in Africa would free resources for human and social development. Child rights should be at the core of humanitarian, peacemaking and peacebuilding efforts.
She called on the Council to strengthen and expand the scope of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism and for targeted measures against perpetrators who repeatedly violated children’s rights. Nigeria fully supported the role of the International Criminal Court in investigating and prosecuting such violations. There was a need for greater collaboration between the African Union Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Council’s Working Group. While the need for enhanced collaborative efforts by various international and regional frameworks for the protection of children in armed conflict could never be over-emphasized, national programmes were nonetheless imperative.
LUIS ENRIQUE CHAVEZ ( Peru) strongly condemned all forms of violence against children, including abduction, maiming, assassination, rape, as well as attacks against schools and hospitals. Every State affected by violence had a responsibility to reduce the number of victims. They should adopt legal measures to prosecute those responsible for the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Amnesty and impunity were not acceptable. The work of the International Criminal Court and other international bodies, including the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone, played a special role, and the United Nations as well as regional organizations should support victims and cooperate with the affected States.
While there had been progress towards halting violations of children’s human rights, much remained to be done, he continued. The Security Council must continue to further fine-tune the tools at its disposal while ensuring full compliance with resolution 1612 (2005) and continuing to draw on the work of the Working Group and the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism. Peru supported the possibility of applying targeted measures against repeat violators of the rights of children in armed conflict. The Council must place all categories of grave violations on an equal footing, and Peru would support every initiative in that regard.
ROBERT HILL ( Australia) said children in armed conflict and displaced by conflict were not only vulnerable to recruitment, but also to other grave violations, including killing, abduction and attacks on schools. They might also suffer from the denial of humanitarian access. The United Nations system must continue to coordinate its efforts to address all those egregious violations, and the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism should be triggered when any of them occurred.
He encouraged the Council to continue to call on States to prepare time-bound action plans to stop violations against children and to consider targeted measures that might be taken against persistent violators. The International Criminal Court had an important role in investigating and prosecuting violations falling within its jurisdiction. Australia encouraged the Council to maintain its attention and seek further progress on those areas in which children continued to be affected by armed conflict, including the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.
PRASAD KARIYAWASAM ( Sri Lanka) said that, despite the established task forces and mechanisms, the recruitment of child combatants continued unabated. To end child recruitment, it was important that the Council and the Working Group remain focused on that most urgent task rather than seeking to broaden the canvas to include other issues that were not of immediate practical benefit. The Council should address how armed actors resorted to new tactics of recruitment, as in northern Sri Lanka, where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam subjected schoolchildren to compulsory weapons and combat training.
Because non-State actors were not bound by internationally enforceable legal instruments, they should be subjected to stricter scrutiny and more rigorous and internationally enforceable punitive measures, he said. The Council and the Working Group must agree on how to deal with persistent and recalcitrant violators. Sri Lanka supported effective, targeted measures. The reintegration of child combatants was the most important of all measures underpinning effective implementation of resolution 1612 (2005). Successful reintegration required resources as well as expertise. The international community’s concern should therefore move beyond words of sympathy to sustained engagement and the flow of necessary resources.
JOHN MCNEE ( Canada) said the Council had been very progressive in building a protection framework for children in situations of armed conflict. However, when taking stock of resolution 1612 (2005), it was important to ask a fundamental question: had those developments made a difference on the ground? Canada believed the answer was “yes”. In Côte d’Ivoire, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, some parties had released children while others had established action plans to do so. Those results were a direct result of resolution 1612 (2005). The resolution also had indirect benefits, including a much greater awareness of the terrible plight of children and a collective belief that it was simply unacceptable to recruit and use them in armed conflict. That underpinned Canada’s strong support for continuing the implementation of resolution 1612 (2005) and strengthening, through a new resolution, the protection framework created by addressing the other grave violations described in the Secretary-General’s reports.
Turning to resolution 1820 (2008), he said his country would follow very closely the follow-up to that text, but the abuses suffered by children could not wait for yet another report in order to trigger action. “Resolution 1612 works; let’s expand its purview now to include all categories of violations against children.” They included killing and maiming, rape and other grave sexual violence. Canada called on the Council to start negotiating a new resolution to that end. The Working Group was a crucial part of the international protection framework and Canada urged it to continue issuing strong and actionable conclusions to various parties and providing guidance to peacekeeping operations, political missions and country teams.
ISMAT JAHAN ( Bangladesh) said the discussion of the Working Group’s methods and other procedural issues should be brought to an end soon, so that the Group could devote itself fully to its mandated activities. There was still a need for an in-depth analysis of the impact of the Group’s recommendations on parties to conflicts. While many child soldiers were coerced into fighting, joining armed forces was often also the result of difficult socio-economic conditions. It could therefore be effective to approach the issue from a development perspective. Such an approach should focus on addressing the root causes of armed conflict and on the reintegration of children associated with armed forces and groups.
Reintegration and rehabilitation could only be successful if child combatants were given adequate incentives to return to normal life, she said. That called for the mobilization of international resources. The Peacebuilding Commission should keep the issue permanently on its agenda. It was well documented that children suffered the most under unregulated sanction regimes, and the Council had a duty to ensure that sanctions did not affect the innocent. The issue of children under foreign occupation must also be addressed appropriately and there should be special provisions for girl children, who were particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and violence.
FRANCIS K. BUTAGIRA ( Uganda) said his country had been a proponent of identifying the reasons why under-age children found their way into armed forces. Some were recruited due to the breakdown in institutional, social, economic and cultural values. They managed to circumvent the system, presenting false information as to their age. In most cases, abject poverty led parents to get their children “employed” in the armed forces by overstating their ages.
Holding the highest regard for the mandate of the International Criminal Court to fight impunity, Uganda had been the first country to make a referral to the Court, he continued. In the same spirit of cooperation, the Government had been engaged in various initiatives with the Office of the Special Representative with a view to ending the practice. Uganda had exhibited an undeniable spirit of partnership in the implementation of resolution 1612 (2005).
Turning to sanctions or punishment regimes, he said that, if the driving force behind punitive measures imposed on States accused of recruiting child soldiers was to help children, a different approach might have been adopted. Demonizing and condemning Member States with the objective of ending “impunity” would only delay and oftentimes derail an otherwise noble initiative. The fastest and most sustainable avenue for solving any problem was not emphasizing punishment, but engaging the parties involved in dialogue. Sanctions only punished the most vulnerable in society and, as history showed, only served to harden an accused State’s resolve. There could be no durable solution to a problem whose root causes had not been identified. Issues like poverty, lack of vocational skills or even the total absence of registration systems for births in conflict areas were too serious to be pushed aside.
MEIRAV EILON-SHAHAR ( Israel) said that lessons learned from previous disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes for children were not being applied. Child soldiers continued to be overlooked. Long-term integration was severely underfunded and girls, in particular, were routinely neglected, despite their involvement in the conflict as fighters, or subjection to severe sexual violence. There had been achievements in protecting children, however, through Council resolutions and the work of the International Criminal Court. The scourge of global terrorism meant that civilians today were increasingly vulnerable. Children had often become the object of terrorist interest –- for purposes of recruitment, incitement to violence and human shielding.
She said that, despite a “state of calm”, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip continued to fire rockets, placing children in peril. In Sderot, up to 94 per cent of children suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Hamas had long operated in civilian areas, used civilians as shields and commandeered schools and houses of worship for making weapons and planning attacks. Terrorism was a grave threat to all children –- both Palestinian and Israeli.
As many child soldiers were found within the ranks of armed groups, existing initiatives had limited impact in protecting children from recruitment, she said. By their nature, armed and terrorist groups rejected pressure to end such practices. The international community must advocate for context-specific and more sophisticated strategies. Children also needed protection from all aspects of armed conflict, including programmatic attempts to brainwash them. In recent months, Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV had repeatedly called upon children to form human shields and carry out attacks against Israel.
KIM BONG-HYUN ( Republic of Korea) said that girls and sometimes boys were targeted with various forms of sexual and gender-based violence during armed conflict. Alarmingly, close to 60 per cent of victims of sexual violence were children, and rape had been deliberately used for political and military purposes in some conflict areas. Unless the international community, specifically the Council -– the only body capable of taking forceful measures –- did not respond with strong determination to end such violations, the situation could not be improved. The adoption of resolution 1820 had been a very positive development in that regard. He advocated the expansion of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism to include sexual violence as a trigger for listing a party in the Secretary-General’s annexes, expressing hope that it would be done in the form of a new resolution.
Ending impunity was a critical element when addressing any kind of violations, he continued. The Council must refer systematic and persistent violators against children to the International Criminal Court, while paying full attention to the development of national justice mechanisms. Effective implementation of resolution 1612 also lay within the critical work of the Working Group and the Security Council itself. The role of the Working Group could be further strengthened by addressing concrete measures, such as the imposition of targeted measures, in addition to monitoring the implementation. Also important was the role of such new actors as peacekeeping operations and political missions, particularly their child protection advisers. The Council and Secretary-General should send a strong message to the head of each mission to provide solid leadership.
Above all, each national Government should take the responsibility of protecting its children, he said. In that respect, technical and financial assistance should be provided for capacity-building. Governments should fully cooperate with the Council in preparing and implementing action plans, including the establishment of effective and transparent justice mechanisms. He also agreed that the international community needed a broader strategy for the protection of children from the perspective of both prevention and development. Long-term protection of children and the processes to end violations, ensure recovery and reintegrate needed full coordination of all relevant bodies, including the Council, peacekeeping operations, political missions, Peacebuilding Commission, humanitarian agencies and development actors. That was especially true at the field level. Community-based programmes and the participation of non-governmental organizations were critical.
GERHARD PFANZELTER ( Austria) agreed that the international community must examine the root causes of -- and find lasting solutions to -- armed conflict as part of the effort to deliver better protection to the children trapped in the crossfire. Austria also agreed that the specific needs and capacities of girls deserved special attention. It was imperative to enhance broader support for all war-affected children, especially their effective reintegration into society. To that end, the issue should be systematically included in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes. Child protection was a significant peace and security matter and should therefore be considered systematically in the establishment of peace agreements and in the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations and political missions.
He said he recognized the important work being carried out by child protection advisers in various United Nations peace missions, and welcomed their increasing deployment. Ongoing efforts to assess the experiences of those advisers and lessons learned in the field would greatly benefit other actors, such as the European Union, African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Regarding the Council’s work in that area, Austria encouraged it to ensure respect for resolution 1612 (2005) and all other measures on children in armed conflict. There was a “long list of perpetrators” who continued to commit serious violations against children, and the Council should use all accountability mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court, to end impunity and bring the perpetrators to justice.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO ( Nicaragua) said that, over the last few years, tangible progress had been made in the area of children in conflict, but there were still many challenges to be faced. Nicaragua underlined the importance of reintegrating children into communities and families in a sustainable manner, and stressed the enormous role that education could play in that regard. Education had often been ignored, and countries with the most children not attending school were those in conflict.
If the problem of children in armed conflict was to be addressed in a realistic way, the root cause of the problems must be tackled, he said. There was a need to establish a broad-ranging strategy of conflict prevention based on development. Unbridled capitalism, where the arms industry was the greatest beneficiary, exacerbated conflicts. Nicaragua called for a constructive dialogue with parties to armed conflict that would yield tangible benefits for children.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that his country had been actively involved in the efforts to address the plight of children affected by armed conflict and would continued to do so, as a member of the group of friends of children affected by conflict. While the establishment of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism had already proven its positive effect on the ground, it was important to maintain the political momentum and further enhance tools aimed at improving the safety and security of children affected by armed conflict. In that connection, he reiterated his country’s call to treat all six types of grave violation on an equal basis as triggers for inclusion in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s reports. The current differential treatment of those violations was, in fact, difficult to understand, in light of the universality of human rights and the principles of international humanitarian law.
All measures by the Working Group in response to grave violations should be complemented by effective enforcement, he continued. One option, in that regard, was the expansion of the Working Group’s mandate to recommend targeted measures, including arms embargoes, a ban on military assistance and imposition of travel restrictions. As for the Group’s working methods, he was concerned over the slowdown in the publication of its conclusions; in 2008, there had been no conclusions since February.
He also supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to refer to the International Criminal Court the violations of the rights of children that fell within its jurisdiction, he said. The Rome Statute had set a milestone in the fight to end impunity for massive violations of the rights of children. Specific references to sexual violence and conscripting and enlisting child soldiers in articles 7 and 8 of the Statute must be highlighted, in that respect. The practical work of the Court, in particular with respect to the situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Uganda, had already had a positive impact on the ground and was setting important precedents. When the first trial commenced, hopefully later this year, the fight against the involvement of children in armed conflict would gain additional prominence and find even stronger international attention. The International Criminal Court was, therefore, playing a supportive role in many areas where the Council had been actively engaged for many years. The protection of civilians and sexual violence against women and girls in armed conflict -– recently addressed in resolution 1820 –- were among the examples. He hoped that the Council would continue to give political backing to the International Criminal Court in carrying out its mandate under the Rome Statute.
YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan) said that he was heartened by certain progress towards protecting children caught in the midst of armed conflict. Important precedents had been set at the International Criminal Court and Special Court for Sierra Leone to put an end to impunity for crimes against children. The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, the Office of the Special Representative and child protection advisers in missions had all contributed to achieving concrete results. The dialogue amongst the parties concerned had led to the release of over 3,000 child soldiers in Côte d’Ivoire. In Chad and the Central African Republic, an agreement had been reached to release the child combatants. Despite those achievements, however, he was deeply concerned with the plight of some 250,000 children who were still forced to serve in armed forces and groups. The special issues of concern included the lack of security in and around camps for internally displaced persons and refugees, and illegal detention of children for alleged association with armed groups.
Children affected by armed conflict should be given every opportunity to enjoy normal civilian life, he said. Post-conflict peacebuilding must address the lives of such children and ensure their full reintegration. It was indispensable to provide not only physical protection, but also basic services. Particular attention should be devoted to alleviating the factors at the community level, which were likely to lead to the recurrence of conflicts, including discrimination against former child soldiers and lack of productive economic activities. Physical and mental rehabilitation, vocational training and expanded educational opportunities should be provided to victims. Governments had the primary responsibility to lead the way, by formulating and implementing child-rights based policies, and communities and civil society played an important role.
The Peacebuilding Commission could support national efforts to address the needs of children, he said. For example, the Burundi Strategic Framework made specific commitments in that regard. In the case of Sierra Leone, the Cooperation Framework recognized that education, employment and empowerment of youth were critical and priority issues. The Peacebuilding Commission, with its diverse stakeholders, would be able to provide valuable support to develop a coordinated, integrated approach to achieving durable peace. The concept of human security, which Japan promoted wholeheartedly, provided a vitally important perspective for the protection of children affected by armed conflict. An integrated approach, based on such a concept, was highly relevant.
Those endeavours would, in turn, contribute to the international efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, he said. Group of Eight leaders in Hokkaido had stressed the importance of the enhancement of human security and promotion of good governance in achieving those Goals. He added that Japan had been providing assistance to the programmes aimed at supporting former child soldiers and victims of sexual exploitation and violence in many countries. Through the Trust Fund for Human Security, Japan supported capacity-building in local communities, for instance in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. TICAD IV had also addressed the importance of ensuring human security as a top priority.
JOHAN L. LØVALD ( Norway), speaking also on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, said that, while children bore the least responsibility for armed conflict, they suffered the most. He reiterated the Nordic countries’ unequivocal endorsement of the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report on child rights and the role of child protection in future peacekeeping missions. Further, the six categories of grave violations set out in resolution 1612 should be addressed with equal resolve. Because women and girls constituted the largest and most vulnerable groups of victims in armed conflicts, and, thus, deserved constant attention, sexual and gender-based violence should be included in the list of violations that triggered inclusion on the annexes of the Secretary-General’s report.
Recognizing the absolute importance of resolution 1612 and the mechanisms set up in its wake, he further welcomed the reports of the Special Representative announcing the release of hundreds of children from armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad, as well as reports of progress made in Liberia and Sierra Leone. He expressed deep concern at the high levels of violations against children in the Sudan, particularly in Darfur. Stressing that the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism presented the Council with reliable information –- and that with this knowledge came responsibility -- he said the Council should seriously consider effective targeted measures against those who committed grave violations against children. He called on the Working Group to explore the full range of measures to hold persistent perpetrators responsible.
He said that increased efforts were needed to end impunity for perpetrators against children and welcomed the progress of the International Criminal Court in prosecuting individuals suspected of grave violations of children’s rights. Further, effective national courts were also needed. He encouraged the Council to refer violations against children in armed conflict to the International Criminal Court when national Governments continuously failed to address such crimes. He also encouraged the Council to pay equal attention to all children affected by armed conflict. Procedural arguments should not undermine the Council’s ability to discuss the plight of such children and to act when necessary.
THOMAS MATUSSEK (Germany) said the Security Council’s progress on the issue of children in armed conflict had been “impressive” over the past decade, in particular, its adoption of resolution 1612 (2005), which was rightfully regarded as a milestone in creating an effective international Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism. The Mechanism seemed to be working well as some conflict parties listed in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s reports had adopted action plans commensurate with United Nations recommendations on the use of child soldiers and illegal recruiting practices.
Important challenges remained, however, and the Council should seriously begin discussing ways to take the issue forward, he said. To that end, all forms of grave violations against children should be addressed, including sexual violence. “This issue deserves our undivided attention.” Further, the international community must “speak a clear language” with conflict parties that appeared repeatedly on the list of perpetrators, or with those parties that had chosen to ignore persistent calls to cease their illegal actions regarding children in armed conflict. The Council should consider ways to impose targeted measures against the main perpetrators. That should imply the referral of serious violations to the International Criminal Court, in cases where national systems failed to provide adequate child protection.
ROBERT TACHIE-MENSON ( Ghana) noted with satisfaction the Working Group’s definitive conclusions and recommendations, but expressed regret over the recent inertia in its discussions. It was to be hoped that the desire to make a positive difference in the lives of children affected by armed conflict would continue to be the guiding principle in the Group’s deliberations.
While the Council’s engagement had yielded some tangible results, the overall situation of children affected by conflict remained worrisome, he continued. Effective resolution of the gaps in the implementation of resolution 1612 (2005) required concerted action by all stakeholders, including affected States, parties to conflict, United Nations entities, peacekeeping and support units and the international community as a whole.
There should be no impunity for those who targeted children during armed conflict, he stressed, noting that the prime responsibility for investigating the perpetrators fell upon State authorities. Clearly, there was a need to build the capacity of national security and legal actors. However, where State authorities lacked the ability to carry out those functions, the international community should play its role without fail. Ghana continued to emphasize effective implementation of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. It was crucial that they include primary health care, counselling and social support to address the special needs of girls and the problem of sexual violence.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said her country had ratified the international instruments aimed at ending the recruitment of minors and had enacted domestic legislation protecting children against unlawful recruitment. It was important that the guidelines adopted by the Working Group continue to be implemented according to resolution 1612 (2005). One of the principles for the implementation of that resolution was that it recognized the primary role of Governments in the protection of children affected by conflict, including the duty of United Nations entities to cooperate with the Governments concerned. The Council had also established the principles governing the management of information. In addition to being objective, accurate and reliable, information should be thoroughly verified in close consultation with the Governments concerned.
She said her country’s commitment to the full guarantee of children’s rights was part of a Government programme based on three pillars: security based on democracy; investment based on social responsibility; and social cohesion based on prosperity and freedoms. The democratic security policy was fundamental to reinforcing the protection of children affected by the actions of illegal armed groups. The Government had recaptured its monopoly on the legitimate use of force by the State to confront those groups. Since 1999, the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare had assisted more than 3,600 children and adolescents who had been separated from illegal armed groups. They were supported in getting back their self-esteem through education, income generation activities, health care and reintegration into their families.
JOSE LUIS CANCELA (Uruguay), noting that children represented the most vulnerable segment of society, appealed to those States that had not yet done so to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol. Uruguay recognized the contribution of the International Criminal Court, which defined sexual violence and the recruitment and use of child soldiers as war crimes. The Council and its Working Group had played an important role in protecting children in situations of armed conflict, which was also an important item on the agenda of the General Assembly –- a body that was universal in composition.
He expressed concern about the recruitment of children, many from displaced persons’ camps, sexual violence against children, detention of children, systematic attacks against educational institutions and the near-total impunity of those who committed grave violations of children’s rights. To address those problems, it was necessary to assess the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, the scope of which should be expanded to involve all grave violations. Uruguay advocated the application of inclusive and broad-ranging mechanisms involving all actors. Only through concerted and coordinated work, strengthening the rule of law and enhancing the use of available bodies, like the International Criminal Court, would it be possible to end grave violations against children.
MAGUED ABDEL AZIZ (Egypt) said that, while the Working Group’s report showed improvements in the situations of children in such countries as Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Sudan, Philippines and Colombia, it also showed that the situation remained very volatile and that the violence was both expanding to new areas of the world and taking on new and different forms. The Working Group must intensify its efforts in following up, monitoring and reporting on the situation of children in armed conflict and those under all forms of foreign occupation.
Special attention should be given to the reintegration and rehabilitation of children affected by armed conflicts and to reintroducing them back into normal life, he said. New opportunities should be created to enable them to enjoy similar standards in education, nutrition and health to those available to children in advanced countries. That would require more financial resources, greater coordination of relevant actions and effective partnerships between the private sector, civil society and international financial institutions.
He said the disgraceful humanitarian situation of children under foreign occupation must be given more attention and more recommendations should be transformed into decisions of the Working Group. The report made a marginal reference to the situation of imprisoned or detained children in Afghanistan but no mention of children suffering the same plight elsewhere, especially the Palestinian children detained in Israeli occupation prisons and Iraqi children detained by the international coalition forces. In light of UNICEF’s adoption of the International Strategy for Child Protection, the Working Group should start considering ways to ensure effective treatment for a whole new generation of children detained for trivial reasons.
ALFRED NDABARASA ( Rwanda) said that tackling the issue of children and armed conflict required a holistic and coherent approach, in which conflict prevention was key. Extreme poverty could lead to conflict and children and women became inevitably the first victims. The Great Lakes region had experienced genocide and armed conflict. Rwandan refugees and nationals of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were held hostage by the Ex-Far/Interahamwe (FDLR), which continued to kidnap and forcefully recruit children as soldiers, workers and sexual slaves. Those children were also indoctrinated with a genocidal ideology and were trained to carry and use guns. That left the prospects for future peace and stability in the region severely threatened.
He said the focus on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of armed groups had yielded some positive outcomes in the Great Lakes region. That focus, however, needed to be accompanied by strengthening the capacity of local authorities to enable them to absorb demobilized former armed militias and resettle internally displaced persons, as well as refugees. The Council should be firm in dealing with the threat posed by armed groups in conflict areas. He welcomed, in that regard, resolution 1804 (2008) that sought to comprehensively deal with the threat posed by FDLR in the Great Lakes region. That kind of action, if comprehensively implemented in concert with a development approach, could help in getting rid of the scourge of children in armed conflict.
STEVE D. MATENJE (Malawi) said that some progress had been made at the international level in the development of norms, standards and guidelines to combat the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict and to secure the release of children, support their reintegration and afford them the greatest possible protection from armed forces and groups. Those standards were incorporated in a number of documents, including the Paris Principles and Commitments to Protect Children from Recruitment and Use by Armed Forces and Armed Groups; Convention on the Rights of the Child; resolution 1612; African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; and other international instruments. However, more needed to be done. In that regard, he agreed with the Council’s February call for a broad strategy of conflict prevention, in order to enhance the protection of children on a long-term basis. However, that could only be achieved if the Security Council worked in full cooperation with relevant bodies of the United Nations, such as the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council, which were mandated to deal with development issues.
Most countries affected by armed conflict lacked the capacity to bring the perpetrators of armed conflict to justice, due to the lack of resources, he continued. While national Governments had the primary responsibility to provide effective protection and relief to children affected by armed conflict, they needed to be assisted to strengthen their law enforcement, legal and judicial systems. States that had not done so should be encouraged to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and ensure that their national legislation was aligned to the Convention. The obligation to protect and assist children, both in times of peace and armed conflict, was a basic principle of human rights and humanitarian law. In that regard, in addition to engaging official State agencies, it was critical for the international community to find innovative ways of incorporating non-State armed groups in ways that did not undermine the rule of law in seeking lasting solutions to armed conflict around the world. Malawi encouraged the Council to ensure that political considerations did not override the need to protect children from armed conflict.
ALCIDE DJEDJE ( Côte d’Ivoire) welcomed the progress made by the Council on the subject of children and said that his Government fully appreciated the removal of the parties to the conflict in his country from the list annexed to the report of the Secretary-General. He welcomed the fact that the Working Group had taken note of progress in Côte d’Ivoire, where the parties previously involved in illegal recruitment and use of child soldiers had put an end to those practices.
Turning to the demobilization of children, he said that their reintegration in their communities was not as easy as one would have liked. His Government welcomed the work done by UNICEF, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and their partners, in that regard. However, it was impossible to protect children without involving the Governments of countries trying to rebuild after conflict. The United Nations and the Security Council must concentrate their efforts on promoting national measures aimed at strengthening the protection of children; effective implementation of demobilization and reintegration of children; creating the conditions that would prevent recruitment; and prevention of further offences against children. The international community must provide the resources to implement and promote national rehabilitation and reintegration programmes. Those programmes must also take into account the special concerns of girls. He called on donors to prioritize support for health and education of children in their emergency programmes.
The Security Council should intensify its efforts to prevent conflicts and safeguard peace, in order to protect children by addressing the root causes of armed conflict, he continued. In case of an outbreak of conflict, it must strive to increase the efficiency of peacekeeping and improve the humanitarian situation in affected areas. It was necessary to constantly observe and support the role of Governments, as resolution 1612 stressed repeatedly. The Governments bore the primary responsibility of protecting their children. Other parties must seek the cooperation of the Governments concerned, in order to remedy all the violations against children in armed conflict. The Council and its Working Group must improve their communication with concerned Governments. At the same time, it was important to avoid politicizing the issue of children. Their protection should not be used as a pretext to interfere in internal affairs of a country. And finally, resolution 1612 should continue to serve as the basis for improving the mechanism for monitoring and communication of information and activities of the Working Group. The mechanism should actually apply automatically to all situations of armed conflict in which the safety and rights of children were violated.
JOYCE KAFANABO (United Republic of Tanzania) said the Council should consider monitoring other grave violations besides the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. Sexual and gender-based violence should trigger the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, as the escalating incidence of rape and sexual abuse of children were a source of great concern. Perpetrators must be held accountable so as to end impunity. In that regard, the United Republic of Tanzania acknowledged the work of the International Criminal Court in bringing perpetrators to justice, and called upon the Council to consider targeted sanctions against perpetrators.
One of the greater challenges in protecting children was ending conflict, she said. It was important to tackle the root causes of war and to address other political, economic and social issues that could improve the situation of children and other civilians in conflict situations. The United Republic of Tanzania requested the Secretary-General to ensure that trained and adequately resourced child protection advisers were stationed in all peacekeeping missions. Children’s concerns should be mainstreamed into peace programmes and into disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes with a focus on long-term, community-based reintegration.
ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) said the improvement in the situation of Afghan children and the comprehensive protection of their rights was an essential precondition for the country’s sustainable development. Afghanistan had achieved considerable progress towards improving the status of children since 2001, but today, it was faced with critical security challenges that jeopardized those gains. The deteriorating security situation was the product of terrorist activities by Al-Qaida, the Taliban and other armed groups that deliberately targeted densely populated areas where children were the prime victims.
He said the Taliban were using the most atrocious practice conceivable: recruiting, training and exploiting children as combatants and sending them to die as suicide bombers. The latter was an effective instrument of psychological warfare as the spectre of a “child attacker” was as terrifying as it was incomprehensible. The Taliban had intensified their intimidation campaign by burning schools and clinics, disseminating threatening notes and attacking teachers and schoolchildren. It was a matter of deep concern that increasing numbers of children were being killed and injured by the Taliban and foreign terrorist groups. Another concern was the number of children killed or injured during counter-terrorism operations. Afghanistan called on its international partners to exercise maximum caution and enhance their coordination with Afghan security forces to avoid the loss of civilian lives and ensure the safety and physical integrity of children.
ROSEMARY BANKS ( New Zealand) said her country was of having co-sponsored resolution 1820 (2005) and welcomed the recognition that children in armed conflict were acutely vulnerable to sexual violence. New Zealand called for action as soon as possible to end abuses against children and commended the progress made by the Working Group. It should continue to publish conclusions that would lead to strong and swift action against the perpetrators of grave violations against children. The Working Group was a vital component in a series of mechanisms for ensuring protection for children affected by conflict.
She said her delegation also recognized the dedication of the Special Representative to the commitments in her mandate, in particular the findings from her recent field visits. On the tenth anniversary of the creation of the International Criminal Court, New Zealand reiterated its central importance in bringing to justice the perpetrators of abuses against children. The country commended those countries where progress had been reported, as well as the Council for its ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of children affected by conflict. The Council should continue working to fulfil the mandate set out in resolution 1612 (2005), which continued to provide a sound foundation for the valuable work of the Special Representative.
MADHU RAMAN ACHARYA ( Nepal) said ending conflict was the best way to protect children and children’s issues should therefore be part of any peace process. Where a peace process did not exist, the protection of children should be of paramount importance, and a culture of impunity should not be tolerated whatsoever. A long-term strategy should be developed to tackle the root causes of children’s involvement in armed conflict.
He said the Government of Nepal and the country’s political parties were fully committed to implementing recommendations of the Working Group, especially in the context of the ongoing peace process. It was working with United Nations agencies to prepare a rehabilitation plan for minors soon to be released from cantonments. The Government was also committed to ending impunity for crimes committed against children. Recent political developments in Nepal were likely to have a significant positive impact on the protection and welfare of children affected by the 10-year-long armed conflict.
HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR. ( Philippines), stressing that the abuse of children or denial of their rights destroyed a nation’s hope and future while dissolving any promise of progress, said his country accorded the utmost importance to children and placed them at the core of the Filipino family. With its vast arsenal of statutes on the rights and protection of children, the Philippines had also prohibited the use of children in armed combat and established a Comprehensive Programme Framework for Children Involved in Armed Conflict, which was implemented by 18 Government agencies with the active participation of civil society groups.
The adverse effects of conflict on children were immeasurable and would affect them throughout their lives, he continued. The Philippines exerted vigorous efforts to stop the use of child soldiers and reintegrate and rehabilitate them into society. The Government had recently included provisions relating to children in armed conflict in its peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA and the Moro Islamic Front. Other positive developments included the continuing work of the Inter-Agency Committee on Children Involved in Armed Conflict, which had organized workshops with frontline service providers to determine recruitment patterns and address various policy and operational issues. In light of its successful measures to protect children, the Philippines recommended that the Security Council drop it from the Annex 2 list of countries in its resolution 1612 (2005).
KYAW TINT SWE ( Myanmar) said that, as a result of his country’s policy of national reconciliation, 17 out of 18 insurgent groups had now returned to the legal fold. The Government had made a commitment at the highest level that no child under the age of 18 would be recruited. Forced conscription in any form was strictly prohibited and a new directorate had been established to oversee strict adherence to the relevant orders and regulations. The Government had established a high-level Committee for the Prevention of Under-Age Recruitment and adopted a plan of action concerning discharge procedures and reintegration measures for those under 18. Punitive measures were taken against recruiters who contravened regulations.
During the Special Representative’s visit in June 2007, the Government had demonstrated its positive engagement by agreeing to set up a monitoring and reporting mechanism, he said. Some 1,049 underage persons had been rejected at the recruitment stage as a result of strict scrutiny between February and May 2008. Between 2004 and May 2008, 259 people who had slipped through the initial scrutiny had been discharged from the military. Between 2002 and January 2008, disciplinary action had been taken against 44 military personnel who had failed to abide by recruitment criteria. Additionally, the Government, with assistance from UNICEF, had conducted a number of seminars and workshops. Six of the armed groups that had returned to the legal fold had committed themselves not to recruit child soldiers.
MAHE TOPOUNIYA (Tonga), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said that the issue under discussion was of great importance to his region, which had experienced internal conflicts, that had negatively impacted children and youth. It also faced the challenges of cleaning up the environment to make sure it was free of old ammunition. A long-term approach would be beneficial towards maintaining the safe and secure environment for the next generation. The work initiated by the Security Council had made a difference in exposing the detrimental impact of armed conflicts on children, and its Working Group had systematically reviewed 18 country reports of the Secretary-General and 13 sets of recommendations were adopted based on its conclusions. Nine United Nations peacekeeping operations involved Child Protection Advisers, and the security of children was also featured in peace agreements. It was important for the Council to sustain the effort in implementing the four action plans listed in the annexes. He was aware that some 1,400 children had been released as a result of direct compliance with those plans.
Protecting the physical security of children was the first step, and it was necessary to take extra steps to ensure that children were cared for in post-conflict development, he continued. Children that had experienced the trauma of war should receive the necessary support. It was particularly difficult for child soldiers to be accepted by their families and communities, due to the atrocities they were forced to commit. Efforts were needed to work with Member States and grass-roots organizations to make provisions for child soldiers. The recent Vienna Forum Report on Human Trafficking had noted that increasing demand for forced labour and sexual exploitation left children vulnerable. It was important to eliminate the possible security threats to children’s mental, physical and emotional well-being, and to create an environment to promote safety and healthy development. He hoped the Working Group would continue to monitor the treatment of children and child soldiers in conflict situations. Greater cooperative efforts were needed between the Working Group and relevant agencies, including the Office of Drugs and Crime and UNICEF, in promoting community-based reintegration of children. He added that the preventive approach that had been taken towards children in armed conflict also applied to other threats to international peace and security. It was important to take active measures to address the security implications of cross-cutting issues, which were not labelled as traditional security threats, but had serious security implications. For instance, one such issue was climate change, and he hoped the Council would adopt a proactive approach to addressing its security implications, as it had done on the issue of children and armed conflict.
JEAN-FRANCIS R. ZINSOU ( Benin) said he was pleased by the progress made through the implementation of resolution 1612, which his country had helped to negotiate, and by the commendable performance of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism. He encouraged the Working Group to continue to use a spirit of universality in its mandate and treat all violations equitably. Progress made in the protection of children affected by conflict could be seen in the large number of children demobilized. The Council must tirelessly maintain pressure on parties to conflicts. It was intolerable that there were still more than 15 parties in conflict continuing to violate the rights of children in various ways, with full impunity. The International Criminal Court had begun to take an active part in combating impunity. The Council should no longer put up with a challenge to its authority and exercise its powers under the Charter.
He said resolution 1612 provided for targeted and well-balanced measures against those who committed violations of children’s rights in armed conflict. He hoped the Council would be able to mobilize the necessary political will to make full use of the potential of the resolution. He called on Council members to work vigorously to strengthen international legislation for the protection of children in conflict situations. The international community must contribute to the social reintegration of the children, by ensuring that they were receiving the education and support necessary.
JOHN PAUL KAVANAGH ( Ireland) welcomed the Working Group’s adoption of concrete conclusions containing increasingly specific requirements and recommendations that reminded States of their obligations and encouraged them to strengthen child protection. Many of the conclusions had already had a positive impact, including a drop in child recruitment and enhanced dialogue between parties to conflicts and the United Nations. Ireland called on all parties to implement the Working Group’s conclusions, and on the Council and the Secretary-General to look into giving the Working Group the means it required to effectively and transparently continue its work on behalf of children.
He said that his country continued strongly to support the valuable work of the Special Representative. Ireland also underscored the importance of the International Criminal Court’s role in fighting impunity on the part of perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity against children, including those who enlisted and conscripted child soldiers. As Chair of the Human Security Network, Ireland was focusing on the theme of gender-based violence. Of particular note were the Secretary-General’s recommendations -- contained in his 21 December report on children and armed conflict -– calling on the Council to give equal weight to all categories of grave violations, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers; killing, maiming, rape and abduction of children; attacks against schools or hospitals; and the denial of humanitarian access to children.
MILTON NATHANIEL BARNES ( Liberia) said his country was emerging from a tragic drama in which children had been devastatingly victimized in a brutal civil war. The far-reaching consequences of children being caught up in armed conflict was not an abstract concept for Liberians. “In many ways, the kids and young adults that I know who are ex-combatants are just that -– children and young adults. Yet, upon closer examination, one can see the scars of deep hurt and pain in their eyes.”
At the slightest provocation, such individuals might resort to violence because they had been conditioned to respond with brutality to almost any situation, he said, citing the example of a friend who had been about 10 when rebels had raided his village and killed his parents in front of him. Orphaned, the child had joined the rebel group’s “Small Boys Unit” to avenge his family. When asked if he had any regrets, he had said, “Only one. Once an old man begged me not to kill him and I shot him anyway.” The young man looked haunted. His humanity had been taken away.
Describing globalization as a double edged sword, he said humanity could choose to be on the “cutting edge or the bleeding edge” of the globalization sword. “If we of this generation do not do right by our children who are the future, you can rest assured that this bleeding edge will be the dominant force of the future of our common humanity.” On behalf of the world’s children, Liberia pleaded with the collective conscience and morality of the United Nations to take the bold and courageous actions necessary to protect children and the future of the planet. “We can choose to take the bold and courageous steps now and correct this scourge or pay the drastic price of a more violent and uncertain future. Left to its own devices, this phenomenon that produces children victims and killers today will only yield adult victims and killers tomorrow,” he concluded.
EMMA RODRIGUEZ ( Mexico) said her country took heed of the call to adopt a conflict prevention strategy that would comprehensively address the root causes of armed conflict with the aim of guaranteeing better long-term protection for children. Mexico also welcomed the Council’s intention to continue including child protection advisers in the mandates of peacekeeping and political missions. They should also be involved in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. Mexico attached great importance to the notion of including the protection and rehabilitation of children in peace negotiations, demobilizing child soldiers at all times during conflict and applying preventive measures to avoid the recurrence of recruitment and retaliation.
Concerned that children remained the main victims of the indiscriminate use of landmines and cluster munitions, she encouraged Member States to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions during the forthcoming December conference. Mexico also underscored the importance of bringing perpetrators of grave violations against children to justice before national and international courts and tribunals, and even surrendering them to the International Criminal Court.
She condemned acts of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations staff, stressing that Member States should make greater efforts to assist and support the victims. It was to be hoped that the elaboration of plans of actions to halt the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict by those listed in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s report would reinforce the comprehensive framework for the protection of children in armed conflict.
LILA HANITRA RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA, Permanent Observer of the African Union, said African leaders had adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards child recruitment in 1996. Africa was the first region to have adopted a comprehensive instrument on the rights of children -- the 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. African Union member States had also delivered the African common position -- “An Africa Fit for Children” -- which articulated priorities for the protection of the child in situations of armed conflicts and foreign occupation. The continent’s “Plan of Action towards an Africa Fit for Children 2008-2012”, adopted in 2007, committed States parties to protect children from all forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence.
She said that, in Africa and other parts of the world, illegal armed rebel groups were solely responsible for the use and abuse of children during armed conflict. The response must therefore include strategies for targeting them specifically. The question of children in armed conflict was linked with the vulnerability and weakening of families due to poverty and the Council should therefore lend its full support to the continent’s achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The impact of children’s involvement in armed conflict extended far beyond the victim and it was therefore crucial to support the efforts of Governments and regional organizations, which were the first in the line of responsibility for rehabilitating and reintegrating victims.
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