|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
‘MORAL CALL’ OF PROTECTING CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT LITMUS TEST FOR UN,
SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL IN SECURITY COUNCIL REMARKS
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Security Council open debate on children and armed conflict, in New York, 17 July:
I thank the presidency of the Council for organizing a discussion on this important topic.
The protection of children in armed conflict is a litmus test for the United Nations and the Organization’s Member States. It is a moral call, and deserves to be placed above politics. It requires innovative, fearless engagement by all stakeholders.
Over the past 12 years, this issue has been placed firmly on the international agenda, beginning with the groundbreaking report of Graça Machel and the establishment of the mandate of my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
Since then, a solid body of international legal standards has been elaborated.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court classifies the recruitment of children into fighting forces as a war crime and a crime against humanity.
The International Labour Organization’s Convention 182 defines child soldiering as one of the worst forms of child labour.
The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child outlaws child soldiering.
And the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child established 18 as the minimum age for children’s participation in hostilities.
With this foundation in place, the international community is now shifting its focus from standard-setting to “an era of application” and the provision of real protection. And indeed, we have seen encouraging signals that impunity for crimes against children will no longer be tolerated.
The Security Council, for its part, held its first open debate on the subject in 1998, and has returned to the matter again and again. Its resolutions have focused in particular on six grave violations, drawn from international humanitarian law: abduction; sexual violence; child soldiers; killing and maiming; attacks on schools and hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access.
The Council has established a working group on children and armed conflict and a monitoring and reporting mechanism is now operational in 15 situations of concern. I am also encouraged to note that action plans from several parties to conflict have been secured, in which those parties agree to the release of children from their ranks.
Of course, once children are released, we must be ready to support their full and sustainable reintegration into society, in line with the good practices set out in the “Paris Principles”. I call 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.
I commend the Council for its work on this issue, which is beginning to yield results. Yet we have only begun to scratch the surface. I hope the Council will consolidate the gains that have been made, and move forward to cover all grave violations and all situations of concern.
Political will is crucial. Only concerted international effort, involving all United Nations partners, will be capable of meeting the needs of children living in situations of armed conflict. I look forward to working with you so that children can be safe and, above all, so that they may dream of a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.
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