Security Council, in Presidential Statement, Reiterates ‘Strong Condemnation’ of Recruitment, Use of Children in Armed Conflict
Security Council, in Presidential Statement, Reiterates ‘Strong Condemnation’ of Recruitment, Use of Children in Armed Conflict
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6341st Meeting (AM & PM)
Security Council, in Presidential Statement, Reiterates ‘Strong
Condemnation’ of Recruitment, Use of Children in Armed Conflict
Council’s Collective Voice ‘Must Be Used to Make Outcasts of Those
Who Commit Acts against Children in War,’ Special Representative Says
The United Nations Security Council today reasserted its strong condemnation of the recruitment, killing, maiming, raping and other abuse of children during armed conflict, and expressed its readiness to take targeted measures against persistent perpetrators of those crimes.
Following a day-long meeting that heard from over 60 speakers — including the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, representatives of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and a young abduction victim from Nepal — the Council expressed particular concern about the growing number of attacks against schools, teachers and pupils, through a statement read out by the representative of Mexico, which holds the 15-member body’s presidency for the month of June.
In considering targeted measures against persistent abusers of children as listed in the Secretary-General’s annual report (see Background), the Council invited its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to cooperate with relevant sanctions committees and their expert groups.
The Council called on the Secretary-General to redouble efforts to strengthen the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism as required in its resolution 1882 (2009). Welcoming the signing of action plans on halting abuse of children by some parties to conflict, it called on those that had not yet done so to sign such strategies without further delay.
“The collective voice of the Security Council, guided by the common moral compunction of humanity to protect its children, must be used to make outcasts of those who commit acts against children in war,” declared Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative. She welcomed resolution 1882 (2009), which had made sexual violence and the killing and maiming of children grounds for listing in the annual report, but she noted that having those two new “triggers” required further efforts to collect reliable information.
Describing cooperation with other actors on promoting the signing and implementation of action plans, she said that, for those who did not sign or implement such plans, sanctions and other accountability mechanisms were needed, with the strong involvement of national Governments.
Among growing threats to children, she spoke of attacks on schools, the use of children for military intelligence, the recruitment of children as suicide bombers and the use of aerial bombardment in counter-insurgency. She said that universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child — respectively on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography — would signify international moral consensus on protecting children.
Hilde Frafjord Johnson, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, said that, in the past year some 9,500 children had been removed from armed groups in countries implementing monitoring and reporting mechanism. That figure did not include the almost 3,000 children released in Nepal in January and February this year, she said, adding that those numbers told a compelling story: Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005) were making a real difference in children’s lives. UNICEF would continue to work for more forceful efforts to use them and other tools to assist the many thousands of children still suffering in conflict situations.
Atul Khare, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the inclusion of specific child protection provisions in peacekeeping mandates had helped the Department of Peacekeeping Operations strengthen its child-protection activities in countries where their missions were deployed, in collaboration with the Office of the Special Representative and UNICEF. Today there were Child Protection Advisers in nine peacekeeping operations, and extensive training of peacekeepers on child protection issues. He urged collective and concerted engagement at all levels to assure security for children affected by war.
Finally, Manju Gurung recounted her ordeal of abduction by Nepal’s Maoists at the age of 13, forced to perform heavy labour, trained for combat, beaten for refusing to marry and kept out of school before a human rights organization secured her release. “I felt sad, damaged and hopeless,” she said of the time she spent away from her family.
Following those presentations, delegates welcomed the effects of the adoption of Council resolution 1882 (2009), particularly the results that had been achieved through securing action plans from parties to conflicts, monitoring and reporting efforts and making additional violations and groups subject to listing in the Secretary-General’s report.
All speakers, however, also expressed deep concern over continuing abuse of children during conflict and the increased attacks against schools, and urged more coordinated and sustained effort at all levels to curb such actions. Also, most supported targeted sanctions against armed groups which persisted in abusing children over multiple reporting periods. Some countries, however, objected to the listing of their own armed forces or police, while others urged extra caution to make sure the information used for listing and de-listing countries was reliable and that sanctions, if applied, did not adversely affect the children it was supposed to help.
Council President Patricia Espinosa, Secretary for External Relations of Mexico, urged all States that had not done so to ratify the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, maintaining that, “Protecting the most vulnerable is not only an ethical imperative […] it is also protecting our nations themselves”.
Also speaking today were the representatives of France, United States, Austria, Uganda, Turkey, Lebanon, Gabon, Russian Federation, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria, United Kingdom, China, Japan, Canada (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children in Armed Conflict), Switzerland, Colombia, Yemen, New Zealand, Thailand, Germany, Liechtenstein, South Africa, Viet Nam, Israel, Italy, Peru, Costa Rica (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Croatia, Argentina, Republic of Korea, India, Nepal, Iraq, Finland (also on behalf of Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), Afghanistan, Indonesia, Chile, Hungary, Belgium, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Netherlands, Myanmar, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Philippines, Bangladesh and Armenia.
The Acting Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations also spoke, and the Permanent Observer for Palestine made a statement.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m., suspended at 1:04 p.m., resumed at 3:10 p.m. and closed at 8 p.m.
The full text of the statement contained in document S/PRST/2010 reads as follows:
“1. The Security Council takes note with appreciation of the 9th report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (S/2010/181) and the recommendations contained therein as well as the positive developments referred to in the report, and notes the continuing challenges in the implementation of its resolution 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009) and other relevant resolutions reflected therein.
“2. The Security Councilreiterates its equally strong condemnation of all violations of applicable international law involving the recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict as well as their re-recruitment, killing and maiming, rape and other sexual violence, abductions, attacks against schools or hospitals and denial of humanitarian access by parties to armed conflict. The Council condemns all other violations of international law, including international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law, committed against children in situations of armed conflict. The Council demands that all relevant parties immediately put an end to such practices and take special measures to protect children.
“3. The Security Council expresses deep concern about the growing number of attacks or threats of attacks in contravention of applicable international law against schools and educational facilities, and teachers and pupils, in particular the specific targeting of girls and in this regard calls upon all parties to armed conflict to cease immediately these violations of international humanitarian law.
“4. The Security Council welcomes the steps taken by the Secretary-General in the implementation of resolution 1882 (2009) by including in the annexes of his report those parties to armed conflict that engage, in contravention of applicable international law, in patterns of killing and maiming of children and/or rape and other sexual violence, in situations of armed conflict.
“5. The Security Council calls upon the Secretary-General to redouble his efforts to ensure strengthening of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism’s capacities with a view to the implementation of resolution 1882 (2009) to allow for prompt advocacy and effective response to all violations and abuses committed against children, inter alia, by ensuring that all relevant UN agencies actively help to collect accurate, objective, reliable and verifiable information on acts of rape and other sexual violence committed against children, and also by ensuring synergies and avoiding overlap among relevant UN entities, at the headquarters and country levels as requested by resolutions 1882 (2009) and 1888 (2009).
“6. The Security Council reaffirms its decision in OP11 of its resolution 1882 (2009) to continue to include specific provisions for the protection of children in the mandates of all relevant United Nations peacekeeping, peacebuilding and political missions, encourages the deployment of Child Protection Advisers to such missions and calls upon the Secretary-General to ensure that such advisors are recruited and deployed in line with the Council’s relevant country-specific resolutions and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) Policy Directive on Mainstreaming the Protection Rights and Wellbeing of Children Affected by Armed Conflict. It further underscores the importance of training on child rights and child protection for all personnel involved in United Nations peacekeeping, peace building and political missions and in this regard welcomes the ongoing efforts by DPKO in developing the policy implementation plan, including training programmes and materials.
“7. The Security Council welcomes the progress made in preventing and responding to violations and abuses committed against children especially with regard to the signing of action plans by some parties as mentioned in the 9th report of the Secretary-General (S/2010/181).
“8. The Security Council reiteratesits call on parties to armed conflict listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict that have not already done so to prepare and implement, without further delay, action plans to halt recruitment and use of children, patterns of killing and maiming of children and/or rape and other sexual violence against children, in violation of applicable international law, in situations of armed conflict.
“9. The Security Council also reiterates its call to all parties listed in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict to address all other violations and abuses committed against children and undertake specific commitments and measures in this regard.
“10. The Security Council expresses deep concern that certain parties persist in committing violations and abuses against children, and expresses its readiness to adopt targeted and graduated measures against persistent perpetrators taking in to account the relevant provisions of its resolutions 1539 (2004), 1612 (2005) and 1882 (2009). To this end, the Council invites:
(a) Its Working Group on children and armed conflictto exchange pertinent information with relevant Sanctions Committees, in particular through communication of the Working Group’s relevant recommendations.
(b) Its relevant Sanctions Committees to consider inviting more regularly the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict to brief them on specific information contained in the Secretary General’s reports.
(c) The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict to share specific information contained in the Secretary-General’s reports with relevant Sanctions Committees expert groups.
“11. The Security Council expresses its intention, when establishing or renewing the mandate of relevant Sanctions Committees, to consider provisions pertaining to parties that are in violation of applicable international law relating to the rights and protection of children in armed conflict.
“12. The Security Council expresses its readiness to consider specific recommendations from its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict on violations and abuses committed against children by parties listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General's reports, whenever they occur, with a view to considering action on them, without prejudging or implying a decision by the Security Council as to whether or not to include a situation in its agenda.
“13. The Security Council calls uponconcerned Member States to take decisive and immediate action against persistent perpetrators of violations and abuses committed against children in situations of armed conflict, and further calls upon them to bring to justice those responsible for such violations that are prohibited under applicable international law, including with regard to recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming and rape and other sexual violence, through national justice systems, and where applicable, international justice mechanisms and mixed criminal courts and tribunals, with a view to ending impunity for those committing crimes against children.
“14. Given the regional dimensions of some armed conflicts referred to in the Secretary- General’s report, the Security Council reiterates its request that United Nations peacekeeping, peacebuilding and political missions as well as United Nations country teams, within their respective mandates and in close cooperation with governments of the concerned countries, develop appropriate strategies and coordination mechanisms for information exchange and cooperation on cross-border child protection concerns.
“15. The Security Council welcomes the overall work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict and highlights the importance of her field visits in enhancing dialogue with concerned governments and parties to the conflict, including by negotiating action plans, securing commitments, advocating for appropriate response mechanisms and ensuring appropriate attention and follow up to the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict conclusions and recommendations.
“16. The Security Council also welcomes the efforts undertaken by UNICEF in carrying out its mandate on child protection by supporting the overall development and implementation of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) and ensuring appropriate response to children in armed conflict, and encourages it to continue to follow up, through the MRM Country Task Forces, on relevant conclusions and recommendations of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.
“17. The Security Council welcomes the sustained activity of its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and stresses the importance of continuing to adopt timely conclusions and recommendations in line with resolutions 1612 (2005) and 1882 (2009). Furthermore, the Council invites the Working Group to fully implement its toolkit (S/2006/724), inter alia, by carrying out a country-specific visit within one year, to examine a situation referred to in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s report in order to better fulfil its mandate and enhance its capacity to protect children affected by armed conflict.
“18. Recalling previous Presidential statements on children and armed conflict as well as paragraph 18 of resolution 1882 (2009), the Security Council reiterates its request to the Secretary-General to provide administrative and substantive support for its Working Group on children and armed conflict and further requests the Secretary-General to take action on this subject within one month of this date.
“19. The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to submit a report by May 2011 on the implementation of its resolutions and Presidential statements on children and armed conflict, including the present statement.”
When the Security Council met this morning, members had before them the latest report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (document A/64/742–S/2010/181), covering 2009, the first part of which contains information on measures undertaken by parties listed in annexes to the report, with a view to ending violations and abuses committed against children in armed conflict. The second part provides an update on implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism established by Council resolution 1612 (2005).
The report’s third part includes information on six grave violations committed in conflict situations: recruitment and use of children; killing and maiming of children; rape and other sexual violence; abductions of children; attacks on schools and hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access to children. The fourth section details the criteria and procedures used in listing and de-listing parties to armed conflict, as annexed to the report. Annex I lists parties that recruit, use, kill, maim, and/or commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children in situations of armed conflict on the Council’s agenda. Annex II lists parties that commit those violations in situations not on the Council’s agenda.
Measures outlined in the first section include the signing of action plans to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and to secure their release from armed forces and groups, between the United Nations on the one hand and, on the other, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in the Philippines; the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, of Southern Sudan; and the Government of Nepal, and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist. In Sudan, important commitments to start negotiations with the United Nations towards the development of action plans and the release of children were received from several parties, while in Sri Lanka, distinct steps were being taken to ensure implementation of a 2008 action plan signed by the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal.
As for addressing impunity, the report notes that, in many of the situations covered, the near-total impunity for grave crimes perpetrated against children poses a serious challenge to the protection of children. For example, despite steps to prosecute violators in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — including the conviction of Mai-Mai commander Gédéon Kyungu Mutanga by the Haut-Katanga military court for crimes against humanity — concern was raised about the appointments of known perpetrators of grave crimes against children to Government or senior military positions.
The Secretary-General welcomes the signing of action plans, as well as the progress made by parties in releasing children, addressing impunity, and reforming national legislation to put international legal prohibitions into practice. He encourages the Council to continue to insist that the listed parties implement time-bound action plans to halt abuses and take measures against those that fail to comply. He also encourages the Council to call upon the listed parties to engage with United Nations peacekeeping and/or political missions and country teams in undertaking specific measures to address the violations for which they were cited.
He goes on to urge concerned Member States to allow contact between the United Nations and non-State actors in order to ensure the protection of children, including for purposes of preparing action plans to end the use of child soldiers and secure their release. The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict should convene United Nations departments, agencies and programmes to devise a more stable funding structure for the provision of the staffing and other resources required to fulfil all elements of the action plans.
The Secretary-General goes on to urge the Council to weigh more vigorous measures against persistent violators listed for at least five years; consider including child recruitment and use in the mandates of all its sanctions committees; streamline the sharing of information between its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and the sanctions committees; and ensure that the Special Representative is invited to brief its members on a more regular basis.
In order to facilitate the work of the sanctions committees, the report continues, expert groups are encouraged to incorporate child protection expertise into their investigation and research teams. In cases where there are no existing committees, consideration should be given to the means by which targeted measures might be applied against persistent perpetrators of grave violations against children. The Chair of United Nations country task forces on monitoring and reporting work is requested to improve the collection and verification of information on sexual violence against children by liaising with entities working on other relevant mandates.
The Secretary-General encourages Governments to implement strategies against sexual violence, including by providing the victims with health care, psychosocial attention and security, among other things. He expresses concern at the reported use of children by national armed forces and strongly urges the Governments concerned to ensure that their forces cease such practices and hand the children over to child protection authorities as soon as possible. He encourages States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to strengthen national and international measures to prevent the recruitment of children into armed forces or armed groups, and their use in hostilities.
RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, declared: “The collective voice of the Security Council, guided by the common moral compunction of humanity to protect its children, must be used to make outcasts of those who commit acts against children in war.” Council resolution 1882 (2009) had made sexual violence against children and the killing and maiming of children grounds for listing in annexes to the Secretary-General’s annual report, she noted, adding that having those two new “triggers” required the further development of methods and practices for collecting reliable information.
She said her Office had been working with Patricia Sellers, who was using her extensive experience with the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda to develop templates for action plans on the killing and maiming of children and on sexual violence against children. She was also finalizing guidance to the field on resolution 1882 (2009) so as to enhance monitoring and reporting on those two triggers. Work was also being undertaken with Margot Wallström, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, to develop common strategies, especially with regard to sexual violence.
Parties listed in the Secretary-General’s report could be de-listed if they entered into an action plan with the United Nations, she continued. Nepal’s Maoist Party had released almost 3,000 minors under such a framework, with the Office of the Special Representative, the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights working together to secure and implement the terms of release.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, in the Philippines, had also entered into an action plan, she said, adding that over the last month, progress had been made on commitments by the Sudan Liberation Army (Free Will) and the Sudan Liberation Army (Abu Ghasim) in Darfur. In addition, the ceasefire agreement between the Government of the Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement included specific key provisions for the release of children, while the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army had this year entered into an action plan for the release of children associated with their forces.
Nevertheless, the Secretary-General’s report highlighted a list of the most persistent violators, who had been annexed to his reports for a minimum of five years, she said. The Sanctions Committee on the Democratic Republic of the Congo had had the foresight to include crimes against children as grounds for listing, and other sanctions committees should consider doing the same, especially since resolution 1882 (2009) called for closer cooperation among the sanctions committees.
As for listed parties not covered by sanctions, other mechanisms must be developed so that perpetrators did not sense reluctance on the Council’s part to hold them fully accountable, she said, pointing out that since many of them were non-State actors, Governments should endorse the use of action plans for them as well, or the chances of securing the release of children would otherwise be very slim.
Highlighting new issues with regard to children and armed conflict, she said they included attacks on schools, the use of children for military intelligence and the recruitment of children as suicide bombers. Counter-insurgency also posed its own set of difficulties, with the number of children being killed in aerial bombardments and drone strikes causing great concern, she said, noting that she had met with General Stanley McChrystal, commander of international forces in Afghanistan, on that issue. In 2009, more than 100 children had been killed by aerial bombardment alone, she added.
She said that, alongside UNICEF and the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, her Office had begun a campaign for universal ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the involvement of children in armed conflict. As part of that “Zero under Eighteen” campaign, she would be “knocking on doors” of Member States that had not yet signed and ratified the Optional Protocol, while also encouraging those that had done so to speak to their neighbours. “Universal ratification signifies an international moral consensus, a consensus that is necessary to give further strength to laws and norms protecting children from unlawful recruitment,” she emphasized.
ATUL KHARE, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the inclusion of specific child protection provisions in peacekeeping mandates had helped the Department of Peacekeeping Operations strengthen its child-protection activities in countries where their missions were deployed, in collaboration with the Office of the Special Representative and UNICEF. Today there were Child Protection Advisers in nine peacekeeping operations. Additionally, a focal point had been established recently in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and efforts were under way to strengthen the child protection capabilities of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
Significant progress had been recorded through dialogue at the political level and in the field, he said, recalling that the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) had reported in April that the Sudan Liberation Army (Abu Ghasim) had issued an order prohibiting the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Efforts continued to reach out to other groups and encourage them to formulate and implement action plans to end grave violations against children in Darfur.
Monitoring and reporting on such violations was an ongoing priority, he stressed, noting that the Peacekeeping Department now co-chaired five monitoring-and-reporting-mechanism task forces that were pivotal to promoting accountability and strengthening the overall response. With the recent adoption of resolution 1882 (2009), the collection of accurate, timely and verified information was being improved by leveraging other monitoring capabilities and resources within peacekeeping operations, such as those for combating sexual violence in armed conflict.
There was also heavy investment in training on child protection and child rights, he said, recalling that in 2009 alone, more than 8,500 members of peacekeeping operations in four missions had received training, with over 66 per cent of those trained military personnel and 26 per cent police. In the Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti, advisers were reporting that training had resulted in heightened awareness of key child-protection issues. The standardization of training materials and the strengthening of pre-deployment and in-mission training were being accomplished with partners, he added.
At the strategic and policy level, the Peacekeeping Department had adopted a system-wide policy on mainstreaming the protection of children affected by armed conflict, he said. It had prioritized close coordination with other operational actors, particularly UNICEF, the Office of the Special Representative and United Nations country teams, building on the comparative advantage of each actor. He reiterated the Department’s unwavering commitment to the protection of children in conflict situations. “Only by collective and concerted engagement at all levels can we secure real protection for children affected by war”, he said, underlining that, as always, the Department looked to the Security Council for specific mandates, leadership, guidance and support.
HILDE FRAFJORD JOHNSON, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), recalled that, during her 2009 visit to a demobilization centre operated by the Chadian Armed Forces, she had met boys still in combat uniform with horrific stories to tell: they had witnessed brutal attacks on their homes and families, and been forced to join rebel groups. Asked about their hopes, they had all named education as their priority goal. “We cannot ignore their stories or deny them the fulfilment of their dreams. This is within our collective reach,” she said. However, doing so would require sustained engagement at the highest possible level, stronger partnerships and robust delivery in the field.
Describing notable progress in the past year, she said thousands of children had been released from armed groups and armed forces, and some 9,500 children had been removed from armed groups in countries implementing monitoring and reporting mechanism. That figure did not include the almost 3,000 children released in Nepal in January and February this year, she said, adding that those numbers told a compelling story: Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005) were making a real difference in children’s lives.
Now there was a need to make change happen in the lives of many more children, she stressed, noting that resolution 1882 (2009) expanded the number of triggers for listing parties so that more grave violations would be associated with “naming and shaming” efforts. While welcoming the two new triggers for listing parties who committed rape and other forms of grave sexual violence, and who killed and maimed children, she described the stories of women and girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as “horrific”.
Children still accounted for a considerable number of war-related casualties, and were most affected by landmines and cluster munitions, she said. Three of the six grave violations in conflict were subject to the Security Council framework, and UNICEF was fully committed to strengthening monitoring and reporting mechanisms in relation to all three violations in all countries concerned, she said, adding that the goal should be to use the full potential of that framework to hold perpetrators accountable. There must also be a focus on other grave violations against children, and a reversal in the trend of attacks on schools.
The continued denial of humanitarian access, as in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, had grave implications for children, and was unacceptable, she stressed. The child protection framework, supported by the Council, spelled out the accountability of perpetrators, in addition to outlining the responsibilities of key stakeholders, who included the Council and the Governments concerned. “We cannot claim ignorance when it comes to the situation of children,” she emphasized, adding: “Never have we been so well informed. Silence is not an option.”
For its part, UNICEF stood ready to assist the Council and its Working Group as it used all its tools for clear and determined action, she said. It looked forward to supporting possible missions to the field to consider the data compiled and assist in-country advocacy efforts, she said, calling on donors to ensure that operational agencies had the necessary capacity to address grave violations. With its partners, UNICEF had worked to strengthen the monitoring of grave violations, including the global roll-out of a new monitoring-and-reporting field manual and training tool kit.
She said UNICEF had ensured that the protection of children and women in armed conflict and other crises were prioritized in its “Core Commitments for Children in Humanitarian Action”, and was scaling up initiatives to develop the capacity of its country and regional offices, as well as at Headquarters and among partners. But in order to take action, a legal framework must be in place, she said, urging all States that had not yet signed, ratified and implemented the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to do so as a matter of priority. Noting that Somalia was the only country where an entire generation had known only violence and conflict, and where grave violations were committed against children every day, she emphasized that Somali children deserved a better future, as did millions of others.
MANJU GURUNG recounted her experience of having been taken by Nepal’s Maoists during their “One Family, One Member” campaign, saying that in September 2005, she had been given an orientation to the Maoist Party, only to realize that she would not be able to return home. “At that time, I did not know that children had rights and that recruiting a 13-year-old girl was a crime,” she explained. “I did not have a choice.” She recalled that other children of her age had been coerced. They had not been fed on time or clothed, and had received only 50 rupees (approximately 75 United States cents) a month for toiletries.
Describing how the Maoists had organized a campaign to win villagers’ trust by constructing roads and tilling the land, she said that, helping in that work, she had had to carry heavy boulders and help dig the roads. While travelling from one place to another, she had often seen other children going to school. “That made me very sad.” When she was almost 14 years old, the group had travelled to her home district, she said, recalling that she had not spoken to her family in a year. While knowing she was with the Maoists, they had not looked for her, fearing repercussions. “What could I do? I was scared that if the Nepal Army would see me, they would kill me or my parents.” Taking a risk, she had sent a letter to her mother, who had eventually found her and brought her home.
A month later, she said, her school had been requested to send children to the campaign, and she had been one of those chosen. After another 15 months, the Maoists had enrolled her in their training programme, in which she had learned how to use .303 rifles and AK-47s, and how to make and detonate bombs. She had finished her training in second place out of a total of 160 people, and had been made commander of seven people. She had been beaten for refusing to marry others in the party, but over time, she had begun to accept her fate. “I felt sad, damaged and hopeless.” She had made friends in the party, many of whom had died or been disabled during fighting. Some had told her that it was always the youngest fighters that were sent to the frontlines, while the commanders gave orders from behind.
She said that after the peace agreement had been signed, people from the Maoist army had gathered in cantonments and there had been talk of a registration and verification process. The United Nations had been called in and many fighters had been in the first registration conducted. Senior commanders would tell her that her heart and throat problems would disappear if she married, and continue to harass her when she refused. She had managed to contact her sister and uncle, who had brought her home in May 2007 at the age of 15. While happy, she had been scarred, and villagers viewed her with suspicion, she said, adding that she had restarted her education, continuing from the sixth grade, but under constant threat from the Maoists.
Finally, someone from a human rights organization had intervened and helped her formally secure release from the Maoist Party, she said. Other organizations had helped her family generate income, and today, she was raising livestock. The proceeds had helped cover her throat surgery and facilitated the launch of a club that advocated for children’s rights and HIV issues. She said she had recently heard about a formal discharge process for children remaining in cantonments. “I am happy that they will now have a chance to choose what they want to do with their lives,” she said, adding she also understood the challenges they would face.
Council President PATRICIA ESPINOSA CANTELLANO, Secretary for External Relations of Mexico, spoke in her national capacity in reaffirming her country’s commitment to the protection of children in armed conflict. Despite progress, there was still much to be done, as demonstrated by Ms. Gurung’s testimony. Crimes against children in conflict were war crimes, she emphasized, calling on the Council to consider stronger measures against those who persisted in abusing children. Where States lacked the capacity to prosecute such crimes, international action should be taken, she added.
To improve international efforts to protect children, States must ratify all international conventions on their protection, she said, calling for the strengthening of monitoring mechanisms. Comprehensive programmes for the reintegration of children released from the ranks of armed groups, as well as other support should be provided. “Protecting the most vulnerable is not only an ethical imperative […] it was also protecting our nations,” she said.
GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) said that if parties to conflicts failed to develop and implement action plans to end abuses against children, action should be taken against them. He called for the timely development of strategies to make that happen. Beyond sanctions, he agreed with the Secretary-General’s recommendations for protecting children in situations of conflict, and expressed support for the work of the International Criminal Court in that regard, including the arraignment of major suspects such as Thomas Lubanga.
There was a need to address the cross-border dimension of conflicts and to take stronger action against attacks on schools, he said, emphasizing also the importance of country visits and of developing and implementing action plans in the field while reintegrating children released from armed groups. France had taken actions in that regard, and called on all States that had not yet done so to ratify the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
SUSAN RICE ( United States), especially thanking Ms. Gurung, told her, “Please know how much we admire you,” quoting the nineteenth century abolitionist Frederick Douglass: “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Two centuries later, that truth was seen in country after country, conflict after conflict. Children were abused and their rights violated around the world. Even after conflicts ended, scars remained in the form of prolonged trauma and impaired social, emotional and cognitive development. The grim litany of abuses included rape, sexual exploitation and other forms of sexual violence, she said, adding that such acts robbed children of their innocence and risked stoking the very conflicts in which they suffered so gravely.
The United States fully and firmly embraced its duty to protect children and would not rest until the last child soldier was released, she declared. Describing the Secretary-general’s report as an important tool for upholding that common responsibility, she called for the thorough verification of all information on violations so as to ensure accuracy. The United States agreed that child-protection language should be included in peacekeeping mandates, and, given the regional dimensions of conflicts, it was important to speed up the creation of strategies and coordination mechanisms.
She expressed support for the Secretary-General’s recommendation to include the unlawful recruitment of children as one of the listing criteria for appropriate Security Council sanctions regimes. Such coordination would allow the application of more vigorous efforts against violators. While heartened that parties to conflict had taken steps to protect children in Afghanistan, Burundi and Nepal, violations were endemic in too many places, notably Somalia, where recruitment placed several thousands of children in the line of fire. She called on the parties to that conflict to immediately cease recruitment and release the children still in their ranks.
The United States was gravely concerned about the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, notably the abhorrent practices of the Lord’s Resistance Army, she said. It was also deeply disturbed about the Central African Republic, where recruitment was so bad that children now comprised one third of the country’s self-defence militias. While there had been some hard-won progress, much more must be done, she said, adding that her country would remain deeply dedicated to the work of the United Nations and looked forward to working closely with the Council on today’s vital issue. The only morally tolerable number of child soldiers was zero, she stressed.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING ( Austria), associating himself with the European Union, welcomed the signing of an action plan by the parties in Nepal and the swift completion of the demobilization process. He also welcomed the signing of action plans with parties in the Philippines and the Sudan, as well positive developments in Burundi. However, the fact that parties to armed conflict continued to commit grave abuses against children was deeply worrying, he said, noting new listings of parties that recruited and used children, and engaged in killing and sexual violence. Austria called on parties listed in the report’s annexes to stop the violations immediately and prepare action plans, and strongly condemned the growing number of attacks on schools, as well as the specific targeting of girl students in some countries.
Acknowledging the criteria for listing and de-listing parties to armed conflict and the creation of templates for action plans, he said he understood the notion of a “pattern” as involving the “multiple commission of acts being perpetrated in the same context”. That should not imply a high quantitative threshold, he said, pointing out that the provision of timely, accurate information had become more important with the introduction of new listing criteria under resolution 1882 (2009). To increase the coherence of the Council’s work, provisions relating to violations of international law committed against children should be included in the mandates of relevant sanctions committees. Austria also supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to incorporate child protection expertise into the sanctions committees’ expert groups.
RUHAKANA RUGUNDA ( Uganda) said it was essential that children in conflict situations be protected against the horrific crimes committed against them. Uganda called on all parties in situations of armed conflict to adhere to international instruments protecting educational facilities from attack. Strongly condemning such attacks, he said his country had first-hand experience, having suffered a June 1998 attack by an armed group on a technical college, in which 80 students had been burned alive and more than 100 abducted.
Noting that his country was a party to both Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he urged other Member States that had not yet signed on to do so, and diligently to perform their reporting duties. He welcomed the call for time-bound action plans to halt violations, as well as the Council’s request for measures against parties that failed to comply. Contact between the United Nations and non-State actors could be positive, he said, while stressing the importance of taking the specific conditions on the ground into account in that regard. Uganda encouraged the establishment of a broader set of conditions that would bring about vigorous measures by the Council against persistent perpetrators, he said, stressing the need to accelerate the development of cross-border child-protection strategies.
ERTUĞRUL APAKAN ( Turkey) noted that, in addition to being abducted and recruited as combatants, children were also victims of sexual trafficking, with girls particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. Furthermore, many children lacked access to education or basic health care during armed conflicts, a trend that must be reversed to better protect against child abuse. Stronger child protection frameworks were also needed, he said, emphasizing the importance of investigating, prosecuting and punishing those who committed grave violations against children. Attacks on educational facilities, schools and pupils were another matter of grave concern, which the Council should address in future deliberations.
He urged the Council to keep three points in mind: that States should be encouraged to cooperate with the Working Group at every stage; that the Group’s work should be expedited and facilitated; and that priority should be given to implementation of United Nations documents. On the last point, the Turkish Government strongly supported each United Nations instrument and initiative relating to the rights of children. The first priority should be to recruit every country to the effort of supporting and ensuring implementation of all United Nations conventions and protocols. Children made up almost one third of the world population, and were its future, he pointed out, underscoring the need for action to save them from the devastating effects of armed conflicts.
CAROLINE ZIADE ( Lebanon) said that the lost childhood of children in conflict was a threat to the stability and prosperity of their nations and communities. In her region, a just and lasting peace could not be established while threats to children continued, including cluster bombs used by Israel in Lebanon and Gaza and the embargo of Gaza, of which children make up 45 per cent of the population. She hoped that someday the listing criteria would be extended to all six violations of the latest Council resolution on the issue, and that due attention would be paid to underlying causes of conflict.
She welcomed the guidelines on the protection of children by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the deployment of child protection advisers in missions. Donors were urged to ensure a predictable financing structure for implementing action plans and reintegrating children affected by armed conflict. It was imperative for the Working Group to respond swiftly to urgent and sudden situations when children were affected, and for more effective follow-up to occur. Noting that prosecution of violators was still rare, she called for more support for maintaining the rule of law at a national level. She also called for the improvement of psycho-social support services to all children associated with armed conflict, who paid the price of such conflict on a daily basis.
EMMANUEL ISSOZE-NGONDET ( Gabon) said that the ratification and the implementation of international legal instruments represented a major step in the protection of children against violations of their human rights during armed conflict. However, new forms of warfare, involving terrorism and an increasing number of armed groups sustained by the proliferation of small weapons and the mining of resources, continued to take a heavy toll on children.
His country vigorously condemned such shameful and odious practices, said, and welcomed the mobilization of the international community against them. In particular, the monitoring mechanism experimentally put in place in seven countries in conflict, was particularly encouraging, as was the example of Burundi and the developments in Colombia and Myanmar. He welcomed the publication of the lists in the Annexes of the Secretary-General’s report, and regional efforts against violations of child rights in Africa. All levels of the Security Council must be involved in the efforts to protect children, including the Counter-Terrorism Committee and political missions. Awareness, accountability and concerted action by the entire international community were also critical.
VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) agreed that due attention should be given to the violations of rights of children in armed conflict and welcomed practical steps for including, in the reports’ annexes, parties responsible for crimes that included killing and maiming. There also was a need to look at the idea of including country-specific situations. His Government found unjustified references to situations in India, Pakistan and Yemen, as they could not be called armed conflicts. It also condemned premeditated attacks against children and the disproportionate use of force. He was notably concerned at the increased attacks against education facilities and condemned grave violations of humanitarian law committed in “Operation Cast Lead” in Gaza. He called on those parties to conflict to comply with their obligations.
Children were also victims in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, stressing that it was important that Al-Qaida and the Taliban be included in the Annex of violators. The Russian Federation was concerned by unjustified attempts to call children’s deaths “collateral damage”. Welcoming the use of action plans, he cautioned that contact with United Nations structures could take place only with approval by the Governments involved. Action plans were important instruments but were not a goal themselves. The Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict was working to develop recommendations, and constructive cooperation with the concerned Governments was needed in order to implement them. Most of the Secretary-General’s recommendations deserved close analysis from the view of practical application. An exchange of views was needed on the criteria for calling parties to conflict “persistent violators”.
NORBERTO MORETTI ( Brazil) hailed the signing of action plans with groups in the Philippines, Sudan and Nepal, and concurred on the need for contact between the United Nations and non-State actors in order to prepare and implement the action plans. Such contacts must occur on a case-by-case basis, with full respect for the sovereignty of the countries involved. Close coordination with local authorities and other relevant actors was of key importance, and it was also important to compile best practices for collecting data, especially in cases of sexual violence. It might be worth considering ways for multilateral organizations and Governments to cooperate with interested States in building capacity and providing technical assistance, he said. That was particularly relevant in cases where shortcomings were mostly due to lack of expertise or judicial structures.
Noting that poverty and social injustice made violations against and abuse of children more likely, he said the Council and its Working Group could make recommendations regarding specific socio-economic conditions affecting child protection in the context of armed conflict. Where a peacekeeping operation was on the ground, child protection should be integrated into mission-wide protection strategies, as called for in resolution 1894 (2009). Those strategies could include plans for the effective protection of educational facilities and to support community leaders in identifying attempts by armed groups to recruit or harass children. As for the functioning of the Working Group, he stressed the importance of sufficient administrative support and expressed concern about preserving the Working Group’s institutional memory. It would also be useful at some point in the near future to discuss making its working methods more fluid.
IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the progress made by some parties to conflict in releasing child soldiers, but expressed deep concern about the continuing use of child soldiers and other violations of children’s rights. Urging those listed in the Annex to the Secretary-General’s report to engage in constructive dialogue to prepare and implement time-bound action plans to stop all abuse against children, he encouraged donors to ensure adequate, timely funding for the implementation of those actions plans. Education packages and access to basic needs, including psychological support, for reintegration of child soldiers into their communities should be ensured. He expressed particular concern about attacks on schools, calling for vigorous measures against persistent violators of children’s rights and the strengthening of monitoring and reporting systems.
BULUS PAUL ZOM LOLO (Nigeria) welcomed the growing coordination of actors on the protection and reintegration of children affected by armed conflict, who suffered the worst of war’s consequences, adding that he was also pleased that the latest Council resolution on the issue extended the Secretary-General’s reporting to additional violations and to situations not previously on the Council’s agenda. The regional agreement signed by Nigeria and five other nations last week was another step forward in protecting children, he said, cautioning, however, that much remained to be done.
Adequate support must be provided to the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, which must cooperate better with other actors, he emphasized, adding that violators, particularly persistent ones, must be held to account. As a troop-contributing country, Nigeria welcomed training for peacekeepers on the issues, he said, urging greater engagement by the Department of Political Affairs. He also called for other measures to ensure that child protection was a central focus of peacekeeping missions.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) said that, were it not for the Special Representative and the Working Group, over 350 children in Burundi would not be with their families. The greatest impact on children’s lives could be made through the implementation of country action plans and new country task forces, notably in Afghanistan. In the Sudan, the United Kingdom would work with others to implement security sector reform to help the Sudan People’s Liberation Army develop a body to be accountable for addressing human rights. Supporting the work of UNICEF to assist children in Sri Lanka, he said that non-governmental organizations and civil society had contributed to information gathering. He urged all parties that had signed action plans to redouble their efforts. In addition, as outlined in resolution 1882 (2009), children were being subjected to killing and maiming. The report analysed those violations and he urged that reporting and follow-up action be strengthened.
The United Kingdom was also concerned by attacks on education facilities, and he stressed that children must be able to learn, and teachers to teach, free from the threat of rape or sexual violence. Indeed, the Council must make better use of the reporting that it received. Its conclusions must be robust and violators must be held to account. Among the challenges, he said that in “ Burma”, the Government placed children in great danger. Welcoming that Government’s establishment of a committee to prevent the recruitment of underage children, he said complaints must be investigated. His Government would continue to work with the international community to create a safer environment for children around the world. He strongly supported the presidential statement.
LI BAODONG ( China) attached importance to the issue of children and armed conflict, condemning the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Supporting United Nations efforts to promote the protection of conflict-affected children, he said that to effectively do so, it was necessary to start at the source. As the Council had the duty to maintain international peace and security, it should attach importance to the prevention of such abuses. The international community should redouble its efforts to eliminate poverty and promote sustainable development with a view to creating a social environment conductive to children’s healthy development.
He went on to say that local conditions must be considered, as conflict situations — both on and outside the Council’s agenda — were different. Importance should be attached to the protection of children, but it was necessary to employ different approaches. China did not favour the Council’s frequent use of sanctions — or threat thereof — and urged caution in that regard. The role of the Government in countries concerned must also be fully used. Various resolutions stated that Governments had the primary responsibility for protecting children. The Council should communicate more with them and avoid politicizing the issues. In field work, it must cooperate with the Government and form synergies. He encouraged United Nations bodies, regional organizations, the World Bank and non-governmental organizations to strengthen cooperation and adopt an integrated strategy to help countries protect children. China would work with the global community to contribute to the protection of children.
YUKIO TAKASU ( Japan), citing progress in reducing the number of child soldiers around the world, said parties had been de-listed from the report’s annexes and action plans had been signed in the Sudan, Nepal and the Philippines. Six Central African nations had adopted the N’Djamena Declaration last week. However, new parties also had been placed on the list, and eliminating the scourge of inhumane treatment of children was a major challenge. Japan was especially concerned about 16 conflict parties that had been listed for the last five years. To ensure the accountability of perpetrators, the Council, in resolution 1539 (2004), pledged to consider imposing targeted measures against them, but that practice was not consistent. The Council should include provisions related to parties committing serious violations against children in its resolution on sanction committees and the Working Group should exchange information with the sanction committees.
The Secretary-General’s report listed for the first time parties responsible for rape and other sexual violence, he said, adding that the relatively low incidence of sexual violence against children did not reflect the reality on the ground; rather, it reflected the difficulties in collecting and verifying information. Reliable data was indispensable for appropriate action, and he encouraged the Special Representative to work with the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict in the monitoring and reporting of such abuse. Education was the most essential means of promoting human potential and he strongly condemned the widespread scope of attacks against schools, noted in the report. He called on all conflict parties to prevent such attacks, particularly on girl students, and to fully respect international humanitarian law. The Secretary-General’s next report should include an analysis of such attacks. A strong advocate of the concept of human security, Japan had provided support to the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security for projects addressing children and armed conflict, notably in Nepal and Uganda.
HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN ( Canada) commended, on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, the Special Representative’s briefing as a positive step and the Sanctions Committee on the Democratic Republic of the Congo for its groundbreaking engagement. He fully supported applying targeted measures on individuals responsible for recruiting and using children for fighting, as well as for other serious violations of international law involving children in hostilities. To continue the recent momentum and ensure day-to-day attention to the children and armed conflict agenda, the Council’s Working Group on that matter would need ongoing support. He called for immediate administrative support as requested in Council resolution 1882 (2009). He lauded the Secretary-General’s report for exposing perpetrators of sexual violence against children. He noted the on-the-ground reduction in the number of children used in hostilities thanks to diligent monitoring and reporting in recent years and said continued strong monitoring and reporting would result in a quicker reduction of those incidents.
Strong international community support was required for the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, he said. That meant financial support from donors in order to be adequately resourced; support for non-governmental organizations and local civil society groups who were key players in the Mechanism’s field teams; and political support and cooperation from national Governments in countries of concern, which should also have a dialogue with non-State actors on the matter. Sanctions should be imposed more systematically in order to hold to account perpetrators of grave violations against children. He urged the Council to take more vigorous action against persistent violations that had been listed in the Secretary-General’s annual report for at least five years.
HEIDI GRAU (Switzerland) said that, while pleased that the Secretary-General’s report now included a wider scope of parties to armed conflict, said more must be done to make such provisions effective and to implement resolutions 1612 (2005) and 1882 (2009). Commenting on the report’s recommendations, she said the 16 persistent violators must be subject to the Council’s strongest action. The Council should consider including provisions on, at a minimum, the recruitment and use of children in the mandates of all its sanctions committees. It was also important to increase the monitoring and reporting capacities for the two additional violations, because the level of sexual violence against children reported reflected not the extent of the practice, but rather the challenge of collecting information.
The Council should encourage concerned States to allow contact between the United Nations and non-State actors so as to ensure child protection, she said adding that the political and legal status of those actors would remain unchanged by such contact. Since June 2009, the policy of United Nations peacekeeping missions had been systematically to address the protection of children affected by armed conflict, and Switzerland supported the deployment of child protection advisers in peacebuilding and political missions, as provided for by resolution 1882 (2009). Moreover, attacks on schools and hospitals were a persistent reality which must be better monitored and reported. Children and armed conflict should be considered in terms of its gender dimensions and in conjunction with resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008), among others, she said, suggesting also that the Council open the Special Representative’s factual briefings on specific country situations to non-members.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said her Government’s policies had significantly improved security conditions in Colombia and strengthened the protection of all persons, including children. Colombia sought to apply the full weight of the law against violations of children’s rights committed by groups identified in the Secretary-General’s report, including organizations listed in the Annexes to that annual survey for at least five years. Colombia had voluntarily agreed to implement the mandate of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, and it expected to receive the United Nations support in its efforts to consolidate institutional capacities to protect children. The Secretary-General’s latest report recognized Colombia’s efforts through the Intersectoral Commission for the prevention of recruitment and use of children by illegal armed groups, as well as the relevance of that strategy, which included protection, recovery and reintegration of those children.
That Commission had conducted work in 114 municipalities nationwide and six socio-economically vulnerable areas in Bogota, she said. Safety nets were strengthened to prevent children from being used by illegal armed groups locally, provincially and nationally. The Commission had encouraged the prevention of violence, created procedures to foster awareness about known cases or risks, and set up participatory mechanisms for children to make their voices heard directly in local Governments so that their perspectives were included in public policy. The Office of the High Commissioner for Reintegration had developed an awareness project, and the Office of the Ombudsman had launched the “No more children and adolescents recruited” campaign, in partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee, Norwegian Refugee Council and the Mayor and Township People’s Spokesperson of Soacha, a town near Bogota. The Colombia Family Welfare Institute gave children physical and psychological care to children used by illegal armed groups in order to foster their reintegration into society.
ABDULLAH ALSAIDI (Yemen), pointing out that his country had ratified many international legal instruments on the rights of children, said it had put in place an extensive national legal framework to protect children, and reaffirmed Yemen’s commitment to their continuing protecting children. In its clashes with rebel groups, the Armed Forces had made great efforts to ensure the safety of children, cooperating with humanitarian agencies to help people internally displaced by the conflict.
All Yemeni citizens, including children, were guaranteed decent living conditions, he said, reaffirming the State’s responsibility for the safety of children. Despite the achievements of the international community in protecting children worldwide, many children remained vulnerable to harm due to conflict situations. In that context, Yemen urged the international community to put an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories so as to allow the children there to live in peace.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) said it was around 9 p.m. in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 3 a.m. in Myanmar, where children in those countries, as elsewhere, were being handed guns and told to fight. Member States, United Nations organs and the Security Council in particular had a vital role in protecting those children. His Government welcomed efforts of countries that had been de-listed from the report’s Annexes and others that had committed to action plans. But it was distressing that there were 16 parties who, for at least five years, had recruited, killed, maimed, raped or sexually violated children, and he encouraged the Council to include child recruitment and use in the mandate of its sanctions committees; ensure the Special Representative was invited more regularly to brief those committees and prioritize persistent violators on its agenda.
Moreover, he urged concerned countries to allow United Nations country teams to contact non-State armed groups to prepare action plans and carry out other child protection measures. The Council should take a more active role to ensure that contact. Government restrictions had prevented the team in Myanmar, for example, from contacting non-State armed groups, which hindered its monitoring and verification activities. Urging the Council to more actively ensure that parties in the annexes execute time-bound action plans, he noted also a disturbing increase in the number of politically and ideologically motivated attacks on teachers, students and educational facilities.
To help end such practice, monitoring and reporting mechanism country task forces could improve information in their reports on the motivations and extent of attacks. He said that another option would be to include child protection more concretely in future Council outcomes on peacekeeping and peacebuilding. In such matters, one way to ensure children’s well-being was to protect parents, which required ongoing action by States to protect civilians in armed conflict. With that in mind, New Zealand ensured a “conflict sensitive” approach to its development assistance in the education and health sectors of fragile States.
JAKKRIT SRIVALI ( Thailand) recalled that States had the primary responsibility to protect and promote the rights children. As the United Nations and wider global community should play a supportive role to ensure that States met their basic human rights obligations, more must be invested in education, health care, poverty alleviation, rule of law and good governance. To more effectively address violence against children, cooperation between the United Nations and Governments concerned must be based on dialogue. Closer coordination among relevant United Nations agencies was needed, as each agency had its unique strengths. With better coordination, the United Nations system as a whole should be able to respond more effectively.
Thailand reaffirmed its strong commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and had been at the forefront of efforts to make it more effective, working hard to ensure universal access. Moreover, Thailand had invested heavily to promote and protect children’s rights, he said. On other matters, he said the utmost care should be taken in the preparation of the Secretary-General’s report to ensure that information was accurate, objective and verifiable. Its scope should be confined to situations of armed conflict and there should be more transparency on the listing and de-listing of parties in the Annexes. Reference to countries in which there was no armed conflict and “sweeping generalizations” were misleading and counterproductive. A consultative and cooperative approach would ensure that efforts were well coordinated, whereas a lack thereof might harm the children the Council sought to protect.
PETER WITTIG (Germany), associating himself with the European Union and with Canada, which had spoken on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, noted that his country was a major donor in the field of child protection. The Secretary-General’s report contained some valuable recommendations, especially on strengthening accountability for persistent perpetrators. If the Council wanted parties to carry out action plans to stop the violations for which they were cited, it was, therefore, crucial to maintain a credible threat of forceful action.
For that reason, he called on the Council to consider stronger measures that included targeted sanctions, especially against persistent perpetrators. The Working Group and sanctions committees should share information with each other regularly, and one way to achieve that was to invite the Special Representative to brief the sanctions committees regularly. In that regard, her recent briefing to the sanctions committee for the Democratic Republic of the Congo was an important first step. The Council should also start considering how to apply targeted measures against perpetrators in country situations not covered by existing sanction committees. The deployment of child protection advisers in peacekeeping operations was also welcome. In addition, he joined other members of the Group of Friends in calling for the provision of administrative support for the Working Group.
STEFAN BARRIGA ( Liechtenstein), aligning himself with the statement delivered by Canada, expressed alarm at a new study carried out by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) revealed an escalating number of systematic and deliberate attacks on students, teachers and school buildings in conflict settings. Both State and non-State actors were behind such attacks, but the Working Group addressed the issue only in a small number of its conclusions issued between April 2009 and May 2010. Attacks on schools deserved a more prominent position on the Group’s agenda. The monitoring and reporting mechanism, in turn, needed appropriate resources to fulfil its mandate. It was also worth recalling that attacks on schools violated the Hague Conventions, the Geneva Conventions and was criminalized in the Rome Statute. He, therefore, urged States to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law to prevent such crimes and to prosecute attacks on education buildings as war crimes.
While commending the introduction of new triggers for the monitoring and reporting mechanism, he stressed the importance of giving equal weight to all six grave violations as triggers. The different treatment of grave violations of children’s rights was difficult to square with the universality and interdependence of human rights and the principles of international humanitarian law. In that light, he encouraged the Council to continue to develop that mechanism. He also encouraged it to consider, as a next step, the expansion of the trigger mechanism to attacks on schools. Measures against the 16 persistent violators should be complemented by effective enforcement measures, such as sanctions, including arms embargoes, bans on military assistance, and the imposition of travel restrictions. Liechtenstein also supported direct contact between the Office of the Special Representative and non-State actors to prepare action plans that would lead to the de-listing of conflict parties. In addition, the Council should be mindful of its competence to refer situations involving child rights violations to the International Criminal Court.
PEDRO SERRANO, acting head of the European Union delegation to the United Nations, said the Union placed high on its foreign policy, development and humanitarian agendas, combating the impact of conflicts on children. It would enhance its engagement with the United Nations vis-à-vis policy development and implementing actions. Discussing progress in the last year, he welcomed resolution 1882 (2009) and the expansion of triggers for listing to killing and maiming of children, as well as to rape and other sexual violence. The European Union looked forward to steps aimed at strengthening the United Nations’ ability to gather and analyse information.
Welcoming steps made towards increasing information exchange with the sanctions committees, he encouraged more such interaction with the Special Representative, the sanctions committees, their expert groups and the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. The Union also supported the campaign for universal ratification of the Optional Protocols of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Continuing, he said the Union raised children’s rights issues in political dialogue with partner countries and cooperated with civil society on such matters. It also sought to prevent the recruitment of children. For example, its 2006 approach on disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration included a focus on children affected by armed conflict.
Moreover, he said, the European Union used early warning mechanisms and conflict-sensitive approaches, flexible financial tools and procedures to provide quick response to children in need. It also supported the mainstreaming of children’s rights into crisis management. To help protect children in armed conflict, the Union’s “Investing in People” programme supported some 20 projects. His delegation also believed in the importance of investigating, prosecuting and punishing those who commit grave violations against children and every effort must be made to end a culture of impunity. In the second half of 2010, the European Union would review its implementation strategy for children and armed conflict-related actions, to better align it with current needs.
LULAMAH RULUMENI (South Africa), reiterating the importance of the first report on children affected by armed conflict, noted with satisfaction that, since its release, significant progress had been made in the development of international legal and policy frameworks. The adoption of resolution 1612 (2005) showed that actions taken had produced tangible progress, including greater awareness of the plight of children in conflict situations. She also noted the inclusion of separate sections on children’s protection in Council resolutions like 1882 (2009). Notwithstanding such achievements, there was much to be done, and she was disheartened that the recruitment of children continued globally. There had been a lack of progress in implementing provisions of resolution 1612 (2005) related to the monitoring and reporting mechanism.
Thus, she encouraged the Council to redouble its efforts and called on all armed groups involved in that practice, as well as groups party to conflict, to enter into dialogue to implement time-bound action plans to prevent grave violations against children. Ensuring children’s well-being was a complex, long process and, given the cross-border aspects of conflict, neighbouring States, as well as regional and subregional organizations, had commensurate responsibilities in finding solutions. Sustained investment in health and social infrastructure, as well as education and skills training, would ensure integration of children in their communities and prevent recruitment. Adequate funding should be made available to assist national efforts. South Africa supported enhanced international cooperation to encourage recalcitrant parties to adhering to international instruments that provided protection of children’s rights.
BUI THE GIANG ( Viet Nam) welcomed the efforts of United Nations entities, as well as the adoption of international legal instruments, to protect children in armed conflict. At the same time, however, he expressed deep concern over persistent violations of children’s rights, in addition to the increasing hostility to humanitarian work, in war-torn countries. Condemning all those acts, he called on all parties concerned to comply with relevant international law. He called on the Council to continue to ensure that child protection was incorporated into peacekeeping mandates and peace processes.
Recognizing the importance of the monitoring and reporting mechanism, he said, however, that greater caution was needed in selecting situations to be mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report, keeping to its mandated scope, ensuring the mechanism operated with the participation of national Governments and taking care that the information was updated, non-biased and verifiable. Contact between the United Nations and non-State actors should also be conducted in cooperation with concerned Governments in order to avoid possible legitimization of terrorist groups and other problems. In addition, he said that child protection should always be part of a broad strategy of conflict prevention and response that addresses poverty and socio-economic development.
GRABRIELA SHALEV ( Israel) noted progress in releasing children from armed groups in many areas, but said that valuable time was being lost in the case of hundreds of thousands of others still being held, and whose release and reintegration she called for immediately. She also called for the deployment of more child protection advisers in peacekeeping missions. She maintained that more information was needed to enable appropriate authorities to investigate and respond substantively where appropriate, but stressed that sources, particularly those that relied heavily on uncorroborated allegations, must be vetted.
She welcomed the mention of Israeli children who had been victims of armed conflict, as well as the exploitation of children and their use as human shields by Hamas, in the Secretary-General’s report, urging that future reports elaborate on those subjects rather than mentioning them in passing. In that context, she spoke of attacks on camps of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). She said incitement of children to hatred and violence, such as an exhortation to kill Jews that she attributed to a Hamas magazine, must also be ended.
CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI (Italy), endorsing the statement made on behalf of the European Union, recalled that, during its 2007-2008 term on the Security Council, Italy had proposed to insert child protection provisions into mission mandates. Glad that it had become standard practice, he encouraged the Council to continue to ensure that such provisions were included in the mandates of all relevant United Nations missions. Meanwhile, Italy had organized an international conference in cooperation with the Office of the Special Representative, UNICEF and Save the Children over a year ago. Participants included former child soldiers and youth advocates from a network of young people affected by war. Italy was also financing projects focused on children, targeting conflict and post-conflict situations. In its support of UNICEF and other United Nations agencies, Italy supported rehabilitation and education programmes as well.
Believing that the International Criminal Court had a role to play in combating impunity, he said the Council and its Working Group should examine ways to develop practical cooperation with that body to fight impunity. The use of action plans was also considered important, and was a welcome development. Italy was now considering supporting a new initiative by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, in cooperation with the Office of the Special Representative, UNICEF and Save the Children, to develop a comprehensive and systematic training programme on child protection and child rights for peacekeeping personnel. It was hoped that other donors would support it as well.
ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ ARNILLAS ( Peru) recalled that his country had supported the adoption in 2009 of resolution 1882, but believe that more work was needed to ensure its implementation. The capacities of United Nations agencies, programmes and funds must be strengthened to respond to new tasks and mandates. It must also be borne in mind that the low-incidence of sexual violence against children in the Secretary-General’s report did not reflect reality, but rather the difficulty of collecting and verifying information. Mechanisms must be explored to make information exchange possible between United Nations agencies and the Council’s sanctions committees. Further, the political will of parties was essential for resolution’s implementation and they must develop “zero tolerance” policies against sexual violence.
At the same time, implementation of resolution 1612 (2005) must continue, he said, notably vis-à-vis action plans to end the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. Peru found worrying the impunity of perpetrators of such heinous crimes, due to a lack of political will, fragile legal systems and lack of resources for conducting investigations. United Nations peacekeeping missions should have an outstanding role in strengthening the legal systems of countries emerging from conflict. For its part, the Peacebuilding Commission should incorporate children and armed conflict into its reconstruction programmes and bear in mind the successful experiences of children’s re-entry into society. In line with resolution 1882, appropriate administrative and substantive support should be made available to the Working Group for it to undertake its functions. There was a broad legal framework to fight against the use of children in armed conflict and their well-being depended on the political will of States.
JAIRO HERNÁNDEZ-MILIAN (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, acknowledged the positive trend towards mainstreaming the protection, rights and well-being of children affected by armed conflict within some United Nations peacekeeping missions and encouraged various Departments within the Secretariat to work closely together towards “a more systematic and consistent approach”. The appointment of child protection advisers could contribute to that end. So far, the absence of systematic follow-up of the Working Group’s recommendations, the lack of decisive action against persistent perpetrators, and insufficient funding for sustainable disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, had “greatly limited” the effectiveness of the work of the Untied Nations.
To address those challenges, he said the Network believed that action plans should be complemented with support for Governments to implement national strategies, which should include prevention, assistance and social protection to children to enable medical care, psychological and psycho-social support, legal assistance, education and sustainable socio-economic reintegration. In addition, the real commitment of civilian and military leaders was fundamental to bringing about accountability. International justice mechanisms, such as the International Criminal Court and others, could also play a relevant role. For its part, the Council should improve the exchange of information among its subsidiary bodies. To help systematize information, consolidate a historical memory, facilitate assessment and identify trends and patterns, it would be necessary to provide the Working Group with administrative support.
RANKO VILOVIĆ ( Croatia) said that, as a non-permanent Council member in 2008 and 2009, his country contributed to the adoption of resolution 1882 (2009). He was pleased that, in the report’s annexes, parties to armed conflict that had engaged in patterns of killing and maiming, among other abuses, had been listed. Croatia would like to see enhanced monitoring and reporting capacities. His Government remained deeply concerned at the lack of compliance by many parties to signed action plans and to recommendations of the Council’s Working Group. Implementation of action plans and taking measures against parties that failed to comply with them was crucial for halting the recruitment, killing, maiming, rape and other sexual violence against children. As such, the Council should develop a plan for tracking progress and include child recruitment and use of children, among other abuses, in the mandate of relevant sanctions committees. It should also ensure that the Special Representative was invited regularly to brief those committees.
In addition, he said that, in countries where a national justice system was unwilling or unable, the Council should consider referring cases of identified perpetrators to the International Criminal Court. Croatia found very important operative paragraph 11 of resolution 1882 (2009) on the inclusion of provisions for protecting children in all relevant United Nations peacekeeping, peacebuilding and political mandates. The Council should call on parties mentioned in the report to engage with peacekeeping missions. Child protection concerns should be included in all mission planning processes. He urged States and non-State actors to address such concerns in peace processes, which would give children’s issues priority in the post-conflict peace consolidation process. The Council must find a way to agree on targeted or other vigorous measures against persistent perpetrators of grave violations against children. The same names appeared on the list of the Secretary-General’s reports for almost a decade, which was unacceptable.
DIEGO LIMERES ( Argentina) said his Government recently had presented its report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, underlining that there were no children under 18 years old in its Armed Forces. Armed forces education curricula were analogous to those in centres for public education in the country and were governed by national laws. Regarding the recruitment of underage girls and boys, until 2009, those graduating from military secondary schools that had received military training had become part of Argentina’s reserves. The Ministry of Defence would implement, this year, an “instance” for the ratification or revocation of such decisions by young people, which would be enforced upon their turning 18 years old.
While progress in implementing resolution 1612 (2005) and 1882 (2009) had been made, the global situation was devastating with extreme forms of violence against children that included mutilation and sexual violence continuing. Governments must fully cooperate with the Special Representative in her work to implement resolutions 1612 and 1882, through the provision of information, assistance and access. Moreover, the Council should continue to include a specific mandate on that issue in all peacekeeping, peacebuilding and political missions, and incorporate specific advisers. The global community could not stand by in the face of such grave abuses as identified in the report. Perpetrators must be brought to justice. Argentina recognized that children’s protection issues generally fell to the General Assembly and supported efforts to strengthen the mandates of existing mechanisms.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that the situation of children in armed conflict — including foreign occupation from which the children of Palestine continued to suffer — remained a matter of grave concern. Failure to provide children in conflict situations with the protection to which they were entitled under international law had deepened their suffering, with immense consequences for their societies. Unfortunately, political will was missing to directly address the crises being faced by such children, which would require, among other steps, real measures to ensure accountability by perpetrators of crimes against children, for which there must be zero tolerance.
In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said that Israel had been permitted to act with impunity, with total disrespect for international law, resulting in the heavy price paid by Palestinian children that Ms. Coomaraswamy had noted. Their plight had not improved since her last visit, particularly in the blockaded Gaza Strip. The Secretary-General’s recent report only provided “a brief, sterile glimpse” into what he called the pervasive, intense suffering of Palestinian children, which he described as including widespread death and injury, use as human shields, homelessness, forcible interrogation and detention and violation of the right to health and food. As for alleged Palestinian violations, he maintained that Palestinians strived through their institutions to redress the abnormalities that arose from foreign occupation, in preparation for independence, through which their children would enjoy their rights with dignity and freedom from want.
KIM BONGHYUN (Republic of Korea) welcomed progress described in the report on the release of children from armed groups through various programmes, which should be expanded wherever possible. He remained concerned, however, about the continued suffering of children from armed conflict, pointing to “nearly unconstrained” impunity for grave crimes committed against them, despite some steps towards the application of justice. The Council must stand resolute and apply robust targeted measures to confront persistent perpetrators. He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations in that regard.
He noted that more expertise and reporting support was needed for those purposes and for creating inclusive lists, reflecting the extent of sexual violence in conflict situations. He encouraged further integration of children’s concerns into peacekeeping missions, including the deployment of more child protection advisors and encouraged all Member States to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol and other international legal instruments. He reaffirmed support to the role of the International Criminal Court in the fight against impunity.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said the use of children in situations of armed conflict was “abhorrent” and that he was speaking to address instances of recruitment of children and attacks on schools by Maoist armed groups in some parts of central and eastern India. But, while the violence committed by those groups was indeed abhorrent, those occurrences alone did not make that area a “zone of armed conflict” as defined by international law. The Indian Government could not accept reporting on those incidents as falling within the mandate of the Special Representative. However, the Indian Government was seized of those acts and condemned them, and was fully committed to controlling such activities. It was working with the concerned State Governments to develop a holistic strategy to address security, development, administration and public perception arising from Naxal-related issues through awareness-raising and other programmes. Also, the entire Government machinery was dutifully implementing the extant laws, including laws that prohibited child labour.
SHANKER DAS BAIRAGI ( Nepal) said his Government had taken note of the Secretary-General’s report and acknowledged that the Council had adopted various resolutions, including resolution 1612 (2005), with regard to the protection of children in armed conflict. At times, children were recruited into armed groups that misused them and subjected them to sexual abuse. Maiming and killing had become routine features of armed groups bent on spreading terror. Governments should enact laws and enforce them with effective mechanisms to ensure children’s protection and bring perpetrators to justice. For its part, the international community should come forward with the mandate and resources to protect children, while national measures were also essential to curb persistent violations and provide remedial measures.
“What is true is that there is no short-cut way of addressing this grave problem,” he said, stressing that it must be dealt with in a collaborative manner comprised of all relevant actors. After signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006, Nepal’s peace process had crossed several milestones and, to carry the process forward, the Government and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist signed an action plan in December 2009 for releasing minor combatants. To carry out its plan on reintegration and rehabilitation of children affected by armed conflict, international support would be appreciated. As a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol, Nepal had adopted the necessary legal instruments. He assured the Council that Nepal was fully committed to discharging its responsibilities to provide protection to children affected by armed conflict.
HAMID AL BAYATI (Iraq), explaining that the security situation in his country continued to improve, said the first five months of 2010 had seen the lowest rate of terrorist attacks and casualties since 2003, while the 7 March general elections, which saw no major security incidents, were clear evidence of improvement. The report did not mention Government efforts in various fields in cooperation with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Regarding “continuing recruitment of children by armed groups”, paragraph 81 inaccurately suggested that there was an understood recruitment level. Paragraph 82 indicated that 142 cases of violence had been recorded, but stated that only 10 of them had been confirmed. Cases of abuse in paragraph 83 lacked source attribution, while paragraph 84 contained phrases like “allegations” and “large numbers proposed”, which Iraq found to be inaccurate. He hoped in the future that the Special Representative could provide more accurate information.
He went on to say that Iraq had made various efforts to protect children, noting that constitutional guarantees, as well as compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, formed the basic framework for protecting children’s rights. Iraq was working to strengthen legal and institutional protection, and the final draft of Parliament’s “children project” was currently before the Council of Ministers. In her speech today, the Special Representative said children in Iraq had been used as suicide bombers in 2009. Like any country, Iraq worked continuously to improve security from the threat of terrorist groups. “ Iraq is not a country at war,” he stressed. The Government could not find evidence of a single case in 2009 in which a child had been used in a suicide attack and asked the Special Representative to provide evidence of the several cases she mentioned. With that, he said Iraq would continue to cooperate with the United Nations to ensure the rights of the child as a priority.
JARMO VIINANEN (Finland), speaking also on behalf of Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, said positive developments seen so far had less to do with the international community’s efforts and more with the fact that armed conflicts using child soldiers had come to an end. When new crises and conflicts flared up, violations against children seemed to repeat themselves, which was disheartening. There was a need, therefore, to address the root causes of such violations and to invest in a sustained effort to end to human rights abuses. There was also a need to improve the capacity of the United Nations to gather information that was timely, accurate and verifiable; to allow the Organization to work with non-State actors to address grave violations against children; and to consider ways decisive action could be taken in cases where violations persisted despite repeated condemnations.
He said the Nordic countries supported the report’s conservative approach in determining the parties to be listed, as well as its willingness to acknowledge difficulties in collecting information. That attitude demonstrated that the Office of the Special Representative, country task forces and all relevant United Nations and outside partners were guided by very high standards of accuracy and verification in the face of great complexity. As long-time supporters of UNICEF, the countries were encouraged by the close cooperation between that agency and the Special Representative’s Office. They would like to see a similar close relationship between actors working on women, peace and security, such as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
He said the Nordic countries supported the involvement of child protection specialists in preparing and planning peacebuilding and peacekeeping missions, and the systematic inclusion of child protection advisers in such missions. They were heartened to learn that action plans with three non-State armed groups had been agreed, leading to the demobilization of several thousand child soldiers. Those plans were forceful examples of why contact between the United Nations and non-State actors was so crucial. The presence of the Afghan National Police in the Annex was a special case to the Nordic countries, and they were encouraged by steps taken by the Afghan Police to address the issue of recruitment of children. As for persistent violators, the Nordic countries supported proposals to include child recruitment in the mandates of sanctions committees. The Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict should be invited to brief them regularly.
ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan) said his country’s children, who made up over half the population, were the best and only hope for its future, and the Government was fully committed to protecting them. Still, 30 years of warfare had left many orphaned and disabled, vulnerable to poverty and disease, and victims of terrorism and other crimes of extremist ideology. The Government had, however, taken many legal, institutional and practical steps to protect Afghan children, many of which were not fully reflected in the current report. It had developed institutions to formulate an action plan and to safeguard children and was working with civil society and religious leaders to address sexual violence.
Among other measures, he said, focal points against child recruitment had been identified, the recruitment process for both the Army and the police was increasingly centralized and standardized and existing safeguards had been reinforced by a recent executive directive banning recruitment to the police of anyone under 18, mandating disciplinary measures against its violation.
Given those steps and others, the Afghan Government was disturbed by the decision to list the Afghan National Police Force in the Annex of the present report, which, unacceptably, equated the police with the intentionally abusive practices of the Taliban. Such assertions also undermined efforts to build professional security forces under very challenging circumstances. Afghanistan’s objections in the matter had already been fully communicated in a letter to the Secretary-General. Despite those reservations concerning the report, however, he pledged his Government’s continued readiness to fully engage with the Office of the Special Representative and the monitoring mechanisms and to continue to improve its capacity and procedures for the protection of children.
HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) said it was truly regrettable that despite advances, children remained victims and targets in many situations. Governments had the main responsibility to provide protection for children, and it was essential to build their capacity to resolve challenges non-violently, since it was unrealistic to discuss protecting children’s rights in the midst of war. It was a priority to extract children from armed conflict for that reason, and any children who had been conscripted must be released and reintegrated into their communities. That problem should be discussed within the framework of socio-economic development, with the cooperation of all United Nations entities.
Regarding the Secretary-General’s report, he called for more focused reporting, taking into account the reliability and objectivity of information behind it. It was imperative that any targeted measures be considered as a last resort against persistent perpetrators, to avoid unintended harm to the children concerned. Extensive consultation with countries concerned must also be undertaken, and a clear de-listing strategy must be created in regard to the Annex listings. In conclusion, he called for efforts to protect children cover boys and girls equally, as both genders were victimized and traumatized by war.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile), aligning himself with the statement by Costa Rica on behalf of the Human Security Network, and by Canada on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, reiterated his own Government’s support for the Working Group. It was committed, as well, to initiatives designed to eliminate violence against children and to the principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups, known as the Paris Principles. Furthermore, in support of multilateral action in that area, Chile appealed to States that had not yet accessed to the Convention on children’s rights and its optional protocols to consider ratifying them promptly.
His Government had found it interesting to hear recommendations by the Secretary-General for the Working Group and the Council’s sanctions committees to share more information with each other. In that vein, it would encourage the Special Representative to brief those committees more often. Chile would also urge that specific provisions for the protection of children continued to be included in the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations and relevant political missions, and that child protection advisers be permanently deployed. Contingents should be trained in child protection. He appealed to the Council to consider more forceful action against those who committed persistent violations and to study measures that could be applied in cases where there were no sanctions committees in place. The Working Group should be given adequate administrative support, and should conduct on-site visits and emergency meetings.
MÁRTA HORVÁTH FEKSZI (Hungary), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said her Government strongly supported resolutions 1612 (2005) and 1882 (2009) and the implementation of an effective monitoring and reporting mechanism in violations committed against children in armed conflict, attaching importance to the expansion of the triggers of listing to include sexual violence, killing and maiming. The use of systematic sexual violence as a tactic of war significantly aggravated both armed conflict and post-conflict situations, and the impact of such tactics could potentially impede the restoration process.
In that regard, she urged for the Council to “spare no efforts” in taking effective steps to end all acts of violence against boys, girls and women, and place special emphasis on addressing sexual violence in armed conflict and post-conflict situations. Citing the work of the sanctions committee as a significant step towards implementing relevant resolutions and other international documents, she reaffirmed her Government’s full commitment to the principles and norms of such instruments. Further, she welcomed and strongly supported the campaign for the universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
JAN GRAULS (Belgium), aligning with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, said that, while expanding trigger factors had strengthened children’s protection, it had also created a new challenge that the Special Representative and the Working Group had decided to vigorously address. It was more difficult to catalogue and document killings, mutilations and sexual violence committed by parties to conflict. Monitoring mechanisms would not function without accurate information, nor would it be possible to create credible sanctions. Thus, the global community must “get down to work”. A first stage had been to establish criteria, which would lead to greater transparency. The second stage involved capacity-building for data collection on the ground, which should be done by coordinating existing United Nations networks. More resources also should be provided and Belgium, through UNICEF, decided to fund reporting efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and the Sudan. Stringent sanctions must be considered in various countries, as the report had noted cases of near-total impunity. The Council also must take measures to punish perpetrators that, for more than five years, had been listed but had shown no interest in cooperating with the Special Representative.
Continuing, he said the Working Group and the Sanctions Committee must work together on that issue. Finally, when children were taken from the jaws of war, they had to be reintegrated, and financing was needed for that purpose. Belgium followed efforts by France and UNICEF to enhance donor efforts for reintegration, in line with the Paris Principles. Programmes must be multi-annual. Children and armed conflict was an issue that went beyond the Council. As chair of the Central African Republic Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, he stressed that that body could play an important role in facilitating the coordination of global efforts. He had established an ongoing contact with the Special Representative. In that context, the configuration’s members had planned a visit to a demobilization centre for children in December 2009, but an armed group had prevented that visit.
ALYA AHMED S. AL-THANI ( Qatar) said that, despite progress, problems existed in protecting children in situations of foreign occupation. The report noted changes in the occupied territories and made reference to many people killed and injured in the recent conflict. Education was the best means to control violence and she urged efforts to follow the Secretary-General’s recommendations. Despite international appeals to meet children’s educational needs, many had been deprived education because of armed conflict. Schools had been targeted, some operated by the United Nations. An inquiry had been launched into the attacks on schools run by UNRWA and the Council should determine who was responsible for those attacks.
Discussing Qatar’s efforts, she said that the wife of the Qatari Emir, a United Nations Special Envoy, had expressed concern at the impacts of conflict on education and had joined the international campaign supporting free education for Gazan students and those in the West Bank. Moreover, “Reach out to Asia”, an international organization founded in Qatar, provided educational opportunities for children in various countries affected by crises and natural disasters. Before the Israeli war in Gaza, it launched a programme to protect schools in that area. Qatar and Bosnia and Herzegovina, among others, had established a document on the right to education during armed conflict that would be submitted to the General Assembly.
BANDULA JAYASEKARA (Sri Lanka) said that, with the end of conflict in his country last year, recruitment of children by armed groups had stopped, and one of the “persistent violators” — the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — had been de-listed from Annex II of the report, following their defeat. The Government had voluntarily submitted the LTTE case over a decade ago for the Working Group’s consideration and fully condemned the recruitment of children by the LTTE. With the end of the war, the Government was able to care for over 570 children, some as young as 14 years old, who had been recruited by the LTTE and who later had been placed in a comprehensive rehabilitation programme, with assistance from UNICEF. The Government’s military operation had been conducted in a manner that aimed to ensure the safety of civilians, including children. Education facilities had been provided to displaced children, while those who had lost there parents were registered into Government childcare facilities.
He went on to say that Sri Lanka had shown its commitment to a process of accountability to look into whether any violations of international norms had taken place during the conflict and, last month, announced the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry. As a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Government provided free education and health care, and had established a national child protection authority. The Secretary-General’s report provided an “incoherent” account of the criteria for de-listing groups, and he suggested that such criteria be clarified so that groups that had complied with resolutions or ceased recruitment could be de-listed. He condemned in the strongest possible terms rape and other grave sexual violence against children, also urging all States to sign the Convention on the Rights of the Child and comply with relevant United Nations resolutions. Finally, the Council should consider targeted measures against persistent violators of grave violations against children.
SANJA ŠTIGLIC (Slovenia) aligning with statements made, respectively, on behalf of the European Union, Human Security Network, and Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, said the situation of children in some parts of the world was still alarming. She had noted with regret that new parties had been added to the report’s annexes, and stressed that stronger steps should be taken to end impunity for perpetrators, especially those groups and individuals who persistently committed grave violations against children. Her Government also supported the recommendation to include child recruitment and use in the mandate of all sanctions committees and to streamline information sharing between the Working Group and its sanctions committees. Also, specific provisions on the protection of children should be included in all relevant peacekeeping operations. Following the adoption of resolutions 1882 (2009) and 1888(2009), it was important to improve collection and verification of data on sexual violence against children and develop capacity to document trends on killing, maiming and sexual violence.
As a cross-cutting issue, children and armed conflict needed a comprehensive approach, where human rights, security and development went hand in hand, she explained. It also was important to efficiently address the short-, medium- and long-term impacts of armed conflicts on children. Children must be released by armed forces and groups and returned to their families. She fully supported the universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. She was convinced that cooperation among the Special Representatives on Children and Armed Conflict, on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict and on Violence against Children, among others, would continue.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said that her country, as a State party to the Optional Protocol on the rights of children, supported the campaign for the universal ratification of that instrument. Despite progress in the protection of children in armed conflict, it was disturbing that impunity for violators continued to prevail, she said. Direct dialogue with armed groups and the implementation of time-bound action plans for the demobilization of children had proven effective and should be supported. She called on all countries, in addition, to grant unrestricted access to the United Nations to gather objective and reliable information for those purposes.
She said that the United States’ Child Soldier Prevention Act could be a model for preventing assistance to countries identified as using child soldiers. In addition, she expressed full support for the new mandate of UNICEF to co-lead the struggle to end violence against children in situations of armed conflict, and expressed deep concern over the damaging or closure of schools, which puts an entire generation at risk. She called for making the protection of schools a priority, coupled with the implementation of large-scale educational programmes for countries affected by armed conflict.
ALEXANDER LOMAIA (Georgia), supporting the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said that any conflict in which children suffered required much closer attention from the international community, including the conflict on the two occupied regions of his country, Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, also called South Ossetia. Georgian children had suffered in both regions and the problems discussed last year remained and in certain respects had worsened, including restriction of education, with textbooks often printed in another country and Georgian citizens forced to learn the Russian language.
He said that children in Tskhinvali had been charged with terrorist activity and only released after international intervention. That was an example of the reality that was faced every day, he maintained, as citizens battled for their basic rights and freedoms. A first step towards addressing the problem was allowing unhindered humanitarian access, which, according to the Secretary-General’s report, had “vastly deteriorated”. He asked everyone present to help his country defend the rights of its children, including their right to a peaceful and prosperous future.
GARY QUINLAN (Australia), aligning himself with the statement delivered by Canada on behalf of the Group of Friends on Children and Armed Conflict, noted that in the four months that the new triggers for listing were activated, 10 parties were listed. The fact that those numbers could be higher in future reporting periods was of serious concern. The Council should respond vigilantly by using the full range of tools available to it. He supported the call for improved synergy between the Working Group and sanctions committees, as well as the Secretary-General’s proposal to include child protection advisers in the expert groups that inform them.
He said the recent release of children in Nepal and the signing of time-bound action plans by parties in Nepal and the Philippines were a testament to the real change that the new Council mechanism could effect. His Government was pleased to assist the United Nations and other partners to address the situation, particularly in Asia where a significant portion of the mechanism was focused. Tools for United Nations country teams to use to address the welfare of children in armed conflict, such as UNICEF’s “All African Workshop”, were praised for their helpfulness. Australia was a partner with UNICEF in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and the Philippines. Recently released former child soldiers in Sri Lanka were being given skills to forge a sustainable future, while the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines was taking measures to operationalize their action plan. He praised the work of the other countries in reducing child violence, such as in Thailand where attacks against schools were posing problems, and in Myanmar, where the “Supplemental Understanding” complaints mechanism had produced results for children in conflict areas.
TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan), aligning with the European Union, reiterated his country’s commitment to contributing to activities of existing United Nations mechanisms and other relevant agencies, with the aim of ensuring more effective protection of child rights and improving the situation of children affected by armed conflict. Azerbaijan’s interest in today’s topic stemmed from its experience in addressing the impacts on children of armed aggression. The war had unleashed against his country had exerted considerable influence on the humanitarian aspects of the problem. Azerbaijan continued to suffer one of the highest proportions of refugees and displaced persons in the world, large numbers of whom were children. Of more than 4,000 people reported missing in connection with the conflict, 48 were children. The issue had been firmly inscribed on the international agenda and the global community had witnessed “unprecedented” initiatives to address impunity. Moreover, the Council’s engagement had increased awareness of the need to protect children in armed conflict.
At the same time, children were still suffering in many places, a bitter truth that presented a profound challenge to the international legal order and required redoubled efforts, he said. Particular consideration should be given to internally displaced children in the context of ensuring their inalienable right to return and to the implications for protecting child rights of illegal policies in situations of foreign occupation. Another challenge requiring urgent attention was that of children taken hostage and reported missing in connection with armed conflict. Azerbaijan was the main sponsor of the biennial resolutions in the General Assembly and Human Rights Council on missing persons. The latest Assembly resolution on missing persons requested States to pay the utmost attention to the problem and take measures to search for such children. In closing, he said Azerbaijan looked forward to the adoption of the presidential statement.
HERMAN SCHAPER ( Netherlands), fully supporting the statements made on behalf of the European Union and the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, welcomed recent progress made in the area, including the expansion of the report’s annexes and the elaboration of action plans. He encouraged equal attention be paid to all six identified grave violations committed against children and to strengthen monitoring of all of them. Increased capacity should be made available for that purpose.
He called on all relevant parties to allow for the engagement of the United Nations with non-State actors to protect the rights of children. He welcomed the Council’s readiness to step up its action against persistent perpetrators, adding that in ending impunity, where national systems of justice failed, the situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court. He finally called for universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
U THAN SWE (Myanmar) said that to put an end to the sad plight of children in armed conflict a strategy must be adopted that addressed the root causes of violence. He said that the Myanmar Government had taken serious measures to address under-age recruitment, but in some cases, in the absence of official birth certificates or national IDs, some underage children slipped into the military. There was, therefore, stringent scrutiny at various stages, as a result of which, hundreds of children had been discharged and punitive actions taken against military personnel who failed to abide by rules and regulations.
Myanmar was also cooperating closely with the United Nations country team in order to finalize an Action Plan by updating its existing one. Military and police personnel and social workers had also been trained in awareness in the prevention of underage recruitment, and taken other measures in that regard, which had been recognized in the Secretary-General’s report. It would continue to fully cooperate with the United Nations country team in that effort. He stated categorically that Myanmar was not in a situation of armed conflict and, therefore, should not be discussed under the theme of children and armed conflict. He regretted, in addition, that the country’s well-trained national Army was still listed in Annex I of the report. He urged that the progress achieved by the Government be duly recognized and the Army de-listed in future reports.
OSMAN K. KAMARA ( Sierra Leone) said the 2005 adoption of resolution 1612 was a “move in the right direction”, a more realistic and practical approach to addressing the recruitment and use of children as soldiers. Above all, it had carried a message of combating impunity, an issue dear to his country. Serra Leone viewed today’s debate as yet another opportunity to express its determination to address impunity, both through the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and work with the global community. Commending the adoption of resolution 1882 (2009), he fervently hoped that the Council would work quickly to include the issues of abduction and denial of humanitarian access.
Having witnessed gross and systematic human rights violations against children, Sierra Leone had been left no choice but to join the fight to end such heinous crimes, he explained. The Government had taken measures to adhere to resolutions 1612 and 1882, including the endorsement of the Paris Commitment on the Protection of Children and the Unlawful Recruitment or Use by Armed Forces or Armed Groups, and enactment of child rights acts that had raised the minimum age for recruitment into the Armed Forces to 18 years. Indeed, Sierra Leone could not remain silent on such issues because it was no longer at war or appeared in the report’s annexes. The country still grappled with issues like youth unemployment, amputees and children born out of rape. All those challenges must be addressed if hard-earned peace was to be maintained.
AMJAD HUSSAIN SIAL ( Pakistan) declared “children are our future”. No matter where they were, they required equal attention and care. There were cross-cutting concerns such as health, education and protection when addressing issues related to children in all situations. But, the vulnerability of children in situations of armed conflict required more attention than any other. Having carefully reviewed the latest and past reports of the Secretary-General, he highlighted that recent reports had tried to “over-stretch” the definition of an armed conflict. Any violation of children’s rights must be reported and swiftly acted upon, but care must be taken not to overload a reporting mechanism by stretching it beyond its mandate, which only resulted in weakening the message that a mandate and a report by the Secretary-General should be conveying.
He went on to say that the latest report referred to Pakistan’s law enforcement action against terrorists and extremists as an “armed conflict”, which could not be defined as such under international law. Pakistan had been obliged to undertake certain law enforcement and anti-terror actions, with the full support of the nation, notably people in the affected areas. Pakistan was deeply concerned at the few instances of abhorrent use of children by extremists and strongly condemned it. His Government regretted the report’s mention of the situation out of context. Pakistan had a robust UNICEF country programme and recognized that non-governmental organizations had made invaluable contributions to today’s debate. It was important that civil society be sensitive in differentiating among situations by maintaining objectivity. He expressed hope that future reports would be objective.
LIBRAN CABACTULAN ( Philippines) said that her country had been actively cooperating with the United Nations to promote the protection of children, particularly in the process that led to the signing of an Action Plan with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in July 2009. The engagement of non-State groups, however, must be approached in a very careful manner, taking into account the larger peace processes involved.
The Philippine Government had actively pursued its national programme on protection of children in armed conflict, with children’s rights guaranteed in the country’s Constitution. In that context, his country regarded with serious and deep concern allegations against its Armed Forces and had immediately called for investigations. A point-by-point explanation and rebuttal of the allegations was then duly forwarded to the Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. His country would remain vigilant, however, in its investigations and its promotion of the rights of children.
ABDULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) said that the Secretary-General’s recommendations merited careful consideration, but preferred that reporting be confined within the mandates of the relevant Council resolutions. Welcoming progress in protecting children in armed conflict, he urged that the root causes of conflict and the use of child soldiers be addressed. Some kind of action could be contemplated to make persistent violators comply with Council resolutions in a time-bound manner, but caution should be taken to make sure that such enforcement in no way hurt the interests of the very children it was meant to help.
Understanding the conservative approach for listing criteria, he expressed hope that a comprehensive study could be conducted in time for the next report to allow it to be more inclusive. In addition, he called for child protection provisions to be made an integral part of the mandate of all peacekeeping and political missions, and he stressed that the issue of children under foreign occupation had to be appropriately addressed. Finally, he urged those States who had not yet done so to become parties to the Optional Protocol of the children’s rights Convention.
GAREN NAZARIAN ( Armenia), aligning with the European Union, said children’s protection in armed conflict deserved the utmost attention and should be a primary responsibility of all, as it was a serious humanitarian concern and significant security issue, which required a multidimensional approach. Armenia had noted positive trends in recent years, notably a set of legal instruments that had been adopted which provided a comprehensive framework for addressing the issue. His Government supported the universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, it was unfortunate that, despite the existence of international legal instruments and normative mechanisms, children continued to suffer in conflict situations.
Indeed, for the last two decades, his region had seen various armed conflicts; the problems mentioned today were not of a purely humanitarian nature, he explained. The final resolution of conflicts in the South Caucasus was still pending. The root causes of conflict must be examined to find sustainable solutions. Only a political settlement of existing disputes could bring lasting stability to the region, and secure children’s rights to a peaceful future. As chair of the fifty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, he emphasized that special attention must be paid to child victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence. Both Council and Assembly resolutions on children and armed conflict expressed grave concern at continued armed conflicts in many regions. Efforts to address sexual violence could greatly benefit from more collaboration among United Nations bodies and regional organizations. All relevant stakeholders should continue to work on issues of gender-based violence in armed conflict and he encouraged cooperation between non-governmental organizations and the Council in that regard.
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