Secretary-General Tells Security Council ‘Children Should be Armed with Pens and Textbooks, Not Guns and Grenades’

7 March 2014
SG/SM/15692-SC/11310

Secretary-General Tells Security Council ‘Children Should be Armed with Pens and Textbooks, Not Guns and Grenades’

7 March 2014
Secretary-General
SG/SM/15692 SC/11310
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Tells Security Council ‘Children Should be Armed

 

With Pens and Textbooks, Not Guns and Grenades’

 

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as delivered, at the Security Council open debate on children and armed conflict, today, in New York:

I thank Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn of Luxembourg for organizing this important thematic debate.

I have just returned from Sierra Leone.  This country is an important case study in the value of our engagement.  Under the guidance of the Security Council, with the solidarity of the international community and the strong engagement of the Sierra Leonean people, we are seeing a remarkable transformation.

This Council took a series of wise and timely decisions to deploy successive peacekeeping and political operations along with support for long-term development.  The United Nations also helped the Government to set up the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which helped the country and contributed to international jurisprudence.

The Special Court and our peacekeeping and political missions have closed, but the UN country team will continue to support Sierra Leone on the road to peace and development.

Not long ago, it was engulfed in war and synonymous with the tragic plight of children in armed conflict.  As the former child soldier Ishmael Beah said: "Somebody being shot in front of you, or you yourself shooting somebody became just like drinking a glass of water.  “Children who refused to fight, kill or showed any weakness were ruthlessly dealt with.  Emotions weren't allowed.”

We have another successful young man, Al Hadji Babas Sawaneh, who [is] here with us, the first former child soldier to address the Security Council, back to address us today.  These transformative examples attest to the fact that, given a chance, former child soldiers can rebuild their lives and help to build peace in their countries.

Il y a quinze ans que le Conseil de sécurité a adopté sa première résolution thématique sur le sort des enfants en temps de conflit armé.

Par cette résolution, la communauté internationale a envoyé un signal clair: les souffrances des enfants en temps de conflit armé sont inacceptables, qu’ils soient enfants soldats, esclaves sexuels, victimes dans les écoles et les hôpitaux, ou touchés d’une manière quelconque.

Ces atteintes enfreignent les droits de l’homme les plus fondamentaux.  Elles menacent aussi l’instauration d'une paix durable et le développement. 

Je remercie le Conseil de sécurité d’avoir agi de manière décisive en créant un cadre solide en faveur des enfants touchés par les conflits armés.  

Le Conseil a mis au point des outils concrets pour prévenir les violations graves contre les enfants, les combattre et y mettre fin. 

Le mécanisme de surveillance et d’information nous montre bien la situation tragique qui est celle des enfants victimes de conflits armés.  Les équipes spéciales qui travaillent  au niveau des pays et qui sont appuyées par les organismes des Nations Unies favorisent le dialogue avec les parties au conflit, ce qui est essentiel.  Ces équipes suivent la situation minutieusement et contribuent à la mise en œuvre des plans d’action.  

Il est également important que la protection des enfants fasse partie intégrante de l'activité des opérations de maintien de la paix et des missions politiques spéciales, ce qui suppose que les membres des contingents soient formés avant leur déploiement et que les moyens nécessaires soient systématiquement mis en place.

Hier, lors du lancement de la campagne « Des enfants, pas des soldats », qui est soutenue par ma Représentante spéciale, l’UNICEF et d’autres partenaires, les États Membres concernés ont renouvelé leur attachement au plan d’action; je ne peux que m’en féliciter.   

Je demande à la communauté internationale d’apporter son concours à ces États et d’en faire une priorité.  Le système des Nations Unies s’efforcera d’autre part de mobiliser les acteurs non étatiques pour parvenir à mettre un terme au recrutement d’enfants.

All children deserve and are entitled to protection, not exploitation.  They belong in school, not armies and fighting groups.  Children should be armed with pens and textbooks, not guns and grenades. 

This brings me to the question of schools and hospitals.  These should be places where children can learn and receive care in safety.  That is why our peacekeeping policy prevents any military use of schools by peacekeepers.

In too many war zones around the world, schools and hospitals have been targeted or caught in the cross-fire.  These are egregious violations of the rights of the child to education, health and life. 

In Syria today, some 40 per cent of public hospitals have stopped functioning.  Many more are damaged.  In some areas, more than half the doctors have left.

More than two and a quarter million children are out of school. 

One in five schools has been damaged or occupied by families made homeless by the conflict.  I am heartened that the resolution before you today seeks to encourage the development of voluntary guidelines to prevent the military use of schools in conflict areas. 

I urge Member States to commit to greater protection for these essential facilities in conflict zones by all parties.  Let us also intensify efforts to ensure perpetrators of grave violations against children are brought to justice.  This includes assisting affected States to hold perpetrators accountable.

The resolution before you provides valuable new impetus to the Council’s work to protect children in armed conflict.  I count on the Council to use all the tools at its disposal to protect children on the front lines of conflict and prevent a new generation from having to endure the same privations.

Let our children be children — safe and secure, living lives of dignity and opportunity.  Thank you, Mr. President.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.