|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7259th Meeting* (AM)
Gains Made Protecting Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Overshadowed
By New Global Crises, Special Representative Tells Security Council
Acknowledgement of Abuses Not Enough
Survivor Says, Calling for Perpetrators to Be Held Accountable
In an all-day debate in the Security Council, over 60 speakers urged accelerated action to prevent and ensure accountability for the killing, recruiting and other abuse of children in situations of armed conflict that continued despite greater awareness of the scourge.
"You have the reports, you know the criminals, but acknowledgement is not enough,” said Sandra Uwiringiyimana, a survivor of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who, as a 10-year old, endured the burning of her family's tent in an attack on a refugee camp in Burundi. "You must take action for the nightmares to stop,” she added.
During the discussion the Council had before it the Secretary-General’s latest report on the issue (document S/2014/339), which lists eight countries and 51 non-State actors — including, for the first time, the Nigerian militia Boko Haram — that recruit, kill, maim or sexually abuse children, or engage in attacks on schools and hospitals. It describes threats to children in situations on the Council’s agenda.
Briefing the Council at the opening of the debate, Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said that new crises such as the one caused by Boko Haram had rapidly overshadowed gains made by international initiatives and pointed also to the horrors resulting from the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL. She also underlined the continuing carnage in Syria and high toll of the resurgence of conflict in Gaza.
She highlighted, in addition, children's suffering from the instability and tensions in Libya, Afghanistan, Mali, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, due to the activity of armed groups and military responses that often had little or no respect for civilians. On the other hand, there had been some progress through action plans in Chad, Yemen and South Sudan. Follow through on such plans was key, as was engaging non-State actors. She affirmed that ending impunity for violators of children’s rights was crucial.
Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that, since the last meeting and following the launch of the Children, Not Soldiers campaign by her agency and Ms. Zerrougui’s office, there had been progress in getting children released not only from Government armed forces, but also from non-Governmental groups in the Philippines and Myanmar. The Syrian Free Army had pledged its commitment to child protection, as well. Noting continued abuses, she urged greater efforts to change the attitudes of combatants be pursued.
In other briefings, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, described his Department’s support of the Children, Not Soldiers campaign and its partnerships with international child protection partners and its training of peacekeepers in standards and methods of child protection. Finally, Forest Whitaker, Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), relaying the individual experience of children that were used by armed groups, stressed that getting those young people released was an important first step, but assisting them to integrate into normal life was just as crucial, lest they be prey to returning to conflict.
Following those presentations, representatives of Member States affirmed their concern over the continued threats to children in situations of armed conflict and urged greater international response in the areas of prevention, prosecution of perpetrators and assistance to survivors. Many focused on emergent threats, such as ISIL and Boko Haram, and the situations in Syria and Gaza, as well as the range surveyed by Ms. Zerrougi. Attacks on schools, as well as their use for military purposes drew condemnation from many.
Welcoming the Children, Not Soldiers initiative and the signing of action plans for the release of children from the armed forces of some countries, many speakers called for the negotiation of more such plans, follow-through action and the engagement of non-State actors, noting that they represented 51 out of 59 parties listed in the Secretary-General’s report.
Most welcomed progress in some countries, noting the delisting of Chad from the group of violators. The representative of that country thanked the United Nations system for assistance in that effort. The representative of Somalia expressed hope that his country would be the next to be delisted, following its signing of an action plan and follow through.
In that vein, the representative of Nigeria said that his country had made a priority of ending the ravages of Boko Haram through a multi-track strategy, with international assistance. The representative of Iraq said that his country was working with international partners to protect its children from terrorist actions. He disagreed with the Secretary-General’s suggestion that children may serve on the country’s armed forces, however, as it was prohibited for those under age 18 to serve.
The Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg also made a statement.
Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Australia, Lithuania, Jordan, France, Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, Chile, Argentina, China, Rwanda, United States, Pakistan, Turkey, Colombia, Brazil, Sweden, Mexico, Thailand, Italy, Azerbaijan, Syria, Austria, Israel, Qatar, Iran, Germany, Malaysia, Guatemala, Estonia, Algeria, Belgium, India, Japan, Portugal, Poland, Canada, Indonesia, Morocco, Uruguay, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Spain, Afghanistan, New Zealand, Botswana, Myanmar, Somalia, Montenegro, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen, Philippines, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Representatives of the European Union Delegation and the League of Arab States also spoke.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 5:40 p.m.
LEILA ZERROUGUI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said that, although progress had been made towards better protecting children, new crises had rapidly overshadowed those gains. Recalling that the Council had been briefed repeatedly about Syria, she underscored that the situation there remained grave for children. The Council, as well, had witnessed first-hand the conditions for children in Sudan and Somalia. “Children in these and other conflicts are paying a high price,” she stated.
The violations by all parties to the conflict in Iraq were increasing, she said. Up to 700 children had been killed or maimed in that country since the beginning of 2014, including in summary executions. In its expansion from Syria into Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had been targeting minorities, including children and women, tasking boys as young as 13 to carry weapons, guard strategic locations or arrest civilians. Other children were being used as suicide bombers. Allied militia of the Iraq Government, as well, were using children in the fight against the “Islamic State” and the whereabouts of children jailed on security charges by the Government was unknown following the militias’ storming of those facilities in July.
Boko Harmam had been listed this year for the killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and hospitals, she said. Verification and monitoring systems were being implemented to better gather information of violations against children in northern Nigeria. Such targeted attacks had led to the death of 100 schoolchildren and 70 teachers in the north-east and more than 200 girls were still in the hands of Boko Harmam. The armed group was also recruiting and using boys and girls as young as 12 years old in their attacks. There were also reports of violations by Government forces in northern Nigeria, as well. The Nigerian Government had just announced an investigation into those incidents.
She stated that there had also been a “horrific toll” on children in the conflict in Gaza. Casualties had surpassed previous escalations in 2008-2009 and 2012 combined. Since the beginning of July, this year, more than 500 Palestinian children had been killed and at least 2,106 injured and maimed by Israeli forces. At least 244 schools, including 75 United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), had been shelled by the Israel Defense Forces. Access to education in Gaza was severely affected and would remain limited for the foreseeable future. In addition, medical personnel had been killed and half of Gaza’s hospitals damaged. Hamas rocket fire had killed one Israeli child and injured six others since the beginning of July, and the indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilian areas had damaged three schools in Israel. She called for the events in Gaza to be thoroughly investigated and for the perpetrators to be identified from all parties to the conflict and held accountable.
She went on to say that the rising instability and tensions in Libya, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Mali and South Sudan were resulting in both armed groups and military responses that utilized methods of warfare with little or no respect for civilians. Governments must adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law. The fight against impunity remained one of the key aspects in efforts to not only react to, but prevent grave violations against children. There needed to be a better use of tools in ensuring perpetrators faced prosecution, including by sanction regimes, doubling efforts to enhance national capacities in the judicial sector and by strengthening the framework of international justice, including the referral of perpetrators to the International Criminal Court.
Six months ago her Office, with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), had launched a global campaign “Children, Not Soldiers”, towards the goal of no children in Government forces by the end of 2016. There was overwhelming support from countries concerned and the Security Council, as well as regional organizations and non-governmental organization and Member States. The Government of Chad had already fulfilled all the requirements under its action plan to end and prevent the recruitment of children in its armed forces and had been recently delisted from the Secretary-General’s report on the matter. Yemen had also signed an action plan and recently South Sudan had recommitted to its action plan signed in 2012. Progress had also been made in Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The majority of parties listed were non-State actors, she said. The Office had concluded an equal number of action plans with both State and non-State actors, with the latter approaching the Office and partners on the ground to conclude their action plans. Recently, the Free Syrian Army had made a commitment to end child recruitment. Riek Machar of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) had also signed such a commitment. Other non-State armed groups in Darfur were also making progress towards those goals.
“I cannot overemphasize the importance for specific attention to the plight of child victims of armed conflict in peace processes and agreements,” she stressed. As children were a country’s future, long-standing peace would never be achieved without giving them the means, skills and education to re-build their society and institution. More must be done to include special provisions for children affected by conflict into peace agreements.
Concluding, she pointed out that, in light of the Secretary-General’s report and all the briefings on conflicts presented to the Security Council, it was not possible to consider children as a “collateral” issue. “Indeed, we now know that, in a large majority of conflicts around the world, children are targeted and used deliberately,” she stated. The Council must place children at the centre of each and every peace and security action it took, from peace agreements to mission mandates to accountability for crimes. “I count on you, but more importantly, the child victims around the world count on you,” she stated.
HERVÉ LADSOUS, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said partnerships and coordination of action with international child protection partners enabled his Department to contribute to a comprehensive response to address the plight of children. Partnerships with Member States, particularly troop- and police-contributing countries enabled the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to lead by example and uphold exemplary conduct and actions across the spectrum of actors. Most importantly, the Department must establish partnerships with States in which United Nations peacekeeping operations are deployed, for them to uphold their primary responsibility of protecting children. In that regard, the Department would spare no efforts to promote the Children, Not Soldiers campaign and support the Governments and security forces of Afghanistan, Sudan, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to be free of child soldiers by 2016.
Beyond the campaign, Governments must also set the example and support access for monitoring, assistance, and engagement with armed troops, he said. That remained a challenge, particularly in places such as Sudan or Mali. When negotiating peace or ceasefires, States must lead by example and prioritize the inclusion of non-negotiable child protection provisions in all agreements. Robust action against armed groups holding child soldiers had also taken place, which required United Nations peacekeepers to show courage and uphold the highest standards of conduct and integrity. Troops were required to understand how such military actions must be tailored to the specific needs of girls and boys.
To that end, he said, a specialized training module on child protection for the military had been developed and finalized in early 2014. The modules, piloted in Malaysia and Uruguay in 2013, had now been shared with all troop-contributing countries. He noted that continued support — through follow-on instructional activities back home that enhanced child protection training for their troops — was required from all countries that had sent personnel to attend the courses. A specialized training module was also being developed for the United Nations police, with a focus on capacity-building for host State police, as well as wider legal reforms, corrections and juvenile justice issues.
YOKA BRANDT, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, said it was a “terrible irony” that in the twenty-fifth year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, that so many atrocities against children had been committed. Since the last open debate on the matter, children in Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Gaza and the Central African Republic had been recruited, used in conflict, orphaned or killed, with many witnessing massacres. Despite global advocacy efforts, Government and non-State armed groups continued to use schools to store weapons, detain prisoners and house soldiers. Schools, teachers, and students had been targeted, with 200 Nigerian schoolgirls still missing after being abducted.
The initiative by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack and its partners which advocated schools as safe and protected spaced was most welcomed, she said, along with the new Lucens Guidelines which outlined actions Governments could take to end military use of schools. All Member States should support and implement those Guidelines. The other initiative, “Children, Not Soldiers”, had received commitments by eight concerned countries to protect children. Encouraging results included Myanmar’s armed forces releasing 91 children; Democratic Republic of the Congo’s implementation of its action plan, with the release of hundreds of children and the appointment of a Presidential Adviser on Sexual Violence and Child Recruitment; and the delisting of Chad.
However, she said, focus must stay on persistent challenges, especially the recruitment of children by non-State armed groups. In the Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan, among others, children were continuing to be mobilized, manning checkpoints, loading weapons, carrying guns, participating in armed conflict, and being subject to sexual violence. Nonetheless, some armed groups were taking “bold steps” to end that practice. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines had convened a meeting with 30 of its commanders and had recommitted to protecting children. In Myanmar, the country task force had begun discussions with the Karen National Union, Karenni National Progress Party and the Kachin Independence Organization, in efforts to engage other listed parties soon.
Still, additional initiatives were needed, she stressed, calling for more negotiations to release children held by armed groups. Further, stronger efforts to change attitudes about the role of children in conflict was needed, along with more rehabilitation centres to help “mend [children’s] hearts and minds”, so that they could have a better, more prosperous future.
FOREST WHITAKER, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, having recently returned from a trip to South Sudan, said the situation there remained dire. “After meeting with generals on the ground, soldiers and civilians, I fear there is no end in sight to the violence.” Nine months after the conflict started, most of the 100,000 children who had sought shelter in the over-crowded protection of civilian camps around the country still did not feel it was safe to go back home. The city of Bentiu in the north was all but deserted; houses burned to the ground, hospitals closed and villages destroyed.
The conditions many children in South Sudan must endure were particularly concerning, he said. In some of the protection of civilian camps, some of the boys’ and girls’ hair was turning red from malnutrition. Hundreds of schools were empty and some had been turned into military camps. Perhaps worst of all, he witnessed many children wearing military uniforms and carrying guns. The idea of children living in military camps or fighting wars was unconscionable. “Inhumane in the strictest sense of the word, it robbed its victims of a phase of their lives to which every human being is entitled.”
“Though children may become soldiers for a variety of reasons, the practice was singularly and universally unacceptable, and it must end,” he said. One stubborn challenge that remained was that of reintegrating former child soldiers into their families and communities, which was often a long, complex and resource-intensive process. Supporting Governments to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers was a paramount and necessary first step, but the international community must also devote adequate resources to caring for the children once they were brought home. Concrete action must be taken to ensure former child soldiers were not recruited back to the battlefield in future conflicts. Doing so would not only give the children a chance to live normal, healthy lives, but would also help prevent future violence.
In the last few years, important strides towards ending the use of child soldier around the world had been made, he said. Countries that had long been among the most egregious violators were now showing a true will to reform. The Security Council and the international community must continue to support such efforts without compromise or exception. Just as importantly, necessary resources must be put into place to strengthen the programmes that were needed to truly rebuild those children’s lives. “Unless we are there to meet them with open arms, open homes, and open schools, their wars will never end. And neither will ours.”
SANDRA UWIRINGIYIMANA, a survivor of violence from the Democratic Republic of Congo, described her earliest memories of spending nights hiding in bushes, dropping out of school whenever a new war broke out and recoiling from such images as a Congolese soldier marching in the streets with a head impaled on a stick. Finally fleeing such violence in 2004, the family made it to a United Nations refugee camp in Gatumba, Burundi, after experiencing beatings and being robbed of all their belongings. After a few months, however, their tent was set ablaze by armed men, with wounded family members inside, and she had to run away into the night. She was 10 years old.
She said that the only way to stop such horrors was to bring people like those who participated in the Gatumba attack to justice. "Only then will millions of survivors like me hear loud and clear that our lives have value," she said. She and her siblings were now doing well, having been resettled in the United States through a United Nations programme. She affirmed that resettlement and treatment for survivors was important. "But, healing and peace will not come until there is justice. You have the reports, you know the criminals, but acknowledgement is not enough. You must take action for the nightmares to stop," she concluded.
JEAN ASSELBORN, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg, said that, despite the many resolutions adopted by the Council on children and armed conflict, young people continued to pay a very heavy price during conflicts. Recounting that children were being killed, maimed, abducted, sexually abused, recruited by Government forces and non-State actors alike in Syria, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Gaza and Iraq, to name a few, he stressed the importance of ensuring that group’s right to education. “The ignorance stemming from a deficit of education fosters intolerance and perpetuates the cycle of poverty, thus contributing to feeding the violence,” he stated.
He said that whether through country-specific resolutions, peacekeeping operations mandates, sanctions regimes or the conclusions adopted by the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, the Council must be coherent and concretely apply what it had committed to in its thematic resolutions. In addition, the fight against impunity was critical, and, in that regard, the Council must act, including making referrals to the International Criminal Court.
Over 10,000 children had been killed in Syria, he pointed out, with thousands more being maimed and scarred for life, both physically and psychologically. Reports of abuse by ISIL were increasing, with more than 500 children killed in Iraq since the beginning of 2014. Close to 500 children had been killed in the Gaza strip, as well and Boko Haram had also committed grave violations against young people, among other situations. However, because of the efforts of the Special Representative, Governments were continuing to make commitments to protect children, he said, noting progress made by Yemen, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar. He called on the Council to pursue eliminating the “worst aspects of conflict” and bringing practical solutions to end the violations and abuses committed against children.
BANTE MANGARAL ( Chad) pointed to a "staggering increase" in the number of serious crimes against children, with perpetrators going unpunished despite the provisions of international law. Schools were targets in States such as Mali, Yemen, Nigeria and Afghanistan, and the intensification of several conflicts explained the increased violence. The United Nations was considering a strategic approach to addressing the situation. Praising the role of the United Nations and the support given by the Security Council, he said it was important not to lose track of the fact that increases in violence against children were linked to impunity. The report called for strengthening of the protection of children and the work of the Office on Children and Armed Conflict, alongside regional and subregional organization in the field, would be vital. Underlining the importance of the Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict, he said it should continue to work with different actors and could further participate in the protection of children. Political will of countries involved in Action Plans was essential and Chad stood ready to share its own experiences of efforts to achieve delisting.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) praised the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, listing recent achievements including commitments made by the South Sudan Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army to end violations against children. Ms. Zerrougi's work included important advocacy, field visits and the Children, Not Soldiers campaign. Chad had fulfilled its Action Plan and was now delisted. Continued efforts to build on that progress were needed and Chad should share its successes. The Secretary-General's report described progress, but moving evidence presented to the Council proved the "horrifying scale of violations" still ongoing. In Syria, 5.5 million children were missing out on education. To combat that, the United Kingdom supported the "No Lost Generation" initiative to try to meet children's needs. The abductions of girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram were a "barbaric abuse of children" and perpetrators had to be held to account by the International Criminal Court.
U. JOY OGWU ( Nigeria) recounted first-hand experiences of Boko Haram, particularly their targeting of schools. The group's ideology propelled them to attack schools and the Nigerian Government condemned their activities and sought to prevent them. The help of the United Nations was vital to routing and defeating Boko Haram and rescuing the girls. Nigeria had a multi-track strategy to combat Boko Haram, with a comprehensive programme of assistance targeting some of the most vulnerable parts of the country. Securing educational facilities was a key pillar of the strategy and measures included construction of perimeter fences, providing housing for teachers, enhancing community policing and installing school guards and alarm systems. Spending totalled $20 million with a target of $100 million and the World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB) and other partners had committed to helping. In north-east Nigeria, efforts to tackle the socioeconomic situations that fuelled vulnerabilities were under way. Under a de-radicalizations programme, which was also central to the strategy, extremists were to be reintegrated into society through engagement in transformative activities.
GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) described the "dire" situation children faced around the world, including killings, recruitment as soldiers, sexual violence, kidnapping and attacks on their schools. He pointed to progress, including the delisting of Chad's armed forces since verification of their compliance with the Action Plan; the Somali Government's recommitment to making its army child-free; the signing of an action plan by Yemen; and the recent release by Myanmar of 91 child soldiers. Much more work was needed, with recruitment of children by non-State armed groups particularly concerning. The impact of military activities on schools also needed addressing, together with ensuring accountability for violators of children's rights. The Children, Not Soldiers campaign was among several measures necessary to end recruitment of children and other grave violations by non-State actors. Progress had been made in the Philippines, with the Action Plan between the United Nations and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front the only one in place with a non-State actor. He called for more work to protect schools, to end impunity and to address perpetrators of violations against children through targeted Security Council sanctions.
RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) linked the availability and proliferation of modern light weapons to the wide-spread involvement of children in conflicts and stressed the importance of implementing resolution 2117 (2013). Girls were especially vulnerable to kidnap and sexual exploitation, and child recruitment was a major concern. Several Governments had attempted to address the problem under the Children, Not Soldiers campaign and only Sudan had not signed an action plan to stop recruitment. Various armed groups around the world, including Boko Haram and ISIL, were guilty of child abduction, murder and other acts of "rare barbarity and violence". The Security Council should use tools such as sanctions to tackle recruitment of and violence against children, while the failure of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to adopt its conclusions on Syria, where more than 10,000 children were affected, was a major concern. Resolution 2143 (2014) demanded respect for and protection of schools during conflict and the recent situation in Gaza reminded States of the "huge gap between the letter of the resolution and its implementation". Attacks on schools and their conversion for military use were deplorable and "in blatant violation of international humanitarian law" and the resolution.
DINA KAWAR ( Jordan) said that her country was surrounded by States where children were being maltreated, regretting international inaction on ending violence in Syria in particular. In Iraq, she called on all communities to unite in an inclusive arrangement to end the violence. She avowed that Islamist extremist groups had hijacked and distorted Islam there. On the Palestinian territories, she expressed worries about new generations of extremism being produced by what she called brutal Israeli practices in Gaza and elsewhere. Her country would continue to support efforts to end violence against children in armed conflict.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) welcomed recent United Nations efforts to end recruitment of children by armed groups, and maintaining that the United Nations must set it self up as an example, called for a clarification of rules on participation of contingents in peacekeeping operations in that context. He expressed grave concern over the situation in Iraq and Syria, seeing hope, however in recent commitments by the Free Syrian Army. He looked forward to the full deployment of peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. All must work to institute the Paris Principles to end all abuse of children in armed conflict, to which purpose his Government would remain dedicated.
EVGENY ZAGAYNOV ( Russian Federation) said equal attention must be paid to all six violations of the rights of children named in the last resolution on the issue. The Security Council working group must concentrate, for that purpose, on situations already on the Council agenda. He expressed concern over the situation of children in Ukraine, citing figures of child deaths and other damage from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the rejection of humanitarian assistance by Kyiv. He hoped that recent agreements would ameliorate the situation, but it remained of grave concern. Internationally, clear criteria for listing and delisting must be established and must be as impartial, accurate and transparent as possible.
OH JOON ( Republic of Korea) said that the changing character of warfare was adding to the risks of children and time-bound strategies need to be instituted to end it. The special needs of girls must be particularly addressed, as shown by the situation in Nigeria, given the marginalization caused by rape and other sexual abuses. In addition, the flow of arms to conflicts must be controlled and the Arms Trade Treaty implemented. It was particularly important to ensure accountability for persistent violators of children's rights. National judicial systems should be empowered to prosecute such crimes and sanctions used in effective ways, he stressed.
CARLOS OLGUÍN CIGARROA (Chile), associating himself with the Human Security Network, pointed to the changing nature of conflict, which included increased attacks on children, saying that ongoing attention to the subject was needed. The Secretary-General's recommendations should be supported, as should the work of Ms. Zerrougui and of civil society. The fact that eight countries had committed to ending the use of children in State security service was a positive development, while progress on releasing them and ending recruitment by non-State armed groups was also good news. The primary responsibility for ending impunity lay with States and those responsible for heinous crimes against children should be tried and condemned. If States were unable to fulfil their responsibilities, it would be up to the International Criminal Court to try crimes under the Rome Statute. Evidence preservation was important where crimes did take place, and peacekeepers should be trained in preserving evidence.
MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL ( Argentina) said the recent escalation in violence between Israel and Palestine had included targeting of hospitals, mosques and protected civilian sites including United Nations facilities. Bombardment of residential areas with heavy weapons had destroyed families and matters of intentionality were blurred in such circumstances. There had to be a cessation of the use of such weapons and doing so should be considered a war crime. The situation in Syria had also worsened and the international community needed to turn its attention there. Consensus was needed in the Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict, as the body had not been able to adopt its conclusions on Syria. A key part was ensuring that weapons no longer be supplied to either side in the conflict. To tackle violence against children, it was vital to fight impunity, particularly where sexual crimes were committed. In addition, it was important to establish dialogue with non-State actors.
LIU JIEYI ( China), stressing efforts made by the international community in addressing the problem of children in armed conflict, outlined several elements of a strategy in that regard. Key to it was prevention and resolution of armed conflicts and the Security Council had a role in preventing it. United Nations agencies and offices needed to leverage their expertise in order to work synergistically in pursuit of the same goal. The primary responsibility for protecting children lay with national Governments and the international community should help them to do so. All parties should cease violence and respect and protect children's lives, with armed groups and non-State actors requiring attention. After conflict, children should be reintegrated into their families, schools and normal lives, and UNICEF and the World Bank should support Government's efforts.
OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE ( Rwanda) described the particular resonance the debate had to his country because of the Tutsi children killed there in 1994, as well as the children who were recruited to carry out the killings. Twenty years later, children still bore the brunt of conflict. In Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, children faced rape and enslavement. Children should not be recruited to kill, but should instead be enrolled in schools and those institutions should never be targeted or used for military purposes. It was concerning that Government security forces remained on the Secretary-General's list of violators and it was important to support the Children, Not Soldiers campaign and to endorse the Secretary-General's call for determined and tangible steps towards action plans. The international community should support national Governments in upholding their responsibility to protect. The United Nations system was committed to the agenda, but the plight of innocent children demanded an answer as to why effective implementation remained a challenge. The international community should redouble its efforts to find out why children paid the heaviest price for wars that adults decided to fight and why bodies such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda were still able to recruit children with virtual impunity.
SAMANTHA POWER ( United States) said that, among the overwhelming figures, it was easy to forget that individual lives were the subject of the discussion. She related the stories of a Yazidi girl taken from Mosul to be raped and to see her family murdered, a boy abducted by combatants in South Sudan and another wounded by a barrel bomb in Syria. Key steps to stemming such abuses included unified condemnation by the Council, such as the condemnation of attacks on and militarization of schools and focussed campaigns to shape action plans and ensure they were carried out. Holding perpetrators accountable was particularly important. Some progress had been made, as in the example of Chad, but much more support to the effort must be given.
MASOOD KHAN ( Pakistan) condemned use of children in armed conflict and called on all parties to such violence to end such abuses. Significant progress had been made in establishing standards and norms and listing offenders, but the scourge continued. He welcomed the effective mechanisms of the Children, Not Soldiers campaign, and called for strengthening national prosecution capacities. He also welcomed contacts with non-State armed groups, and stressed that schools should neither be attacked or used for military purposes. Peacekeeping missions must receive necessary support to uphold standards of child protection; as a major troop contributor, Pakistan was committed to that effort. References to Phjis country in the Secretary-General's report was not in the purview of that document, however, he maintained.
HALIT ÇEVIK (Turkey), describing the suffering of children in conflicts in his region, said a strong display of political will was the most useful tool to end it, in support of United Nations efforts. Child protection should also be mainstreamed into negotiations to end conflict, and peacekeeping and other activities should be conducted in conjunction with regional organizations. Pressure to end use of children by armed groups must continue. In contacting non-State actors it was important to avoid legitimizing them in the process, however. His country supported all international efforts to protect children.
MARIA EMMA MEJÍA VELÉZ ( Colombia) said that the conflict in her country had deeply affected its children and the topic was being addressed in current negotiations to end the conflict. Legal provisions for restitution of lands were also important in that context. Mechanisms to aid child victims were progressing as well. The United Nations was integral to all such progress and she pledged her Government's commitment to continue its cooperation with the Organization.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA ( Brazil) said the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism and Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict were examples of an enhanced institutional framework on the subject. The recent Guidance Note on protection of schools and hospitals continued that positive trend. International law was clear on the responsibility to protect children in conflicts but more effort was needed to promote diplomatic initiatives aimed at ceasing hostilities and sustaining peace. The International Criminal Court should investigate and prosecute crimes and also provide reparations to victims. Iraq, Syria and Gaza were situations requiring particular attention and Brazil was committed to the No Lost Generation strategy to support Syrian children. Violence was not an automatic result of poverty, but promoting education, social inclusion, food security and a healthy environment could lessen the risks. It was regrettable that developed countries seemed "to continuously work to reduce the United Nations budget for development activities", and Brazil supported sports, arts and cultural activities to promote development.
MARTEN GRUNDITZ (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, said new crises overshadowed some recent gains made and stressed that "armed conflict is devastating for children". As well as direct deaths from attacks, children were subject to indirect deaths, too, through disease, starvation and dehydration. Seventy-seven per cent of children who never attended school and the majority of malnourished children were in conflict-affected and fragile States. Protecting them was not just a moral imperative, "but also a security issue, and an economic issue, as children are investments in the future". Peacekeepers needed pre-deployment training in child protection. Basic services needed to be maintained during conflict, including access to education and health care, and attacks on schools and hospitals that deprived children of such rights should be considered war crimes. The situations in Iraq, Syria, several African States and Afghanistan were of grave concern, and the "fact that children constituted almost a quarter of those killed in the Gaza conflict is totally unacceptable".
YANERIT MORGAN ( Mexico) said that there was no shortage of examples of children being impacted by conflict. The principle of the highest interest was that of childhood and all platforms, local, national, regional and international platforms should cooperate to support that. She condemned attacks against schools and hospitals, as well as on heavily populated areas of civilians. Such attacks were contrary to international humanitarian law and she welcomed the recent advancements made on the matter, including the note by UNICEF seeking the implementation of resolution 1998 (2011). In addition, resolution 2143 (2014) was an innovative and positive step forward to protect schools. Attacks on places of learning undermined the future development of societies. Impunity was also a significant obstacle and national authorities and concerned parties must take action to bring those to justice. Accordingly, sanctions committees should take into account children in their mandates and address perpetrators who systematically committed violations.
SHAYAPAN BAMRUNGPHONG ( Thailand), underscoring his country's commitment to the protection of children through various international efforts and conventions, addressed the inclusion in the Secretary-General's report on the situation in Thailand's southern border provinces. That situation did not constitute armed conflict, as defined by international law and should not be included in the report, nor was it on the Council's agenda. Among others, the United Nations should be "extremely mindful" of the sensitivities and complexities of the situation on the ground and work closely with the consent of concerned Governments, particularly when non-State actors were involved. In addition, sources of information should be included in reports and be identifiable and verifiable.
SEBASTIANO CARDI ( Italy) said that cooperation with national and international courts was crucial. In cases where national judicial systems were unable or unwilling to intervene, State parties to the Rome Statute should consider referral to the International Criminal Court. Further, the commitment of the entire United Nations system was critical to ensuring implementation of the architecture created since resolution 1621 (2005) and he commended stakeholders for the development of a comprehensive and systematic training programme on child protection and child rights for all peacekeeping personnel, as well as the campaign "Children, Not Soldiers". "Any boy or girl that we save from the scourge of war represents hope for a better future," he said.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV ( Azerbaijan) said he was particularly concerned over the negative impact of armed conflicts on refugees and internally displaced persons, many of whom were children. Where the right of return remained challenged and impunity prevailed, reconciliation and sustainable peace would be difficult to achieve. Mechanisms of reconciliation and transitional justice should safeguard rights to restitution, compensation and reparations. The best protection was prevention and the Security Council had a critical role in that regard. Children's rights had to be brought to the forefront of the international humanitarian agenda. The situations faced by internally displaced children needed particular consideration. Children had to be a high priority for the United Nations system and education and training was needed to ensure they could have productive and sustainable livelihoods.
MONIA ALSALEH (Syria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that criminal armed groups were roaming areas controlled by ISIL, making children murderers, training them to kill with weapons heavier than their own bodies. Their innocence had been taken away and replaced with images of them crying slogans of murder. He described a video in which a man whose accent was from the Gulf, not Syria, indoctrinated Syrian children with deliberately twisted religious texts. The Syrian Government had tried to prevent recruitment of children and had adopted a legislative decree to that end. It sought to prevent the targeting of schools, and to tackle violence, sexual exploitation and mutilation of children in Syria. Several investigations had been launched and the Government had provided evidence to the United Nations, including verified information on attacks on schools. He said he asked the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to investigate the recruitment of Syrian children by foreign Powers and asked what the Special Representative had done to deal with crimes committed against children in Syria.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Permanent Observer of the European Union Delegation, urged any party guilty of violations described in the report to stop and act to prevent future violations. He also called for accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. The European Union Children of Peace initiative sought to educate children in emergencies and he was determined to continue work to prevent their recruitment and to demobilize and reintegrate former child soldiers. The International Criminal Court was essential to the fight against impunity and the Union was investing in child protection across the board. More cooperation was needed with regional and subregional groups to protect children’s rights and the European Union had helped organize a workshop in Addis Ababa recently. The surge in recruitment and use of children in Central African Republic was concerning, as was the deterioration of the situation in South Sudan. Boko Haram’s activities were also worrying and the abuses by all parties carried out in Iraq were deplorable.
ANDREAS RIECKEN ( Austria), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, highlighted the Security Council’s adoption of resolution 2143 (2014), as well as the work on the so-called “Draft Lucens Guidelines” on the military use of schools. The high number of parties listed in the report’s annexes was of concern, especially the 31 persistent offenders, but significant progress confirmed the benefits and merits of the Security Council framework for tackling the issue. The Government of Chad’s delisting was to be commended as were the efforts of other States that were listed. The report covered persistent violence in several settings but also the emergence of new situations, including in Gaza and Nigeria. It dealt with denial of humanitarian access to civilians, including children, in several countries, a practice prohibited under the Geneva Convention. It was important to remain focused on non-State armed groups because they were the majority of violators, and more efforts were needed to address impunity.
RON PROSOR ( Israel) said that, during the summer, over 3,800 rockets and mortars had been fired into his country, landing on kindergartens, playgrounds and homes. His Government was committed to upholding international law and ensuring the protection of civilians. However, radical extremist groups, such as Hamas, used civilians to achieve their goals, deploying minors as suicide bombers and recruiting them to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. In the recent escalation, they had booby-trapped hundreds of Palestinian homes and had launched M-75 rockets from a children's playground, among other activities. Hamas, as well, had rejected textbooks UNRWA had recently tried to distribute to teach Gaza's children about human rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Over 100,000 Palestinian children had graduated from Hamas' paramilitary camps which encouraged teenagers to "follow in the footsteps of the suicide martyrs". He called for Palestinian leadership to teach its children tolerance, coexistence and mutual understanding.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI ( Qatar) noted the importance of the campaign "Children, Not Soldiers", stating that it came at a critical time. The Secretary-General's report "painted a very painful portrait" of children suffering around the world, including many in the Arab world. Palestinian children were not immune to that suffering, due to the Israeli aggression, which had committed grave violations, with armed forces indiscriminately attacking civilian areas. She condemned the repeated attacks against UNRWA schools and the use of those institutions by parties to the conflict. She noted that, in 24 countries around the world, schools were being used for military activities, as well. Strict measures needed to be taken in regards to those responsible for violations against children and for the adoption of laws that criminalized those acts, holding those accountable.
GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEGHANI (Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, despite efforts around the world and measures taken by the Security Council and humanitarian institutions, armed conflicts continued to take a heavy toll on children, in particular, those in occupied Palestinian territories. He called for Israel to be held accountable for crimes against the Palestinian population and for the destruction of Gaza's infrastructure. The Council should bring an end to such violations and the principles of proportionality and the prohibiting of attacking civilian areas needed to be adhered to. He called for the elimination for all forms of discrimination, including the abduction and rape of girls and women as an instrument of war and the trafficking of women and girls. International law needed to be adhered to and perpetrators needed to be brought to justice. To ensure that inroads were made in the protection of children in armed conflicts, it was critical to sustain such advancement. Accordingly, all stakeholders should work closely. Further, information in documents needed to be based on certifiable data and gaps in the reporting process should be addressed and improved.
HEIKO THOMS ( Germany) said that the current "list of shame" showed that dealing with non-State actors remained the biggest challenge, with many of those groups having been listed for "far too long". The international community needed to reinforce its efforts and bring new and creative solutions to deal with those types of violations. The reports about actions by the "Islamic State" and Boko Haram were shocking. In that regard, the concrete Guidance Note on Attacks against Schools and Hospitals was welcomed. It was important that armed forces of those State Parties listed in the Secretary-General's report should only be allowed to contribute troops to United Nations-mandated missions once the full implementation of their action plan to end and prevent violations against children was certified.
HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), associating himself with the Non-aligned Movement and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), expressed grave concern over continued abuse of children in armed conflict, citing the situation in Gaza and particularly the targeting of schools and hospitals there. He supported additional concrete measures for demilitarization of such institutions. He also supported the initiative to end use of children in armed forces by 2016, and said that those responsible for sexual crimes must be brought to justice. States must strengthen accountability measures and protection of children should be mainstreamed into all Security Council considerations. The issue should remain priority.
MONICA BOLANOS ( Guatemala), also expressing grave concern over threats to children and the emergence of hasher groups such as ISIL, said that the response must evolve with changing circumstances. Legal reforms to combat impunity was particularly important. Her country supported the recent United Nations initiatives to end the use of children in armed conflict, the mainstreaming of child protection into the work of the Security Council and the inclusion of the issue on the agenda of Council visits to the field. The international community must commit itself to do everything possible to improve the situation.
MARGUS KOLGA ( Estonia), aligning himself with the European Union, affirmed that all measures must be taken to end abuse of children in conflict situations, including acceding to the relevant international treaties. Education, in addition, was a key element of prevention. Protection of schools from attacks and military use was necessary. Another important aspect was training peacekeepers in child protection and the deployment of child protection advisers. He said would have liked to have seen more emphasis on ending impunity in the Secretary-General's latest report and more of an effort to get countries to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and to strengthen national prosecution capabilities. "There is never too much we can do for children," he said. "By protecting children, we protect our children."
AHMED AMINFATHALLA of the League of Arab States said that recent crises had increased the suffering of children in the Arab world who represented half of the population there. Their exploitation was banned in the region, but nevertheless, many had become part of the war machine. In recent years, the League had developed frameworks to redress the situation and promote children's rights through cooperation of States in the region. There was extensive engagement with the United Nations system on the issue, including regional promotion of the relevant provisions and protocols of the children's rights convention. Work to gain the cooperation of non-State armed groups had also been undertaken. Turning to the suffering of children in Gaza, he said that they needed greater international assistance and protection of their rights.
SABRI BOUKADOUM ( Algeria) said that efforts to protect children in armed conflicts was not only an obligation under international law, but also a moral duty. Their place was in school and those institutions should be protected. The issue was of paramount importance, and although some legal instruments and resolutions addressed it, more needed to be done, he said, pointing out that more than 300,000 children had been forcibly enlisted as soldiers. The Council should make its message an action and as clear as possible. The world should know that the body would take action against those violating the laws protecting children, regardless of their status as a State or a non-State actor. In addition, the Secretary-General's report should come with specific recommendation and the Council should be proactive. Sanctions could not be a hypothetical option. He commended Chad for setting an example for Africa and beyond. "We owe it to children that they hold pencils and paper in safe schools, not weapons," he stated.
BÉNÉDICTE FRANKINET ( Belgium), associating herself with the European Union Delegation, said it was deplorable that armed conflicts continued to affect children in disproportional numbers. She congratulated, among others, the Democratic Republic of the Congo Presidential Adviser on Sexual Violence. Nevertheless, recruitment of children continued in the country and needed to be addressed. She called upon the Government to fully implement its action plan and bring to trial those responsible for gender-based violence. States that had not done so should ratify all relevant conventions on the matter, including those on cluster ammunition and landmines. More so, armed forces listed in the Secretary-General's report should not be allowed to contribute troops to peacekeeping missions, and regional organizations should ensure that the protection of children be included in their own guidelines, trainings and conduct of peacekeeping operations.
ASOKE MUKERJI ( India) noted a reference in the Secretary-General’s report on the impact of left-wing extremist armed groups on children in his country. The Government was addressing that issue as a priority and was committed to redressing the situation through a combination of law and robust policy initiatives. In regards to the “interface” between the United Nations and non-State actors, he pointed out that non-State actors were not bound by any legal obligation or commitments, leaving such interface open-ended. A strict application of the rule of law as a deterrence to armed non-State groups would be more effective, especially when investigating and prosecuting those inveigling children into armed conflict or violating their fundamental human rights. He pointed out that only countries from the developing world had been listed in the relevant section of the report. The matter at hand was not only confined to the developing world, but it also occurred in developed countries.
YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA ( Japan) said that of the 276 girls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria, 223 of them were still missing. It was necessary to prevent similar crimes from taking place and no efforts should be spared in supporting the victims. In that regard, his Government had contributed financial resources towards psychosocial support and health care for the victims and their community in Nigeria. The incident symbolized the vulnerable conditions of children in armed conflict. It was not the first time nor did it only occur in Nigeria. The Council should consider the best way to prevent and eliminate child abductions in armed conflicts. In regards to cases of peacekeepers violating the rights of children he stressed that peacekeeping operations should be a model in safeguarding children. It was important for troop contributing countries to train personnel at home, so that they did not abuse children in the course of their duties, but protect them.
ÁLVARO DE MENONÇA E MOURA (Portugal), supporting the Children Not Soldiers campaign, as well as action plans to release youth from armed groups, urged greater efforts to gain compliance with those plans. As the overall situation of children had deteriorated in a group of countries, he stressed that perpetrators of all violations must be listed in the Secretary-General's report, saying that this normative framework was a critical tool to end the abuses. He supported guidelines for protecting educational facilities from attack and militarization. In regard to persistent violators of children's rights, including non-State actors, he said that impunity must be ended to protect the credibility of international efforts. Finally, he stressed peacekeeping contingents must have high standards against any abuse of children.
BOGUSLAW WINID (Poland), describing the worsening situation for children in some conflict situations and welcoming initiatives to redress it, noted that his country was the main initiator of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was of utmost importance that all countries sign, ratify and effectively implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention and that violators of its provisions face international accountability mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court.
GUILLERMO E. RISHCHYNSKI ( Canada), calling for additional steps to protect children against abuses, cited that systematic imposition of sanctions and targeted measures against violators was one example. Persistent perpetrators needed to come under continual pressure. Having observed Boko Haram, it was necessary to add abduction to the list of triggers for listing violators. Targeting schools or using them as military facilities deprived children access to education and put their lives at risk. Canada was co-sponsor of resolution 2143 (2014) that called for greater protection of children and more effective pre-deployment training for peacekeepers in child protection was needed. It was also important to screen such individuals to ensure they had never committed crimes against children. Both formal and informal systems for protection were needed. Civic registration and data collection were examples of formal measures while informal systems included active participation by families, communities and children themselves in creating and fostering good environments. Canada had contributed $27 million to child protection initiatives, $10 million to UNICEF and $50 million to the No Lost Generation initiative in Syria.
DESRA PERCAYA ( Indonesia), speaking on behalf of OIC, described Islam's prescription of protection of children and the rights the religion granted those young people. He was appalled at the consequences borne by children when armed conflicts broke out. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation opposed violence and perpetrators of hostilities against children had to be held accountable. Peaceful resolution of disputes was vital to eradicating violence against children and his organization would be guided by its Charter in strengthening its partnership with the United Nations in response to conflicts. The organization established a "Peace, Security and Mediation Unit" in 2013 and was committed to its Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission. The Council was vital to ensuring State compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law and Palestinian children continued to suffer from military occupation. Robust international attention was needed to deal with that and the global community was currently failing to protect civilians in armed conflict.
OMAR HILALE ( Morocco) said children were dual victims, suffering violence, but also recruitment as child soldiers. The debate would help improve the existing toolbox for protecting children. He welcomed efforts made by States under the Children, Not Soldiers initiative, hoping it would attain its objective of stopping the recruitment of children by 2016. The international community's efforts had fallen short and galvanization was needed. Security Council resolutions and the Paris Principles had not attained what they set out to do, and a multi-faceted approach was needed. It needed to be comprehensive and strategic, stressing prevention, democracy and good governance. National strategies depended on the availability of resources to Governments, so he called for a response to the Secretary-General's appeal for help. The international community needed to coordinate in launching reprisals against groups like ISIL and Boko Haram in order to achieve the best results.
GONZALO KONCKE ( Uruguay) said last time the debate was held, she expressed her disgust at violations of the rights of children. They were targets of killing, sexual violence and recruitment, while schools were being targeted and used as military locations. The debate's subject was also on the agenda of the General Assembly, but she underscored the role played by the Council, adopting resolutions to end recruitment and violence against children. Thanks to plans of action, thousands had been freed from exploitation. Violations against children had to end and respect for the Geneva Convention was essential and the International Criminal Court had to be employed in the fight against impunity.
Mr. ANJO ( Iraq) said that his country was facing great threats to its stability, which hindered its political transition, as well as the security of its people. He agreed with the Secretary-General’s report that terrorism had taken a greater toll on civilians last year. However, he disagreed with the paragraphs on Iraq's armed forces, which he maintained, could not be accurate because it was illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to serve in those forces. His Government was protecting children from terrorism through strengthening its criminal code and by working with international partners to increase security in his country.
MIRSADA ČOLAKOVIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina), associating herself with the European Union Delegation, said that to counter the grave violations against children described in the Secretary-General's report, Member States had the primary responsibility and must uphold existing international standards. Those States must place their obligations into practice through national legislative systems. The Security Council had an important role in building child protection measures into peacekeeping mandates; all Member States must work to assure that peacekeepers upheld the highest standards and that child protection was integrated into post-conflict recovery and reconstruction, with particular attention to refugee and displaced children.
ROMAN OYARZUN (Spain), noting that his country had provided support to the Children Not Soldiers initiative and other child protection efforts, stressed that in the effort to end child recruitment, it was crucial to engage non-State armed groups. For all child protection, mainstreaming of the issue in peacekeeping was needed and cooperation with regional organizations was important. Noting the worsening situation in many countries, he urged all parties to conflict to comply with Council resolutions. The fight against impunity was key. He emphasized that it was the States themselves that had the primary obligation to protect children from harm and prosecute violators.
ZAHIR TANIN ( Afghanistan), associating himself with OIC, said that children had suffered immeasurably during 30 years of war in his country. Resurgent conflict and pernicious extremism continued to cause them tremendous suffering. They were killed and wounded in attacks and were exploited by terrorists as combatants, suicide attackers and even as sex slaves. Schools were in danger and girls and teachers threatened with acid attacks, murder and abduction. In 2013, there were 73 attacks on schools, with dozens of children injured. Afghanistan launched the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict in 2010 and in 2011 the Committee developed a national action plan to end and prevent the recruitment of children in the Afghan National Security Forces. Child Protection Units were established within the Afghan national and local police recruitment centres, with many boys rejected from voluntary enlistment. Age verification had been pioneered in Herat and the good practice was to be extended throughout the country.
JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand) said the report was "solemn and disturbing reading". That should be alarming to every Member State. Concerns remained over persistent perpetrators and the report needed to detail how long each persistent perpetrator had been on the list. He acknowledged the progress made by Governments and non-State actors in progressing their action plans to end recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. More work was needed to strengthen partnerships between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations and action against violations had to start at the national level. The United Nations had to help to foster a culture deploring direct involvement of children in conflict. All United Nations peacekeepers needed mandatory child protection training, while intentional targeting or military use of schools was to be condemned. New Zealand's Defence Forces operated under a structured framework around the use of schools and he endorsed the Lucens Guidelines.
MPHO MOGOBE (Botswana), stressing commitment to the Convention on the Rights of Children, said that her country had and would continue to prioritize education, which was fundamental in the promotion and protection of the rights of children. Having achieved universal access, the next step was to ensure its quality. Other programmes including access to health-care services and child health interventions also sought to safeguard the rights of children. Significant challenges remained, mainly due to resource and capacity constraints. The report illustrated the negative and disproportionate impact of armed conflict on children and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General had reiterated her intention to work towards child-free Government armed forces by the end of 2016. She was pleased the Council adopted resolution 2143 (2014) and believed the international community could work together against grave violations against children.
U KAW TIN ( Myanmar) expressed concern over the growing number of children affected by armed conflicts in many parts of the world. With regard to the assessment on the situation in Myanmar, there needed to be greater accuracy and balance, as it mainly focused on reported isolated incidents of violations by individuals. The assessment was also outdated, as the situation in the country today was different. The Government had taken bold steps to address the issue of child soldiers through the development of a plan of action to end and protect the use of underage children in the military since 2012. Among concrete actions included in the plan was the establishment of a complaint mechanism, a public awareness raising campaign and greater media freedom. The Myanmar Government Army was fully committed to preventing underage recruitment and indicated its firm determination to finalize the full implementation of the plan.
AWALE ALI KULLANE ( Somalia) thanked the United Nations for its assistance to his Government to end recruitment of children in his country and hoped that it would be the next to be delisted. He pledged continued commitment to complete the action plan signed in March 2014, noting that the effort was mainstreamed throughout his country’s security sector and adding that screening had shown no new recruitment. Somalia was trying to heal from its protracted civil war and learn from its mistakes by overcoming them.
OLEKSANDR PAULICHENKO ( Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union Delegation, affirmed the priority of protecting children in armed conflict. Unfortunately, it had become an issue in his country with the onset of a conflict that he said was provoked by the Russian Federation, with abduction of children from orphanages and medical facilities. Children were also being killed and wounded due to the actions of armed groups in the east of Ukraine. He enumerated measures Ukraine had taken to avoid child injuries during his country's military operations, as well as to provide education and other services for affected children. He commended the United Nations for its assistance in that context.
IVANA PAJEVIC ( Montenegro), sharing the concerns expressed in the Secretary-General's report, emphasized the importance of achieving the objectives of the Children, Not Soldiers campaign and the need to assist those young people to reintegrate into civilian life. Schools, she stressed, needed to be free of attacks and military use. She welcomed recent guidelines towards that end. She called for strong child protection elements to be integrated into peacekeeping mandates, the institution of a ban on explosive weapons that remained after a conflict, an end to impunity through referral to the International Criminal Court and other strategies to better protect children.
MOHAMED IBRAHIM EL-BAHI ( Sudan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, pointed out his country’s ratification of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two protocols. Two International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions had also been ratified. He supported the campaign launched by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children in Armed Conflict. National laws prevented recruitment of minors to the police and armed forces and a unit for the protection of children had been established within the army, and another within the Ministry of the Interior. The Government had also called for investigations into abuse of children in Darfur, as well as in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile region. His country was cooperating closely with the United Nations to address concerns related to children, and UNICEF had recently made a successful visit to Sudan. Efforts continued to promote the rights of young people, including through the National Council for Children which had held seminars to boost protection. Thanks to the policies he outlined, he called for the removal of Sudan from the Annex to the report.
IGNACE GATA MAVITA WA LUFUTA ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) observed that ongoing wars in his State were responsible for the country’s child soldiers. The Government had tackled the issue within its own armed forces, better managing the details of recruits through biometric data. He supported the United Nations Children Not Soldiers campaign, noting that its goals were already being implemented by the Government. Efforts to improve monitoring of recruits’ ages were backed by international partners including the United Nations. An Action Plan was in place that criminalized the use of children in armed forces and combated sexual violence. Since signing that document, laudable progress had been made. Two directives were published, one ensuring that commanders gave the United Nations access and ensured punishment for violations against children, and the other freeing those under age youth associated with armed groups and ensuring they were taken under the wing of child protection agencies. Tribunals had been established specifically for child protection and any abuse disqualified applicants to the armed forces.
KHALED MAHFOODH ABDULLAH BAHAH (Yemen), associating himself the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that his country was engaged in national dialogue, part of the aim of which was to prevent the involvement of minors in the armed forces. It was important that children involved with armed groups were viewed as victims rather than culprits. Yemen had made great strides with parties involved in negotiations. A law on the police force provided a minimum age of 18 for recruitment. Ms. Zerrougui had met with several Government representatives and a joint coordination committee had been established in Yemen. The Council of Ministers approved the plan of work to prevent recruitment and mobilization of minors. Yemen was cooperating to prevent recruitment of children and to ensure demobilization of all those involved.
IRENE SUSAN BARREIRO NATIVIDAD ( Philippines) said a comprehensive agreement on the Bagsamoro had been signed between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Commitment to the peace process meant it was vital to ensure achievements were built on by delisting organizations. The President had also signed an executive order providing establishment of the Monitoring, Reporting and Response System for Grave Child Rights Violations. Due recognition needed to be given to such positive developments and needed to be appreciated within the larger context of inclusive and sustainable growth and the country's peace and sustainable development agenda. She stressed the importance of basing reports on clear, accurate, current and verifiable data. It was vital to address gaps in reporting processes and to continually improve the process. Listing and delisting criteria also needed to be clear, transparent, objective and balanced, and the Security Council may wish to consider how a stronger focus on the workings of delisting could work. She added a call for keeping the issue of persistent perpetrators in line with the mandate of the Security Council and the Working Group and said current monitoring efforts needed to conform to resolution 1612 (2005). She stressed that the situation in the Philippines should not be included or even mentioned in the Secretary-General's report.
PAUL SEGER ( Switzerland) welcomed recent initiatives to better protect children, noting at the same time that the situation had worsened in many conflicts and the scope of violations in Iraq in past weeks had reached unprecedented levels. Non-State actors must be engaged to end such abuses and accountability must be strengthened for persistent and grave violators of children's rights. The Security Council should strengthen provisions for the protection of children in all relevant mission mandates and better train peacekeepers for that purpose. The donor community could play an important role by addressing funding gaps as his country had recently done and all Member States who had not done so were encouraged to ratify the Optional Protocol of the convention on children's rights.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein) also welcomed recent efforts to protect children and free them from armed groups while noting continued grave violations against them. He urged greater engagement of non-State groups and protection of schools from attacks and military uses. To end impunity, the Security Council should make more frequent use of its power to refer situations to the International Criminal Court. In addition, he said that peace processes should include the perspective of children at the earliest possible stage and their needs should be integrated into all decisions of the Council and other relevant United Nations entities.
The representative of the Russian Federation, taking the floor for a second time, said that Ukraine’s delegate would use any forum to share trumped up accusations. The claims made were no more than an attempt to blame the work of radicals in the Ukrainian army on others. Ukrainians were responsible for the suffering of children in Donetsk and Lugansk because of massive artillery and rocket fire on civilian targets there. It was a pity the Government could not realize that. He asked that Ukraine not engage in politicking, but rather in efforts to resolve the crisis.
The representative of Turkey, taking the floor for a second time, expressed astonishment over accusations made by Syria’s representative that Turkey was involved in organ trafficking. The organs mentioned belonged to children killed by the Syrian Government. Furthermore, many thousands of Syrians had been saved, thanks to crossing the border into Turkey.
The representative of Syria, responding to that statement, as well as one made by the representative of Qatar, said that the suggestion of Qatar being the protector of the Syrian people’s liberties disregarded the role that country had played in supporting jihadist extremist groups. Qatar’s representative had spoken of dead children but they were dead because of the hypocritical support her country had given to terror groups. The Syrian people would never forget the crimes perpetrated by the sheikhs with their petrodollars. Turning to Turkey’s delegate, she said she wondered about the surprise expressed over the fate of children in Syria when Turkey was supporting terror groups that attacked civilians.
* *** *