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28 June 2021

International Community Must Not Allow Armed Conflict to Trample on Children’s Rights, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

In the 25 years since the Security Council placed the protection of children in armed conflict on its agenda, increasingly protracted, complex clashes around the world have led to a growing number of violations committed against children, the Secretary-General told the 15-member organ today, as other international organizations and members of civil society detailed the exacerbating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on this deteriorating situation.

Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized that conflict devastates societies and hits children particularly hard.  As such, he called on all parties to conflict to prioritize the prevention of violations against them and to engage in dialogue, ceasefires and peace processes.  Summarizing recent developments contained in his most recent report (document S/2021/437), he said that, during 2020, almost 24,000 grave violations were committed against 19,300 children in the 21 situations.  This shocking, heart-breaking disregard for children’s rights at times of conflict continues with their recruitment and use, their killing and maiming, and the denial of humanitarian access.  Citing new and deeply concerning trends, he pointed to increasing numbers of child abductions and sexual violence.  At the same time, schools and hospitals are being attacked, looted, destroyed or used for military purposes, with girls’ educational and health facilities targeted disproportionately.

At the twenty-fifth anniversary of the creation of the children and armed conflict mandate, he said, its continued relevance is sadly clear.  However, it remains a proven tool for protecting the world’s children.  Highlighting other forward steps, he said his Special Representative and the United Nations on the ground, along with civil society and other partners, are fully mobilized, using all available tools established by the Council’s 13 related resolutions.  Actions include monitoring and documenting violations to advocating for the release of abducted children.  This annual report, with its accountability and engagement components, is a crucial instrument, with 17 action plans being implemented and at least 35 new commitments made by parties to conflict during 2020.  Last year alone, more than 12,300 children were released.

Drawing attention to emerging challenges, he applauded United Nations staff and partners for supporting host countries in combating COIVD-19.  He also stressed the need to fund child protection positions in the field.  The protection framework must adapt as armed conflicts evolve and as children face multiple threats, and related language must be included in peace processes and to enhance data analysis, early warning and advocacy for early action.  The report before the Council is grim, but one can draw hope from the local and international commitments, he said, applauding the young people, who, after enduring so much trauma and pain, still stand up for and help others.

“We need to elevate children’s voices and best interests in peace processes and political decision-making,” he said.  Recalling that Member States had asked him in 2020 to develop a vision to better address current and future challenges to advance a common agenda, he said that children, youth and future generations are an important part of this effort.  Calling on the Security Council and all Member States to strongly support the protection of children in all ways at all times, he said:  “There is no place for children in conflict, and we must not allow conflict to trample on the rights of children.”

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said the challenges of daily life under COVID-19 are magnified for children living through the 21 conflicts outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, pointing to school closures, the increased risk of violence and abuse under lockdown, the mental health impacts of separation from friends and negative coping mechanisms, such as child marriage and child labour.  While UNICEF hoped that parties to conflict would turn their attention from fighting each other to fighting the coronavirus, the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire went unheeded, and children trapped within conflict paid a high price.  Thousands of children have been killed, maimed, used in fighting, abducted, sexually abused and exploited and the United Nations has verified, on average, at least 70 children per day who experienced grave rights violations over the last five years.  “The actual numbers,” she emphasized, “are much higher.”

Against that backdrop, the Council should give the issue the priority it deserves in its decisions and deliberations, she said.  “Surely, if there is one priority around which all States can rally behind, it must be the protection of children.”  She also called on States and all parties to conflict to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, as such weapons were responsible for nearly half of all verified child casualties in 2020.  Further, Member States must invest in women and girls and prevent gender-based violence in conflict, and she pointed out that girls were not only the victims of one quarter of all violations outlined in the Secretary-General’s report, they also represented 98 per cent of the victims of rape and sexual violence.  Highlighting the increasing length and complexity of conflicts around the world and the devastating effects they have on children’s futures, she called on Member States to help UNICEF increase its overall capacity to protect children.  “Children and young people bear no responsibility for conflict,” she added, “and yet they bear the deepest scars.”

Forest Whitaker, Advocate for Children Affected by War with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said he is encouraged to observe that the momentum behind the issue has grown stronger.  Indeed, lasting peace, which constitutes the core mission of the Organization, is at stake when children are subject to the six grave violations that the Secretary‑General detailed in his report.  However, invisible effects last longer than the chilling violations, he stressed.  From stigma to lost education, former child combatants that have joined the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative have explained that their families and communities often refuse to take them back.

Mr. Whitaker, also the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation, said 24‑year-old Auma Susan is now a counsellor with the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative and a respected community leader, teaching peace education and mediating land disputes.  At age seven, she was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and only escaped beatings and forced labour when she was hit by shrapnel and fled.  Rejected by her community, stigma defined her life.  Trauma is another invisible effect, he said.  Recalling a visit to Uganda, he said an aid worker who started a programme for players in a football project for former combatants who had become refugees and students, told him that a boy he had helped to return home had then killed his eight-year-old sister.  The boy’s brain had been transformed to only know violence, he said, emphasizing: “Children affected by conflict cannot walk out of their night in a day.”

Reintegration will not succeed without patience and determination, he continued, adding that it is essential to provide a continuum of care spanning childhood, adolescence and youth to address their needs.  Highlighting his organization’s work in South Sudan, Uganda and other countries, he said its efforts focus on rekindling the link between children affected by conflict and their community, through providing skills, opportunities and trauma‑healing.  Other groups are working in the same direction, he said, pointing to War Child, working worldwide, and such groups in Uganda as Hope North, which provides shelter and skills‑training, and an orphanage in Gulu, tailored to girls rescued from armed groups.

The approach may be different, but the theme is the same:  children have the right to a second chance, he said.  As an example, he said Benson Lugwar, a volunteer with the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative in northern Uganda, had been abducted by LRA in a raid in 2004 that killed his family.  For two years, he was forced to witness and commit acts of violence, including during the infamous Lira massacre in a camp of internally displaced persons.  Now, he is an elected official, hosts a radio show and has helped his community.  He cited Mr. Lugwar’s words, which fully capture the reason why the Council is gathered today:  “I didn’t lose sight because the seeds of hope were planted and nurtured in me, from being a former child soldier to a role model that influences many youths within my community and outside.”  A strong message of hope and resilience comes from Mr. Lugwar and others, whose questions are simple in asking Council members if they will take time to listen to them and have the strength to see the positive in them, he said.

Laban Onisimus of Plan International, said that, as an Education Specialist with that non-governmental organization, he leads humanitarian teams into conflict-affected regions of Nigeria, focusing on gender-responsive child protection and education in crises.  While resolution 2427 (2018) acknowledged the specific needs and vulnerabilities of both girls and boys affected by armed conflict, he said, there is still a long way to go to recognize, understand and address the experiences of girls in armed conflict.  “I am here today to call upon the Security Council to increase efforts to protect girls, who are on the front lines of these attacks,” he said, referring to exponential growth in violations against girls in the Lake Chad Basin.

Of the 276 girls abducted in Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, in 2015, some have still not returned home, he said.  Similar abductions fail to make international news and the total number of abducted girls is much higher.  Last year, meanwhile, saw a 70 per cent increase in rape and other forms of sexual violence, compared to 2019, in countries on the children affected by armed conflict agenda.  Girls made up 98 per cent of the victims, he said, emphasizing the physical and mental health consequences faced by survivors.  Repeated attacks on schools, teachers and students have also denied thousands of adolescent girls their right to education.

In northern Nigeria, armed group are targeting girls for use as suicide bombers, he continued.  Between June 2014 and February 2018, 468 women and girls were deployed or arrested in 240 suicide attacks which left roughly 1,200 dead and some 3,000 injured.  “Almost all the female suicide bombers are adolescent girls who have often been influenced or forced to carry out these attacks.”  The denial of humanitarian assistance is also having a disproportionate impact on girls and women, who make up the majority of those who depend on humanitarian aid in the Lake Chad Basin region.  Yet, for the most part, girls are not consulted about their humanitarian needs.  The outright denial of humanitarian access — including through direct attacks or obstacles to aid deliveries — only makes their situations worse, he said.

Setting out several recommendations, he called on the Security Council to recognize the impact of conflict on girls and not to overlook the plight of girls associated with armed forces and armed groups.  Those who attack schools, maim students and teachers, and abduct girls must be held accountable under international law.  Safe and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance must be a reality.  Lastly, the Council, Member States and the United Nations must do better with conflict prevention, he said, noting that contemporary conflicts which could have been prevented or cut short are instead going on for years.

In the ensuing debate, Council members expressed concern over the more than 26,000 instances of grave violations committed against children in 2020 documented in the Secretary-General’s report, pointing out that many more have likely gone unreported due to challenges imposed by the pandemic.  Many acknowledged that children in places like Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan have grown up knowing nothing but war — with girls disproportionately affected — and stressed the importance of education, accountability and protection.  On the last point, many members, stressing the relevance of this issue across the Council’s agenda, called for the consistent inclusion of child-protection provisions in the mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions, and for increased political and financial support for the United Nations monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict.  Others decried the effects that unilateral coercive measures have on children — especially given the challenges associated with COVID-19 — stating that such sanctions prevent critical supplies from reaching those in need despite the existence of humanitarian exemptions.

Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia and Council President for June, speaking in her national capacity, encouraged the international community “not to display difficult situations better than they actually are”, noting that the situation of children in armed conflict was marked by a sustained high number of grave violations in 2020.  In 2021, lockdown policies implemented to address the COVID-19 pandemic have created challenges for those on the ground documenting those violations and engaging with parties to prevent them.  Further, COVID-19’s socioeconomic impact exposed children affected by conflict to recruitment and use, abduction and sexual violence, and while the Secretary-General’s report contains an overview of more than 26,000 verified grave violations committed against children in 2020, she said that “we can only guess” how many violations went unnoticed due to the pandemic.

Despite work by the United Nations and its partners to address this issue, she said, the situation is worsening in many countries.  A whole generation of children in Syria has grown up without knowing anything but war, children have been killed by regime forces in Myanmar, and in the first three months of 2021, more than 150 children were recorded killed — along with 400 injured — in Afghanistan.  She stressed that education is key to preventing such violations, and that accountability must be ensured at the earliest possible stage.  She also called on the Council to recognize that the protection of children is relevant to every situation on its agenda, and consequently, to strengthen the child‑protection capacity of the United Nations, including in mission transitions and drawdowns.

Mohamed Bazoum, President of Niger, pointed out that children are the first victims of humanitarian and security crises and called on the international community to address the conflicts that jeopardize child protection.  Citing the over 26,000 violations against children in 21 countries confirmed in the Secretary‑General’s report, he said that these violations are particularly widespread in the Sahel region, where terrorist attacks on schools have increased sixfold compared to 2017.  Girls are particularly vulnerable, and are twice as unlikely to go to school in countries affected by conflict than in those at peace.  “Every school that closes is a door of opportunity that closes,” he said, stressing the need to develop systems to support these children.  Reconstruction and peacebuilding processes, he added, must focus on those most at risk, who make easy targets for terrorist groups.

Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, said this Council holds the grave responsibility of vindicating children’s rights.  From the Sahel to Syria, Afghanistan to the Horn of Africa, children are bearing the brunt of unspeakable violations.  Education, protection and accountability are key to advancing from this nightmare.  New, urgent action is needed to address the deliberate and unjustified targeting of schools and hospitals by armed groups, he said, highlighting Ireland’s €250 million commitment to global education by 2024, and its launch of the Girls Fund to support grass‑roots’ groups led by girls.  Child protection issues must be given ever greater and more urgent reporting at the heart of the Council’s work.  Ensuring their safety and security helps to break the cycles of conflict and insecurity, he said, wishing the Council courage in calling for and ensuring that peacekeeping operations have the mandates, resources and capacity to save children’s lives and secure their welfare, including during transition phases.

In terms of accountability, he said that eschewing legitimation for actions threatens every shred of democracy and undermines multilateralism and meaningful cooperation.  This is why the Secretary‑General’s annual report, and particularly its listing mechanism, is critical in the effort to publicly identify the parties responsible and to ensure accountability.  While such landmark rulings as the Lubanga and Ongwen cases demonstrate the International Criminal Court’s influence and power, greater efforts are needed at the national level.  For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the courage of 178 survivors who testified helped to secure the conviction of Ntabo Ntaberi in 2020, sending a powerful message of hope that impunity will not be tolerated.  A comprehensive, gender- and age-sensitive approach to reintegration, inclusive of children with disabilities, is vital in the efforts to recover and sustain peace.  “Let us confront all of the uncomfortable realities of where our actions are insufficient; we are all looked to give a lead on this,” he said, adding that, since 1996, this Council has shaped and advanced the issue, and its actions have profoundly improved the lives of many children impacted by conflict.

The representative of the United States, recalling her visits to refugee camps in her capacity as Ambassador, said the stories of children recruited by armed groups are the most heart-breaking.  Some children are taught to kill before they can count, while other are forced to kill each other.  Citing other examples of children she had met, she said a young girl, who had been abducted, raped and trained to fight, finally managed to escape, only to be rejected by her community.  This agenda item was taken up 25 years ago, and the Security Council has not done enough.  The pandemic has only worsened the situation, with millions out of school and made vulnerable amid a horrific trend of attacks on schools in some countries.  “We need to act now,” she said, emphasizing that the approach is formed by gender disaggregated data.  Special attention is needed in Syria, Myanmar and Ethiopia, she said, also highlighting that, in Cameroon, children have been threatened and killed for attending school.  Every diplomatic tool must be deployed to advance dialogue, end the violence and get children back to school.  As a leading donor to UNICEF, the United States firmly believes in addressing the needs of children.  Recalling a meeting with former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, she cited his words:  “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”  Today, the world’s soul is at stake, she said, calling on the Council to act.  “Let us avert our eyes no longer, and let us right this wrong now,” she said.

Jens Frølich Holte, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, pointed out that loss of family income, school closures and disruption of protection activities due to the pandemic have increased children’s exposure to recruitment and use by armed groups and to sexual violence.  Further, progress made on release and reintegration programmes for children associated with armed groups has been reversed, and ill-treatment in detention has increased.  He urged that the United Nations monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict receive the access and support it needs, and that child-protection capacity be included in all relevant mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions.  Condemning continued attacks against schools and hospitals and expressing concern over the increasing use of schools for military purposes, he stressed that the civilian character of these institutions must be respected.  Schools and universities reflect the past, present and future of a community and are vital to society, economy and culture.  He therefore urged all States to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration and to treat children recruited and used in armed conflict — including those associated with terrorist organizations — primarily as victims.

Keisal Peters, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, said that the Secretary-General’s report “paints a grim picture” of how the worrying situation for children is further compounded by current health and related economic crises.  Emerging child-protection actions, mechanisms and related adaptation measures must embed critical gender analysis, which will ensure appropriately tailored responses for boys and girls, who are affected differently by violence in armed conflict.  The overwhelming majority of sexual violence is perpetrated against girls, who are also disproportionately affected by school closures and overall attacks against education.  Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to be killed, maimed, recruited or held by armed groups or detained in State institutions.  Welcoming positive developments in the areas of child protection and increased accountability in the Central African Republic, Afghanistan and Mali, she underscored the importance of actions that emphasize rehabilitation, reintegration and consistent application of handover protocols in line with juvenile-justice standards established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary of India, cited Mahatma Gandhi, who had declared that:  “If we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children.”  Unfortunately, the scale and severity of violations perpetrated against children in armed conflict is rising, further worsened by the pandemic, with significant challenges remaining to effectively implement the mandate to protect them.  As such, States must keep child‑protection concerns at the core of their pandemic response measures and recovery plans.  Encouraging Member States to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and to adopt robust legal frameworks, he said the aim should not be merely protecting minors from child-related crimes, but also to provide them with holistic development opportunities, including free and compulsory education.

States must also demonstrate the political will to hold perpetrators of terrorism and their sponsors accountable, he said, drawing attention to a dangerous and worrying global trend that shows an increase in child recruitment.  Turning to other concerns, he said close cooperation between the United Nations and its Member States is critical for developing an effective and sustainable policy to repatriate and reintegrate children affected by armed conflict.  Recognizing the importance of having sufficient resources and a requisite number of child protection advisers in peacekeeping operations, he said the Council may consider incorporating such provisions and capacities into all missions.  Despite the Council’s clear mandate, he noted with concern that the Secretary‑General’s report includes cases that are not situations of armed conflict or threats to the maintenance of international peace and security.  “We must be cautious, as attempts to selectively expand the mandate politicizes the agenda, diverting attention from real threats to international peace and security and to children in armed conflict,” he said.  Highlighting United Nations engagement with armed groups, which resulted in the release of 12,643 children over the last year, he said this positive trend must continue.

Dang Hoang Giang, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, said the resistance war ended almost half a century ago, but the legacy of tragic loss and suffering, especially when it comes to children, has lingered.  As such, Viet Nam prioritizes protecting children from hostilities and deplorable abuses in armed conflict.  Sadly, the situation has worsened over time, he said, expressing deep concern over the high level of grave violations against children, with figures in Secretary-General’s latest report being just the “tip of the iceberg”.  Strongly condemning all acts of violence against children, he called for an immediate cessation of such wrongful practices and urged all parties to conflict to promptly implement the Secretary-General's call for a global ceasefire.  Calling for compliance with the international law, he said greater strides must be made in ensuring unhindered access for humanitarian assistance, including COVID-19 vaccines.  Together with coordinated Council-mandated efforts, UNICEF, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Health Organization (WHO) and other relevant actors should be fully leveraged in facilitating humanitarian relief activities on the ground.

Turning to the protection of essential civilian infrastructure, he welcomed efforts to implement relevant Council resolutions.  Viet Nam has endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and he encouraged States that have not yet done so to join.  Child protection should be at the core of peacekeeping, he said, advocating for the continued integration of these components in the mandates of all relevant peacekeeping operations and political missions.  In doing so, peacekeepers and other United Nations agencies on the ground can help break the cycle of violence and poverty and sow the seed for durable peace.  Sharing a story about Vietnamese peacekeepers in South Sudan and Central African Republic, he said they taught English to the local children wherever possible, be it on a playground, in a garden or at a deserted school, with tables and chairs made from recycled wooden boxes.  They also helped them enlighten a hope for a better future and equip themselves for that journey.  “There are plenty of such stories around the world waiting to be told and spread,” he said, adding:  “Let us all build a brighter future for our children, starting from today.”

James Cleverly, Minister of State at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom, said he was pleased to see Tatmadaw in Myanmar re-listed for the recruitment of children.  Greater transparency about decisions to list individuals and groups would strengthen the United Nations Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, which must rise above politics and focus on the interests of every child.  He drew attention to the plight of children in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where children are subjected to horrific sexual abuse, and in Mozambique, where children as young as 11 are being kidnapped, forcibly recruited and even beheaded by terrorist insurgents in Cabo Delgrado.  For its part, the Council must condemn the alarming increase in attacks on schools and in abductions of and sexual violence against girls, and in response, incorporate gender perspectives into all its thinking about children in armed conflict.  He went on to call on all members to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the involvement of children in armed conflict and to implement the Paris Principles, Safe Schools Declaration and Vancouver Principles.

The representative of China, citing the more than 26,000 grave violations against children recorded in the Secretary-General’s report, pointed out that nearly 100 girls were killed in Afghanistan on 8 May, and over the recent 11-day conflict in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 72 Palestinian and 2 Israeli children were killed, and more than 30 schools in the Gaza Strip were destroyed.  Urging the international community to reflect on what it can do for these children, he stressed that achieving peace is the best protection and that parties to conflict must resolve their differences through dialogue and consultation.  Further, the Council must promote the political settlement of disputes, as well as the protection of children, throughout the entire conflict-resolution process.  He also said grave violations against children — which “challenge the bottom line of human conscience” — must immediately cease, along with all unilateral coercive measures due to their negative impact on children’s rights.  So-called humanitarian exemptions “do not work”, he added.

The representative of the Russian Federation said child protection is a priority, given that they continue to suffer from hostilities despite targeted measures.  Parties responsible for violations must be held accountable, as deliberate attacks on children and other protected persons are unacceptable.  The pandemic has exacerbated the situation, with some countries applying unilateral measures that prevent COVID-19-related supplies from reaching those in need.  The Security Council’s working group on the issue should take an approach that is comprehensive and guided by related resolutions, he said, adding that States have a primary responsibility to take action.  Turning to the situation in Syria, he said armed groups in the north are using the local population as human shields, and internally displaced persons camps in the north-east are in crisis.  Sharing experiences in the repatriation of child combatants, he said the Russian Federation has brought home 318 children from Syria and Iraq, and contributes to addressing such needs as education.  Citing other pressing challenges, he said civilian‑protection issues still affect Afghanistan, including the recent attack on a girls’ school.  In Africa, child protection is a complex matter, including in States on the Council’s agenda, with violence facing both girls and boys.  In Ukraine, the situation has been dominated by political chaos, with the regime in Kyiv using heavy weapons in the eastern region, targeting schools and hospitals.

The representative of Tunisia said armed conflicts are among the main challenges to international peace and security, causing much human tragedy, the most horrific of which are violations against children.  Protecting children from all violations during conflict remains a priority, and is consistent with the Council’s sphere of responsibility.  Despite ongoing efforts, the number of violations is still alarming, including an increase in cases of sexual violence, compounded by a dearth of accountability mechanisms and much-needed psychological support for victims.  Terrorist organizations and criminal networks continue to operate, committing more than 21,000 violations against children in the last year.  A more robust and meaningful accountability mechanism is urgently needed, he said, calling on all parties to ensure the prevention and prosecution of child recruitment by armed groups.  Reintegration programmes are also needed.  Still, the number of violations mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report does not reflect the scope of these true horrors, especially given the pandemic’s impact.  As such, resolutions 2532 (2020) and 2565 (2021) must be fully implemented and all parties must heed the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire, he said, pledging to support efforts in this regard.

The representative of Kenya expressed grave concern at the ongoing radicalization and recruitment of children and youth by terrorist groups, as well as attacks on infrastructure critical to young people.  “Clearly, terrorist groups are blind to the plight of children and have no regard [for] their welfare,” he said, calling for greater international efforts to protect children from atrocities.  The children of known terrorists must also be given the protection they need.  He added that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes that take the special status of children into consideration should be applied for minors who may have been radicalized and recruited into terrorist groups.  Schools should be recognized as safe spaces, he said, encouraging other States to join Kenya in supporting the Safe Schools Declaration.

The representative of France pointed out that, since 2005, 150,000 children have been released thanks to the commitment of the Council, successive Special Representatives, UNICEF and civil society.  He stressed, however, that more must be done to strengthen the protection framework established in resolution 1612 (2005) as violations against children continue, fuelled by the intensity and complexification of conflict around the world.  Further, the monitoring and reporting mechanism must receive the political and financial support it needs to operate safely.  Expressing concern that increased school closures have led to a concomitant rise in recruitment of children by armed groups and child labour, he said that girls are particularly at risk, including that of early or forced marriage.  For its part, France is supporting projects guaranteeing access to education in an emergency context; specifically, it is funding an $11 million project in Niger to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the education system.

The representative of Mexico, recalling the Council’s recent condemnation of the school attack in Afghanistan, said efforts must improve to end such targeted violence.  Mexico has endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, he said, encouraging others to follow suit.  Turning to the recruitment of children by armed groups, he said perpetrators of such grave crimes must be held accountable.  Initiatives are also needed to prevent these crimes from happening in the future.  Expressing support for the International Criminal Court, he said all States should provide assistance to its work.  Turning to concerns about detention, he said jails are no place for children.  The pandemic’s impact must also be addressed, he said, noting the increasing number of cases of sexual violence against children.  Attention is also needed in related areas, such as combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.  Protecting children must be a cross-cutting issue on the Council’s agenda, he said, adding that child protection advisers must play their role in peacekeeping operations.

For information media. Not an official record.