Resolution 1261 (1999) Adopted Unanimously; Olara Otunnu Stresses Words On Paper Cannot Save Children in Peril; Namibia’s Foreign Minister Presides

The Security Council tonight strongly condemned the targeting ofchildren in situations of armed conflict including killing and maiming, sexualviolence, abduction and forced displacement, recruitment and use of childrenin armed conflict in violation of international law and attacks on places thatusually have a significant presence of children such as schools and hospitals,and called on all parties concerned to put an end to such practices.

By unanimously adopting resolution 1261 (1999), after hearing from 48speakers during an all-day debate, the Council expressed its support for theongoing work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General forChildren and Armed Conflict, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UnitedNations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other parts of the UnitedNations system and other relevant international organizations dealing withchildren affected by armed conflict, and requested the Secretary-General tocontinue to develop coordination and coherence among them.

The Secretary-General was requested to submit to the Council by31 July 2000, a report on the implementation of the resolution, consulting allrelevant parts of the United Nations system and taking into account otherrelevant work. He was also requested to ensure that personnel involved inpeacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building activities have appropriatetraining on the protection, rights and welfare of children.

Also by the text, the Council urged States and the United Nations systemto facilitate the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation andreintegration of children used as soldiers in violation of international law,and called upon, in particular, the Special Representative of theSecretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF, UNHCR and otherrelevant agencies of the United Nations system to intensify their efforts inthat regard.

The Council recognized the deleterious impact of the proliferation ofarms, in particular small arms, on the security of civilians, including

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refugees and other vulnerable populations, particularly children. It recalledresolution 1209 (1998) which, among other provisions, stressed the importanceof all Member States, and in particular States involved in manufacturing andmarketing of weapons, restricting arms transfers which could provoke orprolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions or armed conflicts, andwhich urged international collaboration in combating illegal arms flows.

All parties to armed conflicts were urged to ensure that the protection,welfare and rights of children are taken into account during peacenegotiations and throughout the process of consolidating peace in theaftermath of conflict. They were also urged to take special measures toprotect children, in particular girls, from rape and other forms of sexualabuse and gender-based violence in situations of armed conflict and to takeinto account the special needs of the girl child throughout armed conflictsand their aftermath, including in the delivery of the humanitarian assistance.

In the text’s preambular part, the Council noted recent efforts to bringto an end the use of children as soldiers in violation of international law,in International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 on the Prohibition andImmediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, whichprohibits forced or compulsory labour, including the forced or compulsoryrecruitment of children for use in armed conflict, and in the Rome Statute ofthe International Criminal Court, in which conscripting or enlisting childrenunder the age of 15 into national armed forces or using them to participateactively in hostilities is characterized as a war crime.

Addressing the Council at the outset of the meeting, Olara Otunnu,Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and ArmedConflict, said that over the past 50 years the world had developed animpressive body of international humanitarian and human rights instruments,but their impact remained woefully thin on the ground, he stressed, addingthat words on paper could not save children and women in peril. Energies musttherefore be shifted from the juridical project of elaborating norms to thepolitical project of ensuring their application and respect on the ground. That could be accomplished if the international community was prepared toemploy its considerable collective influence to that end.

Mr. Otunnu said that to stem the present massive use of children assoldiers, a three-pronged approach was needed:first, raise the age limit forrecruitment and participation in armed conflict from the present 15 to 18;second, an effective movement of international pressure must be mobilized tolean on armed groups that were currently abusing children; and third, thepolitical, social and economic factors which created an environment wherechildren were induced by appeal of ideology or by socio-economic collapse, tobecome child soldiers, must be addressed.

The Council President, Theo-Ben Gurirab, speaking in his capacity asForeign Minister of Namibia, said “We, as one human family, are demeaned and

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diminished when the response to humanitarian needs of victims does not measureup to the gravity of the situation as regards the plight of children”. InAfrica, the impact of armed conflicts on children had been particularlyharmful, and no region of the continent had been spared the scourge of armedconflicts. “The challenges we are faced with are enormous”, he said, “andrequire each and everyone to work in a holistic, collaborative and dedicatedmanner to ensure that the standards which we accepted are fully enjoyed by theultimate beneficiaries — the children. They are the leaders of tomorrow. “

Statements were also made by the United Kingdom, France, United States,Slovenia, China, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Gabon, Brazil, Argentina,Bahrain, Gambia, Netherlands, Canada, Algeria, Norway, Finland, Bangladesh,Japan, Costa Rica, Republic of Korea, India, Portugal, Iraq, Slovakia,Afghanistan, Zambia, Monaco, Ukraine, South Africa, Mongolia, Sudan, Kenya,Egypt, Indonesia, Angola, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, NewZealand, Guyana, Philippines, Rwanda, Belarus and Colombia.

The observer for Switzerland also made a statement.

The United States and Iraq spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The meeting began at 11:17 a. m. and was suspended at 1:30 p. m. Itresumed at 3:33 p. m. and was adjourned at 10:25 p. m.

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Council Work Programme

The Security Council met this morning to consider the issue of childrenand armed conflict.


OLARA OTUNNU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General forChildren and Armed Conflict, said that in approximately 50 countries aroundthe world, children were suffering from the effects of conflict and itsaftermath, that more than 20 million children had been displaced by war withinand outside their countries and that some 300,000 young people under the ageof 18 were currently being exploited as child soldiers. There had been aqualitative shift in the nature and conduct of warfare. Several developmentsmarked that transformation.

Almost all the major armed conflicts in the world today were civil wars,he said. They were marked by widespread social breakdown and lawlessness, theproliferation of small weapons and involvement of multiple armed groups andthe massive use of child soldiers. A key feature of that struggle was thedemonization of the so-called enemy community. In that setting, the villagehad become the battlefield and civilian populations the primary target. Thetraditional limits on the conduct of warfare — international instruments aswell as local taboos and injunctions — were being cast aside.

Those excesses were no longer exceptional, he said. They werewidespread across the globe and were going on today in some 30 locations ofconflict. It was against that background that today up to 90 per cent ofcasualties in ongoing conflicts around the world were civilians — the vastmajority of whom were women and children. There was a danger that theinternational community might be exposed to so much that it could come toregard as normal a phenomenon that in fact represented a radical departurefrom the fundamental norms of conduct acceptable to their various societies. That must not be allowed to happen. The trend of abomination could and mustbe reversed. In that context, some concrete proposals were offered for theCouncil’s consideration.

First, he said, the international community should resolve to launch theapplication of international norms and standards. Over the past 50 years, theworld had developed an impressive body of international humanitarian and humanrights instruments. But their impact remained woefully thin on the ground. Words on paper could not save children and women in peril. Energies musttherefore be shifted from the juridical project of elaborating norms to thepolitical project of ensuring their application and respect on the ground. That could be accomplished if the international community was prepared toemploy its considerable collective influence to that end. He said that local value systems that had traditionally provided ethicalbearings to many societies must not be cast aside. In most societies,distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable practices were maintained,even in times of war, with taboos and injunctions proscribing the targeting ofcivilian populations, especially women and children. But today, so manyconflicts around the world were a “free-for-all”. All resources must bemobilized — especially parents, extended families, elders, teachers, schoolsand religious institutions — to reclaim and reassert those values and taboosthat had traditionally been instrumental in protecting children and women intimes of conflict.

Proposing “neighbourhood initiatives”, he said that although most oftoday’s conflicts were internal, the victimization of children was oftenexacerbated by cross-border activities, the flow of small arms and lightweapons, the transfer and use of landmines, the recruitment and abduction ofchildren by armed groups and the movement of displaced populations. Threatsfacing children within countries in conflict often could not be brought undercontrol without addressing those cross-border dimensions.

He said there was an urgent need to monitor and control the flow of armsinto and the illicit exploitation of natural resources from theatres ofconflict, where there was evidence that children and women were beingsystematically brutalized. Similarly, illicit trade in timber, gold ordiamonds tended to fuel the war machines responsible for atrocities and abuseagainst children and women. The business community was urged to assume itsresponsibility in that matter.

To stem the present massive use of children as soldiers, he said, athree-pronged approach was needed:first, raise the age limit for recruitmentand participation in armed conflict from the present 15 to 18; second, aneffective movement of international pressure must be mobilized to lean onarmed groups that were currently abusing children; and third, the political,social and economic factors which created an environment where children wereinduced by appeal of ideology or by socio-economic collapse to become childsoldiers must be addressed.

STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said an estimated 2 million children hadbeen killed in wars in the last decade. Tens of millions of others had beenorphaned, maimed, traumatized, sexually abused, tortured and starved. “We allhave an obligation to do everything in our power to stop this”, he stressed. Conflict prevention was clearly the best way to protect children. Suchprevention was best accomplished by promoting democracy and development. Governments must also respect their international obligations under theconvention on the Rights of the Child, which had now been ratified by nearlyall the members of the United Nations. “We must speak out more clearly whenthey do not. This is one instance where naming and shaming helps”, he added. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons had a particularly damagingimpact on children. The existence of so much weaponry in difficult andsensitive areas of the world was in itself destabilizing.

He said that when wars happened, the protagonists must make sure thatchildren were properly protected. The Geneva Conventions and their Protocols,the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on theRights and Welfare of the Child set out the standards. There must be noimpunity for those who ignored them. Those who targeted children must bebrought to justice. The establishment of the International Criminal Courtwould be an important step towards that. The internationally agreed minimumage of recruitment for soldiers must be raised, since the current age of 15was too low. “We are all familiar with pictures of children as young as 10carrying Kalishnikovs in Africa. Our priority must be the ending of suchrecruitment, and the demobilization and reintegration into society of existingchild soldiers”, he said. Children neither started wars nor perpetuated them. They should not pay the price for adult wars. They had a right to beprotected, “and all of us have a duty to ensure that they are”.

YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) stressed the importance of the truly universalratification and strengthening of the Convention on the Rights of the Childconcerning the age limit on participation by children in armed conflicts. Itwas hoped that negotiations now under way on that issue would lead to theadoption in the year 2000 of an additional protocol to the Convention whichwould end the use of child soldiers and raise the minimum age of theirparticipation in hostilities to 18 years.

Noting that the Statute of the International Criminal Court had beenadopted since the last Security Council debate on children and armed conflict,he said that the entry into force of the Ottawa Landmines Convention wasanother positive development. France would see to it that the protection ofchildren was duly and systematically taken into account, including in thosesituations involving the imposition of sanctions.

He said that the uncontrolled and destabilizing spread of small arms andlight weapons made children as much victims as it made butchers of them. Itwas for that reason that France and its European Union partners had adoptedcommon actions and were following the efforts of other countries or regionalorganizations to overcome that phenomenon. All available means must bemobilized to ensure the right of children to peace and security.

NANCY SODERBERG (United States) said her delegation lamented thedeterioration in local value systems that had accompanied the increase inprotracted and brutal civil conflicts. Children, women and the elderly, shesaid, had all become “fair game” for the most horrendous of atrocities in thevalue-less climate which prevailed in too many war zones. She said the civilconflicts which put children in harm’s way, and which delivered so much death,homelessness, hunger, illness and suffering upon them, had to be resolved inorder for their suffering to be abated.

Demobilizing children in armed conflicts after peace was attained, andreintegrating them into society was a complex process, she said. Approximately 5,000 children had received assistance, directly or indirectly,from programmes funded by the United States in Angola, Liberia, northernUganda and Sierra Leone. Those programmes included counselling not only forthe children, but also for their families and communities to facilitate theacceptance of their return home. Educational and vocational training werealso provided as a means of preparing children affected by wars to leadconstructive lives. “Today’s children are tomorrow’s hope”, she said. “Wemust all work to ensure that hope is not extinguished by the blight of armedconflict. “

DANILO TURK (Slovenia) said the Council had to pay special attention tochildren in its decision-making on and mandating of peacemaking, peacekeepingor peace-building operations. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegrationrepresented a standard aspect of many situations dealt with by the Council,and the special needs of child soldiers had to be duly taken into account. Just as important, but perhaps not as obviously pertinent to the work of theCouncil, was the question of preventing recruitment of children as soldiers. If the Council proved effective in addressing specific situations, it wouldalso help the larger cause of curtailing the practice of the exploitation ofchildren as soldiers. Children simply had no role in warfare. Sloveniasupported the effort to raise the minimum age for recruitment andparticipation of children in hostilities to 18 years through the adoption ofthe optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

He said the international community was facing a perplexing situationtoday. There was an impressive body of international humanitarian and humanrights laws that set the standard for conduct in conflict situations. Yetthere was an unacceptably wide and growing gap between the existing norms andthe situation on the ground, where those norms were flagrantly violated bybelligerent parties. It was clearly the responsibility of States to put anend to impunity and to ensure that those responsible for violations of normswere brought to justice. The adoption of the Rome Statute of theInternational Criminal Court had historic implications for children affectedby armed conflict. It designated as a war crime conscripting or enlistingchildren under the age of 15 or using them to participate actively inhostilities in both international or non-international conflicts. It was hisdelegation’s hope that the Statute would enter into force as soon as possible.

SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that in situations of armed conflicts, notonly could children not live a normal life, but they were also constantlyexposed to the threat of death. The fundamental approach to protecting themwas to effectively prevent armed conflict. In that regard, more input wasneeded from the United Nations. Under such circumstances, it should urge theparties to end the conflict peacefully and expeditiously.

He called on the international community and the relevant United Nationsagencies to further strengthen their coordination and cooperation in bringingan end to the problem of children in armed conflict. China had alwaysattached great importance to the protection of children.

The question of children in armed conflict was a highly technical one,he said. The General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council were moreappropriate forums where that subject could be taken up. The Security Councilshould focus more attention on eliminating the fundamental causes ofhumanitarian crises and on the establishment of effective monitoringmechanisms.

KAMAL YAN YAHAYA (Malaysia) asked what the international community wasdoing to protect the innocent and hapless children. Was it doing enough toensure the promotion of the rights and protection of children victimized byarmed conflicts?The issue of children in armed conflict deserved the seriousattention of the international community in its own right. Strong politicalwill was necessary to translate existing standards and commitments intoactions to make substantive progress in the protection of children in armedconflict. It was imperative that the Security Council call on States involvedin armed conflicts to protect children using the measures available.

He said his delegation supported the Special Representative’s view thatchildren must be protected during armed conflict and helped to recuperate andreintegrate in post-conflict situations but, more important, that the onset ofthe conflict should be prevented in the first place. International andnational actors should take actions to prevent conflicts rather than allowinginequities and marginalization to escalate into armed conflicts. Theinternational community should not be content to play a fireman’s role ofmerely putting out fires. A “band-aid” solution would neither resolve theconflict nor provide a permanent peace.

The Malaysian delegation, he said, was gratified that the conscriptingof children under the age of 15 into armed forces or using them to participatein hostilities, and the targeting of schools had now been made crimes underthe Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Security Council, whenadopting measures under Article 41 of the United Nations Charter in dealingwith armed conflicts, must give due consideration to their impact on childrenin order to consider appropriate humanitarian exemptions.

ANDREI E. GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said it was