Child soldiering must be curbed by mobilizing political pressure, addressing the economic, social and political factors behind the phenomenon, and enhancing capacities on the ground for receiving and rehabilitating child soldiers, Olara Otunnu, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, told the Security Council today.
Speaking during the Council’s day-long open debate on children and armed conflict, he said the international community must do a lot more to provide education to war-affected children and to meet the special needs of the girl child and adolescents in the midst and aftermath of conflict. Over the past two years, a number of concrete commitments had been made concerning the protection of children. The challenge now was to ensure adherence.
He said the Security Council should continue to investigate linkages between illicit trade and the ability of parties to armed conflict to conduct war. It should consider limited bans on exports of natural resources that benefited those parties, and indicate its willingness to consider targeted sanctions against parties in violation of those standards. The international community must work closely with local communities to strengthen deeply rooted local values that had traditionally provided for the protection of children in times of war.
Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said many of the values, principles and concrete commitments enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child remained unfulfilled, as did those of Security Council resolution 1261 (1999), reflecting the Convention s obligations and principles.
Fulfilling those obligations involved the daily advocating of child rights with government officials, insurgents, commanders, civil society representatives, and children and youth themselves, she said. It also meant Council members must actively turn words into deeds. Those who violated children s rights or colluded in such violations must be made to feel the repugnance of civilized people everywhere.
Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fr chette said that though the Council’s adoption of resolution 1261 (1999) had strengthened the work of the United Nations, both through its various bodies and in the field, the task ahead was still enormous. Children in many parts of the world, including Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Sri Lanka and East Timor, continued to be killed, maimed, sexually abused, recruited into armed forces and deprived of life-saving humanitarian assistance.
Security Council – 1a – Press Release SC/6895 4176th Meeting (AM & PM) 26 July 2000
Council President M. Patricia Durrant (Jamaica), speaking in her national capacity, said the Secretary-General’s proposed exclusion of genocide and other egregious crimes against children from amnesty provisions contemplated during peace negotiations was worth considering. However, since conflicts could not always be prevented, the development of clear, appropriate strategies to protect children during conflicts must be addressed through comprehensive approaches involving the participation of a wide range of actors. That was essential, particularly in combating illicit arms trading and the illegal exploitation of and trade in natural resources.
The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the picture was grim. Thirteen million children had been displaced by war situations; between 8,000 and 10,000 had fallen victim to landmines; 2 million had been killed by armed conflict; 6 million had been wounded and some 10 million traumatized – without mentioning sexual violence, hardships, mutilations, and forcible recruitment into military service. The fate of those children was inseparable from the root causes of the conflicts of which they were the first victims. The best way to prevent conflict was to attack its underlying causes.
That sentiment was shared by the representatives of the United Republic of Tanzania, Lesotho and Mozambique, who stressed that poverty was one of the root causes of most armed conflicts. Children and armed conflict was a cross-cutting issue, and no discussion of ending armed conflicts could ignore the poverty dimension, said the United Republic of Tanzania s representative.
Lesotho’s representative said the issue of women and girl soldiers did not seem to attract as much attention as it deserved. Their role was not limited to combat and, in many cases, they were primarily recruited as sex slaves or concubines. Mozambique’s representative said that children in his country were threatened by 2 million anti-personnel landmines planted during the civil war, but were unaware of the danger. Awareness campaigns were, therefore, as important for those children as demining itself.
India’s representative said it did not help to discuss the problems of conflict-affected children in isolation. Malaria killed more children than did conflicts, and AIDS would kill even more and leave millions of other children orphaned and destitute. Moreover, there was no report on children and sanctions, another phenomenon affecting children. While conflicts ensuing from the breakdown of peace and security had a tragic effect on children, there was no evidence that their plight affected international peace and security.
The representative of Iraq, commending Mr. Otunnu s vigorous campaign to have regional sanctions against Burundi lifted, expressed the hope that the Special Representative would undertake similar action to end sanctions against Iraq, thus alleviating the plight of Iraqi children. The best way to achieve long-term protection of children would be through prevention and by addressing the root causes. Foremost among those causes was the unstable and unbalanced international political and economic order.
Security Council- 1b – Press Release SC/6895 4176th Meeting (AM & PM) 26 July 2000
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Argentina, United Kingdom, Canada, Russian Federation, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Namibia, China, Netherlands, Ukraine, Tunisia, Austria, Colombia, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand, Barbados, Senegal, Nepal, Indonesia, Ecuador, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Norway and the Sudan.
Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference also spoke.
Today s meeting, which began at 10:30 a. m. , was suspended at 1:05 p. m. It resumed at 3:20 p. m. and adjourned at 7:25 p. m.
Security Council – 3 – Press Release SC/6895 4176th Meeting (AM)26 July 2000
Council Work Programme
When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it the Secretary- General’s report on children in armed conflict (document A/55/163-S/2000/712), submitted pursuant to the landmark Council resolution 1261 (1999), the adoption of which has given full legitimacy to the protection of children exposed to conflict as an issue that properly belongs on the Council’s agenda.
On addressing impunity, the Secretary-General recommends that genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other egregious crimes perpetrated against children be excluded from amnesty provisions contemplated during peace negotiations. Another recommendation says the Security Council should urge Member States to take concrete steps to investigate, prosecute and sanction individuals and corporations involved in illegal trafficking of currency, arms, natural resources, or other resources that exacerbate armed conflicts where there is gross abuse and brutalization of children.
Noting that amnesty offers may bring recalcitrant parties to the negotiating table, and are sometimes awarded to help ensure the transformation of fighting factions into peaceful political participants, the report says war-fatigued citizens sometimes prefer peace at almost any cost, as in Sierra Leone. In other cases, such as Rwanda, the perpetrators may be brought to trial, but the devastation of the domestic judicial system and the dearth of trained personnel may exclude the possibility of fair criminal trials. The state of the national justice system is of particular concern when children are to be prosecuted for serious wartime offences
Regarding child soldiers, the Secretary-General stresses that it is critical to address the social, economic and ideological factors, as well as other root causes of children’s recruitment and participation in conflict. Member States, multilateral donors and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should be encouraged to commit the resources necessary to ensure the long-term reintegration and rehabilitation of child soldiers.
The report notes that children make obedient and cheap soldiers, capable of instilling terror in civilians and opposing forces alike. Those forced to fight are generally poor, illiterate and from rural zones, while volunteers are usually motivated by a desire to escape poverty or lured by appeals to ethnic, religious or political ideologies.
Effective prevention must be directed at the root causes of their recruitment and participation in conflict, at particularly vulnerable groups of children and at the recruiters themselves, the report says. On the basis of consensus reached on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the international community should now speak with one voice in insisting on 18 years as the minimum age for participation in conflict, whether in armed forces or armed groups.
Regarding the rights and special needs of girls, the Secretary-General recommends that particular attention be paid to providing opportunities and resources for children abducted for sexual purposes, so that they may restart their lives independently of their abductors. The Security Council should urge all parties to conflict to promote the participation of women in peace negotiations. There is still little awareness of the extreme suffering inflicted on girls, or of the many roles they play during conflict and long after, the report says. The social stigma attached to girls’ experiences makes them reluctant to seek medical assistance or emotional support, and they are often inadequately catered for in post-conflict educational and vocational training opportunities.
According to the report, several United Nations agencies and departments are collaborating on issues of gender and disarmament and will pay particular attention to the plight of female child soldiers. More fundamentally, the fa ade of impunity for the perpetrators of sexual violence against children in wartime is crumbling, with several convictions for sexual violence and rape having been obtained by the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
In the context of the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, to be held in 2001, the Secretary-General calls on Member States to commit themselves to measures that will curtail that trade. Those measures include developing global codes of conduct that take fully into account the protection of children, including a reliable system for marking arms and ammunition at the time of manufacture.
The report stresses the strong correlation between the easy availability of small arms and the dramatic rise in the victimization of women and children. As weapons become smaller, lighter and easier to handle, the number of child casualties of armed conflict mounts and children become increasingly attractive as soldiers and arms runners. Subregional organizations and arrangements are well placed to address the illicit cross-border movement of arms, natural resources and children. In 1998, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) declared a three-year moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms in the subregion.
Another recommendation urges the Security Council, when imposing sanctions under Article 41 of the United Nations Charter, to develop a coordinated and integrated approach in order to minimize unintended consequences on civilian populations, especially children. The Council should reaffirm the responsibility of targeted States and armed groups to ensure the humanitarian protection of all those under their control, particularly children.
Hundreds of thousands of children suffer the unintended consequences of blunt sanctions, the report notes. The potential long-term benefits of sanctions should be weighed against the immediate and long-term costs to children, including the collapse of health and education infrastructures, reduced economic opportunities, increased child labour in informal sectors and increased infant morbidity and mortality. The suffering of children in Iraq and the Balkans are troubling cases in point.
Recommending that the Security Council ensure the inclusion of monitoring and reporting on child protection in all United Nations peacekeeping mandates, the Secretary-General stresses the critical role of peacekeeping missions in protecting children. A senior child protection adviser and two child rights officers are working within the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). Similarly, there are child protection staff within the structure of the United Nations Observer Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).
According to the report, children have often been overlooked in peacemaking processes. In the past year, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict has received commitments from governments and insurgent groups in Burundi, Colombia, Sierra Leone and the Sudan to place the rights and protection of children on the agendas of ongoing peace processes. To date, children have been explicitly mentioned only in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement for Northern Ireland and the July 1999 Lom Peace Agreement for Sierra Leone.
The report outlines regional initiatives by the European Commission, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the G-8 industrialized countries. The G-8 Foreign Ministers, meeting recently in Okinawa, Japan, identified the plight of conflict-affected children as one of the world’s most disturbing human security issues, and promised to suppress armed conflict by removing the illicit arms and money that fuel it around the world. The United Nations is also building partnerships with the Council of Europe, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights.
Non-governmental organizations and civil society have a critical role, the report emphasizes, in building national and international advocacy networks; developing operational programmes to respond more effectively to the needs of victimized children; and generating information, ideas and new proposals on particular situations and issues. It notes that the advocacy campaign of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers was instrumental in building worldwide momentum for an agreement on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding children’s involvement in conflict.
The report states in conclusion that perpetrators must be convinced that the costs of their behaviour outweigh any perceived benefits. Public scrutiny has started to raise the political and material costs to those who would violate the rights of children in armed conflict. More of the world’s research, analytical and intellectual talent must be harnessed to the development of fresh ideas for protecting children and to deterring those who would exploit them in times of conflict. Ultimately, reducing harm done to children is best achieved by preventing armed conflict in the first place. This will entail narrowing structural inequities and addressing the extreme poverty, practices of exclusion and manipulation of diversity that are at the root of modern conflicts. Development strategies should aim at reducing the systematic imbalances in resource distribution within and among countries.
LOUISE FR CHETTE, Deputy Secretary-General, said that the adoption of resolution 1261 had strengthened the work of the United Nations, both through its various bodies and in the field, on the situation of children in armed conflict. The Optional Protocol had been adopted and was now open for signature and ratification by Member States, and child protection advisers were deployed in Sierra Leone and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, in spite of those positive developments, the task ahead was still enormous.
She stressed that the abuse of children in armed conflict was unacceptable. Children in many parts of the world, including in Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Sri Lanka and East Timor, continued to be killed, maimed, sexually abused, recruited into armed forces and deprived of life-saving humanitarian assistance. She hoped the current debate in the Council would be fruitful, and that Council members would show the necessary political leadership in the fight against those who exploited children.
OLARA Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, said today marked a milestone in the Security Council’s systematic engagement with the issue of children in armed conflict. Significant progress had been achieved in the last two years:public awareness had risen significantly; after six years of difficult negotiations, a consensus agreement had been reached last January raising the minimum age for compulsory recruitment from 15 to 18 years; several regional organizations had come to adopt the agenda as their own, the most recent examples being the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the G-8 industrialized countries.
He noted, in addition, that child protection concerns were being systematically incorporated by the Security Council into peace-operation mandates; reports to the Council on specific situations now contained distinct sections on the protection and well-being of children; the placing of children’s concerns on peace agendas; the engagement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in advocacy and programme activities on the ground; increasing focus and resource allocation for children in conflict situations like East Timor, Sierra Leone and Kosovo; and innovative national initiatives such as the National Commission for War-affected Children in Sierra Leone and Rwanda’s enactment, opening the way for girls’ to inherit property in the aftermath of a very tragic conflict.
Over the past two years, a number of concrete commitments had been made concerning the protection of children, he said. The challenge now was to ensure adherence. The international community should make any political, diplomatic, financial, material and military assistance for all parties to armed conflict contingent on observing standards for protection of children. Member States should consider measures to discourage corporate actors within their jurisdiction from engaging in illicit trade with parties to armed conflict who were in systematic violation of those standards.
He said the Security Council should continue to investigate the linkages between illicit trade and the ability of those parties to conduct war. It should consider limited bans on exports of natural resources that benefited those parties, and indicate its willingness to consider targeted sanctions against parties in violation of those standards. Children tended to suffer the worst under sanctions regimes, and it was hoped that the Council would explore measures to alleviate their effects on children.
The international community must work closely with local communities to strengthen deeply rooted local values that had traditionally provided for the protection of children in times of war, he said. Regional and subregional organizations should be encouraged to undertake “neighbourhood initiatives” to curb the cross-border activities deleterious to children, in particular, the illicit movement of small arms, the illicit trade in gold, diamonds and timber, and cross-border abduction of women and children.
He said young people must be involved in the activities for the protection of conflict-affected children, including programmes for reconciliation, peace consolidation, peace-building and children-to-children networks. Beyond the rapid ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, curbing child soldiering on the ground must be achieved by mobilizing political pressure, addressing the economic, social and political factors underlying the phenomenon and enhancing the capacities on the ground for receiving and rehabilitating child soldiers. The international community must do a lot more to provide education to war-affected children and to meet the special needs of the girl child and adolescents in the midst and aftermath of conflict.
The advocacy and activities on the ground of NGOs were not only crucial, but indispensable, he said. It was hoped that the Security Council would engage in constructive dialogue and collaboration with them for the benefit of children. The ground-breaking report of Gra a Machel of Mozambique and South Africa, and her deep commitment to the protection of children, continued to provide the foundation for and to inspire the activities of the present mandate.
CAROL BELLAMY, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said many of the values, principles and concrete commitments enshrined by the Convention on the Rights of the Child remained unfulfilled, as did those in Security Council resolution 1261 (1999), which reflected the obligations and principles contained in the Convention. Fulfilling those obligations involved advocating the cause of child rights on a daily basis with government officials, insurgents, commanders, civil society representatives, children s workers and wit