Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking Luxembourg for hosting this Open Debate during its Presidency and for their invaluable work as Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.
This Open Debate comes at a crucial time, with an upsurge of conflict in so many places around the world. Roughly two months have passed in the year 2014. Taking stock of what this year has brought for children so far yields a dire conclusion.
In South Sudan, the horizon of a new nation has darkened in December 2013. Even today we have not yet grasped the extent of grave violations against children committed in the renewed violence. Not only have tens of thousands of children been displaced, deprived of education and separated from their families and social networks, but also recruited, used in horrific fighting, maimed and killed or forced to kill and maim. Initial reports I have received on raids on hospitals, including summary executions of the sick and old, leave me without words. When we think of South Sudan, we have to bear in mind that more than half of this population are children. A whole generation, which should be entrusted with building a new nation, is about to be deprived of a fair chance to do so.
As you have been briefed yesterday in-depth, the situation in the Central African Republic remains dramatic. The impact on children continues to be devastating. Resources are too limited to face the challenge of providing assistance and protection to thousands of children, including those recruited and used by parties to conflict. I hope the Security Council will address this situation with a robust response, providing the actors on the ground with the necessary means and capacity.
In Syria, despite all efforts by various actors, armed violence has intensified. The killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and hospitals continue unabated. Children are recruited and used by various armed groups and are often lured into battle where they are among the first to die. Reports on organised sexual violence as a tactic of humiliation persist. While humanitarian access in limited areas is a glimmer of hope in the darkest of times, the hardship on children has barely improved. We cannot afford a lost generation in Syria.
These first two months of 2014 have revealed once again: we must not rely on hope when children suffering in armed conflict are calling upon us to be heard. Only action and concrete measures will ultimately make a difference. Only actions and concrete measures may allow us to look back at 2014 and conclude: we, together, have made a difference for children this year.
Since the creation of my mandate by the General Assembly, we have seen such concrete action. The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict has adopted a number of conclusions over the last year, urging parties to conflict to end and prevent grave violations and calling for country-specific action. The Working Group has also visited Myanmar to assess the situation and advocate for the plight of children. The Security Council has continued to mainstream children and armed conflict into both thematic and country-specific agendas, addressing new trends when and where they arise with new and innovative measures. The Council did so once again today, with the adoption of this resolution.
Mr. President, Excellencies,
I dearly welcome the endorsement of the campaign “Children not Soldiers” in the resolution before us. It was in the Security Council that I first expressed my intent of working towards child-free Government armed forces in conflict by the end of 2016. It is my firm belief that this goal is an achievable one. Eight national government forces remain on the Secretary-General’s list for this violation. Yesterday, I had the honour to welcome representatives from each of these Governments at the launch event for the campaign “Children – Not Soldiers”. The commitment shown by the Member States concerned is a powerful message to the international community and parties to conflict – State and non-State actors – all over the world. It is time to make child soldiers history. I want to stress here that the campaign “Children – Not Soldiers” is not only a joint effort by my Office and UNICEF. It must be a joint effort by all of us who have gathered here today.
We have already begun to establish road-maps to expedite the implementation of action plans with parties listed. Road-maps are set up jointly with the concerned Government to tackle priority issues and are based on a joint assessment of achievements made and existing gaps in the implementation of agreed action plans. In Chad, the road-map was agreed on last year and is the basis for action taken. In Afghanistan, the road-map has already been drafted jointly with Government representatives. Also in DRC we are close to the establishment of such a document. Sustained implementation of commitments agreed upon by the signatories to the action plan will ultimately lead to better protection of children and the de-listing of the concerned party from the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report.
In the course of the campaign, we are able to benefit from the expertise of a variety of Governments, UN agencies, NGOs, and child protection experts, giving us a better understanding of both challenges and solutions. This enables us to even better protect children in unique cultural, economic, political, and social contexts.
New partnerships and the strengthening of existing ones also lie at the heart of the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1998. By taking the lead with UNICEF in drafting a guidance on how to monitor and report on attacks on schools and hospitals, threats and attacks against education and health-care related personnel, and the military use of schools, we have reached out to specialized UN agencies and NGOs that in turn will adopt the children and armed conflict agenda in their own programmes and projects. New stakeholders are won for our cause and we learn to understand how our cause can strengthen theirs. The guidance on the implementation of SCR 1998, which we intend to launch in the coming weeks, will mark another important step forward.
I am heartened by the fact that the Security Council has strengthened the language on the military use of schools in today’s resolution. Military use puts schools and school children in danger. Schools become potential battle fields. Seeking ways to better prevent attacks on schools calls for efforts to incrementally prevent their military use by parties to conflict.
The Security Council also calls upon the United Nations country level task forces to enhance the monitoring and reporting on the use of schools. My Office and all other child protection actors at UN headquarters level, including UNICEF, DPKO and DPA, will continue to stand ready and support the task forces with all means possible. However, both monitoring and reporting on violations against children in conflict and addressing such violations appropriately are impossible without the necessary capacity on the ground. Almost weekly, task force members approach my office and plead for the continued support in advocacy for enhanced capacity in child protection. We must be able to respond to their plea with adequate resources, innovative models, learning from past experiences. It is also important to mainstream child protection into peacekeeping and special political missions through the pre-deployment training of troops. I cannot stress enough in this regard the importance of knowing that the Security Council stands behind this. It has shown this again in today’s resolution. We owe it to the children affected by armed conflict and to the dedicated men and women putting their own lives at risk to ensure that the voices of these children reach our ears.
Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I began my speech with a grim picture in three situations of conflict. But children are facing similar atrocities in many other conflicts. We must not leave them in despair. Today we know what measures can be taken to successfully end and prevent grave violations against children in armed conflict.
Dialogue with non-State actors, engagement with Governments, capacity building on all levels, and the mainstreaming of our agenda into all aspects of peace and security continue. These activities would be unthinkable without the Security Council’s framework, developed over the last years. Hundreds of thousands of children have their eyes upon you as you continue to lead the way in protecting children from armed conflict.