There has been an “increasing disregard for international law” in many conflict situations around the world, leading to a worsening of the plight of children, Leila Zerrougui told Member States today as she delivered her annual report to the United Nations General Assembly.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) highlighted multiple countries where conflict is ongoing or tensions and violence are rising – and said that children are paying a very high price in each of these situations. She also noted that children make up almost half the mounting number of refugees and displaced persons fleeing hostilities.
“Every year… I have said that the plight of children in conflict has worsened,” SRSG Zerrougui said to the General Assembly. “Unfortunately, this trend has not changed.”
The 32-page report covers the period from August 2014 to July 2015. Though the report is already released, SRSG Zerrougui’s presentation gave Member States a chance to question her about its contents and other matters related to children and armed conflict.
For her part, SRSG Zerrougui additionally drew attention to groups that perpetrate extreme violence, saying they have committed “unspeakable atrocities against children”. However, she also cautioned that when responses to these groups fail to comply with international law, there is a risk of “aiding the very groups Governments seek to combat”.
She said that education is a “key factor in countering the extremist discourse of these groups and reducing the risk of radicalization”.
Other issues the Special Representative raised include attacks on education, child abductions, the arrest and detention of children on security charges and without due process, and the need for resources to facilitate reintegration of former child soldiers, including girls. She highlighted progress made in the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by Government forces in armed conflict.
The Special Representative discussed the outcomes of several field visits where she had direct contact with Governments and armed groups. She signaled that “intensive work” resulted in the release of thousands of former child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar and South Sudan.
This year’s report contains five recommendations that set out ways Member States can help advance the goals of the CAAC mandate, which the General Assembly itself established. A sixth recommendation calls for galvanised efforts from States that are the focus of the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign.