Geneva – In December 2015, a new Group of friends on children and armed conflict was created in Geneva under the chairmanship of Belgium and Uruguay.

During the inaugural meeting, Ambassador Bertrand de Crombrugghe de Picquendaele, and Ambassador Ricardo González Arenas, Belgium and Uruguay’s Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in Geneva, explained that the Group of friends will ensure that the needs of children affected by war remain on everyone’s minds in their work with the Human Rights Council, Special procedures and other UN bodies in Geneva.

The group, composed of representatives of close to 30 Member States representing all continents, will meet regularly to discuss advances and challenges to improve the protection of children affected by conflict.

“I am extremely grateful to Belgium, Uruguay and all of those with us today for this initiative,” said Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. “The work taking place in Geneva is extremely important for our mandate. We have made great strides to shield children from the impact of war, but we still face enormous challenges and we need your support.”

She briefed the group on her mandate and on the challenges and opportunities to improve the protection of children affected by conflict. She evoked threats to children posed by armed groups using tactics of extreme violence, the importance of safeguarding children’s right to education as well as the growing challenge to protect the millions of boys and girls displaced by war.

The Special Representative also discussed progress generated by the campaign “Children, Not Soldiers” to end and prevent the recruitment of children by national security forces in conflict as well as the importance of engaging with non-State armed groups to end grave violations against children.

Leila Zerrougui will be back in Geneva in March 2016 to present her annual report to the Human Rights Council and will meet again with the Group of friends.

There are additional Groups of friends on Children and Armed Conflict chaired by Canada in New York, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Philippines.