New York – The international community faces a daunting task to reduce the impact of armed conflict on children, Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said as she presented her annual report to the UN General Assembly today.

During her presentation to Member States, she emphasized how the means and methods of warfare used by some parties to conflict have killed and maimed thousands of children and forced millions to flee in search of a safer environment.

The unspeakable plight of children in South Sudan, Syria and Yemen illustrates the gravity of the current circumstances, and the urgent need for action at all levels,” Leila Zerrougui told the General Assembly.

The Special Representative pointed to the proliferation of actors involved, the increase in aerial operations and the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas as tactics increasing the intensity of conflict and violations affecting children. She added that healthcare institutions and workers are frequent casualties of explosive weapons and renewed her call for a commitment to avoid using these types of munitions in populated areas.

While acts by some armed groups are clearly abhorrent and there are serious threats faced by Member States, this does not justify pervasive lawlessness and human rights violations in security responses,” declared the Special Representative.

Progress and opportunities
She noted areas of progress and mentioned that in Colombia for example, the separation of children from the FARC-EP is ongoing, with the parties fully committed to the protection of children, despite the outcome of the referendum on the peace agreement.

While the detention of children in situations of conflict remains a grave concern, advocacy by the UN has led to the release in the past few weeks of close to 50 boys in Sudan and Somalia. They were allegedly associated with armed groups and had been detained, in some cases for more than a year. During separate visits to these two countries earlier this year, the Special Representative met the children and advocated with the authorities on their behalf. In both cases, the boys are now receiving specialized reintegration assistance.

Coordinated and sustained advocacy by all actors has led to results, but it is not enough. The treatment of children separated from, or allegedly associated with, armed groups is one my most pressing concerns,” added Leila Zerrougui.

Children affected by war and the Sustainable Development Agenda
The Special Representative called on the international community to take advantage of the opportunities created by the new Sustainable Development agenda to bring positive change for those left the furthest behind: children affected by war. The SDGs provide a framework to collectively ensure that capacity and financing are available for, among other things, reintegration programmes, education in emergencies and support to children disabled by conflict.

She ended her presentation by reiterating her appeal for vigorous efforts towards peace.

It would be naïve to think that we can achieve serious progress without prioritizing conflict resolution and prevention. This is the only way that we stand a chance of significantly reducing the number of violations against children. Otherwise, we will have to resign ourselves to incremental progress that can easily be wiped out with a change in the conflict dynamics,” Leila Zerrougui concluded.

For more information please contact:
Stephanie Tremblay – Communications Officer
Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
Tel: +1 212 963-8285
Mobile: +1 917 288-5791

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Read the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to the UN General Assembly

Read the remarks delivered today by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

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