New York, 14 December 2020 – The Special Representative Virginia Gamba, is honored to receive the Sapienza Human Rights Award 2020 on behalf of the United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, “for its outstanding contribution to human rights”, and more specifically “the irreplaceable action carried out in order to promote the fundamental rights of boys and girls in situations of armed conflict, trying to ensure in every way possible their protection from the perpetration of war crimes and serious violations of human rights”.
This award confirms the critical role played by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict since its establishment in 1997 in ending and preventing grave violations against boys and girls in situations of armed conflict, promoting their rights, and placing children and armed conflict as one of the priorities for action of the United Nations Security Council since its historic resolution 1261 (1999). In particular, the Sapienza University of Rome commended the Office for its innovative actions undertaken to promote peace and human security in partnership with other organs of the United Nations , notably through the development of original concepts and tools to protect the most vulnerable, including the Practical guidance for mediators to protect children in situations of armed conflict, the Act to Protect and Children Not Soldiers public awareness campaigns and the ongoing initiative focused on the reintegration of boys and girls affected by armed conflict.
“Children are no longer our future. The demographics show us that they are already our present. We have failed them in the past, and we are failing them today”, warned the Special Representative Gamba in her acceptance speech.
In the award acceptance speech, the Special Representative also reflected on the evolving role of the United Nations, how the concept of peace and security has suffered radical changes in the last 75 years, and the challenges and dynamics in the protection of children used and abused by, in and for armed conflict. She highlighted that in a world characterized by the rise in nonmilitary threats to security, “the push and pull factors that ignite or depress violent conflict are simply not understood and peace is not prospering, neither is human security.”
The Special Representative noted that “As violence results in armed conflict, the suffering of women, children and other most vulnerable human beings, are not just a sad by-product of war; they have become the main product. Armed groups, perhaps animated by the economic dimensions of conflict, abduct, rape and forcibly recruit children, using them as disposable assets in the front lines of war. Armed forces, judging children with the same rod as they judge adults in the fight against extreme terrorism, have detained and, worse, killed or maimed children on the assumption of alleged association to armed groups acting in conflicts that they neither wanted nor started.”
Finally, the Special Representative emphasized the primary role of universities such as the Sapienza University in providing expertise at the service of our common future, by training professionals in the field of international protection and the promotion of human rights on all aspects of human security. She urged to act with wisdom: “Memory is wisdom, and wisdom is nothing more than the wise application of memory, in the form of experience and knowledge”.
Note to editors:
From the 2013-2014 academic year Master in International Protection of Human Rights “Maria Rita Saulle” of the Sapienza University in Rome, Italy, introduced the Sapienza Human Rights Awards with the aim to award people or institutions that throughout their career/activities stood out for their efforts and the contribution to human rights. The event is associated to the annual presentation of the Master, after which the Director presents the motivations for the prize and gives a commemorative plaque.
The full motivations for awarding the prize to the Office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict are the following:
For the irreplaceable action carried out in order to promote the fundamental rights of boys and girls in situations of armed conflict, trying to ensure in every way possible their protection from the perpetration of war crimes and serious violations of human rights;
For action aimed at promoting, in collaboration with the other competent organs of the United Nations and with all expressions of the international community, peace and human security, in particular through the elaboration of original concepts and the use of new tools to be applied in favor of the most vulnerable categories;
For the simple reason that it is necessary to listen to the voice of the multitude of children saved from the abyss of war thanks to her meritorious and innovative action.
For additional information, please contact:
Laura Huchet, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, email: email@example.com