Resolution 1261 (1999) Adopted Unanimously; Olara Otunnu Stresses Words On Paper Cannot Save Children in Peril; Namibia’s Foreign Minister Presides
The Security Council tonight strongly condemned the targeting ofchildren in situations of armed conflict including killing and maiming, sexualviolence, abduction and forced displacement, recruitment and use of childrenin armed conflict in violation of international law and attacks on places thatusually have a significant presence of children such as schools and hospitals,and called on all parties concerned to put an end to such practices.
By unanimously adopting resolution 1261 (1999), after hearing from 48speakers during an all-day debate, the Council expressed its support for theongoing work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General forChildren and Armed Conflict, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UnitedNations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other parts of the UnitedNations system and other relevant international organizations dealing withchildren affected by armed conflict, and requested the Secretary-General tocontinue to develop coordination and coherence among them.
The Secretary-General was requested to submit to the Council by31 July 2000, a report on the implementation of the resolution, consulting allrelevant parts of the United Nations system and taking into account otherrelevant work. He was also requested to ensure that personnel involved inpeacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building activities have appropriatetraining on the protection, rights and welfare of children.
Also by the text, the Council urged States and the United Nations systemto facilitate the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation andreintegration of children used as soldiers in violation of international law,and called upon, in particular, the Special Representative of theSecretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF, UNHCR and otherrelevant agencies of the United Nations system to intensify their efforts inthat regard.
The Council recognized the deleterious impact of the proliferation ofarms, in particular small arms, on the security of civilians, including
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refugees and other vulnerable populations, particularly children. It recalledresolution 1209 (1998) which, among other provisions, stressed the importanceof all Member States, and in particular States involved in manufacturing andmarketing of weapons, restricting arms transfers which could provoke orprolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions or armed conflicts, andwhich urged international collaboration in combating illegal arms flows.
All parties to armed conflicts were urged to ensure that the protection,welfare and rights of children are taken into account during peacenegotiations and throughout the process of consolidating peace in theaftermath of conflict. They were also urged to take special measures toprotect children, in particular girls, from rape and other forms of sexualabuse and gender-based violence in situations of armed conflict and to takeinto account the special needs of the girl child throughout armed conflictsand their aftermath, including in the delivery of the humanitarian assistance.
In the text’s preambular part, the Council noted recent efforts to bringto an end the use of children as soldiers in violation of international law,in International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 on the Prohibition andImmediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, whichprohibits forced or compulsory labour, including the forced or compulsoryrecruitment of children for use in armed conflict, and in the Rome Statute ofthe International Criminal Court, in which conscripting or enlisting childrenunder the age of 15 into national armed forces or using them to participateactively in hostilities is characterized as a war crime.
Addressing the Council at the outset of the meeting, Olara Otunnu,Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and ArmedConflict, said that over the past 50 years the world had developed animpressive body of international humanitarian and human rights instruments,but their impact remained woefully thin on the ground, he stressed, addingthat words on paper could not save children and women in peril. Energies musttherefore be shifted from the juridical project of elaborating norms to thepolitical project of ensuring their application and respect on the ground. That could be accomplished if the international community was prepared toemploy its considerable collective influence to that end.
Mr. Otunnu said that to stem the present massive use of children assoldiers, a three-pronged approach was needed:first, raise the age limit forrecruitment and participation in armed conflict from the present 15 to 18;second, an effective movement of international pressure must be mobilized tolean on armed groups that were currently abusing children; and third, thepolitical, social and economic factors which created an environment wherechildren were induced by appeal of ideology or by socio-economic collapse, tobecome child soldiers, must be addressed.
The Council President, Theo-Ben Gurirab, speaking in his capacity asForeign Minister of Namibia, said “We, as one human family, are demeaned and
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diminished when the response to humanitarian needs of victims does not measureup to the gravity of the situation as regards the plight of children”. InAfrica, the impact of armed conflicts on children had been particularlyharmful, and no region of the continent had been spared the scourge of armedconflicts. “The challenges we are faced with are enormous”, he said, “andrequire each and everyone to work in a holistic, collaborative and dedicatedmanner to ensure that the standards which we accepted are fully enjoyed by theultimate beneficiaries — the children. They are the leaders of tomorrow. “
Statements were also made by the United Kingdom, France, United States,Slovenia, China, Malaysia, Russian Federation, Gabon, Brazil, Argentina,Bahrain, Gambia, Netherlands, Canada, Algeria, Norway, Finland, Bangladesh,Japan, Costa Rica, Republic of Korea, India, Portugal, Iraq, Slovakia,Afghanistan, Zambia, Monaco, Ukraine, South Africa, Mongolia, Sudan, Kenya,Egypt, Indonesia, Angola, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, NewZealand, Guyana, Philippines, Rwanda, Belarus and Colombia.
The observer for Switzerland also made a statement.
The United States and Iraq spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The meeting began at 11:17 a. m. and was suspended at 1:30 p. m. Itresumed at 3:33 p. m. and was adjourned at 10:25 p. m.
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Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning to consider the issue of childrenand armed conflict.
OLARA OTUNNU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General forChildren and Armed Conflict, said that in approximately 50 countries aroundthe world, children were suffering from the effects of conflict and itsaftermath, that more than 20 million children had been displaced by war withinand outside their countries and that some 300,000 young people under the ageof 18 were currently being exploited as child soldiers. There had been aqualitative shift in the nature and conduct of warfare. Several developmentsmarked that transformation.
Almost all the major armed conflicts in the world today were civil wars,he said. They were marked by widespread social breakdown and lawlessness, theproliferation of small weapons and involvement of multiple armed groups andthe massive use of child soldiers. A key feature of that struggle was thedemonization of the so-called enemy community. In that setting, the villagehad become the battlefield and civilian populations the primary target. Thetraditional limits on the conduct of warfare — international instruments aswell as local taboos and injunctions — were being cast aside.
Those excesses were no longer exceptional, he said. They werewidespread across the globe and were going on today in some 30 locations ofconflict. It was against that background that today up to 90 per cent ofcasualties in ongoing conflicts around the world were civilians — the vastmajority of whom were women and children. There was a danger that theinternational community might be exposed to so much that it could come toregard as normal a phenomenon that in fact represented a radical departurefrom the fundamental norms of conduct acceptable to their various societies. That must not be allowed to happen. The trend of abomination could and mustbe reversed. In that context, some concrete proposals were offered for theCouncil’s consideration.
First, he said, the international community should resolve to launch theapplication of international norms and standards. Over the past 50 years, theworld had developed an impressive body of international humanitarian and humanrights instruments. But their impact remained woefully thin on the ground. Words on paper could not save children and women in peril. Energies musttherefore be shifted from the juridical project of elaborating norms to thepolitical project of ensuring their application and respect on the ground. That could be accomplished if the international community was prepared toemploy its considerable collective influence to that end. He said that local value systems that had traditionally provided ethicalbearings to many societies must not be cast aside. In most societies,distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable practices were maintained,even in times of war, with taboos and injunctions proscribing the targeting ofcivilian populations, especially women and children. But today, so manyconflicts around the world were a “free-for-all”. All resources must bemobilized — especially parents, extended families, elders, teachers, schoolsand religious institutions — to reclaim and reassert those values and taboosthat had traditionally been instrumental in protecting children and women intimes of conflict.
Proposing “neighbourhood initiatives”, he said that although most oftoday’s conflicts were internal, the victimization of children was oftenexacerbated by cross-border activities, the flow of small arms and lightweapons, the transfer and use of landmines, the recruitment and abduction ofchildren by armed groups and the movement of displaced populations. Threatsfacing children within countries in conflict often could not be brought undercontrol without addressing those cross-border dimensions.
He said there was an urgent need to monitor and control the flow of armsinto and the illicit exploitation of natural resources from theatres ofconflict, where there was evidence that children and women were beingsystematically brutalized. Similarly, illicit trade in timber, gold ordiamonds tended to fuel the war machines responsible for atrocities and abuseagainst children and women. The business community was urged to assume itsresponsibility in that matter.
To stem the present massive use of children as soldiers, he said, athree-pronged approach was needed:first, raise the age limit for recruitmentand participation in armed conflict from the present 15 to 18; second, aneffective movement of international pressure must be mobilized to lean onarmed groups that were currently abusing children; and third, the political,social and economic factors which created an environment where children wereinduced by appeal of ideology or by socio-economic collapse to become childsoldiers must be addressed.
STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said an estimated 2 million children hadbeen killed in wars in the last decade. Tens of millions of others had beenorphaned, maimed, traumatized, sexually abused, tortured and starved. “We allhave an obligation to do everything in our power to stop this”, he stressed. Conflict prevention was clearly the best way to protect children. Suchprevention was best accomplished by promoting democracy and development. Governments must also respect their international obligations under theconvention on the Rights of the Child, which had now been ratified by nearlyall the members of the United Nations. “We must speak out more clearly whenthey do not. This is one instance where naming and shaming helps”, he added. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons had a particularly damagingimpact on children. The existence of so much weaponry in difficult andsensitive areas of the world was in itself destabilizing.
He said that when wars happened, the protagonists must make sure thatchildren were properly protected. The Geneva Conventions and their Protocols,the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on theRights and Welfare of the Child set out the standards. There must be noimpunity for those who ignored them. Those who targeted children must bebrought to justice. The establishment of the International Criminal Courtwould be an important step towards that. The internationally agreed minimumage of recruitment for soldiers must be raised, since the current age of 15was too low. “We are all familiar with pictures of children as young as 10carrying Kalishnikovs in Africa. Our priority must be the ending of suchrecruitment, and the demobilization and reintegration into society of existingchild soldiers”, he said. Children neither started wars nor perpetuated them. They should not pay the price for adult wars. They had a right to beprotected, “and all of us have a duty to ensure that they are”.
YVES DOUTRIAUX (France) stressed the importance of the truly universalratification and strengthening of the Convention on the Rights of the Childconcerning the age limit on participation by children in armed conflicts. Itwas hoped that negotiations now under way on that issue would lead to theadoption in the year 2000 of an additional protocol to the Convention whichwould end the use of child soldiers and raise the minimum age of theirparticipation in hostilities to 18 years.
Noting that the Statute of the International Criminal Court had beenadopted since the last Security Council debate on children and armed conflict,he said that the entry into force of the Ottawa Landmines Convention wasanother positive development. France would see to it that the protection ofchildren was duly and systematically taken into account, including in thosesituations involving the imposition of sanctions.
He said that the uncontrolled and destabilizing spread of small arms andlight weapons made children as much victims as it made butchers of them. Itwas for that reason that France and its European Union partners had adoptedcommon actions and were following the efforts of other countries or regionalorganizations to overcome that phenomenon. All available means must bemobilized to ensure the right of children to peace and security.
NANCY SODERBERG (United States) said her delegation lamented thedeterioration in local value systems that had accompanied the increase inprotracted and brutal civil conflicts. Children, women and the elderly, shesaid, had all become “fair game” for the most horrendous of atrocities in thevalue-less climate which prevailed in too many war zones. She said the civilconflicts which put children in harm’s way, and which delivered so much death,homelessness, hunger, illness and suffering upon them, had to be resolved inorder for their suffering to be abated.
Demobilizing children in armed conflicts after peace was attained, andreintegrating them into society was a complex process, she said. Approximately 5,000 children had received assistance, directly or indirectly,from programmes funded by the United States in Angola, Liberia, northernUganda and Sierra Leone. Those programmes included counselling not only forthe children, but also for their families and communities to facilitate theacceptance of their return home. Educational and vocational training werealso provided as a means of preparing children affected by wars to leadconstructive lives. “Today’s children are tomorrow’s hope”, she said. “Wemust all work to ensure that hope is not extinguished by the blight of armedconflict. “
DANILO TURK (Slovenia) said the Council had to pay special attention tochildren in its decision-making on and mandating of peacemaking, peacekeepingor peace-building operations. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegrationrepresented a standard aspect of many situations dealt with by the Council,and the special needs of child soldiers had to be duly taken into account. Just as important, but perhaps not as obviously pertinent to the work of theCouncil, was the question of preventing recruitment of children as soldiers. If the Council proved effective in addressing specific situations, it wouldalso help the larger cause of curtailing the practice of the exploitation ofchildren as soldiers. Children simply had no role in warfare. Sloveniasupported the effort to raise the minimum age for recruitment andparticipation of children in hostilities to 18 years through the adoption ofthe optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
He said the international community was facing a perplexing situationtoday. There was an impressive body of international humanitarian and humanrights laws that set the standard for conduct in conflict situations. Yetthere was an unacceptably wide and growing gap between the existing norms andthe situation on the ground, where those norms were flagrantly violated bybelligerent parties. It was clearly the responsibility of States to put anend to impunity and to ensure that those responsible for violations of normswere brought to justice. The adoption of the Rome Statute of theInternational Criminal Court had historic implications for children affectedby armed conflict. It designated as a war crime conscripting or enlistingchildren under the age of 15 or using them to participate actively inhostilities in both international or non-international conflicts. It was hisdelegation’s hope that the Statute would enter into force as soon as possible.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that in situations of armed conflicts, notonly could children not live a normal life, but they were also constantlyexposed to the threat of death. The fundamental approach to protecting themwas to effectively prevent armed conflict. In that regard, more input wasneeded from the United Nations. Under such circumstances, it should urge theparties to end the conflict peacefully and expeditiously.
He called on the international community and the relevant United Nationsagencies to further strengthen their coordination and cooperation in bringingan end to the problem of children in armed conflict. China had alwaysattached great importance to the protection of children.
The question of children in armed conflict was a highly technical one,he said. The General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council were moreappropriate forums where that subject could be taken up. The Security Councilshould focus more attention on eliminating the fundamental causes ofhumanitarian crises and on the establishment of effective monitoringmechanisms.
KAMAL YAN YAHAYA (Malaysia) asked what the international community wasdoing to protect the innocent and hapless children. Was it doing enough toensure the promotion of the rights and protection of children victimized byarmed conflicts?The issue of children in armed conflict deserved the seriousattention of the international community in its own right. Strong politicalwill was necessary to translate existing standards and commitments intoactions to make substantive progress in the protection of children in armedconflict. It was imperative that the Security Council call on States involvedin armed conflicts to protect children using the measures available.
He said his delegation supported the Special Representative’s view thatchildren must be protected during armed conflict and helped to recuperate andreintegrate in post-conflict situations but, more important, that the onset ofthe conflict should be prevented in the first place. International andnational actors should take actions to prevent conflicts rather than allowinginequities and marginalization to escalate into armed conflicts. Theinternational community should not be content to play a fireman’s role ofmerely putting out fires. A “band-aid” solution would neither resolve theconflict nor provide a permanent peace.
The Malaysian delegation, he said, was gratified that the conscriptingof children under the age of 15 into armed forces or using them to participatein hostilities, and the targeting of schools had now been made crimes underthe Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Security Council, whenadopting measures under Article 41 of the United Nations Charter in dealingwith armed conflicts, must give due consideration to their impact on childrenin order to consider appropriate humanitarian exemptions.
ANDREI E. GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said it was important for allmembers of the Council to be united in addressing about the misfortunes ofchildren. Humankind was approaching the next millennium with loftyhumanitarian ideals which encompassed rights and freedoms. The scourge of wardeprived children of things that were dear to them:their parents, health,childhood and homelands. It should be pointed out that some progress had beenachieved in the struggle for the right of children to peace. The Conventionon the Rights of the Child was the most universal international treaty. TheRussian Federation supported the recommendation for the early adoption of theoptional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. On20 November, the tenth anniversary of the Convention would be observed. Theinclusion of that anniversary on the agenda of the fifty-fourth session of theGeneral Assembly would provide an opportunity to address problems facing theyounger generation.
He said there was a broad range of authoritative institutions dealingwith issues related to children. The United Nations High Commissioner forRefugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Economicand Social Council were just some of them. In addition, the InternationalCommittee of the Red Cross was providing special protection and assistance tochildren in armed conflict. In undertaking efforts to settle and preventarmed conflicts, the world community had to do its utmost to lessen the impacton children. That, however, was not enough. It was also time to deal withpreventing children from being involved in hostilities. There was a need tolimit arms shipments to areas of conflict and to seriously control the flow oflight weapons and small arms. The Russian Federation had been one of thefirst States to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The legalelements of that Convention were some of the basic tenets of Russian society.
DENIS DANGUE REWAKA (Gabon) said that in June 1998, the Security Councilhad expressed agreement with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General that an end must be put to the recruitment of children, as well as totheir disarmament and demobilization; to the promotion of landmine-clearanceand mine-awareness programmes; and to programmes of re-education andre-adaptation.
He said that States, and particularly those involved in armed conflict,must give high priority to the effective implementation of existinginternational instruments. A lasting solution to the problem would include,on the one hand, the prevention and settlement of armed conflicts and on theother, the economic and social improvement of the countries where thosechildren lived.
GELSON FONSECA (Brazil) said it was a paradox that the positive trendrepresented by the readiness of the Council to keep the issue of children andarmed conflicts on its agenda was a direct result of the deterioratingsituation on the ground. Unfortunately, efforts still fell short of what wasneeded to end the grievous suffering of children affected. The Council mustplay its part in a much broader strategy to address the various dimensions ofthat urgent problem. It should not lose sight of the special humanitarianneeds of children. When discharging its functions in matters related tointernational security, the Council should bear in mind the imperative ofputting an end to the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts. TheCouncil must also work in close coordination with the General Assembly and theEconomic and Social Council in the context of post-conflict peace-building.
On several occasions his country had expressed its concern at the use oflandmines, which accounted for a great deal of deaths and casualties amongchildren. Along with the ban on landmines, it was necessary to set in motioncomprehensive programmes of mine-clearance and mine-awareness. In the fieldof disarmament, attention should also be paid to the flow of small arms andlight weapons, not only because of their deadly potential, but also becausethey were easily carried by child soldiers. Political will and decisiveaction were required if the international community was to successfullyprevent the childhood of the next generations from being stolen and theirfutures ravaged by warfare.
FERNANDO ENRIQUE PETRELLA (Argentina) said it was indispensable thatinternational norms be formulated to prevent the barbaric practice of bringingchildren into the battlefield. In addition to existing internationalinstruments, the current debate and the resolution before the Council, theInternational Criminal Court would be a formidable tool to eradicate thatpractice.
He said Argentina believed that the age limit for the recruitment ofyoung people into armed forces must be 18 years. It was essential to providetraining for troops forming peacekeeping missions, which would range from thedisarmament of children to their demobilization. That would help avoid theirfuture involvement in armed struggles.
There should be compensation, rehabilitation and special educationprogrammes for children and young people brutalized by armed conflicts, hesaid. Peace agreements must contain explicit provisions in that respect.
He said that the design of sanctions must be improved so that they didnot have an impact on children. The Security Council must contribute toending that “unacceptable reality”.
JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said the meeting today was clear proofof the determination to address the issue of children in armed conflict. Thephenomenon was an old one, and was one of the most negative aspects of armedconflicts. The issue had, however, taken a dangerous turn in recent times andthe international community was forced to take a different look at it. Hundred of thousands of children were serving as soldiers, while millions ofchildren all over the world were affected by conflicts. There were also thosechildren who suffered from terrible living conditions because of lack ofeducation or food.
He said the situation of children either as soldiers or refugees was ablack mark for the rest of the world. It was necessary to bring to justicethose who were responsible for the recruitment of children during armedconflicts; they should be dealt with as war criminals. War had psychologicalconsequences on children that were impossible to remove even in adulthood.
BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said it was distressful to learnthat 90 per cent of the casualties of today’s conflicts were civilians, ofwhich the vast majority were women and children. In many conflicts, the loftyvalues of protection of children seemed to be forgotten completely. Childrenhad been conscripted as soldiers, sometimes at gunpoint, and not even younggirls were spared. “Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea”, he said,those who were able to escape the horrors of conflict situations were eitherinternally displaced or went elsewhere as refugees, or were separated fromtheir families.
He said grave violations of international humanitarian and human rightslaw often occurred in communities which were cut off from the outside world. The presence of the international community in such places would be vital forthe purpose of producing witnesses. Many belligerents did not know the rulesgoverning armed conflict, he said. It was therefore important that theattention of warring parties were continuously drawn to their obligations toobserve them. It was also important to obtain humanitarian ceasefires or”days of tranquillity” for the purposes of delivering humanitarian aid orcarrying out vaccination campaigns to inoculate children, he said.
The meeting was suspended at 1:30 p. m. and resumed at 3:33 p. m.
PETER VAN WALSUM (Netherlands) said it was important to realize that theissue under discussion would not disappear from the agenda after today’smeeting. The international community could build on concrete experience andplan further action. That was the essence of the draft resolution before theCouncil, which had full support of his delegation. It was of particularimportance that personnel involved in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building activities be familiarized with such subjects as protection, rightsand welfare of children. They should be specifically trained to deal withchild soldiers. Tragically, child soldiers were not only the victims of thearmed conflict, but they could be the perpetrators of atrocities, as well. Anintegrated approach should lead to their disarmament, demobilization andreintegration in society.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child and other instrumentscontained clear prohibitions with regard to the use of child soldiers, hecontinued. Those norms had to be respected. In the field of standard-settingsome further progress was being made. The Netherlands had begun the processleading to the ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO)Convention 182, which prohibited forced or compulsory labour, including forcedor compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict. In caseswhere the rights of children were violated on a massive scale, it was theresponsibility of all States to ensure that the perpetrators were brought tojustice. Children saved from the scourge of armed conflict could help build ahealthy society and prevent future conflicts.
ROBERT R. FOWLER (Canada) said the protection of civilians in armedconflict was central to the human security agenda. Children, as the mostvulnerable group, deserved the Council’s special consideration. Children wereincreasingly the innocent victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Therefore, the culture of impunity should be ended through continued supportof the International Tribunals and the timely establishment of theInternational Criminal Court.
The Lom Peace Agreement on Sierra Leone, with its welcome focus on war-affected children, would be an important milestone for the internationalcommunity, since the conflict in that country had been dubbed the “Children’sWar”, he said. The successful disarmament, demobilization and reintegrationof child soldiers would be a critical element in rebuilding a climate ofsecurity and stability. The practice of employing children as weapons of warshould be stopped. Creative solution which could integrate children who hadbeen left orphaned or abandoned by families, clans and communities should befound. Children should be offered real alternatives to joining armies orrebel groups — or to living alone on the streets.
The Foreign Minister of Namibia, THEO-BEN GURIRAB, said that on the eveof the new millennium one could look back at this century, which witnessed twoworld wars, the invention and use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons,and record numbers of atrocities. He said the impact of armed conflicts onchildren was exacerbated by international arms dealers who fuelled internecineconflicts through the flow of arms, especially small arms. Concerted actionshould be taken to identify the sources of small arms and to stop theirillicit production and trafficking.
We, as one human family, are demeaned and diminished when the responseto humanitarian needs of victims does not measure up to the gravity of thesituation as regards the plight of children, he said. In Africa, the impactof armed conflicts on children had been particularly harmful, and no region ofthe continent had been spared the scourge of armed conflicts. He appealed toMember States of the United Nations to provide adequate humanitarianassistance to the lead agencies to facilitate the demobilization,rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers into society. “Thechallenges we are faced with are enormous”, he said, “and require each andeveryone to work in a holistic, collaborative and dedicated manner to ensurethat the standards which we accepted are fully enjoyed by the ultimatebeneficiaries — the children. They are the leaders of tomorrow. “
ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that in one of UNICEF’s public messages, achild was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. His answer — to bealive. That response summed up the present-day tragedy. He recalled theterrifying figures on children in conflict recounted a year ago by the SpecialRepresentative. Today, Mr. Otunnu had returned “to remind us of the horror”and obligations. Millions of children had been killed, traumatized orrendered homeless. War was not a recent phenomenon and had accompanied theevolution of the human race. Women and children had always suffered duringwartime. However, never had children been so targeted, massacred, maimed,abused, raped, mutilated and deprived of their innocence, dreams and childhoodas they had on the eve of the third millennium. What future could they dreamof when tens of thousands of them could only remember atrocities from theirchildhood.
He asked how had the world arrived at such a stage of senselessdehumanization and such wanton desecration of life. While explanationsabounded, there was a need to end the endless parade on television stations ofpictures steeped in brutality. It was not the regular armies that waged wars. It was armed groups that forcibly conscripted adolescents into their ranks. Such groups were not bound by any code of honour — often they did not targetthe military but innocent civilians. It was therefore hardly surprising that90 per cent of the victims of conflicts were civilians and a large proportionof them women and children. The flow of arms continued despite massivedeclarations and cries of alarm. Those weapons were often put in the hands ofchildren. At the international level, instruments establishing the limits ofwar were often violated. The life of the individual had lost its sacrednature — everything had been abandoned and civilians were submitted to theworst excesses. Today’s debate, however, demonstrated that a real awarenessof the issue of children in conflict was developing.
He said that Africa alone could not resolve the problems of childrenaffected by conflict. It certainly had the political will. The coming yearhad been declared the year of peace and stability in Africa. However,Africa’s efforts to rebuild countries that had been ravaged by war would notsucceed, given the absence of resources and without the effective mobilizationof the international community. As long as plunder of resources, ruthlessarms trafficking and circumvention of Security Council sanctions continued,Africa could do very little. The only solution was to address the roots ofconflicts — poverty, destitution and human distress. Those were often thebreeding grounds for hate, intolerance and violence.
ARNE B. HONNINGSTAD (Norway) said international law had been developedwhich — if adhered to — went a long way towards protecting the basic rightsof children in armed conflict. This included the various human rightsinstruments, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and theGeneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols. It was also important thatthe Statute establishing the International Criminal Court leave no doubt thatthose who conscripted or enlisted children under the age of 15 years into thenational armed forces or used them to participate actively in hostilitiesmight be punished as war criminals.
While civilians — children being the most vulnerable among them — wereincreasingly victims of armed conflicts, peace negotiations and settlementsoften did not address the situation of children, he said. Treating the needsof children affected by armed conflict as an afterthought might not onlyconstitute a breach of their rights, but might also contribute to prolongingthe difficult return to a normalized post-conflict situation. The needs ofchildren should therefore be explicitly and adequately addressed in peacenegotiations and treaties. The rights and needs of children should also besquarely addressed in the mandates and activities of United Nations-led peacenegotiations and treaties, he added.
MARJATTA RASI (Finland), speaking for the European Union, and forBulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romaniaand Slovakia, as well as Cyprus, Malta, Iceland and Lichtenstein, said it wasunacceptable that children should be among the principal victims of violentconflict and furthermore that they were directly exploited to serve theinterests of warring parties. Adequate resources must be devoted to thedemobilization of child soldiers and child rehabilitation programmes, sheadded, as an integral part of planning for post-conflict situations. In theview of the European Union, the situation of children in armed conflict shouldbe a part of the Secretary-General’s reports to the Council on individualcountries. In preparing thematic reports to the Council on subjects relevantto children in armed conflict, the Secretary-General should consult withUNICEF and other concerned actors of the United Nations system.
She said the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be extended toprovide adequate protection to all children. The European Union remainedfully committed to the aim of concluding successfully the negotiations on thedraft optional protocol related to the involvement of children in armedconflict. The Security Council should address the rights of the child whenthe Council was mandating a peacekeeping mission with tasks to disarm,demobilize and reintegrate combatants. Whenever sanctions were adopted in thehandling of crises, their impact on children should be assessed and monitored. The spread of small arms and light weapons led to a steady increase in the useof children as soldiers. International, regional and national efforts to curbthe excessive and destabilizing accumulation of small arms and light weaponswere welcome. ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said no other issue had the sameurgency and longer-term impact on problems relating to international peace,security and development as that of children in conflict. Bangladesh stronglybelieved that, given the seriousness and crucial importance of the issue, thetime had come for the Council to adopt an appropriately articulated resolutiongiving real meaning to the determination to address the issue. The Office ofthe Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and ArmedConflict needed to be strengthened to be effective and produce results. Abuses of the rights of children were most common in present-day wars andarmed conflicts. That had been rightly termed as the modern day version ofchild sacrifice. It not only robbed children of childhood but also destroyedthe productive human potential for generations.
He said that the international community had the ability to worktogether to heal the scars of war on children. Mobilization of a coordinatedresponse to post-conflict situations was absolutely essential. The healingand rehabilitation of children should constitute a central element and not anafter-thought of post-conflict peace-building programmes. Humanitarianstandards and commitments must be translated into action that concretelyhelped endangered children. Governments should incorporate forceful childprotection elements in their domestic and foreign policies. His delegationfelt that in armed conflicts, facilities like schools which were meant forchildren should be considered as free zones. The concept of children as”zones of peace” needed to be realized, through concrete action at all levels.
The cause of children could best be served, not by the actions of Statesalone but by all women and men through the fostering of a culture of peace andnon-violence in every human being and in every sphere of activity. Theobjective of a culture of peace was the empowerment of people. It celebrateddiversity and advanced understanding and tolerance. It worked against povertyand inequality and promoted development.
YUKIO SATOH (Japan) said that the activities of the SpecialRepresentative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict hadshed light not only on the plight of children, but also on the brutality ofarmed conflicts themselves. That lent the cause of conflict prevention yetanother forceful persuasion. The Security Council focus on the issue wouldhelp greatly enhance the level of concern of the international community aboutchildren in armed conflict.
For its part, Japan, with cooperation of the office of the SpecialRepresentative, the United Nations University and the Japan Committee forUNICEF, had hosted a symposium last November entitled “Children and ArmedConflict” which had called for an urgent concerted action to protect childrenfrom being victimized in conflicts. From the viewpoint of protecting childrenfrom the impact of armed conflicts, it was imperative to tackle the issues oflandmines and small arms. Japan advocated the “Zero Victims Programme” on thequestion of landmines and had pledged approximately 10 billion yen for mine-clearance and victim assistance for the five-year period starting last year.
The most effective way of protecting children was to prevent conflicts,he continued. While conflict-prevention was one of the most pressing, butmost difficult issues in many parts of the world, a better realization of theplight of children victimized or abused during the course of conflicts wouldhopefully work to make all concerned more seriously committed to the cause ofconflict prevention, as well as to the efforts to eliminate the dangers oflandmines and small arms. Protection of children from all kinds of danger andmistreatment was at the heart of human security considerations.
JENO STAEHELIN, observer for Switzerland, said that children were doublyvulnerable in conflict. They could be victims of conflicts which affectedthem physically and psychically at a time when they were still developing. Ascombatants, however, they became legitimate targets under international law. Because of their age, they could be indoctrinated or given drugs.
He said that with the rapid breakdown of social values, it wasincreasingly necessary to develop better protection. That included thereinforcement of the legal framework and legal mechanisms for the protectionof children. Growing attention had been focused on the social reintegrationof combatants recruited before the age of 18 years.
Better coordination among the relevant organizations was necessary whileavoiding overlaps in the structures for providing protection, he said. TheSecurity Council could ensure that its peacekeeping operations includedspecialists versed in international humanitarian law. It could also encourageStates to ensure that their armed forces had the means to safeguard the rightsof vulnerable groups.
BERND NIEHAUS (Costa Rica) said that in a report last year it had beenstated that millions of children had been affected by armed conflict,including over a million dead, 12 million with lost homes and 40 millionhandicapped. Those figures had increased since then. In such situations, itwas impossible to describe the terror or pain felt, to grasp the dreams orhopes of the 2 million assassinated or to measure the loss of happiness. Thetime for action had come. What was needed was avoidance at all costs of theparticipation of minors in conflict. At the international level, all Statesmust agree to refrain from recruiting minors. Governments must demobilize theminors who were in their armed forces or support staff. On a national level,Government authorities must apply penal sanctions to those who used orpromoted the use of minors in conflict. It was indispensable for theinternational community to declare unacceptable the practice of using minorsin armed forces opposing Governments. Governments must also promote thesocial reintegration of demobilized minors and provide social andpsychological assistance. He said it was necessary to adopt an additional protocol for theConvention on the Rights of the Child which would declare 18 years as theminimum age for recruitment into the armed forces. It was also necessary toadopt additional measures to prevent children from becoming victims of armedconflict. Any targeting of civilian populations must be prohibited byinternational law. Efforts must also be made to deactivate anti-personnelmines which were still buried. In addition, before the Council imposed asanctions regime, the impact of such measures on vulnerable populations shouldbe assessed. Additional efforts were necessary to provide humanitarianassistance to minors in conflict. To properly address the issue of childrenin conflict there must be adherence to all the provisions of internationallaw. The international community must create a real culture of peace, whereall differences were resolved by peaceful and democratic means.
LEE SEE-YOUNG (Republic of Korea) said that from the lessons learnedduring recent conflicts, it had become clear that the problem of childsoldiers required a comprehensive approach ranging from peacekeeping to post-conflict peace-building activities. It was indeed a