Secretary-General’s Representative Reports 2 Million Killed In Past Decade; Extreme Suffering and Hardship for Millions More
Two million children had been killed in the past decade in armed conflicts, 12 million made homeless, and many others suffered from psychological trauma, Olara A. Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children in Armed Conflict, told the Security Council this morning.
Addressing the Council, which was holding its first-ever meeting on children in armed conflict, Mr. Otunnu said concrete initiatives should be undertaken to prevent or mitigate their sufferings. The international community must insist on having access to populations in distress. Facilities normally reserved for children, such as schools and children’s playgrounds, must be considered free zones. Children must not be used in warfare. The international community must work to heal the scars of war on children, he said.
In the day-long debate, a number of speakers said demobilization of child soldiers must be ensured and action taken to promote their physical and psychological recovery and social integration. Others also said crimes against children should be brought under the jurisdiction of the future permanent International Criminal Court whose establishment is the subject of a diplomatic conference currently under way in Rome. Several delegates said the age for eligibility for military service should be universally raised from 15 to 18 years. The representative of the United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union and associated States) said any meaningful effort to improve the plight of children affected by armed conflict required high-level governmental and international attention. It also required the mobilization of public opinion, practical action on the ground by governments, and support for the Secretary- General’s Special Representative. Also making statements in the debate were the representatives of Slovenia, Sweden, France, Russian Federation, Japan, Brazil, China, Gambia, Costa Rica, United States, Kenya, Bahrain, Gabon, Italy, Norway, Germany, Canada, Indonesia, Morocco, Slovakia, Mozambique, Namibia, Burundi, Argentina, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Latvia, Romania, El Salvador, Liberia, Azerbaijan and Portugal.
The meeting, which was called to order at 11:09 a. m. , was suspended at 1:21 p. m. It resumed at 3:26 p. m. and adjourned at 5:58 p. m.
Council Work Programme
The Security Council met this morning to begin a day-long debate on the impact of armed conflict on children.
At its forty-eighth session in 1993, the General Assembly adopted resolution 48/157, entitled “Protection of children affected by armed conflicts”, by which it requested the Secretary-General to appoint an expert to undertake a comprehensive study on the subject, with the support of the Centre for Human Rights and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In accordance with the resolution, the expert, Gra a Machel, former Minister of Education and First Lady of Mozambique, submitted progress reports to the forty-ninth and fiftieth sessions of the General Assembly.
In her final report (document A/51/306), the expert states that in 1995, 30 major armed conflicts raged in different locations around the world, all of them within States. In the past decade, an estimated 2 million children have been killed in armed conflict. Three times as many have been seriously injured or permanently disabled, many of them maimed by landmines. Countless others have been forced to witness or even to take part in horrifying acts of violence.
A series of 24 case studies on the use of children as soldiers prepared for the report, covering conflicts over the past 30 years, indicate that government or rebel armies around the world have recruited tens of thousands of children. Most are adolescents, though many child soldiers are 10 years of age or younger. Although the majority are boys, armed groups also recruit girls, many of whom perform the same functions as boys.
Among specific recommendations on child soldiers, the expert proposed that all peace agreements should include measures to demobilize and reintegrate them into society. The expert said there was an urgent need for the international community to support programmes for the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers into the community.
The expert stated that the flagrant abuse and exploitation of children during armed conflict could and must be eliminated. The impact of armed conflict on children was the responsibility of all: governments, international organizations and every element of civil society.
In response to the Machel report, the General Assembly adopted resolution 51/77 in December 1996 by which it recommended the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict. The resolution said that the Special Representative should, among other things, assess progress achieved, steps taken and difficulties encountered in strengthening the protection of children in situations of armed conflict.
The Special Representative was to raise awareness and promote the collection of information about the plight of children affected by armed conflict, and encourage the development of networking. He was to work closely with the Committee on the Rights of the Child, relevant United Nations bodies, specialized agencies and other competent bodies, as well as non-governmental organizations.
The Special Representative was also to foster international cooperation to ensure respect for children’s rights and to contribute to the coordination of efforts by governments and relevant United Nations bodies, the specialized agencies and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
In September 1997, the Secretary-General appointed Olara A. Otunnu as his Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict. In announcing the appointment, the Secretary-General underscored the urgent need for a public advocate and moral voice on behalf of children whose rights, protection and welfare have been and are being violated in armed conflicts.
Last December, the General Assembly called upon States and other parties to armed conflict to respect international humanitarian law and, in particular, the provisions of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and its additional protocols of 1977. They were also urged to respect the Convention on the Rights of the Child which accord children affected by armed conflict special protection and treatment. The Assembly also stressed the need for governments and those parties to take measures, including the establishment, for example, of “days of tranquillity” and “corridors of peace”, to ensure humanitarian access, the delivery of humanitarian relief and the provision of services, such as education and health, including immunization of children affected by armed conflict.
The Assembly also called upon the State parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (191 so far), to ensure that the education of the child is carried out in accordance with provisions of the Convention and that the education be directed, inter alia, to the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and to the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society.
OLARA A. OTUNNU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children in Armed Conflict, said that in about 50 countries children were suffering from the impact of armed conflict. Two million had been killed in the past decade, 12 million had been made homeless, and many others were suffering from psychological trauma. Half the total number of the world’s refugees were children. An estimated quarter of a million serving under arms in conflicts were children. The magnitude of what was being witnessed attested to a new phenomenon in war. Almost all the conflicts now taking place were internal, and characterized by the systematic targeting of civilian populations. The belligerents were ignoring international law. The conflicts tended to be protracted, often in recurring cycles. Children had been compelled to become active participants. The indiscriminate use of anti- personnel mines underscored the vulnerability of children. Villages had become battlefields, and civilians the target. The vast majority were women and children. He said international humanitarian instruments and traditional taboos were being cast aside.
To reverse “the trend of that abomination”, Mr. Otunnu said, concerted action had to be taken at both international and national levels. The value of international instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols, had been cast aside and were not being applied. The international community must ensure their application and observance. The Security Council could lead the way by sending a clear message that abuse against children was unacceptable. The most damaging loss society could suffer was the collapse of its own value systems. In so many conflicts today, he said, “everything goes”. Many societies had seen their value systems collapse. Institutions — parents, extended families, religious institutions — should be strengthened.
He said concrete initiatives should be undertaken to prevent or mitigate the sufferings of children in armed conflict. The international community must insist on having access to populations in distress. Relief agencies should be given such access. Facilities normally reserved for children, such as schools and children’s playgrounds, must be considered “free zones”. Children must not be used in war. The flow of arms, especially small arms, must be stopped. He said efforts should be made to stop the use of anti-personnel arms in theatres of conflict. No group or government could ignore concentrated international effort on behalf of children. Action should be taken at the end of conflicts to help heal their scars on children. The international community must work to heal those wounds. The healing was critical because without that it was difficult to stop the cycle of violence. Any plans for post-conflict peace-building should make the needs of children a central focus. Efforts should include demobilization, and return of displaced and refugee children. Educational training such as vocational training should be undertaken.
Mr. Otunnu said there was need to take concerted action to prevent the causes of the conflicts — political, economic and social action that could generate a sense of inclusion and a sense of one country. In addition to those specific areas, he appealed to the Council to consider the needs of children in its imposition of sanctions. He hoped that beginning with its message today the Council would agree on a common project to make the world safe for children.
Sir JOHN WESTON (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Cyprus, Iceland and Liechtenstein, said the issue of children in armed conflict was one that deserved an important place on the international political agenda. Countries must ensure the demobilization of child soldiers and recognize the importance of action to promote the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of the child victims of conflict. The international community must ensure that adequate resources were devoted to child rehabilitation programmes as an integral part of planning for post-conflict situations.
He said the European Union supported the work that was in progress to strengthen international human rights standards and mechanisms for enforcing international law in respect of children in situations of armed conflict. The Union was fully committed to the aim of concluding successfully the negotiations on the draft optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. It was also working actively at the Conference for the early establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court, which was necessary as a means of holding to account the perpetrators of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
Any meaningful effort to improve the plight of children affected by armed conflict required high-level governmental and international attention, he said. It also required the mobilization of public opinion, practical action on the ground by governments, and support for the Secretary-General’s Special Representative. It was important that governments and armed groups fulfil the commitments given to them by the Special Representative. The international community must be vigilant in monitoring the implementation of those commitments.
DANILO T RK (Slovenia) said that among the problems relating to the maintenance of international peace and security, none had the same urgency and long-term importance as that of children in armed conflicts. According to the report of Gra a Machel, in the past decade, an estimated 2 million children had been killed in armed conflicts. Three times as many had been permanently disabled, many of them maimed by landmines. Countless others had been forced to witness or even take part in horrifying acts of violence.
While the statistics on the suffering of children in armed conflict were shocking enough, the conclusion drawn from them was even more chilling. The report had concluded that the world was being “sucked into a desolate moral vacuum . . . , a space devoid of most basic human values . . . in which children are slaughtered, raped and maimed . . . are exploited as soldiers . . . starved and exposed to extreme brutality”.
He said that situation had worsened at the time of almost universal applicability of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which contained some of the most detailed norms that were supposed to protect children.
He said the results of the first missions of Mr. Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, had shown it was possible to make a difference in specific situations, including the most difficult ones. The Security Council was charged with acting on behalf of the entire membership of the United Nations, he said. In its actions, it should not be neutral or indifferent when the fundamental values of human survival were at stake. It must express a clear position and ensure that its practical action was in conformity with the requirements of international law and basic, universally shared moral imperatives.
Necessary change would not be possible without a minimum retribution, which alone could break the cycle of impunity, he said. States must act individually and collectively to achieve that goal. Slovenia was deeply committed to that task and was actively participating in the Conference on the establishment of an International Criminal Court.
HANS DAHLGREN (Sweden) said the Security Council, the United Nations as a whole and the international community should act to keep children out of acts of armed conflict. The minimum age of recruitment and participation in military activities should be 18, and an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child could achieve that. The Council should give particular consideration to the need for demobilization, rehabilitation and physical and social reintegration of child soldiers and child combatants in post-conflict peace-building operations.
He said restricting the supply of small arms in areas of conflict was a necessary step in halting armed conflicts and their harmful impact on children. The Council should pay attention to the importance of special training for peacekeepers and civilian police who, while on mission, could come into contact with child combatants or with children who had been abused. That was also an important task for the Special Representative, in collaboration with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
The Special Representative should also continue to keep track of crimes against children in the context of armed conflict, and should be able to alert the International Criminal Court, once it was established, as well as the international community at large. While adult combatants could return to the life they had had before a war, for children who had lost their parents, who had not been to school or who had learned only how to handle weapons, there was nothing to return to. There was a risk that those children would continue with the only lives they knew, and become criminals. The recruitment and use of children for armed conflicts was not only a violation against international law and the rights of the child, but it could have serious consequences for peace and security in the future.
ALAIN DEJAMMET (France) said many figures and statistics had been mentioned, and they clearly illustrated the seriousness of the problem before the Council today. France wished to underscore the truly overwhelming nature of the facts that attested to the high numbers of children that were compelled and forcibly recruited by combatants, both in regular armies and in armed groups. The international community must do its utmost to eradicate those practices. The subject was extremely grave and multifaceted and warranted every endeavour to reverse the disquieting trend of involving children in armed conflict.
France had always supported the idea of giving a mandate to a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children in armed conflict, he said. His Government reaffirmed its support for Mr. Otunnu’s work, and stressed that the Special Representative should receive the cooperation and collaboration of all entities of the United Nations system.
France also endorsed measures for the protection of humanitarian assistance and the need to take into consideration the humanitarian impact of sanctions. It was also important to draw attention to the need for the universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition, there was a need for effective implementation of that Convention. Efforts undertaken to conclude an optional protocol of that Convention to address the situation of children in armed conflict should be completed as soon as possible. That would be a positive first result of the presidential statement that the Council would be adopting at the end of the current meeting.
ALEXANDRE V. ZMEEVSKI (Russian Federation) said the Council should devote attention to the problems of children. Their situation should be commented upon by the Secretary-General in his reports on conflict areas. Efforts should be made to withdraw children from conflict situations. They should also be given access to education. Those and other tasks should be given special attention by the Secretary-General and Force Commanders of peacekeeping missions.
He said humanitarian exemptions should be taken into account in imposition of sanctions by the Council. There could be no solution to the problems of children in armed conflict without measures at the disposal of the United Nations being applied.
He said the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which 191 governments adhered, dealt with the problems of children in armed conflict. It ensured their protection and rehabilitation. The Russian Federation was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention and was applying its provisions nationally. Russia advocated the adoption of an optional protocol to the Convention dealing with children in armed conflict. He believed the ideas put forward by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General would help in the resolution of the problems.
HISASHI OWADA (Japan) said the number of children involved in armed conflict had increased dramatically with the shift from inter-State to intra- State fighting. Children had also been affected by the proliferation of small arms and the changing nature of armed conflicts. It was incumbent upon the international community to make serious efforts to cope with the problem. Attention should be paid to its long-term negative implications for the future generations, as well as its immediate impact on the process of post-conflict peace-building. By addressing the issue, the Council should demonstrate its determination to place the issue at the centre of its strategy in conflictprevention and post-conflict peace-building. In recognition of the importance of the mission carried out by Mr. Otunnu and his office, Japan intended to contribute $100,000 to support the start of the office of Children in Armed Conflict.
Japan urged all parties to armed conflict to strictly observe the relevant provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Geneva Conventions that prohibit children under fifteen years of age from being used as soldiers. His Government believed that no child under the age of eighteen should be recruited and used in armed conflict. Japan was participating in the working group for the addition of an optional protocol to that effect to the Convention.
Another important aspect of the problems involved in the issue was the unintended adverse consequences of sanctions on the civilian population, he said. General Assembly resolution 51/242 states that foodstuffs, medicines and medical supplies should be exempted from sanctions regimes. Efforts to promote the elaboration of sanctions should focus specifically on the targeted regime without producing negative effects on the civilian population, including children.
CELSO AMORIM (Brazil) said the predicament of young people whose future was being ravaged by war needed not only enhanced international awareness, but a strategy for the protection of children and adolescents from the physical and psychological traumas provoked by violence. The establishment of a working group under the Commission on Human Rights to negotiate a protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding the involvement of children in armed conflict represented an important effort to deal with a pressing issue. The appointment of Mr. Otunnu as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children in Armed Conflict had contributed to increased attention on the issue, while raising expectations that effective measures would be devised to deal with it. Brazil would continue to lend its support to such initiatives.
The role of the Security Council in dealing with children in armed conflict must be placed in a wider perspective that would allow for fruitful and mutually reinforcing articulation with the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. The Security Council, when discharging its functions in matters of international security, should address questions such as the disarmament and demobilization of child soldiers, the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts, as well as the role of peacekeeping personnel in that regard. There must not be failure in protecting the rights of children in armed conflict. By achieving such protection, he added, “we will be helping to ensure that today’s victim does not become tomorrow’s aggressor”.
QIN HUASUN (China) said the issue of children and armed conflict had been an area of concern of all countries and the entire United Nations system. Armed conflicts brought tremendous damage to the countries concerned, particularly children. In the armed conflicts occurring around the world, tens of millions of people had lost their homes, become displaced, lost stability in their lives and the chance to receive an education. Millions of children had been forcibly recruited to participate in armed conflicts. The international community should give special concern to protecting children in armed conflict. In order to effectively stop that practice, the first step was to prevent, halt and eliminate armed conflicts throughout the world. China urged the parties concerned to end conflicts through peaceful means as soon as possible. That would prevent and prohibit further harm against children in those conflicts and enable them to resume a normal life and study as soon as possible.
China also supported the work of Mr. Otunnu and the issuance of a presidential statement by the Council on the subject, he said. Since the protection of children involved a wide range of issues, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council were the most appropriate forums where further deliberation on the issue should be carried out.
BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said the first step in bringing to an end the use of child soldiers was for States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to revisit that document, with a view to raising the minimum age for recruitment and participation from 15 to 18 years. With the necessary political will, that could be achieved. That would not solve the problem entirely because of the persistent problem of internal conflicts and civil wars. It such circumstances, experience had shown that armed groups had very little or no regard for either international law governing warfare or local value systems. Armed groups usually attacked civilian targets, such as school and hospitals, in order to inflict the maximum loss of innocent lives.
Perpetrators of atrocities against women and children should feel the full force of the law against them, he said. With the eventual establishment of a permanent International Criminal Court, those who abused, brutalized and traumatized women and children should be brought to justice. Due consideration should also be given to the victims in a post-conflict recovery programme, especially for the rehabilitation and reintegration of children. The Gambia supported the proposal by the Special Representative to start pilot projects for that purpose. The international community should support and encourage his work in that noble endeavour.
MELVIN SAENZ-BIOLLEY (Costa Rica) said that in most of today’s armed conflicts, vulnerable groups such as women, the elderly and particularly children were selected as targets and used. Wars in the past decade had left 2 million children killed, many millions disabled and 12 million homeless. The problem of children in armed conflict had to be tackled wholeheartedly and solutions found. The problem must be viewed for what it was:a violation of human rights. The Security Council should incorporate the human rights dimension in peacekeeping questions. Those responsible for violations of the rights of the vulnerable should be punished.
He believed it was indispensable for an international legal instrument to be drawn up to prohibit the recruitment of children under 18 into armed forces. Costa Rica supported the adoption of an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A permanent system was required to monitor and deter the recruitment of children for armed conflicts. Sanctions regimes adopted by the Security Council should include a component for the protection of vulnerable groups such as children, and a study on the situation should also be carried out in advance. Also, attention should be drawn to the humanitarian aspects of peacekeeping operations.
The reports submitted by the Secretary-General on conflict situations which affect international peace and security should include a chapter on their impact on children. In addition, the question of children in armed conflict should be part of the agenda on peace and security questions.
BILL RICHARDSON (United States) said that in the increasing number of civil wars, international standards and principles were being swept aside. Civilian populations were often deliberately targeted, and children suffered disproportionately as their families were killed or displaced. It was time to exert pressure to implement the many norms that already existed to prevent further abuse and brutalization of children. Attention should not be distracted by debates on the margin of the problem. The focus should be where the real abuses were:with young children whose lives were distorted by their recruitment into armed conflict and brutality. They became both the perpetrators and victims and were often drugged to make them comply. The United States strenuously condemned this use of children in armed conflict and actively supported international efforts to curb that practice.
His Government provided support for programmes to rehabilitate affected children through counselling, reconciliation, education and vocational training, he said. It was hoped that those methods would facilitate the reintegration of those children into civilian society, help them to readjust to being children, and prepare them to lead peaceful and constructive lives. The United States supported the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF in those areas. His Government would continue to work with the governments, United Nations agencies, international and non-governmental organizations and other partners who had specific responsibility and expertise to address the exploitation of children as soldiers.
NJUGUNA MAHUGU (Kenya) said an estimated 300,000 children under the age of 18 were currently involved in armed conflict situations throughout the world. For that reason, Kenya would continue its support of the Secretary- General and his Special Representative’s efforts to address the plight of such children. It would look forward to seeing a positive outcome of their work in all parts of the world and, particularly, in Africa. “Armed labour” existed in parts of Central Africa, and his Government was concerned that children could be involved in those activities. In addition to that practice, the easy availability of illegal small arms could also have the potential for destabilizing the entire region.
Children were the future, and the international community should continue to support the work of the Special Representative so that States did not jeopardize their most precious investment, he said. It was especially disheartening to hear about the ongoing exploitation of children, whether it be by recruitment into armed groups, sexual abuse, abduction or forcible displacement. In addition to injury, permanent disability or death, child soldiers often suffered psychological scars, if they survived. Kenya welcome the existing cooperation between the office of the Special Representative and specialized agencies and programmes of the United Nations system, and hoped that cooperation would be strengthened for the sake of the children.
JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) said his Government was convinced that all parties should abide by the provisions of international law, including the Geneva Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was necessary for all parties to punish the perpetrators of crimes that violated international norms and laws. Bahrain condemned the targetting of children in armed conflicts for humiliation, the commission of atrocities, abduction, displacement and recruitment in hostilities. Abuse of children was one of the most inhumane and atrocious practices.
Conflicts and their causes could not be isolated from other social factors, he said. He called for efforts by the appropriate United Nations entities to provide protection to children in armed conflicts. Previous civilizations, he said, had values and rules governing the conduct of war that protected children much more effectively. Bahrain appreciated the work done by the Special Representative and supported the study and analysis of his recommendations. CHARLES ESSONGHE (Gabon) said the international community had already developed a number of texts that protected the well-being of children, including the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The matter was of unquestioned importance given the role children were called on to play in society. They represented the future of societies, and they required the right conditions for their personal development. An imbalance in their environment resulted in personality alienation, and that alienation would lead to disturbances to all levels of society. States should act in order to strengthen international activity in favour of children in order to provide for their safety and protection from suffering, he said. The situation of children in armed conflict could not be divorced from the settlement of those conflicts. The international community must do its utmost to prevent armed conflict. Gabon supported the activities of the Special Representative aimed at preventing the use of child soldiers. His Government also supported the presidential statement to be issued by the Council at the end of the meeting. FRANCESCO PAOLO FULCI (Italy) said that, for centuries, during war and other armed conflicts, children had been exposed to every form of violence — rape, killings, beatings and prostitution — which in the past were considered the unfortunate but inevitable side-effects of war. Now, however, more and more children had become directly involved as combatants, deliberately recruited for that purpose by governments or armed groups and warlords. Some were pressed into the army, others kidnapped from their families, still others forced to enlist in order to defend their families. Many children were picked up off the street, from schools or orphanages.
According to UNICEF, in the last 10 years alone 2 million children had been killed in wars, 6 million maimed, 12 million left homeless, 1 million orphaned and 10 million left with irreparable psychic and moral scars — nothing less than a modern-day “massacre of the innocents”. Building on the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, of 20 November 1989, the Geneva-based Committee on the Rights of the Child had emphasized in its jurisprudence that the effects of armed conflict on children should be considered in the framework of all the articles of that Convention. It had stressed that no child under the age of 18 years should be allowed to be involved in hostilities, either directly or indirectly.
What was needed was to move from words to action. Among measures whose immediate implementation would greatly contribute to the defence of children were:raising even more the awareness of public opinion; the immediate demobilization of all active soldiers younger than 18, thus sending an important signal to the whole international community; the need to give priority, in peace agreements and peace-building, to the problems of children and the need to integrate them into civil society; the finalization, signing and ratification of the draft optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child that would set 18 as the minimum age of involvement in hostilities; a complete ban on anti-personnel mines, with strengthened financial assistance for demining operations; mine-awareness programmes to teach children to avoid mines; and rehabilitation and assistance programmes for children injured and maimed by mines.
The PRESIDENT then suspended the meeting of the Council.
When the Council resumed its meeting at 3:26 p. m. , OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General should be followed up by all the relevant parts of the United Nations system, as well as by other organizations. The Council should be kept regularly informed of his activities. The Council could, in different ways, address the needs of children when establishing mandates of peacekeeping and peace- building operations and in the context of mediation of peace agreements. It must also take into account, in its consideration of conflict situations, the question of access for humanitarian supplies. It must be willing to consider facilitating the disbursement of necessary humanitarian relief where the needs of children had to be given special consideration.
He said the international community must make it clear that rape, sexual abuse and gender-based violence were unacceptable, and that the military leadership in conflict situations should be held responsible for the conduct of their forces. There should be compulsory training to sensitize all peacekeepers to problems of child prostitution and exploitation of children, as some countries had already done. Norway encouraged the United Nations to continue to promote awareness of those sensitive issues in the training of its staff. States were in the process of negotiating an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Norway was among those supporting the raising of the age limit of participation in hostilities to 18 years. Children under that age should, in all circumstances, be protected from taking part in warfare.
GERHARD WALTER HENZE (Germany) said violence deliberately inflicted on children in modern warfare was an appalling violation of human rights. Germany would participate most actively in activities and initiatives undertaken at all levels and in all fields that were suitable for protecting children from being victimized in the theatres of conflict around the world. It would also help to rehabilitate those children who had already suffered physically, mentally and emotionally from the cruelties of war. In addition, Germany commended the Secretary-General for appointing a Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict. Mr. Otunnu had already proven to be a true advocate of all children victimized by the scourge of war. The results of his visits to countries affected by violent disputes clearly showed that his interventions on behalf of suffering children could make a difference.
The Government of Germany provided special emergency relief for children in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda under its refugee aid programme, he said. Germany had also funded income- and employment-generating activities for ex-combatants in Angola, Ethiopia, Uganda and Cambodia. In the current negotiations on an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, relating to children and armed conflict, Germany advocated stipulation of 18 years as the minimum age for direct participation in armed conflict. It would also be desirable to enforce a minimum of age 18 for indirect participation in armed conflict as well. Impunity was one of the main causes of the abuse of children in armed conflict. The misuse of children for active participation in armed hostilities constituted a crime and should be considered an offence by the soon-to-be established permanent International Criminal Court.
ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) said the Security Council had an unparalleled impact on the plight of children affected by armed conflict. Continued neglect of the problem — one not only related to human rights and development, but also to peace and basic human security — would have devastating consequences on future generations. Children weaned on violence would be ill-equipped to build a peaceful and prosperous society in the future.
The basic legal norms existed to protect children from the ravages of armed conflict, but clearly they were not enough, he continued. The Security Council, when designing operations, must protect children and their supportive environment. Canada strongly endorsed the idea of protecting such environs as “zones of peace”. The use of children as soldiers, sex slaves or other roles in war had escalated with the advent of light weapons technology, the rise of intra-State conflicts and the increased use of irregular fighting forces. The non-governmental organization Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers would launch tomorrow its campaign to raise global awareness of the problem.
The use of child soldiers must be made more risky, he said. Since international legal norms were a prevention, Canada supported the adoption of an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which raised recruitment age. Canada was working to ensure that the statute of a future international criminal court would include a provision making it criminal to recruit or use children under 15 years. Through its involvement in peacekeeping, peace-building and mediation, the Security Council should insist on compliance with relevant international humanitarian and human rights law. The United Nations must also assist with the reintegration and rehabilitation of child soldiers into their communities.
MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said the situation for children in armed conflict must be viewed as a concern of the international community. The situation of children should be addressed in peace agreements, and considered as part of relief and protection measures. All peace agreements should include specific measures to demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers into society.
At the national level, the conscription of children should be condemned and the immediate demobilization of children ensured, he continued. All nations must implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and nations which still had not, should become party to the Convention. Special attention should be given to policies related to health, nutrition, education and the improvement of family incomes.
The Security Council had a specific responsibility to address issues pertaining to children in armed conflict, he continued. Refugee and displaced persons camps should be made secure and designed to improve the security situation for women and girls. The Council should incorporate the concerns of children in all future resolutions on situations in armed conflict. In so doing, the Council would lend force and meaningful action to the moral voice of the United Nations.
AHMED SNOUSSI (Morocco) said his Government had been devastated by the tragic fate of children in Sierra Leone, and appealed to the international community to help the victims of that horrible conflict. Statistics from UNICEF showed that most victims of war before 1945 were soldiers. Since then, 80 per cent of the 20 million who died in conflicts had been civilians, the overwhelmingly majority of whom had been women and children. All States must respect the principle of children first, which was proclaimed at the 1990 World Summit for Children. Unfortunately, several generations of children were being sacrificed during conflicts between adults. Morocco appealed for the respect for all international commitments regarding the rights of children, so that an end could be put to children’s suffering.
States must find new and innovative solutions to protect children from wars and to attack the underlying causes of war itself, he said. All governments must ensure the large range of rights of the child, so that they could enjoy life and pursue an education. Children’s rights were being systematically violated during times of armed conflict. The international community must act to protect their rights, and local and national strategies must strengthen the actions by the international community. Children were the future, and States should protect those who were unable to protect themselves. Children had a right to live in peace and dignity, and through cooperation and collaboration the international community could help them achieve that goal.
OL’GA KELTOSOVA (Slovakia) said that many post-cold war conflicts had taken the form of internal factional violence, civil strife and ethnic clashes that had significant external repercussions and disastrous humanitarian implications. More sophisticated and brutal weapons and fighting methods were being used, affecting growing numbers of civilians, particularly children, who were the most vulnerable target in a conflict-torn society, and unable to protect themselves.
She said there was clearly a need to update the existing legal instruments in order to reflect the altered nature of a threat and to strengthen human rights standards in that respect. Slovakia supported and welcomed the results achieved so far by the Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights on a draft optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, regarding the involvement of children in armed conflict. That effort should bring about more specific guidelines for the implementation of articles 38 and 39 of the Convention.
A legal instrument, no matter how brilliant, was only a piece of paper without an efficient mechanism of monitoring and enforcement, she said.
Governments should be encouraged not only to ratify the relevant international treaties and incorporate them into national law, but should also ensure full implementation of commitments they had undertaken and bring to justice persons responsible for illegally recruiting children. Moreover, efforts to protect the rights of the child should not omit the position of children in a conflict-torn society in a broader, social and economic context. In programmes for children, particular attention should be paid to those separated from or without families, and other marginalized groups, including economically and socially deprived children. Question of the demobilization of child soldiers and their reintegration into society were also important. Protection of family environment; ensuring access to health care, food and education; the need to preserve children’s cultural environment; and the need to ensure humanitarian access to children in situations of armed conflict also deserved attention.
She said Slovakia was a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and fully lived up to commitments stemming from it. Legal, financial and institutional conditions had been created, at the State level and through State support to non-governmental organizations, civic associations and foundations involved in activities aimed at the protection of children and youth, along with the local authorities, police and military forces.
CARLOS DOS SANTOS (Mozambique) said it was the collective responsibility of governments, the international community and civil society to join efforts to maintain international peace and security worldwide through the promotion of peaceful resolution of conflicts, protection of children during armed conflicts and provision of necessary assistance for rehabilitation, particularly for developing countries in post-conflict situations. Mozambique believed that the needs and rights of children must guide all actions aimed at resolving conflicts, including those by United Nations peacekeepers.
He said the immediate task before his Government and the entire Mozambican society in the post-conflict period had been to identify, rehabilitate and integrate traumatized children who fell victim of the war in the country. Considerable progress had been achieved in that effort. The existence of landmines continued to be a major impediment for the smooth resettlement of population and the development of productive activities. An extensive demining programme was under way with the valuable support of the international community. In a clear demonstration of its commitment, he said Mozambique had already ratified the Ottawa Convention on Landmines adopted last December. In the southern African subregion, the governments were making efforts to curb conflicts through the establishment of an organ by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on defence and security for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said the appointment of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General was timely, and he must be given the necessary assistance for the effective implementation of his important mandate. Attention should be given to the problem of traumatized children and orphans. Cooperation between the Special Representative and the funds, programmes and agencies of the United Nations system was essential. Reintegration of child soldiers into society and their education and vocational training would help them gain employment, as well as to make informed decisions and choices in all aspects of life.
He said the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had played an important role in bringing the situation of children in armed conflict to the fore. It could not be totally divorced from the situation of women in armed conflict. The special situation of the girl child in times of war must also be given serious consideration.
With improved early warning capabilities of the United Nations, early follow-up action was imperative if children were to be protected. It was essential that all the parties concerned complied with the Geneva Convention of 1949 and its additional protocols of 1977. Of particular importance was the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Security Council must work with regional conflict resolution mechanisms in addressing the humanitarian needs of children.
GAMALIEL NDARUZANIYE (Burundi) said his Government supported the work accomplished by Mr. Otunnu and thanked him for his clear introduction to the issue before the Council. States were duty-bound to educate their children in the values of humanity and to create an environment for the sound assimilation of those values. The subject of children in armed conflict was of capital importance for all mankind. Children had endured a number of atrocities during the five years of warfare in Burundi. National and international legal instruments were no longer sufficient to protect children, because they also had to endure an embargo by neighbouring countries. During the war in Burundi, children were selected and arrested by their teachers; they were doomed to death by the very people who were hired to protect them. Unfortunately, the practice of ideological genocide had extended to other countries in the Great Lakes region. The use of collective rape and humiliation also had been used as an instrument of warfare by which girl children were humiliated and condemned to death.
Other children in his country had witnessed atrocities against humankind and had suffered from psychological shock, he said. His Government had called for the establishment of an International Criminal Tribunal for Burundi to prosecute those responsible for atrocities against children and others during the years of warfare. While awaiting the effective establishment of an effective International Criminal Court, ad hoc tribunals should be established wherever evil lurked. International criminal law must adapt itself to new developments and crimes. The international community must deal more with the issue of children and armed conflict.
Child survivors of war lacked adequate school materials, vaccines and foodstuffs, he said. The economic sanctions imposed on Burundi betrayed the good will of the parties, because the sanctions particularly affected vulnerable groups. They also disrupted international trade and put an economic stranglehold on the country. Neighbouring countries must acknowledge the political progress achieved in the country and not impede peace through an embargo that would further victimize children who were not responsible for the war in Burundi.
FERNANDO PETRELLA (Argentina) said the fact that the Council was taking up the issue of children in armed conflict implied its commitment to new issues before the international community. It would help to deter those who chose to violate international laws and instruments. Over 90 per cent of victims of armed conflict were civilians. That was because civilian populations had now been targetted in attacks and war strategies. Children were now completely exposed during conflicts. In the last decade, 2 million children had died in war, and six million were seriously wounded. In that context, his Government highlighted the important work done by UNICEF, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the UNHCR and various non- governmental organizations. The participation of children in armed conflict should not be tolerated; they should not be tolerated as victims or victimizers. Since adults put them in the situations where they could suffer severe consequences, States should use the International Criminal Court to put an end to that practice. What was being said in the Council should be heard in Rome.
There should be better training of the troops in peacekeeping operations so they could help the plight of those children affected by conflicts, he said. Children were still threatened in post-conflict situations where sanctions impacted innocent civilians. Sanctions should be redesigned so they did not affect children in their application. It was of paramount importance for all States to stress education and the strict implementation of all international instruments currently in force.
MARTIN SMEJKAL (Czech Republic) said that the Convention on the Rights of the Child protected persons below the age of 18 years. But paradoxically, it also contained the clause according to which the age limit for entitlement to such protection was lowered to 15 years in the case of a child taking part in armed conflict, in a situation which typically led to endangerment and to violation of the rights of the child.
The fact that the international community had been so far unable to set a higher standard was merely a reflection of estimates indicating that 250,000 children below the age of 18 years took part in more than 30 armed conflicts around the world, he said. According to UNICEF, children represented 40 per cent of all victims of armed conflicts.
The Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights on a draft optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict had so far failed, after four sessions, to reach consensus on the text, on such crucial issues as the age limit for participation in armed conflict. The Czech delegation was convinced that setting that age limit anywhere below 18 years would discredit the fair intentions and efforts of the United Nations to protect effectively the rights of the child.
He said the Czech Republic would actively promote the creation of an international standard which would become the springboard to changing the international practice. To that end, it would support the efforts of the newly created coalition of the major international non-governmental organizations against the use of child soldiers.
VOLODYMYR YEL’CHENKO (Ukraine) said his delegation strongly supported the work of the Working Group of the Commission on Human Rights on a draft optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, related to involvement of children in armed conflict. A global campaign should be launched to stop the recruitment of children under 18 into the armed forces, and to ensure that governments and opposition forces release all such children immediately and incorporate their needs into agreements and demobilization programmes.
He said there should be a universal mechanism that would effectively and unconditionally penalize the perpetrators of crimes against children, especially in armed conflicts. A clear signal should be sent from the present meeting of the Security Council to the ongoing diplomatic conference in Rome in support of the establishment of a strong and effective international criminal court whose jurisdiction would include crimes against children.
Regional mechanisms and arrangements should be promoted for the prompt and impartial investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for crimes against children, he said. Humanitarian norms should be implemented and measures taken to protect and facilitate assistance to children in war zones.
JANIS PRIEDKALNS (Latvia) said the international community must ensure the demobilization of child soldiers and promote their physical and psychological recovery and social integration. International human rights standards must be applied, with mechanisms for children in conflict situations. The Convention on the Rights of the Child must include reference to prohibition of children in armed conflict. The effects of international sanctions on children must be assessed. The mandate of the Committee on the Rights of the Child must be supported. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children in Armed Conflict must be supported by governments and non-governmental organizations. His work must be coordinated with relevant United Nations bodies. Local traditions and values should be considered in international efforts to protect children in armed conflicts.
ION GORITA (Romania) said the situation of children in armed conflict was closely related to the question of the status and well-being of refugee and displaced children, as well as to that of juvenile exploitation and prostitution. United Nations entities should give the issue attention and in a coordinated manner. Romania welcomed the initiative of the Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict to bring together, in an informal advisory group, senior officers from several United Nations bodies. The Convention on the Rights of the Child offered a comprehensive legal framework for protecting children, for providing for their needs and well- being, and for allowing them to grow and develop with dignity.
Romania strongly supported the finalization and adoption of a draft optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, he added.
RICARDO CASTA EDA (El Salvador) said his Government fully shared the international community’s concern over the ever-growing number of children who were recruited, or who volunteered, to participate in armed conflict. That concern was magnified in the context of the negative affects of the war on the children of El Salvador. Conflict led to more drug addiction, sexual exploitation, the displacement of persons, an increase in the number of orphans and children maimed by landmines. It alsoundermined societies and contributed to the vicious circle of poverty. El Salvador had been living with the horrors of war for over a decade. It was essential to deal with conflict through the process of dialogue and negotiation. The international community should ban, once and for all, the direct and indirect use of children in conflict.
The international community continued to work on important initiatives to put an end to the practice of involving children in armed conflict, he said. Those initiatives included the report by Gra a Machel on the impact of armed conflict on children, which offered important evidence on how children were used and brutalized during wars. In Rome, negotiations were being carried out to establish an International Criminal Court. That was an important forum to agree on norms and firm rules to prohibit children from participating actively in hostilities. Recruiting children into armed forces should be included on the list of war crimes to be included in the draft statute of the International Criminal Court.
FAMATTA ROSE OSODE (Liberia) said governments should support the measures proposed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. She recalled the use of child soldiers in the Liberian civil conflict, prior to the democratically elected Government of President Charles Taylor. United Nations estimates showed that some 15,000 to 20,000 children directly participated in violent acts were forced to kill or maim, were exposed to fighting and were themselves brutally victimized. Some fought with factions as a means of survival. The extent of the problem was considerable.
One of the many challenging problems facing governments emerging from conflict situations was demobilization of combatants. Regrettably, she said, mobilization programmes were most inadequate and had failed to sufficiently address the needs of child soldiers, and that had caused many of them to return to fighting. She said Liberia was gaining ground and was looking beyond its dark days and previous differences, and the people were working in an all-inclusive government to secure the peace and rebuild their country. But demobilization remained one of the key challenges for both Liberia and the international community. It was central to the prospects for a successful peace-building in the country. She expressed Liberia’s gratitude to the international community and to donors for their continued support for the country’s reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement programmes.
ELDAR G. KOULIEV (Azerbaijan) said children were victims of all sorts of abuse in armed conflicts. His delegation supported the Machel report on the effects of armed conflict on children. His country had experienced first hand the effects of civil wars on children. The aggression of Armenia against his country had resulted in large numbers to refugees, many of whom were children. He supported the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and his work on the effects of conflicts on children. His country had sought a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Armenia, and for the safe return of refugees. He appealed for humanitarian assistance for refugees and displaced persons. He expressed gratitude to the United Nations system, the UNHCR, and the World Food Programme (WFP) for humanitarian assistance for Azerbaijan. He said the continuing occupation of 20 per cent of the country by Armenia was the reason for the continuing conflict. The Security Council could play a major role through measures which could determine the cause of conflicts.
ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal) said the need for collective action to overcome the scourge of children in armed conflict led his Government to propose that the Council hear a briefing by the Special Representative, which occurred on 11 June. It was the impact of what he reported that led to the holding of the debate today. Civilian populations were increasingly affected by armed conflicts and had been transformed into the targets and tools of war. Despite the existence of normative international instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the minimum human rights standards for conduct in times of war were systematically ignored and violated by governmental forces and non-State actors.
The United Nations must act to stop or minimize the suffering of children in armed conflict, he said. Peace and security, stability and prosperity, and national sovereignty were attainable only if human security was also assured. Above all, the Council should combat, through its action, the sense of impunity in those belligerents responsible for the atrocities and abuses committed against children, whether they acted on behalf of governments or not. The Council should concede neither credibility nor legitimacy to such criminals, regardless of the part they might play in the resolution of the conflict.
He said an International Criminal Court would be an effective instrument to try and punish war criminals and those responsible for crimes against humanity. The protection of the rights of children should be an integral part of its statute and mandate. It would take into account as a mitigating factor the young age of the accused while considering an aggravating factor the behaviour of adults when children had been involved in committing the crime. Portugal hoped that the working group of the Human Rights Commission established to elaborate an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child would soon complete its work successfully.
The PRESIDENT adjourned the meeting, indicating that a further meeting would take place shortly.