Geneva – In her first presentation to the Human Rights Council, Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, warned that the progress realized in 2017 was once again overshadowed by the extremely worrisome situation for boys and girls growing up in countries affected by conflict.
“The longevity, severity and complexity of many of today’s conflicts has led to a further decrease of traditional safe spaces and moved children even closer to the heart of war,” the Special Representative told members of the Human Rights Council.
Denial of humanitarian access
In her report introduced today, Special Representative Gamba highlighted that the denial of humanitarian access has become a growing concern. She added that in 2017, cases of humanitarian aid unable to reach children in need were documented in almost every country situations on her agenda.
Ms. Gamba pointed out instances in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and Yemen, where large numbers of civilians are affected by broad-based denials of humanitarian access. In Syria, the current escalation of violence and the besiegement of eastern Ghouta and rural Damascus is leaving children with no access to food, healthcare and other essential commodities.
She also warned the Council about a trend of politicization of humanitarian access for the delivery of aid, even when it is intended for children.
“Finding ways to reverse this trend is of the utmost importance,” declared Gamba. “All parties to conflict must allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of aid to the civilian population in need in areas subject to their control.”
The trafficking and sale of children
During her presentation, the Special Representative also stressed the importance of recognizing the close links between the trafficking and sale of children and the six grave violations, and to keep this linkage in mind when elaborating programmes to better protect children.
Direct engagement with Governments and non-State armed groups to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children has continued to produce tangible results.
“Building on the momentum achieved through the enhanced engagement with parties to conflict on recruitment and use of children, my Office is working on a new initiative to raise awareness and support for our work to end and prevent all six grave violations,” said the Special Representative.
Ms. Gamba called for the support of Member States to protect more children, by ensuring a renewed focus on all grave violations in the work of the Human Rights Council.
The Special Representative also highlighted how her Office is strengthening its capacity to conduct research and analysis on lessons-learned and best practices the child protection community has garnered over the past 20 years.
In conclusion, as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict is turning 18, she renewed her call for the universal ratification of this important tool, which will allow the international community to speak with one voice against the recruitment and use of children in conflict.
Read the annual report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict presented to the Human Rights Council
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