Press briefing by special representative for children and armed conflict

24-Jul-00

Press Briefing

Grave crimes against children should not be part of amnesty provisions when peace agreements were being negotiated, according to one of the key recommendations of the Secretary-General’s latest report on children and armed conflict, Olara Otunnu, his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said at a Headquarters press briefing this afternoon.

Introducing the report to correspondents, he said that in the context of recent developments, that was a particularly important recommendation. The report particularly highlighted the situation of the girl child and that of adolescents, who tended to be forgotten in conflict situations. Other recommendations included sanctions against parties to conflict who failed to observe the rights and protections of children, or failed to curb illicit trade in natural resources, the flow of currency, and illicit cross-border arms trading.

Mr. Otunnu said other measures were aimed at corporate actors, Member States, the Security Council, insurgent groups, regional organizations and other actors. The report (document A/55/163-S/2000/712) devoted considerable attention to concrete measures by various agencies, non-governmental organizations and other actors to assist children affected by armed conflict. It also summarized progress achieved in pushing the agenda forward.

The report was a follow-up to the Council’s adoption last year of the landmark Security Council resolution 1261 (1999), the Special Representative said. That text had established that the impact of armed conflict on children was a peace and security issue that legitimately belonged on the Council’s agenda. The Secretary-General’s present report would be the first formal report on the subject to be submitted to the Council.

He said the Council was expected to hold its third annual open debate on children and armed conflict on the morning of Wednesday, 26 July. Discussions would be based on the Secretary-General’s report. The Council was expected to adopt a resolution at the end of the debate. At 4 p. m. tomorrow, Tuesday, 25 July, a representative group of international non-governmental organizations would meet informally with Council members in Conference Room 7.

Welcoming the outcome of the recent G-8 ministerial meeting in Okinawa, Japan, Mr. Otunnu said the Miyazaki Initiatives for Conflict Prevention had devoted a substantial section of discussion to the protection of children affected by armed conflict. He also welcomed last week’s initiative by the diamond industry to take up a voluntary code of conduct seeking to address the illicit cross-border diamond trade, which fuelled the war machines responsible for inflicting widespread and massive suffering on children in certain conflict situations.

A correspondent asked what the link was between children in armed conflict and the Security Council’s role in maintaining international peace and security. How did that differ from the situation of the elderly as opposed to children?

Otunnu Briefing- 2 – 24 July 2000 >

Mr. Otunnu said the letter and spirit of Security Council resolution 1261 (1999) did not refer to the fate of all children, but specifically to children subjected to suffering as a result of being caught up in the breakdown of peace and security and its aftermath. It was a very direct link. Initiatives were going on to address the issue of other vulnerable populations caught up in armed conflict, such as women and the elderly. But the Council recognized that children suffered disproportionately owing to their overall vulnerability relative to adults.

Asked how he would like the expected Council resolution to build on the existing one, the Special Representative replied that the provisions of resolution 1261 (1999) were broad principles. It was hoped that a new resolution would build specific concrete measures targeted at insurgent groups, international corporate entities dealing in natural and other resources, Member States, regional groups and other actors.

What role had non-governmental organizations played in the adoption of Security Council resolutions on the subject of children and armed conflict? a journalist asked.

Mr. Otunnu said that the first Council debate on the subject, in 1998, had resulted in a presidential statement. Last year had seen the adoption of resolution 1261 (1999). This year, the Secretary-General intended to involve all actors, beginning with United Nations agencies and including non-official organizations.

Why did the report distinguish between government actors and insurgent groups? another correspondent asked.

Mr. Otunnu replied that most governments had legal obligations, including conventions and other norms. Insurgents tended not to, although there had been efforts to get them to commit voluntarily to the same principles and provisions. The Secretary-General’s report sought to address the particular circumstances of insurgent, as well as economic and other non-State actors.