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 daunting task to disarmchild soldiers and to keep them from rearming. The Security Council shouldtake a more pro-active role in ensuring the long-term rehabilitation of childsoldiers from the planning stages of peacekeeping operations.
It was important to widen and strengthen the institutional safety net toprevent the recruitment of child soldiers, he continued. His delegationwelcomed the prevailing recognition by the international community of the needto raise the existing legal standards. The United Nations had taken the leadin announcing its unilateral decision not to recruit peacekeepers below theage of 18 from Member States. In particular, the Working Group on theOptional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child had beenconsidering raising the minimum age of recruiting child soldiers. He hopedthat the Working Group would put forward practical recommendations acceptableto the majority of the United Nations membership. The Security Council shouldalso be vigilant against the supply of small arms and light weapons inconflict areas. The need for appropriate monitoring and strict enforcement ofarms embargoes could not be overstated.
KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said democratic governments did not recruitchildren for warfare; the non-State actors — armed rebels, insurgent outfitsand terrorist organizations — recruited children, often forcibly, becausethey were malleable and strangers to danger, and therefore convenientinstruments for mindless violence. What should be addressed was therecruitment and use of children by terrorists and insurgents. The Council wasas impotent as any other body when it came to holding these malign forcesaccountable, he said. Frequently those groups had State sponsors, withoutwhose support they would not be able to survive. Council action against thisphenomenon would be appropriate.
While in principle India supported the humanitarian diplomacy of theSpecial Representative for better protection of children in armed conflict, hecontinued, great care should be taken to ensure that nothing in that workinadvertently lent legitimacy to terrorists, criminals and others who usedviolence to destabilize or challenge democratically elected governments. Thevast numbers of children traumatized by armed conflict cast a long shadow overfuture generations, he said. But the economic and social marginalization ofthe poorest nations was driving hundreds of millions more into the kind ofchildhood that could well make them part of tomorrow’s problems. He said thatunfortunately this broader picture of destitution and desperation did notattract the attention of the international media.
Children should not be indoctrinated or trained to fight, he said. Tohis regret, some schools and seminaries, including in his region, were beingmisused to instil in young and impressionable minds negative passions ofhatred and intolerance. Those youngsters were then sent to Afghanistan, andelsewhere, as cannon-fodder. Those who survived had skills for nothing else,he said.
ANTONIO MONTEIRO (Portugal) said he welcomed the intention of theSpecial Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and ArmedConflict to undertake a mission to Sierra Leone later this month. He hopedthat a coordinated and concerted response to the dramatic situation ofchildren in that country could be achieved as soon as possible. He noted thatsince last year’s presidential statement, the Council had shown an increasingawareness of the impact of armed conflict on children. That statement was afirst step towards raising the awareness and the relevance of such concerns inthe field of international peace and security. The UNICEF had also carriedout a notable effort to alert the international community to the dimensions ofthe problem of children in conflict and to promote action designed to counterit.
He said there was need for a global effort to address the issue ofchildren in armed conflict. States, the United Nations system and otherrelevant humanitarian organizations should give priority to the respect forthe rights of the child in complex humanitarian emergencies. While setting astandard for the universal determination of States to protect the rights ofthe child, the Convention on the Rights of the Child reflected an ideal worldthat was still not a reality. “We must find a way to breach the gap thatexists between the commitments of so many States and the reality, includingthose participating or suffering from the effects of armed conflicts”, hesaid. The Council must play a particular role in the matter. It must bevigilant and active and it must urge and help the parties concerned to complywith their freely assumed obligations under the Convention on the Rights ofthe Child and other instruments of international law.
SAEED HASAN (Iraq) said the protection of children was at the heart ofthe purposes for which the United Nations had been created — protectingfuture generations from the scourge of war. Regrettably the instrumentscreated for that purposes were not being implemented. There existed poverty,deteriorating socio-economic conditions and a widening North-South gap inwhich the North alone had the advantages of power and wealth while the Southwas left with hunger and poverty — fertile ground for conflict.
He said that given the structure of the General Assembly, and thepresent balance of power in the Security Council, the Council was unable tocome up with creative solutions. Since the presidential statement of29 June 1998 on children in armed conflict, the Council’s conduct had onlygiven rise to defective aspirations. On the other hand, the Council itselfconstituted part of the problem. Under pressure from the United States, theCouncil insisted on continued sanctions against Iraq, the victims of whichwere not only children, but also more than a million Iraqi citizens,particularly women and the elderly. The effects of sanctions were the same asthose of armed conflict.
Prior to the imposition of sanctions against Iraq, he said, the countryhad achieved a level of development surpassing that of any other in the regionas well as that of developing countries in general. The imposition ofcomprehensive sanctions had moved Iraq from relative prosperity to all-outpoverty. The matter was inextricably linked with children, who constitutedthe main victims of the sanctions.
The infant mortality rate in Iraq was now among the highest in theworld. Only 41 per cent of Iraqis had potable water. Most schools neededmajor repair. According to the report of UNICEF, the death of more than halfof Iraqi children below the age of 5 years could have been avoided had it notbeen for the sanctions. The use by the United States and the United Kingdomof depleted uranium weapons in 1991 had led to the deaths of 50,000 Iraqichildren who still suffered from leukaemia and other forms of cancer.
He asked how the Council could ignore crimes perpetrated in its name bythe United States and the United Kingdom. The Council, and the United Nationsin general, had to undertake the responsibility to overcome that situation.
PETER TOMKA (Slovakia) said experts estimated that children weresuffering from the effects of conflict in approximately 50 countries aroundthe world. A major problem had been the failure of States to bring to justicethose who violated international humanitarian law. His delegation concurredwith the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who underscoredthat rather than writing new laws, what was needed today was to implement whatalready existed.
He said the crucial factor contributing to the worldwide culture ofviolence and indiscriminate killings, as well as putting arms into the handsof young children, was a booming trade in small arms. The proliferation ofthese weapons had made it possible for young children to be the perpetratorsof violence. Governments, local warlords and rebel groups were spendingenormous amounts of money on arms deliveries, thus impoverishing their owncountries and depriving civil populations, including children, of basic needs. The Council should explore ways and means in order to ensure that an armsembargo, once established, was implemented effectively. Economic sanctionsshould prevent war criminals from enjoying the fruits of their evil withoutharming innocent women and children.
The issue before us, he said, “has a very important socio-economicimpact, since poverty facilitates the recruitment and participation ofchildren in armed conflict”. Children were sometimes even sold to armies andguerrilla groups by families thrown into poverty by ethnic conflicts. TheCouncil, in mandating peacekeeping missions, should pay special attention tothe programmes of demobilization and social reintegration of child combatants,their psychological recovery, return of the displaced and refugee children,and restoration of access to health care, food and education.
A. G. RAVAN FARHADI (Afghanistan) said the Islamic State of Afghanistanhad once again become victim of an undeclared and imposed conflict byneighbouring Pakistan, and one of the disastrous dimensions of the conflictwas the victimization of the children. On 20 August, the United NationsInformation Centre from Islamabad reported how young students, some as youngas only 14, were being recruited for war in Afghanistan. The UNICEFrepresentative in Pakistan had reported last week that “the Taliban delegationin Pakistan over the last two weeks appears to have recruited between 2,000and 2,500 [young students] in expectation of a new offensive”.
He said Afghanistan firmly believed that wars had a tragic impact oncivilians, especially children and women. Afghan children deserved adequatehealth care, a decent education, nutritious food, a secure and loving familyand a life of friendship and opportunity. Afghanistan shared the idea of anew peace and security agenda for children and women, ending the use ofchildren as soldiers and the provision of better protection for children andwomen in conflict situations. He said the defence forces of Afghanistanrecently had captured 63 children ages 13 to 16. Some had been recruited, butothers had been forced to participate in combat at the front line. Thechildren had been released to their families.
PETER KASANDA (Zambia) said that poor children, sometimes withoutparents or without access to education, were lured into armed groups bypromises of payment, food and protection. Some were forcibly conscripted buttold to say they had volunteered. The distinction between forced, compulsory
and voluntary recruitment was blurred, hence the need for a completeprohibition of child participation in combat.
The phenomenon of small arms and light weapons had introduced a new anddisturbing dynamic in modern warfare, he said. It had led to a vast expansionin the involvement of under-age children as both victims and perpetrators. Handguns, rifles, machine guns, grenades and anti-personnel landmines were allweapons of choice in conflicts where children were used as soldiers. Theissue of small and light arms should, therefore, be a matter of internationalpublic concern, particularly to the Security Council.
He said that in war-torn countries the world over, the existence ofinternational humanitarian law and human rights law had not led to a betterlife for ordinary innocent civilians, including children. There was but amockery of those international standards by warlords and their supporters. More effective ways should be found to hold the culprits to account and toensure that all concerned abided by their obligations under international law.
JACQUES LOUIS BOISSON (Monaco) said the armed conflicts afflicting somany of the world’s regions were all the more horrifying because the rules ofwarfare and humanitarian law seemed increasingly to be ignored, paving the wayfor a return to barbarism. The plight of a growing number of childreninvolved in armed conflicts reflected a phenomenon whose causes were notalways clear. Indoctrinated and used as messengers, spies, combatants,torturers, human bombs and worse, children were no longer their own mastersbut unresisting instruments of arrogant and unscrupulous warlords.
He said there was a crisis in the values of civilization whose causeswere uncertain but whose consequences were increasingly serious, not only forthe communities concerned but more so for future societies, whose youth wouldhave no moral or ethical foundation for their social behaviour.
The consequences of technological progress, he said, notably theincreasingly deadly nature of arms, as well as their greater lightness andease of handling, had serious implications for the growing number of childrenin conflict. Children’s relative weakness, inexperience and lack of militarytraining were no longer a serious handicap in the transportation and handlingof small-calibre weapons.
VOLODYMYR YEL’CHENKO (Ukraine) said present day conflicts, even whenthey involved regular armed forces, were mostly civil, inter-ethnic or of aninternal nature. The main purpose of the warring sides was not to subdue therival group but rather to exterminate it or banish it. Children were notsimply collateral victims of atrocities committed by either side, but a directtarget. While there was no single remedy to resolve the problem, the bestsolution would certainly be to eliminate internal warfare altogether, as itconstituted the most significant cause of crime against children. What wasimportant and attainable today was to create a universal mechanism that wouldeffectively and inevitably penalize the perpetrators of crimes againstchildren in conflicts. The diplomatic conference in Rome laid a firmfoundation for a strong effective criminal court which would have jurisdictionover crimes against children.
Secondly, he said, there should be regional mechanisms and arrangementsfor the prompt and impartial investigation and prosecution of personsresponsible for crimes against children. A global “search and capture” systemshould also be established. It would create conditions where perpetratorswould not be able to find safe havens for themselves anywhere. The existingtools of international law constituted a sufficient legal basis for theadequate protection of the rights of children. The main task now was toensure their consistent implementation. That required greater collectiveefforts by Governments and international organizations. There was also needfor more integrated work by the Council, the Economic and Social Council andother bodies, in order to move emphasis beyond humanitarian assistance towardsthe areas of economic and social development.
DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) said more children continued to bedragged against their will into war as he spoke. Those abductions wereaccompanied by sexual abuse and cruel usage of children which defieddescription. Disturbing reports that young girls were forced into sexualslavery and other practices that exposed them to diseases such as HIV/AIDSwere continually received. “This must be stopped”, he said. “Enough isenough. “He said that his Government supported the creation of “zones ofpeace” in situations where children were caught in armed conflicts, with aview to protecting them and to address their special needs.
It was his Governments’s firm belief, he said, that a global catastropheof that magnitude required resolute will from the international community toarrest and eventually annihilate it. The recruitment and use of childsoldiers was not only an affront to human values, it was also a fundamentalimpediment to socio-economic development. The social and economic challengesimposed on countries by this practice would continue to frustrate socio-economic development and social transformation, he said. Last July, theAfrican Heads of State and Government meeting at the Organization of AfricanUnity (OAU) Summit held in Algiers recommitted themselves to combating allforms of child exploitation and, in particular, put an end to the phenomenonof child soldiers, he said.
JARGALSAIKHANY ENKHSAIKHAN (Mongolia) hoped that the Council would adopta strong, practical resolution, to send a clear message that protection ofchildren affected by wars and conflicts was high on its agenda, and thatstrong, effective domestic and international measures were needed to cope withthe problem. He said it was futile to talk about human security if theinternational community could not ensure protection of children in armedconflicts, protection of their rights under the international humanitarianlaw.
The United Nations must play an important role in the efforts to combatviolations of international law, where the children were drawn into armedconflicts or affected by them, he continued. He favoured an early adoption ofthe optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child oninvolvement of children in armed conflicts. A strong International CriminalCourt would not only prosecute perpetrators of criminal acts, but would alsoplay a preventive role. In a broader context, the most efficient means forprotecting children would be prevention of conflict situations. Mongoliaattached great importance to preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping and peace-building measures of the United Nations. The Council should not only stronglycondemn the targeting of children in armed conflict, but take concrete legal,political and other steps to combat it.
ELFAITH MOHAMMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) said armed conflicts continued tocause suffering to vulnerable groups such as women and children. The solutionlay in tackling the root causes of the conflicts. Necessary attention shouldbe given to children in such situations. He said his Government paid specialattention to the issue of children in conflict as part of a continued effortto find a comprehensive solution to the war in Southern Sudan. It had grantedthe right of self-determination to Southern Sudan and had cooperated fullywith the United Nations. The Government was now ready to negotiate apermanent ceasefire. He said the movement in Southern Sudan had beenabducting children for induction into their ranks. Those practices were knownby the International Red Cross for years, yet no action by the internationalcommunity had been taken to address the situation.
He said his Government had affirmed its full and principled commitmentnot to recruit children under the age of 18 for military service. There werenational laws to support that commitment. His Government had cooperated withrelevant agencies of the United Nations in tracking and releasing children whohad been abducted by forces in neighbouring countries.
Last week, he added, many Sudanese had met to commemorate the passing ofone year since the United States aggression against a medical factory inSudan. A super-Power like the United States should have been able “to give usa lesson” in humanity and justice, and to recognize the mistake it committed. It should compensate the children of Sudan for depriving them of the sourcethat had given them 70 per cent of their medication every year.
ROSELYN RUTH ASUMWA ODERA (Kenya) said that despite widespreadcondemnation of the senseless targeting of innocent children in armedconflicts, the international community was still witnessing repeated accountsof such horrors in many parts of the world. The media had helped to highlightunspeakable crimes against children in armed conflict, and only decisiveaction could arrest the pattern and cycle of violence.
She said the Security Council had the capacity to take a lead not onlyin preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers, but also in ensuringthe protection of their rights as children. In fact, since the Council’sPresidential statement on children in armed conflict on 29 June 1998, someprogress had been made in defining elements of crimes under the statutes ofthe International Criminal Court, including crimes which affected children inarmed conflict situations.
Increasingly, it was necessary to look beyond disarmament anddemobilization of child soldiers, she continued, and to consider how toestablish and encourage training and capacity-building in trauma counsellingand rehabilitation at local levels in post-conflict situations. Theinternational community must be able to assess and address the impact of theemotional damage resulting from the violation of children’s rights. Aholistic, integrated action-oriented approach combining the elements of socialpolicy, political will and economic and financial commitment was one way tomake a positive difference. Every effort needed to be made to mobilizeadequate funds to support the efforts of the Special Representative on behalfof that special category of children.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said that despite achievements over the pastdecade, the world had seen a number of factors that had negatively affectedchildren, including economic crisis, increase in the debt burden and expansionof armed conflict, which had influenced their very existence.
The Security Council must consider the precarious balance between theroles of the General Assembly and other bodies inside and outside the UnitedNations system. While it was important that the Council find solutions toproblems threatening international peace and security, the implementation ofinternational humanitarian law should not contradict the provisions of theUnited Nations Charter.
He said the gap between the establishment of international norms andtheir implementation was vast and growing. Despite the fact that nationalgovernments bore the primary responsibility for protecting their citizens, theinternational community had an important role to play in providing assistance. There must be an end to impunity on the part of those who used children astargets. The adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Courtwas an important development, since it described the use of children in armedconflict as a war crime.
MAKARIM WIBISONO (Indonesia) said children whose minds were justbeginning to take shape were being used as tools for warfare. Many, if notall of them, were not fully aware of the reasons and objectives of the armedconflict in which they were participating. The linkage of children toviolence, especially in areas affected by conflict, was largely due to theaccessibility of small arms. The international community had taken the righttrack in endeavouring to institute controls for the transfer of illicit arms,especially in zones prone to conflict. Much more, however, needed to be done. Millions of children had already become victims of armed struggles. Many hadlost years of education, youth and normal life.
A sustained programme of assistance in a post-conflict peace-buildingperiod was critically important in order to consolidate peace and to supportrehabilitation. It was crucial to focus on the needs of children, who wereboth instruments of an armed conflict as well as the victims of suchconflicts. A holistic approach was necessary while maintaining the uniquecharacteristics of each and every culture and society.
He said measures could not be undertaken solely by governments whoexperienced armed conflicts; concerted, systematic and organized efforts wereneeded from all actors in the regional and international community. The useof children in armed conflict cast a shadow on their future. Children whowere exposed to violence tended to carry fear and hatred in their hearts andminds and that had long-term effects.
JOSEFA COELHO DA CRUZ (Angola) said her country was one of the many thathad faced the problem of children in armed conflict for several years. Efforts by the Angolan Government to protect the children caught in thevicious circle and to alleviate their suffering had been consistently hinderedby the actions of the bandits that continued to pursue the war in Angola as ameans to reach their goals. In spite of the other challenges it faced, theAngolan Government had not spared any efforts to improve the efficiency andeffectiveness of those institutions that provided assistance to children aswell as to war victims in general.
He said that every year her Government allocated a special budget tosocial development and reintegration services, and to the Children’s NationalInstitute to support specific projects. Those projects related to theplacement of war orphans with members of their own families; to buildingshelters and temporary lodging facilities to shelter those children whosefamilies might take longer to be located; to building schools and healthcentres in areas created for the temporary accommodation of displaced people;to providing food safety; to providing funds for the national non-governmentalorganizations that cared for child victims of the war who suffered from traumaand other psychological problems; to manufacturing prosthetic limbs andsending child victims of anti-personnel mines and other explosives to othercountries for treatment. Owing to the lack of appropriate resources, theGovernment’s efforts were far from meeting projected needs.
DAUDI MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said his country hadexperienced firsthand the plight of children fleeing from situations of armedconflict in neighbouring countries. In today’s international relations, thechange in the nature and scope of conflict had invariably drawn children, whowere least responsible for the conflicts, into the power struggles of theadversaries.
He cited the Secretary-General’s April 1998 report to the SecurityCouncil on the Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace andSustainable Development in Africa: “poor economic performance or inequitabledevelopment have resulted in a near-permanent economic crisis for some States,greatly exacerbating internal tensions and greatly diminishing their capacityto respond to those tensions”. The alleviation of poverty should therefore bea common concern as a necessary step towards ending conflicts and protectingchildren’s rights.
The recognition of the important work being done by Ambassador Otunnu,he said, needed to be elevated to tangible action by giving him the requisitefinancial, human and material support to fulfil his mandate. What was crucialnow was to intensify the cooperative efforts of UNICEF, UNHCR, the UnitedNations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and thenon-governmental organization community who were playing critical roles. Itwas a huge undertaking that could not be handled by a single entity.
FRED BEYENDEZA (Uganda) said nothing could be more painful to hiscountry than the systematic abduction, torture, detention, enslavement,mutilation and killing of its innocent children, as had been happening for 12long years in northern and western Uganda. In October 1996, 139 schoolgirlshad been abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army, the majority of whom werestill missing to date. In June 1998, an attack by the Allied DemocraticForces in western Uganda had resulted in the burning to death of 80 childrenand the abduction of 100.
He said the terrorist groups often targeted defenceless women andchildren between 11 and 16 years of age, at times abducting younger ones of 5to 9 years, often after massacring their parents and relatives. As a result,fear and uncertainty had become permanent features of life in northern andwestern Uganda. What the rebels had done and continued to do was alien toAfrican culture, traditional values and way of life. It was a unique andexceptional situation that demanded extraordinary action. Violations againstchildren should be classified as crimes against humanity.
To date, he said, two important resolutions on children had been passedby the Commission on Human Rights and had been adopted, but they had not beentranslated into freedom for children in armed conflicts. Uganda called on theinternational community to implement those resolutions fully.
In June 1998 the Security Council had held an open debate on the sameissues, he said. On that occasion, the Council had issued a presidentialstatement. Uganda hoped that this year would not be “business as usual” andthat the Council would send a clear message to the international community andto those responsible for crimes against children. It was hoped that theCouncil was resolved to address strongly the predicament of children in armedconflicts, whatever the causes of such conflicts.
CESAR GOUVEIA (Mozambique) said that the Rome Peace Agreement that hadended his country’s long years of war and destabilization had resulted fromthe genuine willingness of the Mozambican people to end the cycle of war andviolence. The decision of the Government of Mozambique to bury the hatred andheal the wounds of war had resulted in the peace and sustainable developmentthat had ensured the development of policies for the welfare of the child.
He recalled that in the presidential statement following the June 1998debate on children and armed conflict, the Security Council had pledged tosupport efforts aimed at obtaining commitments to end the recruitment and useof children in armed conflicts in violation of international law; to givespecial consideration to the disarmament and demobilization of child soldiers;and to the reintegration into society of children maimed or otherwisetraumatized by armed conflict. The time had come to foster the political willto establish national and international legislation to prevent the use ofchild soldiers.
Current national and international efforts aimed at preventing the useof child soldiers could only be successful with international assistance andcooperation, he said. Mozambique appealed to the international community tospare no effort in providing all kinds of assistance to the countries in need.
MICHAEL POWLES (New Zealand) said shielding children from the effects ofarmed conflict, both as victims and as participants, was an inseparable partof the United Nations responsibility to the world’s children. New Zealandwelcomed the fact that the use of children in armed conflict was a war crimeover which the International Criminal Court would have jurisdiction. He saidNew Zealand welcomed recognition by the Council that attention to the specialneeds of children affected by conflict was an essential aspect of efforts tobuild lasting peace.
It was for the Member States of the United Nations to set the standardswhich would shelter children from the anguish and suffering of wars, large andsmall, he said. Current negotiations on an Optional Protocol to theConvention on the Rights of the Child concerning children in armed conflictwere particularly important in raising the legal standard of protection forchildren in this regard. He said that efforts to bridge differences and reachconsensus on the Optional Protocol should be redoubled.
S. R. INSANALLY (Guyana) said most animals, even the lowest forms,instinctively protected their young from harm. Yet man, with a supposedlysuperior level of intelligence and the ability to distinguish between rightand wrong, had been known to subject his progeny to unimaginable horrors. Children died daily as a result of being dragooned into war. Every day andeverywhere there were televised images of the young, maimed and made old byconstant exposure to abduction, forced labour and violence. Among themeasures which needed to be taken by the international community to deter thefurther involvement of children in armed conflict was firm action to bring tojustice those responsible for such crimes. Rape and other forms of sexualviolence, in the context of armed conflict, should be deemed as criminal actssubject to harsh punishment.
He said Guyana reiterated its call for an international ban of anti-personnel mines and for continuing efforts to expand mine-clearance and mine-awareness programmes. The victims of that type of brutality must be affordedevery chance for physical and psychological comfort and rehabilitation.
He said many adolescents, especially girls exposed to rape, sexualexploitation, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases includingthe HIV/AIDS virus, were scarred for the rest of their days. They were beingrobbed not only of their childhood, but also of their prospects for adultlife. It was imperative that there be a strengthening of the internationallegal instruments that had been forged to protect the rights of civilians inconflict.
FELIPE MABILANGAN (Philippines) said armed conflicts and wars violatedevery right of a child — the right to life, the right to be with family andcommunity, the right to health, the right to the development of thepersonality and the right to be nurtured and protected. Children were amongthe first victims in armed conflicts. They were tortured, raped and oftenkilled. Those who survived suffered immeasurable damage to their moral andpsychological development.
He said the Secretary General’s Report on the progress in theimplementation of the World Declaration and Plan of Action from the WorldSummit for Children, comprising goals in reducing child mortality rate,maternal mortality, malnutrition and increasing provision of water andsanitation, basic education and special protection for children by the year2000, estimated the cost of meeting these goals to represent less than1 per cent of global output. “Collectively, the cost is a very smallinvestment in building a better, brighter future for our children, forourselves, and for all the world”, he concluded.
JOSEPH W. MUTABOBA (Rwanda) said the first victims of bad leadership andthe politics of exclusion in his country were innocent children who were notallowed access to education because of who they were and where they were born. It was the same children who had grown up amidst the process of rampantinjustices, who were naturally mobilized and ready to be recruited as first-hand witnesses of that bad leadership and of those unjust policies thatprevented people from enjoying their basic rights.
He said children who witnessed such a situation were potentially theones to fight injustices directed at them, only when they were given thechance and means to do so. Unfortunately, it was in the name of defendingthose rights that most children had lost more of their rights — the main onebeing the right to be a child. In Rwanda, the magnitude of suffering thatchildren went through was difficult to describe. The trauma they still showedcould tell how much they suffered inside themselves even when their rights hadbeen recovered.
It was the duty of the Council to ensure that “this does not happenagain not only in Rwanda but anywhere else in the globe”. Many children hadsuffered the harsh environment of war and the need to kill — to savethemselves and their future, or because they had been told to do it. Many hadsurvived mine blasts and bore scars with amputated legs and arms; they stilllived with such traumatizing experiences long after the war was over.
He said the resolution sought by the Council today could prevent more ofthose killings in the future. His delegation strongly hoped the Council couldstand firm in its duties and protect the peace and security of children. Heappealed to the Council to think of the most vulnerable group of children inarmed conflict today, the orphans. Not only did they experience the trauma ofwitnessing the death of their parents and relatives, they also survived theworst events. Some had been lucky to find foster families, some others hadnot. The message was the same. As much as there was need for a world order,”we should be aware of one important thing: there is no world after us ifchildren are not taken care of”.
ALYAKSANDR SYCHOV (Belarus) said the recommendations of the SpecialRepresentative of the Secretary-General deserved particular attention andshould be translated into practical action by the United Nations. Despitesignificant efforts by the United Nations, UNICEF and other internationalorganizations, children remained the most vulnerable victims of armedconflicts in different parts of the world. It was necessary to consider a newstrategy, which should reduce the influence of armed conflicts upon childrenand exclude the under-aged from the number of armed combatants. It was alsonecessary to ensure children’s access to humanitarian aid and developeffective mechanisms to prevent violence against child victims of armedconflicts.
Improvement of the legal basis for the interests of the children shouldbecome one of the major elements of such a strategy, he continued. Strengthening of the status of the International Criminal Court, which wouldhave jurisdiction over all kinds of crimes against children, should become animportant step in that direction. Special attention should be devoted tosanctions, which continued to have a significant effect on children. TheSecurity Council should permit special humanitarian exceptions, which wouldhelp minimize the consequences of economic coercion.
ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said the present meeting was an additionaldemonstration of the importance of the current humanitarian topic. Childrenin armed conflict was an issue about which each and every member of theCouncil had serious concerns. The Government of Colombia was convinced thatthe most effective way of protecting children and civilians in conflict was toend the conflict by a negotiated solution. That would end displaced peoplesand mitigate the effects of the illegal traffic in arms.
He invited members of the Council and the other States who hadparticipated in today’s debate to continue the present forum in the naturalscenario of the General Assembly. That would provide the proper place fordebate. It would also enable a real world consensus to buttress the issue ofchildren in armed conflict.
Action on Draft
The Council then unanimously adopted resolution 1261 (1999) (documentS/1999/911), which read as follows:
The Security Council,
Recalling the statements of its President of 29 June 1998(S/PRST/1998/18), 12 February 1999 (S/PRST/1999/6) and 8 July 1999(S/PRST/1999/21),
Noting recent efforts to bring to an end the use of children assoldiers in violation of international law, in International LabourOrganization Convention No. 182 on the Prohibition and Immediate Action forthe Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour which prohibits forced orcompulsory labour, including the forced or compulsory recruitment of childrenfor use in armed conflict, and in the Rome Statute of the InternationalCriminal Court in which conscripting or enlisting children under the age offifteen into national armed forces or using them to participate actively inhostilities is characterized as a war crime,
1. Expresses its grave concern at the harmful and widespread impactof armed conflict on children and the long-term consequences this has fordurable peace, security and development;
2. Strongly condemns the targeting of children in situations of armedconflict, including killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction and forceddisplacement, recruitment and use of children in armed conflict in violationof international law, and attacks on objects protected under internationallaw, including places that usually have a significant presence of childrensuch as schools and hospitals, and calls on all parties concerned to put anend to such practices;
3. Calls upon all parties concerned to comply strictly with theirobligations under international law, in particular the Geneva Conventions of12 August 1949 and the obligations applicable to them under the AdditionalProtocols thereto of 1977 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights ofthe Child of 1989, and stresses the responsibility of all States to bring anend to impunity and their obligation to prosecute those responsible for gravebreaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949;
4. Expresses its support for the ongoing work of the SpecialRepresentative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict,United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations High Commissioner forRefugees (UNHCR), other parts of the United Nations system and other relevantinternational organizations dealing with children affected by armed conflict,and requests the Secretary-General to continue to develop coordination andcoherence among them;
5. Welcomes and encourages efforts by all relevant actors at thenational and international level to develop more coherent and effectiveapproaches to the issue of children and armed conflict;
6. Supports the work of the open-ended inter-sessional working groupof the Commission on Human Rights on a draft optional protocol to theConvention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armedconflict, and expresses the hope that it will make further progress with aview to finalizing its work;
7. Urges all parties to armed conflicts to ensure that theprotection, welfare and rights of children are taken into account during peacenegotiations and throughout the process of consolidating peace in theaftermath of conflict;
8. Calls upon parties to armed conflicts to undertake feasiblemeasures during armed conflicts to minimize the harm suffered by children,such as days of tranquillity” to allow the delivery of basic necessaryservices, and further calls upon all parties to armed conflicts to promote,implement and respect such measures;
9. Urges all parties to armed conflicts to abide by concretecommitments made to ensure the protection of children in situations of armedconflict;
10. Urges all parties to armed conflicts 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;
11. Calls upon all parties to armed conflicts to ensure the full, safeand unhindered access of humanitarian personnel and the delivery ofhumanitarian assistance to all children affected by armed conflict;
12. Underscores the importance of the safety, security and freedom ofmovement of United Nations and associated personnel to the alleviation of theimpact of armed conflict on children, and urges all parties to armed conflictsto respect fully the status of United Nations and associated personnel;
13. Urges States and all relevant parts of the United Nations systemto intensify their efforts to ensure an end to the recruitment and use ofchildren in armed conflict in violation of international law through politicaland other efforts, including promotion of the availability of alternatives forchildren to their participation in armed conflict;
14. Recognizes the deleterious impact of the proliferation of arms, inparticular small arms, on the security of civilians, including refugees andother vulnerable populations, particularly children, and, in this regard, itrecalls resolution 1209 (1998) of 19 November 1998 which, inter alia, stressesthe importance of all Member States, and in particular States involved inmanufacturing and marketing of weapons, restricting arms transfers which couldprovoke or prolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions or armedconflicts, and which urged international collaboration in combating illegalarms flows;
15. Urges States and the United Nations system to facilitate thedisarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of children usedas soldiers in violation of international law, and calls upon, in particular,the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and ArmedConflict, UNICEF, UNHCR and other relevant agencies of the United Nationssystem to intensify their efforts in this regard;
16. Undertakes, when taking action aimed at promoting peace andsecurity, to give special attention to the protection, welfare and rights ofchildren, and requests the Secretary-General to include in his reportsrecommendations in this regard;
17. Reaffirms its readiness when dealing with situations of armedconflict:
(a)to continue to support the provision of humanitarian assistance tocivilian populations in distress, taking into account the particular needs ofchildren including, inter alia, the provision and rehabilitation of medicaland educational services to respond to the needs of children, therehabilitation of children who have been maimed or psychologicallytraumatized, and child-focused mine clearance and mine-awareness programmes;
(b)to continue to support the protection of displaced childrenincluding their resettlement by UNHCR and others as appropriate; and
(c)whenever adopting measures under Article 41 of the Charter of theUnited Nations, to give consideration to their impact on children, in order toconsider appropriate humanitarian exemptions;
18. Reaffirms also its readiness to consider appropriate responseswhenever buildings or sites which usually have a significant presence ofchildren are specifically targeted in situations of armed conflict, inviolation of international law;
19. Requests the Secretary-General to ensure that personnel involvedin peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building activities have appropriatetraining on the protection, rights and welfare of children, and urges Statesand relevant international and regional organizations to ensure thatappropriate training is included in their programmes for personnel involved insimilar activities;
20. Requests the Secretary-General to submit to the Council by31 July 2000, a report on the implementation of this resolution, consultingall relevant parts of the United Nations system and taking into account otherrelevant work;
21. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter. “
Rights of Reply
MARK MINTON (United States) said the misleading substance of the Iraqistatement earlier warranted a right of reply. The current leadership in Iraqwas the only party responsible for the inadequacies in that country. It wasthe unwillingness of Iraqi leadership to follow Council mandates that resultedin thecurrent situation in the country. All available evidence showed thatthe Iraqi leadership had nothing but contempt for its own people. Clearly theGovernment of Iraq did not concur with assessments made by the Secretary-General and UNICEF and had ordered only a fraction of the critical foodsupplements needed by women and children.
He said the deliberate under-ordering and non-ordering of criticalfoodstuff by the Iraqi Government had resulted in the lack of caloricnutrients. Where the Government was responsible, mortality had increased. Where the United Nations was in charge, mortality had decreased. TheGovernment of Iraq had also refused to increase spending on necessarypharmaceutical items. It seemed determined to deny the Iraqi people thebenefits of a humanitarian programme while blaming everything on thesanctions. It was time for the Iraqi leadership to start putting the healthof its people before its own narrow interests.
Mr. HASAN (Iraq), also speaking in right of reply, said his country hadcooperated with the oil-for-food programme, but the programme could not endthe deteriorating humanitarian situation. The American Executive Director ofUNICEF had said that the sanctions imposed on Iraq had led to the death ofhalf a million children.
Why did the United States insist that the emperor was wearing thefanciest of clothes? he asked. Iraq said the emperor was naked. The emperorwas an arms trafficker and a bloodsucker. The Iraqi people stood by theirleader, Saddam Hussein, despite the siege by the United States and despitetheir hunger. Hunger could not make a great people kneel.