19 Sept 2012 – Open Debate Security Council Statement

Monsieur le Président, Excellences, mesdames et messieurs,

C’est un honneur pour moi de m’adresser au Conseil de sécurité pour la première fois en ma capacité de Représentante spéciale pour les enfants et les conflits armés. Soyez assurés que je mesure la responsabilité qui m’incombe et les défis qui nous attendent. A ce propos, je rends hommage à mon prédécesseur madame Radhika Coomaraswamy pour son travail exemplaire pendant ces six années et les progrès qui ont été accomplis sous son impulsion.

Je souhaiterais également remercier l’Allemagne pour l’organisation de ce débat public. Les efforts accomplis sous la présidence allemande du Groupe de travail dans les deux dernières années ont permis de maintenir un esprit collaboratif et ouvert. A ce titre, je salue l’engagement personnel et la détermination de l’Ambassadeur Wittig et de son équipe.

Mr. President,

You have before you the eleventh report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict. Since the last debate, there has been tremendous progress, more than we have seen in previous years. However, violations continue to be committed against children, the number of persistent perpetrators has increased, and many new challenges have arisen.

With regard to dialogue with parties to conflict, we have seen a number of positive developments. Indeed, eight years after the unanimous adoption of resolution 1539 by this Council, action plans have been generally accepted by listed State and non-State parties as a unique tool that can successfully lead to de-listing. In 2011 alone, two parties, the UCPN-Maoists in Nepal and the TMVP in Sri Lanka, were removed from the annexes after having successfully implemented all concrete time-bound activities spelled out in their action plans. This brings the total number of parties de-listed to nine. But this is not just about adding or removing a party from a list. This is about children, and first and foremost about releasing children. Since this framework has been put in place, tens of thousands of children have been separated from armed forces and groups and reintegrated into their communities. Indeed, actions plans are not only a process; they are a unique tool, mandated by this Council, to bring parties into compliance and to stop violations against children.

In 2011, action plans were signed in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic and Chad; and this year, in South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia, where the TFG signed in August the first action plan on killing and maiming of children. To date, 20 action plans have been completed or are in the process of being implemented. It is especially heartening to note that practically all Government forces listed for recruitment and use of children have now either signed an action plan or are negotiating one. I am also happy to report to the Council today that the action plan with the Government of theDemocratic Republic of the Congohas almost been finalized and is expected to be signed in the coming weeks. This action plan will include activities to end the recruitment and use of children by the DRC security forces and also, in accordance with Resolution 1882, measures to prevent and halt sexual violence against children.

Mr. President, Excellencies,

The continued mainstreaming of the children and armed conflict agenda into the United Nations is central to my Office’s work. We are currently supporting DPKO and DPA in their efforts to update the child protection policy for UN field missions. This effort is essential, and I would like to emphasize that maintaining sufficient and dedicated child protection capacities in peacekeeping and special political missions is key to the implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism, as well as to the successful conduct of dialogue with parties to conflict.

We also continue to work hand in hand with UNICEF to enhance child protection capacities in conflict-affected areas. Beyond our traditional colleagues, new partners are also joining our efforts, especially since the adoption of resolution 1998. My office is currently working with UNESCO and has approached WHO to enhance our monitoring of attacks against schools and hospitals. We are also increasing our links with ILO, especially in relation to economic reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces and groups. In addition, we continue to enhance our cooperation with partners on sexual violence against children to further our implementation of Resolution 1882. In this regard I look forward to working closely with Under Secretary-General Bachelet and Special Representative Bangura on sexual violence in conflict.

My office has also been working to develop and strengthen partnerships with regional political and military organizations, including the European Union, African Union and NATO. This has proven useful, in particular in the areas of training, awareness-raising and conduct of military operations. With this experience in mind, I will now look into working more closely with the Arab league, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and ASEAN.

Mr. President,

Though much positive progress has been achieved, our work is hardly accomplished.

In this year’s report, 52 armed forces and groups are listed in the annexes.  Forty-two of these are non-State armed groups and 10 are Government forces. At the request of this Council and as a follow-up to Resolution 1998 adopted last year, the Secretary-General listed for the first time five parties to conflict responsible for attacks on schools and hospitals.

Of the 52 parties listed, 32 persistent perpetrators have been listed for five years or more. The majority are non-State actors operating in situations where Governments may have the willingness but not always the capacities to take measures. This is where the Council can play a critical role. Mr. President, members of the Council, the cost of inaction has become too high.  It is time to show your determination to act.

In follow-up to Resolution 1998, my predecessor requested Ambassador de la Sablière, former French Permanent Representative to the United Nations, to prepare a comprehensive report on the way forward. The paper proposes a menu of options that could be considered by the Council against these persistent perpetrators. These include increased tailored political engagement of the Council, strengthened accountability measures and targeted measures if necessary. This could be done in an incremental manner, starting with those individuals in situations for which a sanctions committee is already in place. It would send a strong signal: that the resolutions of this Council are not only words on paper, and that vigorous action can be taken when they are not implemented.

Last year, we witnessed tremendous changes in the international environment. These created new opportunities, but also new challenges for the United Nations and for this agenda in particular. The situations inLibya,SyriaandMalifor example, pose new threats for children that this Council, along with my Office and its partners must address.

The situation for children inSyriais dire.  My staff and other United Nations colleagues have documented Government attacks on schools, children denied access to hospitals, girls and boys suffering and dying in bombardments of their neighbourhoods, and also being subject to torture, including sexual violence, sometimes for weeks.

Since the publication of this report, my Office has also gathered evidence on violations committed by non-State armed groups inSyria. We have received information concerning indiscriminate bomb attacks which have killed children inDamascusand other areas, and continue to document incidents committed by armed actors, such as the Free Syrian Army, who may have children associated with their forces.

I have met with the Syrian Permanent Representative with regard to our concerns. I have ensured the Ambassador that I am ready to establish an open dialogue with the Syrian authorities.  As a sign of good faith towards their moral and legal obligations in this regard, I have also asked the Ambassador to transmit my call to the Syrian Armed Forces to evacuate schools as a matter of utmost priority.

InLibya, the localized violence and continued presence of so-called armed brigades threaten the lives of children, long after the generalized violence of 2011 has come to an end.  It remains of concern that incidents of association of children with armed groups are still being reported. My Office has been in close contact with the Libyan mission inNew Yorkto strategize about how best to address the remaining threats to children in the Libyan context.

Since its inception in March 2012, the crisis inMalihas been characterized by grave violations against children. Hundreds of cases of recruitment and use of children by the MNLA, as well as by Ansar Dine and MUJAO, have been reported. Particularly alarming are recent reports of new training camps inNorthern Mali, run by armed groups. Sexual violence against children, especially by the MNLA, is also of great concern.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the resurgence of violence in the east has once again taken a heavy toll on children. The M23, an armed group established by former members of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), has been responsible for intensive child recruitment campaigns since April this year; reports of recruitment in Rwanda on behalf of the M23 have also been received. The M23 has killed, maimed and injured scores of children, and sexual violence against girls has been reported.  I am disturbed by the fact that the M23 perpetrators have a long history of violations against civilians, including children. The flagrant impunity in which they operate must be addressed once and for all. Measures must be taken to avoid political legitimacy to M23 elements responsible for human rights violations.

Furthermore, the conflict along the border ofSudanand South Sudan has put hundreds of children at risk, including children who are displaced from South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions ofSudan. In addition, I remain deeply concerned with the humanitarian situation concerning access for children in South Kordofan andBlue Nile.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen

Accountability is an integral element both to address and prevent violations against children. Though imperfect, the preventive aspect of accountability is real.  This should start with the criminalization of under-age recruitment and the domestication of international norms and standards prohibiting the recruitment and use of children. This must also be accompanied by domestic enforcement through national rule of law institutions. I would like to emphasize again that achieving accountability must be a common effort: while the primary responsibility lies with the Government, donor countries should support, and help to strengthen, national efforts by providing assistance to capacity-building.

The Lubanga and Taylor judgements have been a watershed in addressing violations against children in conflict in international and hybrid courts, and the possibility of appearing before the International Criminal Court has proven an effective deterrent for military commanders, as well as a useful leverage in action plan dialogue. Prosecutions for recruitment of children have also been undertaken inMyanmarandColombiawith positive effect.

However, the international community must give much greater support and attention to local and regional accountability mechanisms to strengthen the institutional capacity for the long term.  There is a need to further examine best practice in this regard and obtain institutional and financial support for these initiatives.  For only with local and regional “buy in” can we truly say that we have addressed these issues in a durable way.

Mr. President,

As you know, I served for four years as the Deputy Special Representative for the UN mission inCongo. I would like to share with you that children and their families have high expectations of the Council. Victims feel that you can and should alleviate their suffering. I have seen what the Council in action can do. It can change the fate of a child. Many challenges remain, but Governments and non state actors have begun to respond to your call for action. I believe that the protection of all children from grave violations is within our reach. If we stand firm and united, we can move forward and deliver on what is expected from us, that the international community comes together and demonstrates its determination to protect children from war. I would like to assure all of my partners including all Member States that I am willing to work closely to listen and to act together in this endeavour.

Thank you.