The Security Council today reiterated its strong condemnation of the recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict, as well as their killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence.
Issuing presidential statement S/PRST/2017/21 at its debate on children and armed conflict, the Council remained deeply concerned over the lack of progress on the ground where parties to conflict continued to violate with impunity the relevant provisions of applicable international law relating to the rights and protection of children. Furthermore, it expressed grave concern at the scale and severity of the violations committed against children in armed conflict in 2016, which included their use as human shields and suicide bombers. It also called upon all parties to armed conflict to allow and facilitate safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access to children.
By the text, the Council reiterated its deep concern about attacks, as well as threats, against schools and hospitals, and protected persons in relation to them and urged all parties to armed conflict to refrain from actions that impeded children’s access to education and health services. It expressed concern at the military use of schools, recognizing that such use may render schools legitimate targets of attack. The Council urged all parties to armed conflict to respect the civilian character of schools.
The Security Council stressed the primary role of Governments in providing protection and relief to all children affected by armed conflict, and reiterated that all actions undertaken by United Nations entities within the framework of the monitoring and reporting mechanism must be designed to support and supplement, as appropriate, the protection and rehabilitation roles of national Governments.
The Council recognized the vital role that local leaders and civil society networks could play in enhancing community-level protection and rehabilitation, including non-stigmatization, for children affected by armed conflict.
It noted that reference to a situation in the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict was not a legal determination, within the context of the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols thereto, and that reference to a non-State party did not affect its legal status.
The Council remained gravely concerned by the human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law committed by non-State armed groups, including those who committed acts of terrorism, including mass abductions, rape and sexual slavery, particularly targeting girls, and emphasized the importance of accountability for such abuses and violations.
Stressing the need to pay attention to the treatment of children allegedly associated with all non-State armed groups, the Council encouraged Member States to consider non-judicial measures as alternatives to prosecution and detention that focused on the rehabilitation and reintegration for children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups. It further recognized the importance of timely and reintegration and rehabilitation assistance to children affected by armed conflict, while ensuring that the specific needs of girls, as well as those with disabilities, were addressed.
Recognizing the crucial role of child protection advisers in United Nations peacekeeping operations and political missions, the Council called upon the Secretary-General to ensure that number and roles of such advisers are systematically assessed during the preparation and renewal of each United Nations peacekeeping operation and political mission. The Council also called for the continued implementation by United Nations peacekeeping operations of the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
Opening today’s debate, United Nations Secretary‑General António Guterres said that children around the world were suffering enormously and unacceptably in conflict, a source of global shame. Armed groups forced girls and boys to become suicide bombers. Children were stigmatized by having been recruited by armed groups, yet they were held criminally responsible for acts they were forced to commit. Parties to conflict often obstructed life‑saving assistance for children, he said, noting that 2016 had witnessed the most child casualties ever recorded by the United Nations in Afghanistan.
Despite that bleak picture, however, some progress had been possible, he said, but the scale and intensity of some crises required redoubling efforts and taking innovative approaches. The cross‑border elements of conflict were increasing, requiring the strengthening of engagement with regional and subregional actors. Additional legal and political commitments to protect children should also be encouraged, he added, appealing to Member States to provide resources.
He noted that, whereas armed groups and armed forces had released thousands of children in 2016, only half of them had been successfully reintegrated into their families and communities. More needed to be done to provide funding for programmes to offer education, job training, counselling and family reunification, he emphasized. “If we leave the next generation traumatized, seething with grievances, we betray those we serve and ourselves,” he stressed.
Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said there were more than 20,000 violations against children documented by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) alone during 2016. Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on children and armed conflict (document S/2017/821), she said 2017 had not been much better.
“What we have inflicted upon children in war zones in recent years will be our disgrace,” she continued. “We must take urgent action to address this use of children as expendable commodities by warring parties.” The announcement of new commitments to protect children was one source of hope, she said, highlighting the Paris Principles as an important initiative. Other positive steps included ratifications of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and endorsements of the Safe Schools Declaration.
She went on to say that the report showed there had been tangible progress in diverse situations when political will was applied. All efforts to protect children in the context of armed extremism must be carried out under international human rights law, she continued, stressing that, under the Paris Principles, all children allegedly associated with armed groups were primarily victims and must be treated as such. Their separation, demobilization and reintegration would be much more effective than mass detention, she said, appealing for adequate funding of reintegration programmes that had already helped 100,000 children re‑enter society. To improve response to violations, it would be necessary to prioritize accountability by strengthening justice systems, and ensuring that dedicated and adequately funded child‑protection capacities accompanied United Nations peace operations. She called for the inclusion of child‑protection provisions in ceasefires and peace agreements.
Mubin Shaikj of the non-governmental organization Child Soldiers Initiative described his own six‑year period of radicalization into extremism as a teenager following a trip into Taliban‑controlled areas of Afghanistan, but he had turned away from that malevolent way of thinking following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States.
“Around the world, non‑State armed groups, including violent extremists, are using children to sow violence, carry out attacks, build their ranks and prolong their beliefs and agenda into the future,” he said, adding that the recruitment of children was both systematic and intentional.
Whether the indoctrination of children was of a religious or radical nature — or carried out by urban street gangs, bandits or pirates — the challenge was the same, he stressed. They all robbed children of their innocence and left them to die. Calling for a holistic approach by Governments, security services, the United Nations, military forces, peacekeepers, corrections personnel and others, he said security sectors must be adequately trained to deal with the problem.
Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, penholder on children and armed conflict in the Council, called upon Member States that had not yet done so to sign the Paris Principles and the Safe Schools Declaration, saying that the international community must also ensure that its response to State and non‑State armed groups remained in accordance with international law. She also stressed the need to prioritize the effective reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces or armed groups. “These children should always be treated as victims,” she added. It was essential to guarantee children the right to education, particularly girls.
Welcoming progress made, among other things through the signing of action plans by parties to conflict, including non-State groups, regarding the protection of children in armed conflict, speakers urged Member States who had not done so to sign and ratify relevant international treaties. Most notably that included the Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Paris Principles and the Safe School Declaration.
While condemning all violations of the rights of children, including recruitment, the use of children as suicide bombers and other atrocities, many speakers stressed the importance of ending impunity for the perpetrators of those crimes. There should also be no impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations workers and peacekeepers. They urged for inclusion of child protection criteria in peacekeeping mandates and sanctions regime and advocated for sufficient funding and staffing of child protection advisers in United Nations peacekeeping and political missions.
Many speakers pointed out that children released from armed groups should be treated as victims, and not as a threat to security. Detention should be a last resort, they stressed. Sufficient funding should be made available for reintegration and education programmes for those children, as well as for unaccompanied displaced and refugee children. Condemning attacks on schools, they pointed out that military use of those places made them targets for attacks and endangered the lives of children.
Also speaking today were ministers, senior officials and representatives of France, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Italy, United States, Uruguay, Japan, Bolivia, Senegal, China, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Belgium, Peru, Germany, Brazil, Columbia, Canada (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict), Turkey, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Iran, Hungary, Iran, Hungary, Chile, Austria, Luxembourg, Norway, El Salvador, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Indonesia, Argentina, Netherlands, Afghanistan, Iraq, Switzerland, Ireland, Philippines, Mexico, Nigeria, Qatar, Estonia (also on behalf of Latvia and Lithuania), United Arab Republic, Georgia, Sudan, Morocco, Bangladesh, Israel, Panama, South Africa, Kuwait, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Pakistan, Portugal, Denmark (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Venezuela, Maldives, Paraguay, Greece, Andorra, Thailand, Botswana, Australia, Ecuador, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Yemen, Spain and Armenia.
The representatives of Ukraine and Israel took the floor for a second time.
The representatives of the European Union delegation and of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) also spoke, as did observers for the State of Palestine and the Holy See.
The meeting started at 10:05 a.m. and adjourned at 6:21 p.m.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, said children around the world were suffering enormously and unacceptably in conflict, a source of global shame. Armed groups forced girls and boys to become suicide bombers. Children were stigmatized by having been recruited by armed groups, yet they were held criminally responsible for acts they were forced to commit. Parties to conflict often obstructed life‑saving assistance for children, he said, noting that 2016 had witnessed the most child casualties ever recorded by the United Nations in Afghanistan. There had been a doubling of verified child‑recruitment cases of in Syria and Somalia, in addition to widespread sexual violence against children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and elsewhere, he said, adding that tens of millions of children were also uprooted by fighting.
Despite that bleak picture, however, some progress had been possible, he said. Changes in the reporting process had allowed for deeper engagement with parties to conflict, and the security forces of five Government security forces and four armed groups had put measures in place to better protect children during 2016. While there was progress, however, the scale and intensity of some crises required redoubling efforts and taking innovative approaches, he said. The cross‑border elements of conflict were increasing, requiring the strengthening of engagement with regional and subregional actors. Additional legal and political commitments to protect children should also be encouraged, he added, appealing to Member States to provide resources in support of initiatives.
He noted that, whereas armed groups and armed forces had released thousands of children in 2016, only half of them had been successfully reintegrated into their families and communities. More must be done to provide funding for programmes to offer education, job training, counselling and family reunification, he emphasized. A legal framework to protect children in armed conflict was in place, but accountability for crimes and violations of human rights and humanitarian law must be pursued. “If we leave the next generation traumatized, seething with grievances, we betray those we serve and ourselves,” he stressed. Calling upon all parties in conflict to work with the United Nations to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable and precious resource, he urged the Council to strongly support that effort in order to build long-term peace, stability and development.
VIRGINIA GAMBA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, pointed out that she had only assumed that position earlier in 2017, and said developments during her time so far had been extremely worrying, with more than 20,000 violations against children documented by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) alone during 2016.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on children and armed conflict (document S/2017/821), she said 2017 had not been much better. The number of children recruited and used by armed groups remained at “startling levels” in Somalia and South, and attacks on schools and hospitals had been conducted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Child casualties were common in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, and in recent months, armed groups and Governments continued to delay and deny them life-saving aid, she said. Sexual violence against boys and girls was widespread in conflict situations.
“What we have inflicted upon children in war zones in recent years will be our disgrace,” she continued. “We must take urgent action to address this use of children as expendable commodities by warring parties.” The announcement of new commitments to protect children was one source of hope, she said, highlighting the Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups (Paris Principles) as an important initiative. Other positive steps included ratifications of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and endorsements of the Safe Schools Declaration. “We need to work together to ensure that these political pledges make a practical difference for children on the ground,” she emphasized.
She went on to say that the report showed there had been tangible progress in diverse situations when political will was applied. In that regard, the Civilian Joint Task force in Nigeria had signed an action plan, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines as well as the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been delisted, children had been separated from armed cadres in Colombia, and measures had been put in place by the Saudi Arabia‑led coalition in Yemen. She said her office was helping to strengthen those measures and working with Yemeni and Sudanese authorities to reinforce other mechanisms, open new child‑protection units and provide additional training. Such examples of cooperation and political engagement should be seen as models, so that best practices could be rolled out in as many places as possible to better protect children, she emphasized.
All efforts to protect children in the context of armed extremism must be carried out under international human rights law, she continued, stressing that, under the Paris Principles, all children allegedly associated with armed groups were primarily victims and must be treated as such. Their separation, demobilization and reintegration would be much more effective than mass detention, she said, appealing for adequate funding of reintegration programmes that had already helped 100,000 children re‑enter society. “We must not further victimize children.” To improve response to violations, it would be necessary to prioritize accountability by strengthening justice systems, enhancing partnerships at all levels, ensuring that dedicated and adequately funded child‑protection capacities accompanied United Nations peace operations, and that peacemaking efforts were reinvigorated. In that regard, she called for the inclusion of child‑protection provisions in ceasefires and peace agreements.
MUBIN SHAIKH of the non-governmental organization Child Soldiers Initiative described his own six‑year period of radicalization into extremism as a teenager following a trip into Taliban‑controlled areas of Afghanistan. He said that his radicalization had resulted from “an ideology conflict, poisonous ideology from other teens and a search for meaning and belonging”, but he had turned away from that malevolent way of thinking following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States.
“I ended up studying Islam properly and went through a period of de‑radicalization,” he said, adding that he had then joined the Canadian Security Intelligence Service as an undercover operative. He had also become a member of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, exploring the ways in which children, teens and adults were exploited by extremists, including such groups as the Taliban, Al-Qaida, Al-Shabaab, Al‑Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Boko Haram.
“Around the world, non‑State armed groups, including violent extremists, are using children to sow violence, carry out attacks, build their ranks and prolong their beliefs and agenda into the future,” he said, adding that the recruitment of children was both systematic and intentional. The groups realized they could gain from children advantages they could not gain from adults since they were easier to forcibly or coercively recruit and indoctrinate, and they were often viewed with less suspicion by security forces. Describing the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers as a timely and useful document, he emphasized that “we must respond to this challenge preventatively”. Indeed, it was far better to ensure that children were never recruited in the first place than to address their disrupted childhood, trauma and indoctrination after the fact, he said.
Whether the indoctrination of children was of a religious or radical nature — or carried out by urban street gangs, bandits or pirates — the challenge was the same, he stressed. They were all robbing children of their innocence and leaving them to die. Calling for a holistic approach by Governments, security services, the United Nations, military forces, peacekeepers, corrections personnel and others, he said security sectors in particular must be adequately trained to deal with the problem. “As with all efforts to counter violent extremism, security sector actors must build mutual trust and respect with affected communities, preventing the marginalization and mistrust that can help fuel recruitment,” he said. A robust, holistic and collective approach “which puts children’s rights up front” would enable the international community to protect children from harm, prevent violence and create a more peaceful and equitable society.
The Council then issued presidential statement PRST/2017/21.
JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France and Council President for October, said there was need to move forward to the objective of a world in which children were not victims of armed conflict. The international community had denounced the recruitment of children by armed forces and groups for more than 20 years, he noted. France had promoted effective mechanisms to protect children in armed conflict, he said, recalling that 10 years ago, its capital had hosted a conference that had culminated in the adoption of the Paris Principles. Despite such progress, 230 million children were living under armed conflict, he said, emphasizing that non‑State armed groups and terrorists bore greatest responsibility for violations.
There was a need for prevention based on efforts undertaken to end violent extremism, and also need to raise awareness. There was also a need to protect schools. Close cooperation with UNICEF was necessary to ensure the reintegration of children recruited by armed groups, and the deployment of child protection advisers was essential. The action plans were also an important tool, he said, stressing that everything needed to be done to ensure that the return of children to their families was permanent. Underlining the indispensable necessity to fight impunity, he said that was the responsibility of States, but pressure musts be brought to bear on those recruiting children and those involved in sexual violence. The interests of children must prevail, he said, adding that respect for and the strengthening of their rights should be the basis of all commitments.
MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, recalled her visit last week to Afghanistan, noting that one in three civilian casualties of the conflict there was a child. Armed groups in that country continued to recruit children, who also remained at risk of sexual violence, she said. “We, the international community, have a responsibility”, she said, to “do all in our power to give all children the right to their childhood”. Whereas there was a unique consensus on the matter within the Council, Sweden had a long tradition of working to strengthen the protection of children, she said, emphasizing that the Council could do more to improve its efforts in that regard.
Calling upon Member States that had not yet done so to sign the Paris Principles and the Safe Schools Declaration, she said the international community must also ensure that its response to State and non‑State armed groups remained in accordance with international law. She also stressed the need to prioritize the effective reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces or armed groups. “These children should always be treated as victims,” she added. It was essential to guarantee children the right to education, particularly girls. As the penholder on children and armed conflict, Sweden welcomed today’s presidential statement, she said, adding that it strengthened the Council’s stance on many relevant issues.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, expressed deep concern at the information provided in the Secretary‑General’s report. The international community must redouble efforts to protect children in armed conflict, he said, noting that his country had supported international mechanisms including the Paris Principles and the Safe Schools Declaration. In his country itself, however, he said that 90 children were killed since the beginning of Russian aggression in the east with many more killed in the downing of the airliner and others maimed by mines. He regretted that that information did not make its way into the Secretary‑General’s report. Children displaced by the conflict numbered some 240,000 and there had been forced recruitment of young men and detention of others. His Government had been working hard to improve the situation of affected children, but in occupied areas in the east, many were deprived of education. He hoped that the situation would be included in future reports and pledged his country’s continued dedication to the issue.
TARIQ MAHMOOD AHMAD, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and United Nations at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, said that no effort should be spared to protect children. The report was alarming in that light. Children should not be imprisoned. He called for all armed groups who had not done so to put measures in place to protect children and prevent their recruitment, and for all who had put measures in place to fulfil their commitments. He enumerated his country’s support for education for children in conflict areas, along with other aid targeted to such children. Condemning sexual abuse by United Nations workers, whether they were peacekeepers or agency staff, he stressed that there must be no more impunity for such abuse. Acknowledging some progress in child protection as described by the report, he attributed some of the positive developments to the Special Representative’s office, pledging continued support to that office. He called for greater efforts to ensure that children will be protected and educated no matter where they lived.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said he looked forward to the compilation of best practices on child protection issues, as he was concerned at grave violations, particularly by terrorist groups in recruiting in asymmetric warfare. The use of children as suicide bombers was a serious matter, as was their forcible displacement. While welcoming the signing of action plans, he noted with concern issues associated with implementation, including reintegration of children. He said securing release of children and ensuring their disarmament and reintegration would require sustained support, in particular by child protection advisers. Parties to armed conflict should treat children who had been used by armed groups as victims. Internally displaced and refugee children were often unaccompanied and frequently victim of sexual abuse and exploitation and must be treated with care, including education and documentation. More needed to be done to enhance cooperation between the Council and regional and subregional organizations. His country had taken various measures to ensure protection of children in areas where Ethiopian troops were deployed, including mechanisms to ensure accountability of any violation committed by its troops.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) said some progress had been achieved, including the signing of 29 action plans, 18 with non‑State armed groups. There was a need to continue widest addition by States to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Paris Principles and the Safe Schools Declaration were initiatives that would make a difference. Child protection should be included in mandates of peacekeeping missions and child protection advisers should be fully funded and staffed. Peacekeeping personnel should get specific training on child protection. States needed to develop measures to ensure that recruitment of children was criminalized and perpetrators were brought to justice. Preventing and responding to child recruitment was not only a matter of concern of the Council but demanded action by all stakeholders, including non‑governmental organizations. “By serving the interest of children, we serve the best interest of humanity,” he said.
MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said violations and abuses of international law concerning children were rampant. Of particular concern was the abuse of children by terrorist groups. South Sudan remained a major cause of concern, as 17,000 children had been recruited by armed groups, the same number of peacekeepers there, she said. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, dozens of armed groups had recruited children and used rape as a weapon of war. To better help children victims, there was a need to demand that all parties to conflict fulfil all obligations under international law. When parties failed to comply with their obligations, they should be held accountable. Atrocities by the regime of Bashar al‑Assad, helped by the Russian Federation, were impossible to calculate and perpetrators of those atrocities should be held accountable. The United Nations should do more to focus on what happened to children after they were released, she stressed. Children released by armed groups needed medical and psychological support as well as food, she said, underlining the importance of maintaining the role of child protection officers in field missions. Progress should be noted, however, including the fact that Governments had signed action plans.
LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by Canada, said all States should put an end to impunity of perpetrators of crimes committed against children and highlighted in that regard the important role of International Criminal Court. He also drew attention to the sale of weapons to parties that had been identified as violators and urged for an end to those sales. He noted that there were still 43 States that had not raised the minimum age of enlistment in armed forces to 18 years. To defend the right to education was a key factor in post‑conflict situations. Training of staff in peacekeeping missions was also important, he said, and he expressed concern at staffing cuts in child protection efforts in peacekeeping mandates, particularly regarding information gathering. Children must be treated as victims when they had been recruited by armed groups and detention should be a last measure. He welcomed the recent signing of action plans by Mali and Sudan. He stressed the importance of the monitoring and reporting measures to gather information of serious violations against children.
KORO BESSHO (Japan), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, said that the key to improving the dire situation of children in conflict situations was the use of the monitoring and reporting mechanism. His country would continue to support the activities of the Special Representative in that regard and of child protection officers in the field. Japan had adopted the Paris Principles. Calling for support to affected States to be supported in reintegration of children formerly associated with armed groups, he noted that his country had been doing so in many situations, with employment training included for many. In general, he reiterated the importance of implementing agreed‑upon frameworks on the ground. No child should live in fear of attacks. Together with other partners in the international community, his country would continue its efforts to implement commitments to better the lives of children all over the world.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), acknowledging the serious effects on children in many conflict situations as described in the report, cited the crimes of Boko Haram as particularly striking, along with incarceration and loss of life among Palestinian minors. To better protect children, the root causes of conflict must be addressed. He condemned all abuses against children by armed groups, stressing that there were special protections for them in international law because of their vulnerability. He also called for all those who had not ratified international instruments to do so. In addition, he emphasized that tangible actions and rehabilitation programmes must be implemented. He cited the handling of children’s issues in the Colombian peace agreements as a model to be replicated in other areas.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal), welcoming the work being done by the United Nations to protect children in conflict situations, including actions by the Security Council, said that considerable progress had been made. It should not obscure the fact that violations against children continued, however, in many current situations. All actors must redouble their efforts to overcome major challenges, including recruitment by non-State armed groups. Member States, in addition, must abide by their commitments in the area. Senegal developed a national strategy regarding protection of children, reintegration of children associated with armed groups and civics education. Prevention of violations against children and ending impunity were important priorities. Arguing that better prevention must be based on a reliable early warning system in collaboration with regional partners, he pointed to the Cape Town Principles on protecting children in Africa.
WU HAITAO (China) said that the international community must take concrete measures to protect children, including zero tolerance for terrorism, fighting terrorist outreach online and working with effected countries, who had the primary responsibility to protect the children within their borders. While respecting those countries’ sovereignty, the United Nations should coordinate with such countries and regional partners to ensure they were protected, fed and educated. Agencies such as UNICEF, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Bank should also help address the root causes of children’s suffering. His country would continue to support efforts to shield children from suffering harm because of war.
EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) expressed concern about disrespect for international law in conflict, emphasizing that there could be no excuse for violations of children’s rights. The Russian Federation was providing humanitarian assistance in Syria, taking the needs of children into account, he said, adding that it had organized the rehabilitation of schools and hospitals, and that Russian doctors were providing medical assistance to children. Noting that those responsible for the situation of children in Syria preferred not to talk about it, he questioned the change in the format of the documents annexed to the Secretary‑General’s report, in particular, criteria used to determine who would undertake the protection of children and who would not. International humanitarian law contained standards on the protection of children in armed conflict and there was no need to change international norms, he said.
Emphasizing the importance of enhancing effective implementation, he said the Council’s efforts should focus on approaches approved by the United Nations. He underlined the integrity and independence of the Special Representative, as well as the need to ensure that the information contained in the report was reliable and without double standards. In response to the statement by Ukraine’s representative, he said what was happening in that country was openly discriminatory. For example, a law was being prepared that would bar education in the Russian language to children whose native tongue was Russian, he said, adding that Ukrainian forces had shelled schools, as reflected in reports by United Nations observers. Everything depended on whether peace could be restored, which could be done through the Minsk Agreement, he said, expressing hope that Ukraine would respect that agreement and implement it.
YERLIK ALI (Kazakhstan) encouraged all Member States to ratify and implement relevant international treaties, and to enact national legislation accordingly. The United Nations child‑protection capacity on the ground, as well as the capacity to monitor and report grave violations of their rights, must be preserved. There was also a need for child‑protection criteria in order to establish or renew sanctions committees. He urged Member States to treat children allegedly associated with non‑State armed groups primarily as victims and use detention as a last resort. There was a need for adequate resources to ensure children had safe access to education, health care, basic services and trauma counselling. Every effort must be made to prevent recruitment, large‑scale radicalization and widespread dissemination of terrorism ideology among young people, including by use of the Internet. It was also important to provide inter‑religious and inter-ethnic education with the goal of forging a national identity based on the shared human value of tolerance in a global civilization.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said a radical solution to support child victims of armed conflict had not yet been found. The Council had provided a legal framework, but it had not been implemented. He encouraged the Special Representatives to increase dialogue, especially with non-State groups. Emphasizing that Governments bore primary responsibility for protecting civilians, especially children, he said the Council and the General Assembly were the official institutions for drafting or amending the legal framework of the child‑protection mandate. Egypt called for addressing the six grave violations identified in the child-protection mandate equally, he said, adding that there was a need to address the root causes of conflicts, notably poverty and under-development. He called for an end to double standards, pointing out in that regard that the report did not list the ongoing suffering of Palestinian children in areas of Israeli occupation. Children had a right to education even in times of emergency, he said, underlining that basic education must also be provided to refugee and migrant children.
YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine), replying to the statement of the Russian Federation, said that that latter country was listed as an Occupying Power in Ukraine and was therefore not eligible to pronounce on the situation, at least as long as the country did not return Crimea and make other amends for the situation.
DIDIER REYNDERS (Belgium), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union delegation, deplored the continued suffering of children in armed conflict. Noting that his country had endorsed the Paris Principles and the Declaration on Safe Schools and hospitals, he said that prevention of recruitment began by keeping places of learning free of danger. Combatting extreme violence must begin with attacking its roots and be carried out with full respect of human rights. Underlining the importance of rehabilitating and reintegrating children who had been associated with armed groups, he described various activities co‑sponsored by his country. He asked that children’s protection be better pursued through peacekeeping mandates. He pledged his country’s long-term dedication to the issue through the Security Council, especially if elected as a non‑permanent member, and other forums.
GUSTAVO MEZA‑CUADRA (Peru), expressing grave concern at the situation described in the Secretary-General’s report, called on States that had not yet done so to endorse the Paris Principles as his country had done. The measures were being implemented with respect for the best actions to be taken for each child. Reintegration of children affected by conflict was a priority. As a future non‑permanent member of the Council, Peru would continue to ensure that children’s protections remained central in the organ’s work, along with other efforts to ensure human rights.
CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union delegation, expressed concern over what he called the unacceptable violations of children’s rights presented in the report. Extremism must be countered in full compliance with international law to effectively protect children. The signing and effective implementation of action plans with armed groups was an essential tool to achieve concrete progress. It was vital to continue to create frameworks and mechanisms to protect children, but their implementation was paramount. In that context, he urged all parties to end attacks on schools and hospitals and stop the military use of institutions of learning in accordance with international law. Germany intended to further pursue the matter of children in conflict if elected as a non-permanent member of the Council, and was pursuing efforts to strengthen regional networks in favour of children’s protection.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by Norway, said there was now a robust framework to open dialogue with parties to conflict. Nevertheless, children in armed conflict were deprived of the most fundamental human rights. He was particularly concerned at the impact of asymmetric attacks by non‑State groups on children. The full respect of international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law had to be the cornerstone of all efforts to address the problem. Dialogue with non‑State armed groups was necessary to address violations, as had happened in Colombia. Children exploited by armed groups should be recognized as victims. Detention for reasons of national security impacted thousands of children in armed conflict, he said, and it was outrageous that they were treated as threats to security. The obligations of States regarding refugees should not been given up in the context of security. Prevention of conflict remained the most ethical and effective approach in protecting civilians, including children.
MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) welcomed the fact that the results achieved by her country had been recognized. She assured the Special Representative that violations against children would not reoccur. The changing nature of armed conflict represented a challenge to child protection. Colombia was no stranger to the problem, she said. More than 20 years ago, it had put in place legislation to prohibit recruitment of those under the age of 18 in its armed forces. The peace process had placed child victims, included recruited children, at the heart of negotiations. There were 132 minors who had been separated from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) and placed under the protection of the State. A National Reintegration Council had been established which undertook reintegration of children separated from the FARC. Columbia was focused on ending child recruitment and offering released children other life options, including through education.
MARC-ANDRÉ BLANCHARD (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed conflict, said that he remained deeply concerned about the rise of armed groups employing extreme violence and their recruitment and use of children, including the use of children as suicide bombers. Violent extremism posed unique child protection challenges. It should be remembered that children associated with armed groups should be considered as victims first and afforded relevant protections under international humanitarian law. They should be detained only as a last resort and for the shortest period necessary in full respect of international humanitarian law and applicable international human rights law.
He also welcomed the vital role played by peacekeepers in promoting child protections and welcomed the release of the new Department of Peacekeeping Operations‑Department of Field Services‑Department of Public Information Child Protection Policy to support those efforts. Troop- and police‑contributing countries should undertake concrete steps to prioritize and further operationalize child protection within peacekeeping in terms of the training and doctrine of their national forces. Adequate resources were also needed to deliver mission success. He was concerned that extensive cuts to the staffing and budgets of child protection adviser positions, as well as consolidation efforts, would undermine the Organization’s ability to deliver on the critical child protection mandates put forth by the Security Council.
Speaking in his national capacity, he said that Canada had developed a national doctrine on addressing child soldiers, the first of its kind worldwide. Canadian Armed Forces Joint Doctrine Note 2017-01 provided strategic guidance to the country’s forces regarding potential encounters and engagement with child soldiers. It also provided commanders with baseline guidance through which to develop their predeployment training, and operational and mission‑specific considerations.
FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), shared the concern of the report on the scale and severity of violations against children in conflict, noting the increasing involvement of non‑State actors in such violations, among whom he named ISIL, Boko Haram and PKK/PYD [Kurdish Workers Party/Democratic Union Party], whom he said continued to recruit boys and girls under the age of 15 to carry out terrorist attacks. The international community must display joint and robust political determination as well as concerted action in addressing the situation. In that context, Turkey continued to support the well-being of children in vulnerable situations, hosting some 3.3 million displaced by conflict and exerting every effort to meet the education needs of the approximately 835,000 school‑age Syrian children in the country. He realized its efforts were not meeting all needs; new schools and teachers were urgently needed. He called once again on the international community to act in conformity with the principle of responsibility and burden-sharing in that regard.
GEORG SPARBER (Liechtenstein), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Children in Armed Conflict, said the erosion of respect for international humanitarian law being seen today had an impact on children. Voicing support for the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General, as well as for the monitoring mechanism established by Council resolution 1612 (2005) to document grave violations, he said that in the last six months alone more than 500 schools had been attacked worldwide. Pointing to disturbing related trends, including the use of air strikes against schools and the use of schools for military purposes, he strongly condemned such actions and urged all parties to conflict to respect the principle of distinction and other basic rules of international humanitarian law. Where they were violated, accountability must be ensured, he said, also endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration and calling on Member States — especially members of the Council — to follow suit. In addition, he called on States to prosecute those who had been associated with child recruitment and violence against children to end the impunity gap that persisted in many conflict and post-conflict societies.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflicts and the group of countries endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, called on Member States to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He went on to recall the “eerie testimony” of Joy Bishara, who was one of the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok, Nigeria, observing that the main purpose of attacks on schools was to spread fear of receiving an education, because education and knowledge were the cornerstones of progress. On the other hand, lack of education increased the risk of radicalization and the recruitment of children. “Their place is not on the battlefield, their tools are not bombs and firearms, they should be at their school‑desks, with a pen and a book in their hands,” he emphasized. He called for holding accountable recruiters, kidnappers, sexual offenders and all other perpetrators for crimes against children in a court of law.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, said that more than 2,000 Palestinian children had been killed since 2000 by Israeli occupying forces and settlers. In 2016 alone, 35 Palestinian children were killed and 887 were injured. Palestinian children, including in East Jerusalem, were subject to mass arbitrary arrest and detention, house arrest, ill‑treatment, sexual abuse, and torture. The international community must demand the immediate and permanent release of all children from Israeli captivity. “There can be no justification for detention and abuse of children,” he stressed. Deliberate attacks on schools and closures of educational institutions, as well as restrictions on humanitarian access continued unabated. Palestine reiterated that all those well‑documented Israeli crimes called for the inclusion of Israel and its settlers on the list of parties that commit grave violations affecting children in situations of conflict. The absence of such inclusion deeply affected the credibility of the list, and made it vulnerable to criticism of politicization. He urged the international community to uphold its responsibility and enforce international law to bring Israel’s violations and occupation to an end.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said that the defeat of ISIL (Da’esh) in Syria and Iraq was essential, noting the need to “never forget the inhumane tactic employed by such extremist groups”. Other terror groups such as Boko Haram and Al‑Shabaab ravaged other parts of the world, terrorizing children. The targeting of the children of religious and ethnic minority groups, including in Myanmar, was a matter of grave concern. Meanwhile, live ammunition was frequently used by Israeli forces leading to the killing of 30 Palestinian children in 2017 alone. The Israeli regime continued to commit thousands of atrocities against Palestinian civilians, including children, who resist the occupation. “Today, it is only in Palestine that resistance against foreign occupation is called terrorism,” he added. He urged the world to not forget that 540 Palestinian children were killed in Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2014. Israeli denial of humanitarian access to the entire occupied Palestinian people endangered the survival and the well‑being of the latter’s children. According to the Secretary‑General’s report, the killing and maiming of children remained the most prevalent in Yemen, where 502 children had been killed in the conflict. Most of the responsibility for that fell on the Saudi led coalition.
KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), associating herself with the Group of Friends of Children in Armed Conflict as well as the statement to be delivered by the European Union delegation, said her country was a party to both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol. It had also endorsed the Paris Principles and commitments, she said, strongly condemning the abduction, recruitment, use, abuse, enslavement and trafficking of children, as well as the indiscriminate and targeted attacks by non-State armed groups on civilian infrastructure. Compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law as well as relevant Council resolutions, was critical, she said, stressing: “We should put children first.” Their interests should be taken into account in all counter-terrorism efforts, as well as peace and ceasefire agreements, and they must be treated primarily as victims. She also called for long‑term assistance in the reintegration of children into societies, awareness raising efforts on the criminality of recruiting children, and initiatives aimed at combating the stigma faced by children previously involved in conflict.
BELEN SAPAG MUÑOZ DE LA PEÑA (Chile), associating herself with the Group of Friends of Children in Armed Conflict as well as the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Human Security Network, called on all parties, Council members and United Nations Member States to adopt measures to prevent violations against children, while respecting humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law. Noting that those principles were at the heart of the Secretary‑General’s emphasis on prevention, she also voiced support for the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers, and urged other countries to do the same. Also critical was the need to end impunity and punish the perpetrators of heinous crimes committed against children. Noting that the amendment to the Secretary‑General’s report divided into two sections the parties that had put in place measures to improve the protection of children and those that had not, she said the results of the application of such measures should be evaluated in the next report, while ensuring transparency and the equal treatment of all perpetrators.
CHARLES WHITELEY, of the European Union delegation, said his bloc was deeply concerned by the use of schools for military purposes. Such actions placed students and teachers in danger by turning those institutions into a target, hindered access to education, damaged school infrastructure and interrupted classes. Education was key in preventing recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups, offering safe spaces for children displaced by conflicts. Stressing the importance of protecting the right to education and providing safe, inclusive and quality classes in conflict, he said the Union had contributed 6 per cent of its 2017 humanitarian budget to education in emergencies, up from 1 per cent in 2015.
Girls’ right to education was particularly affected in times of conflict, he said, as their schools were often directly targeted by attacks. Even when schools operating in situations of armed conflict had high rates of girls’ enrolment in peacetime, some parents prevented girls from attending school due to insecurity or use of the facilities by armed actors. Girls were also recruited and used by armed forces and groups, with some estimates indicating that as many as 40 per cent of children associated with armed forces or groups were female. Adding that the bloc strove to ensure that obstacles to girls’ education in emergencies were considered, he said girls should no longer constitute the invisible side of reintegration programmes for children released from armed forces and groups.
PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria), associating himself with the European Union delegation, the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict and the Human Security Network, said it was vital to further encourage both State and non‑State actors to implement as well as conclude new action plans. Children allegedly associated with non‑State armed groups were too often perceived as a security threat, rather as victims of grave violations. Austria supported the global study on children deprived of liberty and its aim to raise awareness for children in detention around the world. She urged States to sign and comply with the Paris Commitments and the Paris Principles and to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. It was also essential to improve training of peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel to deal comprehensively with situations involving children.
CHRISTIAN BRAUN (Luxembourg), associating himself with the European Union delegation and the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict as well as the statement to be delivered on behalf of those countries endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, recalled that recent years had seen success in freeing tens of thousands of children recruited by armed groups. Nevertheless, such grave violations persisted, and there were increasing incidences of child maiming, murder, and their use as human shields or bombs. “We are counting on all parties” to put in place child protection measures, align themselves with the Paris Principles and adopt the Safe Schools Declaration, he stressed, adding that recruited children must be treated as victims and allowed to realize their human rights. The needs of children must also be reflected in all peace and ceasefire agreements, and child protection advisers must be provided with adequate resources and allowed to function in an independent manner. Luxembourg supported the joint UNICEF‑United Nations University research project aimed at developing tools to better guide the actions of Organization staff on the ground as they sought to remove children from violent extremists.
TORE HATTREM (Norway), speaking on behalf of the 35 endorsing States of the Safe Schools Declaration, said that statement represented an intergovernmental political commitment to support the protection and continuation of education in armed conflicts. Stressing that education was a human right and precondition for development, he said continued access to it also helped protect children from the impacts of armed conflict. It ensured that no generation was lost and greatly aided a country’s ability to recover from conflict. Attacks on schools deprived girls and boys of learning opportunities, put them at risk of injury or death and increased the risk of recruitment, forced labour, sexual abuse or forced marriage.
The group was particularly concerned about attacks or threats of them on schools, teachers and students, which were occurring in too many countries, he said. Endorsing and implementing the Declaration was a positive step towards improving protection of children. Increasing support for it reflected a growing international consensus that preventing the military use of schools was essential to avoiding disruption to education. It included commitments to improve reporting and data of attacks on education facilities, provide assistance to victims of attacks and develop “conflict sensitive” approaches to education. States also committed to investigate allegations of violations to applicable law and prosecute perpetrators, where appropriate.
HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador) said that as a country which had emerged from armed conflict, El Salvador was a faithful defender of peace, democracy, and human rights. He reaffirmed the importance of protecting boys and girls in armed conflict in accordance with international law and various global standards on protecting children. El Salvador had achieved major progress in areas relating to the development of children, including in the sectors of health, education and protection. It had launched various campaigns to guarantee the rights of children. El Salvador also remained committed to the children that suffered from the conflict, recognizing that respect for and ensuring human rights were essential pillars to establish rule of law. It had made particular effort to investigate cases of disappeared persons and compensate the families of victims. El Salvador had also established the National Commission to Search for Children Who Disappeared during the Internal Armed Conflict. Until December 2016, the Commission had recorded 295 cases and had concluded investigations in more than a third of those cases. While the country had seen major achievements in terms of ensuring the children rights, it continued to seek solutions to current and emerging challenges.
ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), expressing concern that millions of children around the world fell victims to wars for which they bore no responsibility, noted that the Secretary‑General’s report had specifically condemned the Syrian Government for having committed heinous and horrific crimes against children. While the Government of Israel also committed such offenses — including the arbitrary detention and abuse of children, the destruction of their homes and forced evictions, as well as attacks against hospitals and health care centres — he noted with surprise that that Government had not been listed in the report. Regarding the war raging in Yemen following the attempted coup by Houthi rebels — which the Council had condemned in its resolution 2216 (2015) — he said the report confirmed the responsibility of the Houthis and their allies to end all violations against children. Those rebel militias had recruited thousands of children and used them as human shields, also using civilian infrastructure including schools to conceal weapons or as staging grounds for bombings.
Saudi forces respected all rules and principles of international humanitarian and human rights law, he said, adding that they had adopted clear rules of engagement respecting the rules of proportionality and distinction. Indeed, all operations by coalition forces in Yemen were being consistently reviewed and corrective measure adopted where necessary. Saudi Arabia had launched a project to reintegrate children previously been recruited by Houthi militias, he said, displaying a photo of children fighting alongside Houthi rebels as well as another one depicting formerly recruited children who were now in school thanks to the Saudi programme. Rejecting the report’s figures on child victims attributed to the coalition — which had in fact been provided by actors in rebel-dominated areas and had not been independently confirmed — he went on to say that the best way to protect children was to establish environments conducive to lasting peace, end conflicts and bring to an end all illegal occupations.
SWEN DORNIG, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), recalled that the organization had developed practical, field-oriented measures to address violence against children since the subject was first addressed at its 2012 Summit. Those included standing operating procedures which provided NATO troops with a more robust tool to monitor and report on the six grave violations against children whenever they were encountered in their operations. Noting that such information could then be shared with the United Nations and inform advocacy and activities to better protect children on the ground, he said NATO had also recently revised and expanded its pre-deployment training on children in armed conflict for its Resolute Support Mission personnel in Afghanistan. Additionally, it was currently revising its online training course to include recent child protection developments, with the support of the United Nations.
Noting that every third civilian casualty in Afghanistan was a child, and that sexual violence against children continued, he said the latter was particularly problematic in the case of the exploitation of boys through the “bacha bazi” practice. NATO had sought to integrate child protection into its operations in Afghanistan by establishing the position of a Senior Child Protection Advisor, developing a training course on human rights including children in armed conflict, establishing Child Protection Focal Points in its “Train Assist and Advice Commands” across the country, and continuing its close cooperation and partnership with the United Nations on issues related to child protection.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the fact that crimes against children in armed conflict remained rampant pointed to a wide gap between provisions already in place and their implementation. Calling for respect for international law and the Convention of the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, he also drew attention to the disturbing trends of increasing mistreatment of children by non‑State armed groups and increasing attacks on densely populated areas including urban centres, schools, hospitals and others. Council resolution 2286 (2016) on the obligation to respect and protect medical and humanitarian personnel, their equipment and means of transport in situations of armed conflict must be observed by all parties to conflicts, he stressed, noting that it was the duty of all parties to take concrete measures to safeguard the lives of children. Governments should treat children as victims rather than combatants and hand them over to civilian child protection actors to provide for their reintegration, he said, also expressing support for the establishment of “long‑term multi‑year mechanisms for the reintegration of recruited and used children”.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, the Human Security Network, and the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, stressed that stronger steps must be taken to address accountability and to end impunity for such violations. Accurate and timely reporting in that respect was crucial to ensuring that perpetrators could be held accountable. The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism was a key instrument of the United Nations child protection mandate. Children in armed conflict must be treated as victims, she said, stressing the need to address their entire well-being and to ensure their development. Psychological and physical support was needed to rehabilitate children. Social reintegration, training for preschool, school counsellors and the Mine Risk Education programme had proven essential in strengthening the development of children affected by conflict, she added.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that as one of the Pathfinder Countries in the global effort to protect children from violence, his country believed it was imperative to conduct a comprehensive approach to address the impact of armed conflict on children. “Ending violence against children cannot be done with silo and sporadic approaches,” he added. It required a comprehensive social, economic, and political approach within a long-term strategic plan. Condemning all abuses against children, he urged States engaged in armed conflict to stop violence against children and do everything to prevent their recruitment by armed groups. Children’s education and reintegration into society must happen simultaneously. Additionally, reintegration and education programmes must pay particular attention to children separated from their families as well as children with disabilities. Violence must end against civilians in armed conflict, particularly women and children, he underscored.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with the endorsing States of the Safe Schools Declaration, said that his country was focused on preventing, avoiding and ending grave violations of children in armed conflict. In that context, it was vital to place greater pressure on State and non‑State actors to uphold international law. Child protection must remain a priority in special and peacekeeping missions, he added, emphasizing the need to develop and strengthen capacity in monitoring violations of children’s rights. Expressing concern for the increasing number of attacks against schools and hospitals, he underscored that education was vital for the full development of human rights. Pledging full support for the Safe Schools Declaration, he said the agreement ensured the protection of education facilities. Full international cooperation was necessary to respond to attacks on schools in accordance with international law.
LISE H.J. GREGOIRE-VAN-HAAREN (Netherlands) said the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General on Children and Armed Conflict was key to efforts in assisting children caught up in conflict. The monitoring and reporting mechanism was a powerful instrument for positive change. If curtailed, by political influence or a shortage of resources, that instrument risked losing its current value. The reports discussed today were highly dependent on direct presence in the field, as peacekeepers, child protection advisers and civilian personnel made a critical difference on the ground. Ending the plight of children in armed conflict in Yemen, Syria or South Sudan — and all too many other countries — began with establishing the facts and identifying perpetrators. Ending the plight of children in armed conflict was impossible if impunity was accepted.
MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) said children suffered tremendously due to war, violence and armed conflict, both worldwide and in his own country, where conflict had been imposed for more than four decades. Noting that he had just learned of another terrorist attack in Kabul, he said child protection could best be ensured by addressing the root causes of conflict, and called on the Council to play its fundamental role in maintaining international peace and security including by effectively addressing the needs of children in Afghanistan and conflict situations worldwide. Describing Afghanistan’s efforts to build on its positive relationship with the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General, he outlined several national child protection efforts, including policies to prevent their recruitment. In 2011, for example, it had adopted a national action plan to end the recruitment of children, establishing 21 child protection units around the country.
Additionally, he said, Afghanistan had ratified a law preventing underage recruitment in November 2014, and its National Defence and Security Forces had enacted a 15‑point roadmap to comply with its relevant international obligations. Among other similar initiatives, he drew attention to the adoption of guidelines to prevent and respond to instances of child recruitment, adding that since the implementation of those reforms 35 children had been reunited with their families and more than 200 instances of child recruitment had been prevented around the country. In addition, the country’s Independent Commission on Human Rights was investigating relevant allegations, and laws had been adopted criminalizing various forms of child mistreatment including the practice known as “bacha bazi”.
MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), noting that the Secretary-General’s report had been drafted following broad-based consultations both at Headquarters and on the ground, expressed concern that none of his country’s input — with the exception of some trivial details — had been included. Iraq had provided responses to all questions posed to it, shedding light on a great deal of information, he said. While the report had acknowledged that ISIL/Da’esh was the primary driver of child recruitment, and that its violations were not solely perpetrated in Iraq but in Syria, Yemen and other nations, the report had nevertheless dealt with Da’esh as a party to conflict, failing to call it what it was — namely, a “terrorist” and “extremist” organization. In addition, the report failed to mention the dangerous phenomenon of child victims born as a result of rape committed by such groups.
Noting that the report had cited the recruitment of 57 children by the Popular Mobilization Forces, he expressed concern that the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General had so far been unable to provide his Government with a single name of one of those children, which would have allowed it to investigate those allegations. Iraq was a party to the Optional Protocol relating to children in armed conflict of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and it had adopted several measures — alongside such partners as the United Kingdom — aimed at the compilation of evidence to prosecute crimes committed against civilians, including children. Calling on the United Nations to be “professional and specific” regarding the information provided in the Secretary‑General’s report, he said vague information about his country, gathered from “suspect” sources, constituted a serious burden for a country actively engaged in a fight against extremist groups.
OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said that the international community did not know enough about children’s trajectories into and out of non‑State armed groups in contemporary conflicts. For that reason, Switzerland along with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, UNICEF and Luxembourg had lent its support to a research initiative aimed at producing programmatic guidance to prevent the recruitment and use of children by armed groups. He called on Member States involved in countering violent extremism to carry out their measures in full compliance with international law, namely that their rules of engagement must include all necessary prevention and protective measures. Children arrested and detained on security-related charges in counter‑terrorism operations must be treated as victims of grave violations rather than as security threats and perpetrators. He also added that despite United Nations restructuring, ensuring adequate resources for children protection within peacekeeping and political missions must remain a priority.
KATHERINE ZAPPONE, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs of Ireland, associating herself with the European Union delegation, said her country’s humanitarian assistance policy recognized that children were often disproportionately affected by conflict. Through its child and family agency Tusla, it was assisting young people who had fled conflict in Africa and Asia to restart their lives in Ireland. As the current chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, her country would embed the women, peace and security agenda across the Commission’s work. She emphasized the crucial role of civil society in supporting vulnerable and at‑risk children, and Ireland’s support for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in locating children separated from their families amidst conflict. “Put simply, too often, children bear the brunt of adult conflicts,” she said, adding that Ireland knew only too well the consequences that could flow from not always protecting, valuing and listening to children. Given its mandate, the Council had a responsibility to ensure it was using its tools and mechanisms effectively to end violations against children, she said.
TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR (Philippines) noted the delisting of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front group from the 2016 report on children and armed conflict, as the organization had ceased its recruitment of children. A total of 1,869 children who were associated with that group’s armed wing were released from combat duty in early 2017, he stated. Despite pockets of conflict in the country, his Government continued to prioritize the welfare of children and discouraged insurgencies from using them as combatants. His Government declared schools as “zones of peace” and urged them to adhere to basic curriculum and pedagogy. Similarly, the Philippine armed forces in 2016 set procedures for monitoring, reporting and responding to violations committed by State and non-State actors. He welcomed the initiatives of the Special Representative on issues relating to children and armed conflict, but highlighted the brevity of time for States to provide comments and the lack of clarity and details which hampered validation of cases cited in reports. He expressed hope that nurturing well‑functioning relationships with the Office of the Special Representative would facilitate the issuance of timely, accurate and balanced reports.
Ms. JAQUES (Mexico) said that the best interests of the child must be protected by the United Nations and every one of its Member States and agencies. “It is painful that we have to recall this,” she emphasized, condemning any activity that undermined the rights of boys and girls. She called on all States to comply with the fundamental principles of international law, and recognize the particular vulnerability of children in armed conflict. She condemned all violence and sexual exploitation against children, including in peacekeeping operations. She called on the Security Council to ensure the protection of children and pledged support to the United Nations campaign “Children, not Soldiers”. The increased radicalization and recruitment of children by non‑State armed groups was a grave concern. Special attention must be paid to the root causes of violent extremism.
SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria) condemned the mass abductions of children by non‑State armed groups, including by Boko Haram and ISIL/Da’esh. He called for the immediate and unconditional release of abducted children and demanded that parties to armed conflicts cease unlawful attacks and threats of attacks. For its part, his country had launched a Safe Schools initiative aimed at providing safe and securing learning environments for children. The proliferation of non‑State armed groups, their operation methods and connection to transnational criminal networks had made it difficult to enforcing legal provisions. Noting that regional and subregional organizations played important roles in addressing the plight of children affected by armed conflict, he urged the United Nations and the African Union to strengthen their “win‑win” collaboration on that issue. On the subregional level, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had demonstrated its commitment through the adoption of the Accra Declaration on War‑Affected Children, however he encouraged enhanced domestic competencies and capabilities to respond to the needs and vulnerabilities of children in conflict situations. In response to acts committed by Boko Haram, his Government issued an advisory on their accountability for ongoing violations of domestic laws and international conventions. Nigeria remained committed to its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. In that context, Nigeria recently drafted a national policy on civilian protection and harm mitigation.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL‑THANI (Qatar) said children paid the highest price in armed conflict, adding that violent extremist groups “do not hesitate” to commit grave violations against them. For its part, Qatar was focusing on developing education programmes at the national and international levels. It had launched an initiative called “Education Above All” which had facilitated the delivery of high‑quality education to thousands of children. Qatar had also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations to enhance the potential of young people around the Arab world. That initiative aimed at protecting them from violent extremism. Violations afflicting children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Syria were gravely concerning, she said, stressing that children there paid the highest price. For its part, Qatar would continue to spare no effort to ensure that children grow up in a safe environment.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), also speaking on behalf of Latvia and Lithuania and associating himself with the European Union, noted that non‑State armed groups had committed nearly three times as many violations as Government forces in 2016. Welcoming positive developments outlined in the report, including those achieved through the “Children, not Soldiers” campaign, he nevertheless voiced regret that in some countries such as Syria and Somalia the recruitment of children had more than doubled. Joining the Secretary‑General in expressing concern over the impact of increasing disrespect for international law on children, he said Member States must uphold their obligations under international human rights law and humanitarian law.
Moreover, he urged States to redouble their pressure on non-State armed groups who recruited children and used them in their ever‑expanding activities across borders. As impunity was one of the main enablers of such violations, the Council should work to influence both State and non‑State actors in conflict zones to comply with international law, including through the better use of sanctions and referrals to the International Criminal Court of situations where States were unwilling or unable to bring perpetrators to justice domestically. Among other things, he also underscored the importance of treating children in armed conflict as victims, strengthening child protection programmes and ensuring education in times of crisis.
JAMAL JAMA AHMED ABDULLA AL MUSHARAKH (United Arab Emirates) said “it is our children that suffer the most from violence in our region”. He underscored that he was troubled by the suffering of children at the hands of non‑State actors who continued to be supported by rogue States. He also noted with concern that Palestinian children continued to be detained, maimed and killed. In Yemen, the United Arab Emirates was a member of a coalition to restore stability and protect children from the Houthis. He condemned the violations carried out by the Iran‑backed Houthi coup, which had caused civil casualties and mass internal displacements. Meanwhile, the coalition was taking specific measures to address child recruitment by the Houthis. The United Arab Emirates’ commitment to protect children was comprehensive, he added, noting that his country had established centres for women, displaced children and orphans. He also emphasized the need to address the use of forced marriage and forced pregnancies by armed groups to terrorize communities. Women and girls must be protected.
ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, urged Member States and humanitarian and development partners to work together to take concrete steps to alleviate the consequences of armed conflict. With the assistance of UNICEF and other partners, thousands of children had been released from captivity and reintegrated into their communities. Georgia had prioritized the protection of the rights of children by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols. The Government spared no effort to assist children affected by conflicts and forced displacement both in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. It aimed to guarantee adequate living conditions for them by extending welfare programmes, she said, expressing concern that the human rights of children continued to be violated on a daily basis in both occupied regions of Georgia. Moreover, in the academic year 2015‑2017, about 4,000 pupils were deprived of the right to be educated in the native Georgian language. Since last month, education in the native language was banned in schools in Akhalgori, Znauri, and Sinaguri, as part of the Russia Federation’s far‑reaching strategy aimed at eradicating Georgian identity.
OMER DAHAB FADL MOHAMED (Sudan), outlining his Government’s significant efforts to protect children in armed conflict in fulfilment of its regional and international commitments — especially the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols and the Paris Commitments and Principles — said it had established military child protection units and had long prohibited the recruitment of minors. The country had also enacted a 2010 Child Act and trained special prosecutors to address crimes against children, including one specifically dealing with those in Darfur. Among other things, Sudan had also signed a joint action plan with the United Nations to protect children in armed conflict, under which it had revised its rules for the delivery of assistance to conflict areas. Expressing hope that its implementation would lead to Sudan’s removal from the Secretary‑General’s report on children in armed conflict, he went on to call for the strengthening of action plans with non‑State actors and for efforts to compel them abandon their weapons and negotiate in a transparent manner. Finally, he commended the recent actions of the coalition in Yemen, aimed at improving precautions against civilian casualties.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco), noting the suffering of children in conflict zones as well as international efforts to rectify the situation, condemned in the strongest terms all violence against children and their abduction or recruitment by armed groups. Noting that his country had signed on early to the Optional Protocol and the Paris Principles, he expressed solidarity with Yemen and its quest to restore legitimacy after the Houthi attacks and relieve the situation of children there. His country, he stated would continue to work to bring about a peaceful solution. Children were being recruited by the Houthi and used as human shields, but that was not mentioned in the report, he regretted, adding that the humanitarian aid to children being provided by the coalition was not mentioned either.
GOLAM FARUK KHANDAKAR PRINCE (Bangladesh), said children were among the victims suffering the worst of the ongoing Rohingya crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Since 25 August, 607,000 people had entered Bangladesh, 60 per cent of which were children and 22,500 of whom had been registered as orphans to date. “These numbers are huge and are still growing,” he said, emphasizing that behind each statistic was a real child. All had been born in Myanmar and deserved protection from that State, he said, sharing the story of a 12‑year‑old girl from Rathedaung Township who had witnessed that country’s security forces surrounding her home and shooting into it. Among those injured had been her 7‑year‑old sister, who she had taken to the hillside and tried to protect, but who had nevertheless died from blood loss in a day’s time. Meanwhile, Government helicopters had attempted to shoot at them. “Should we allow this when we have so many commitments to protect our children from violence and armed conflict?” he asked, calling on the Council to take “bold and determined action” in that regard. More than two months into the Rohingya crisis, the Council must adopt a resolution sending a clear message against violence, impunity and violations of human rights, he stressed, adding that it must not treat the matter as an internal or bilateral issue.
AMIT HEUMANN (Israel), sharing stories and quotes from children living in conflict zones in Syria, Yemen and Nigeria, stressed that “the cries of war‑torn children transcend borders and boundaries”. Just last week, the world had witnessed horrific images of a Syrian baby suffering from malnutrition fighting to survive. Such pictures had once again demonstrated the cruelties of the Assad regime and its disposal of human life, he said. Israel knew such tragedies all too well, and understood what it meant to face enemies that systematically exploited children as weapons of war. “We live every day with the threat of the next terror attack,” he said, adding that the terrorist organization Hamas, which controlled the Gaza Strip, attempted “by every possible means” to harm the Israeli people. Its construction of a vast tunnel network was intended to kidnap and kill innocent Israeli children, he said, adding that Hamas also hid rockets in schools and hijacked hospitals while Palestinian incitement led to violence against Israeli civilians. Calling on the Council to send a message to the Palestinians that “enough is enough”, he added that the United Nations must address its institutionalized bias against Israel, as well as links between its fact‑finding working group and the terrorist‑affiliated group known as “DCI Palestine”.
LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, said that it was deeply concerning to learn of the attacks on schools and hospitals. Such attacks continued to prevent children from realizing their rights. It was also deeply worrying that children continued to be recruited by all parties to conflict and that they were increasingly being used as human bombs and shields. The Network was particularly concerned of the continued multiple and aggravated impact of armed conflict on girls. They faced unimaginable difficulties in conflict, including conflict‑related sexual violence. It was imperative to ensure and strengthen all efforts aimed at protecting the girl child, she stressed.
“No child chooses to become involved in armed conflict,” she said, adding that in the desperation to survive poverty a child becomes more vulnerable to being recruited into an armed group. Therefore, addressing the root causes was crucial to ensuring long‑term peace and the achievement of sustainable development. Children must have access to schools, she added. In that regard, child protection capacities on the ground were key, as was the monitoring and reporting mechanism of the United Nations child protection mandate. “The integrity, credibility, impartiality and objectivity of this mechanism cannot be overstated,” she said.
JERRY MATJILA (South Africa) said that his country had been at the forefront of the processes aimed at strengthening commitments to protect children in armed conflict. The Cape Town principles and best practices on the recruitment of children into armed forces and social reintegration of child soldiers in Africa was indicative of South Africa’s long‑standing support for the process. At the level of the African Union, its Peace and Security Council had held several open sessions on the theme of children and armed conflict. The African Union had also called for collective security efforts dealing with the scourges of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization in Africa. Regionally, South Africa was focused on contributing to youth development and on the role of young men and women in peacebuilding.
BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said the international community must respond to all issues affecting peace and security while respecting international humanitarian and human rights law. The situation of children in Palestine must be addressed, as they were suffering over decades under Israeli occupation. Israeli transgressions included the destruction of education and health facilities. The control of Palestinian mobility had led to an aggravation of human suffering that was affecting children. He called upon the Council to combat those violations and guarantee protection of the vulnerable Palestinian children. His country would host an international conference on the suffering the Palestinian child at the hands of the Israeli Defence Forces. Addressing the chemical attacks in Syria and the situation in Yemen and Myanmar, he said expressing rage was not enough.
ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica), associating himself with those countries supporting the Safe Schools Declaration and the Human Security Network, said all parties to armed conflict had a special obligation to the protection of children, as defined in humanitarian law and human rights law. States had the primary function to provide protection and assistance to children and should prevent their recruitment by non-State armed groups. Early warning systems were the most effective ways in that regard. It was unacceptable that parties to armed conflict interrupted vital services to civilians, he said, stressing that schools must be safe. There needed to be a unified strategy of monitoring and reporting of violations against the rights of children. Children recruited by armed group should be considered as victims, he said
KENNEDY MAYONG ONON (Malaysia) said reintegration strategies must take the special needs of girls into account as they were a target of rape and sexual abuse. Children recruited by armed group must be considered victims, which required an appropriate and community-based reintegration programme. Many parties listed in the annexes were non‑State armed groups. There could be no one‑size‑fits‑all approach to those groups and a tailored approach must be designed based on further analysis. Peace processes should include consultations with non‑State armed groups and have child protection integrated in all aspects of peace agreements.
NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan), noting the suffering of children due to armed conflict, acknowledged that international action had taken place to help them, but said that grave violations continued and must be stopped. For that to happen, impunity must be ended through increased judicial capacity for that purpose. In addition, root causes of conflict must be addressed and protracted conflicts ended politically. His country had been implementing its commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child through domestic legislation and other means. Supporting the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General, he argued however, that mentions of his country in the report were not within the purview of that document.
CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal), aligning herself with the European Union, reiterated support for the new approach and impartiality of the evidence‑based listing of perpetrators responsible for committing grave violations against children. He called the information in the report alarming, however. There had been significant progress in developing a normative framework and a mechanism to monitor, report and respond to grave violations of human rights, but immense challenges continued. The Security Council must address challenges that were emerging, including protracted conflicts, the prevalence of violent extremism and the proliferation of non‑State armed groups. As children in armed conflicts required special, ongoing protection, she supported well‑resourced provisions for such protection in all aspects of peacekeeping, along with screening to keep those who had committed violations out of United Nations service. Reintegration of all children affected by armed conflict, including those who had been recruited, was another important pursuit. Education must be protected as well. He called on all who had not done so to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and sign on to the Optional Protocol of the Convention as well as the Paris Principles.
IB PETERSEN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, reiterated their full support for the 2007 Paris commitments and principles while strongly condemning the recruitment and use of children by all parties to conflict. Stressing that all such children must be considered primarily as victims, he warned that, while ISIL/Da’esh was now losing its territory, the threat posed by the group’s ideology and propaganda remained. “We will be facing a new generation born in conflict or radicalized as part of it,” he said, calling on Member States to ensure that their rules of engagement in responding to violent extremism accounted for the fact that children could be living in areas under the control of armed groups or used on front lines following their abduction or recruitment. Urging the international community to take a long‑term perspective on the prevention of child recruitment — including by violent extremist groups — he emphasized that all international, national and local measures must always be in conformity with applicable international law including human rights law and rule of law principles.
Drawing attention to the establishment by Norway and Jordan of a “Group of Friends of Prevention of Violent Extremism” — which sought a balanced implementation of the four pillars of the United Nations Global Counter‑Terrorism Strategy — he underlined the need to strengthen efforts to provide quality education to children, including in times of conflict. Among other things, he also spotlighted the need to share best practices and increase cooperation among relevant stakeholders; work together with private entities and others to prevent the proliferation of online propaganda for recruitment by violent extremists; include child protection concerns in all efforts to end conflicts; and provide affected children with the attention they needed.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said the human rights of children were severely imperilled by non‑State armed groups and some State armed groups. Something was rotten in the globalized society, he said. The best strategy to prevent conflict was by addressing the root causes. Children grew up surrounded by violence and poverty. Foreign interventions in the Middle East and Africa had been the main causes of violence. He therefore demanded the cessation of all foreign interventions and the end of destabilizations of society for geopolitical or economic purposes. He said the response to terrorist threats often led to more violations of human rights. He drew attention to the situation of Palestinian children who were detained in an arbitrary way.
AHMED SAREER (Maldives) said that no child should fight a war, adding: “Anyone who recruits children to fight in conflicts should receive the harshest punishment under the law.” The Council must remain very objective in collecting and analysing information about conditions of children in armed conflicts. It must also firmly take action to bring an end to the “vile activity” of using children as soldiers and human shields. One way the Council could accelerate its efforts toward such an outcome was by cultivating values of respect for children. By working with UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Council could encourage national Governments to take strong action in promoting such values both at the individual and society level. In Maldives, actions to protect children were “guided by the belief that children have a God given right to be loved, cared for, and protected from violence.” The Government had undertaken several legislative measures as well as policy initiatives to strengthen the child protection system. In recent months, the Maldives had established a child protection database which allowed for the easy exchange of information. He also stressed the need to protect children from social media assaults and cyberviolence.
ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay), affirming that accession to children’s rights instruments should be universal, urged all delegations to sign onto the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Rome Statute, related provisions of the Geneva Conventions, the Paris Principles and the Safe School Declaration. Countries should also abide by all commitments of those instruments. His country had been working with children affected by the conflict in Colombia with music education as a vehicle. He said that protection of children’s rights required the expertise of all sectors, and that peacekeeping must include protection of children in mandates.
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece) called for all countries to focus on protecting children by ending weapons sales to groups violating their rights as well as bringing such perpetrators to justice. Greece aligned itself with countries that had signed onto the Safe Schools Declaration, calling on all others to do so in order to protect schools around the world, and the children who could flourish in them as they are the future.
ELISENDA VIVES BALMAÑA (Andorra), aligning herself with the Group of Friends of Children in Armed Conflict and the supporters of the Safe Schools Declaration, said that despite the grim picture, there was hope seen in the formation of frameworks and action plans. Her country, having acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, had lobbied for the Optional Protocol and had also signed onto the Safe Schools Declaration. Children should be protected in educational settings; all countries should sign onto the Declaration. She called for zero tolerance for sexual abuse of children in conflict and in peacekeeping settings. Prioritizing education and peace were critical. “The future of our world depends on our implementing these values”, she said.
VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), associating himself with the Human Security Network, noted that more than 4,000 violations of children’s rights in 2016 had been committed by Government forces. The best way to address that challenge was to ensure the universality and full and effective implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and all its Optional Protocols. At the same time, however, there had also been an alarming trend leading to over 11,500 verified violations by non‑State groups. Underscoring the need to address that problem in collaboration with concerned States, and to carefully account for the unique context of each conflict, he said actors including civil society, the media, academia and Governments should work together to keep pace with the evolving tactics of those groups. The international community must also continue to address the long‑term impacts on recruited children by formulating adequate plans for their reintegration and rehabilitation.
CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said the Secretary‑General’s report provided a harrowing account of the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and of the increasing number of children killed and maimed in armed conflict. Given the gravity of the matter, Botswana applauded the Council for adopting resolution 1612 (2005) on children and armed conflict, and commended it for establishing the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on child soldiers. He said his country fully supported initiatives to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and reaffirmed its support for the mandates of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, the Special Representative on Violence against Children, UNICEF’s “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign and the United Nations zero‑tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse. He went on to strongly condemn indiscriminate attacks on schools, homes and hospitals, expressing deep concern that such attacks had been on the increase, and emphasized the duty of everyone to secure the future of children and to spare them the agony of conflict.
DAVID YARDLEY (Australia) said that verified violations were only the “tip of the iceberg”, also stressing: “This inhumanity must stop.” He welcomed progress made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and the Philippines. The accurate and credible listing of perpetrators in the Secretary‑General’s annual report on children in armed conflict was crucial. Action plans to prevent child recruitment and use had made a significant impact. As most groups known to recruit children were non‑State armed actors, it was essential to continue efforts to ensure that they conclude action plans. Child Protection Advisors in peacekeeping missions played a key role in verifying, preventing and ending grave violations. Former child soldiers must be reintegrated back into society for sustainable peace to take hold. Working with communities, health workers, policymakers, schools and tertiary institutions would help support the reintegration of children formerly associated with armed groups. Children must be able to return successfully to civilian life and reach their full human potential.
HELENA YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), associating herself with the group of countries supporting the Safe Schools Declaration, said the situation for children was becoming ever more precarious. Children were often not given access to services and were recruited and sexually abused. It was important to protect children and teachers in armed conflict, she said, noting that schools were being used for military purposes. Her country was a territory of peace and according to its Constitution, girls and boys would be given priority in emergency situations. Those responsible for committing violations against children should not go unpunished. She urged that the Special Representative should be given the necessary support.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said terrorist groups in Syria, Libya and Somalia had continued attacks against children. Children were used as human shields and suicide bombers. As a member of a coalition for Yemen, his country had taken steps to put an end to terrorist groups who received assistance from foreign sources, including the supplying of weapons. His country wanted to protect civilians, including children, and uphold international humanitarian law. It was important to review the mechanisms used for their protection. The data used in that regard must be accurate and documented. Children in Yemen and Palestine were in danger, he said. His country continued to work with partners to protect children and to provide humanitarian assistance in cooperation with the United Nations.
YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan), noting his country’s accession to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol, said that the country strongly supported international efforts to protect children in conflict situations. Despite progress, much more needed to be done, given the increased brutality of warfare and continued suffering of children. He stated that the brutal killing of thousands of civilians, including children, had resulted from the continuing aggression by Armenia against his country, which encompassed a scorched earth policy of ethnic cleansing. His country continued to suffer from massive displacement, due to the brutality of the conflict. Many schools had been damaged. Enumerating children killed in his country in 2017 due to fighting, he said that protection of children must be accomplished comprehensively and without selectivity.
KHALED HUSSEIN MOHAMED ALYEMANY (Yemen) said his country had directed all security forces not to recruit children and had cooperated with the United Nations to end the problem and otherwise protect children. Unfortunately, Houthi and other groups had extensively recruited children. His country had also joined the Safe Schools Declaration. Given its extensive cooperation with the United Nations, he denounced the equating of the Government with the armed groups in the Secretary‑General’s report. The report relied too much on reports by non‑governmental organizations and hospitals controlled by the Houthi militias. His Government had already objected to the collection of information from such unreliable sources. He hoped that the efforts of his Government to protect children would be rewarded by the de-listing of the national armed forces and the coalition forces.
Ms. BASSOLS (Spain) said that protection of children was more than just an agenda item; it was a moral responsibility of everyone. The international community must be unyielding in that area. The listing process for grave violators of children’s rights was an important mechanism and its credibility must be ensured. Noting that Spain had signed on to all major international instruments on the topic, she described the country’s activities in support of those instruments. Spain was also working to support implementation of recent Security Council resolutions on the issue. Protection of children should be included in a cross‑cutting way in peacekeeping mandates, with appropriate training and resources provided. In addition, national judicial capacity must be built to combat impunity. All child victims must have care and reintegration programmes available to them. She pledged her country’s continued attention to the protection of children in armed conflict.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia), associating himself with the statement by Norway and the Safe Schools Declaration, called on others to join the Declaration. He strongly condemned violations of international humanitarian and human rights law particularly when they concerned the rights of children. In clear violation of humanitarian law, Azerbaijan had been placing military installations in civilian settlement and was using them as a launch pad for shelling along the line of contact with Nagorno‑Karabakh. The large‑scale military offensive of Azerbaijan against Nagorno‑Karabakh in April 2016 had caused gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and resulted in the loss of many lives, including children and women. Citing other examples, he said there had been deliberate attempts by Azerbaijan to derail the peace process through ceasefire violations and incursions across the border between the two countries, which continued to date. Establishing a mechanism to investigate ceasefire violations would help save the lives of civilians, including children.
The delegate of Israel, responding to the statement by the delegate of Saudi Arabia, said that country — which had been put on the black list as one of the worst violators of children’s rights and was responsible for the killing more over 600 children — had criticized Israel. He suggested that the delegate from Saudi Arabia could use his time better by developing a policy that would protect children subjected to cruel attacks in Yemen.
The full text of presidential statement PRST/2017/21 reads as follows:
“The Security Council welcomes the enhanced engagement of the Secretary‑General with parties outlined in the 16th report of the Secretary‑General (S/2017/821) on children and armed conflict.
“The Security Council takes note of the 16th report of the Secretary‑General (S/2017/821) on children and armed conflict and the recommendations contained therein and welcomes the positive developments referred to in the report and, reiterates its will to address the continuing challenges in the implementation of its resolutions and presidential statements on children and armed conflict reflected therein.
“The Security Council reiterates its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and, in this connection, its commitment to address the widespread impact of armed conflict on children.
“The Security Council remains convinced that the protection of children in armed conflict should be an important aspect of any comprehensive strategy to resolve conflict and sustain peace and stresses also the importance of adopting a broad strategy of conflict prevention, which addresses the root causes of armed conflict in a comprehensive manner in order to enhance the protection of children on a long‑term basis.
“The Security Council acknowledges that its resolutions, their implementation and the Statements of its President on children and armed conflict as well as the conclusions of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict have generated progress in preventing and responding to violations and abuses committed against children, in particular in the demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of thousands of children, the signing of action plans by parties to armed conflict and the delisting of parties to conflict from the Annexes to the Secretary‑General’s annual report.
“The Security Council reiterates further its strong condemnation of all violations of applicable international law involving the recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict as well as their re‑recruitment, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, abductions, attacks against schools and hospitals as well as denial of humanitarian access by parties to armed conflict and all other violations of international law, including international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law, committed against children in situations of armed conflict and demands that all relevant parties immediately put an end to such practices and take special measures to protect children.
“The Security Council remains however deeply concerned over the lack of progress on the ground in some situations of concern, where parties to conflict continue to violate with impunity the relevant provisions of applicable international law relating to the rights and protection of children in armed conflict.
“The Security Council expresses grave concern at the scale and severity of the violations and abuses committed against children in 2016, as documented in the report of the Secretary‑General (S/2017/821) on children and armed conflict, which included alarming levels of killing and maiming of children, recruitment and use of children, including by the use of children as human shields and the increasing use of children as suicide bombers, and, in certain situations, denial of humanitarian access to children.
“The Security Council expresses deep concern about the high number of children killed or maimed, including as a direct or indirect result of hostilities between parties to armed conflict and of incidents of indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations, including those involving aerial bombardment, as documented in the report and calls on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality.
“The Security Council urges parties to conflict to take all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population and civilian objects under their control against the effects of attacks in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law.
“The Security Council calls upon all parties to armed conflict to allow and facilitate safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access to children, respect the exclusively humanitarian nature and impartiality of humanitarian aid and respect the work of all United Nations humanitarian agencies and their humanitarian partners, without distinction.
“The Security Council recalls the importance of ensuring that children continue to have access to basic services during the conflict and post‑conflict periods, including, inter alia, education and health care.
“The Security Council reiterates its deep concern about attacks as well as threats of attacks in contravention of applicable international law against schools and/or hospitals, and protected persons in relation to them as well as the closure of schools and hospitals in situations of armed conflict as a result of attacks and threats of attacks and urges all parties to armed conflict to refrain from actions that impede children’s access to education and to health services.
“The Security Council expresses deep concern at the military use of schools in contravention of applicable international law, recognizing that such use may render schools legitimate targets of attack, thus endangering children’s and teachers’ safety as well as children’s education and in this regard:
(a) Urges all parties to armed conflict to respect the civilian character of schools in accordance with international humanitarian law;
(b) Encourages Member States to consider concrete measures to deter the use of schools by armed forces and armed non‑State groups in contravention of applicable international law;
(c) Urges Member States to ensure that attacks on schools in contravention of international humanitarian law are investigated and those responsible duly prosecuted;
(d) Calls upon United Nations country‑level task forces to enhance the monitoring and reporting on the military use of schools.
“The Security Council stresses the primary role of Governments in providing protection and relief to all children affected by armed conflict, and reiterates that all actions undertaken by United Nations entities within the framework of the monitoring and reporting mechanism must be designed to support and supplement, as appropriate, the protection and rehabilitation roles of national Governments.
“The Security Council recognizes the important roles that local leaders and civil society networks can play in enhancing community‑level protection and rehabilitation, including non-stigmatization, for children affected by armed conflict.
“The Security Council notes that reference to a situation in the report of the Secretary‑General on children and armed conflict is not a legal determination, within the context of the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols thereto, and that reference to a non‑State party does not affect its legal status.
“The Security Council emphasizes the responsibility of all States to put an end to impunity and to investigate and prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other egregious crimes including when perpetrated against children and takes notes in this regard of the contribution of the international criminal justice system, ad hoc and mixed tribunals as well as specialized chambers in national tribunals.
“The Security Council recalls that all parties to armed conflict must comply strictly with the obligations applicable to them under international law for the protection of children in armed conflict, including those contained in the Geneva Conventions of 12th August 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977 as well as in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of Children in armed conflict, and welcomes the steps taken by a number of Member States to make commitments to protect children affected by armed conflict, including through the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
“The Security Council takes note of on‑going international and regional initiatives on Children and Armed Conflict, including the international conference held in Paris in 2007 and the follow-up conference held in Paris in 2017.
“The Security Council remains gravely concerned by the human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law committed by all non‑State armed groups, including those who commit acts of terrorism, including mass abductions, rape and other forms of sexual violence such as sexual slavery, particularly targeting girls, which can cause displacement and affect access to education and healthcare services, and emphasizing the importance of accountability for such abuses and violations.
“The Security Council stresses the need to enhance efforts to prevent the recruitment and use of children by all non‑State armed groups, including those who commit acts of terrorism, and calls for Member States to exchange good practices to this effect.
“The Security Council remains gravely concerned also by the detrimental effects of the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons on children in armed conflict, in particular due to recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict, as well as their re-recruitment, killing and maiming, rape and other sexual violence, abductions, attacks on schools and hospitals in violation of international law.
“The Security Council stresses that the best interests of the child as well as the specific needs and vulnerabilities of children should be duly considered when planning and carrying out actions concerning children in situations of armed conflict.
“The Security Council stresses the need to pay particular attention to the treatment of children allegedly associated with all non‑State armed groups, including those who commit acts of terrorism, including through establishing standard operating procedures for the rapid handover of these children to relevant civilian child protection actors.
“The Security Council emphasizes that no child should be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily and calls on all parties to conflict to cease unlawful or arbitrary detention as well as torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment imposed on children during their detention, expresses grave concern at the use of detained children for information gathering purposes, and emphasizes that children who have been recruited in violation of applicable international law by armed forces and armed groups and are accused of having committed crimes during armed conflicts should be treated primarily as victims of violations of international law, and urges Member States to comply with applicable obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and encourages access for civilian child protection actors to children deprived of liberty for association with armed forces and armed groups.
“The Security Council encourages Member States to consider non‑judicial measures as alternatives to prosecution and detention that focus on the rehabilitation and reintegration for children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups taking into account that deprivation of liberty of children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, as well as to avoid wherever possible the use of pretrial detention for children, and calls on Member States to apply due process for all children detained for association with armed forces and armed groups is respected.
“The Security Council recognizes the importance of providing timely and appropriate reintegration and rehabilitation assistance to children affected by armed conflict, while ensuring that the specific needs of girls as well as children with disabilities are addressed, including access to health care, psychosocial support, and education programmes that contribute to the well‑being of children and to sustainable peace and security.
“The Security Council urges concerned Member States, when undertaking security sector reforms, to mainstream child protection, such as the inclusion of child protection in military training and standard operating procedures, including on the handover of children to relevant civilian child protection actors, the establishment of child protection units in national security forces, and the strengthening of effective age assessment mechanisms to prevent underage recruitment, while stressing in the latter regard the importance of ensuring universal birth registration, including late birth registration which should remain an exception.
“The Security Council underlines the importance of engaging armed forces and armed groups on child protection concerns during peace talks and in the peacebuilding process and calls upon Member States, United Nations entities, the Peacebuilding Commission, and other parties concerned to integrate that child protection provisions, including those relating to the release and reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces or armed groups into all peace negotiations, ceasefire and peace agreements, and in provisions for ceasefire monitoring.
“The Security Council further calls upon Member States, United Nations entities, including the Peacebuilding Commission and other parties concerned to ensure that post‑conflict recovery and reconstruction planning, programs and strategies prioritize issues concerning children affected by armed conflict.
“The Security Council recognizes the role of United Nations peacekeeping operations and political missions in the protection of children, particularly the crucial role of child protection advisers in mainstreaming child protection and leading monitoring, prevention and reporting efforts in missions, and in this regard reiterates its decision to continue the inclusion of specific provisions for the protection of children in the mandates of all relevant United Nations peacekeeping operations and political missions, encourages deployment of child protection advisers to such missions, and calls upon the Secretary‑General to ensure that the need for and the number and roles of such advisers are systematically assessed during the preparation and renewal of each United Nations peacekeeping operation and political mission, and that they are speedily recruited, timely deployed, and properly resourced where appointed, and encourages the United Nations Secretariat, including DPKO and DPA, to take into account child protection when briefing the Council on country‑specific situations.
“The Security Council calls for the continued implementation by United Nations peacekeeping operations of the Secretary‑General’s zero‑tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to ensure full compliance of their personnel with the United Nations code of conduct, reiterates its request to the Secretary‑General to continue to take all necessary action in this regard and to keep the Security Council informed, and urges troop- and police contributing countries to continue taking appropriate preventive action, such as mandatory pre-deployment child protection training including on sexual exploitation and abuse, and to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel.
“The Security Council welcomes the continued strengthening of the Monitoring and Reporting mechanism as requested by its resolutions 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009), 1998 (2011), 2143 (2014) and 2225 (2015) and commends the role of UNICEF and other UN entities at the field level in the collection of information on violations and abuses committed against children, in the preparation and implementation of action plans as well as in the implementation of the conclusions of its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. In this regard, the Council further encourages the Secretary‑General to ensure that adequate child protection expertise is available to the Resident Coordinator in situations listed in the annexes of the annual reports of the Secretary‑General on Children and Armed Conflict.
“The Security Council reiterates its request to the Secretary‑General to ensure that, in all his reports on country specific situations, the matter of children and armed conflict is included as a specific aspect of the report, and expresses its intention to give its full attention to the matter of Children and Armed Conflict, including the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions and of the recommendations of its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, when dealing with those situations on its agenda as well as to give specific attention to child protection issues when undertaking its relevant field visits.
“The Security Council recognizes the valuable contribution pertinent regional and subregional organizations and arrangements make for the protection of children affected by armed conflict. In this regard, the Security Council encourages the continued mainstreaming of child protection into the advocacy, policies, programmes and mission planning of these organizations and arrangements as well as training of personnel and inclusion of child protection staff in their peacekeeping and field operations and establishment, within their secretariats, of child protection mechanisms, including through the appointment of child protection focal points.
“The Security Council stresses the important role of the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Children and Armed Conflict in carrying out her mandate for the protection of children in situations of armed conflict, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, as well as the importance of her country visits in facilitating better coordination among United Nations partners at the field level, promoting collaboration between the United Nations and concerned Governments, enhancing dialogue with concerned Governments and parties to an armed conflict, including by negotiating action plans, securing commitments, advocating for appropriate response mechanisms and ensuring attention and follow‑up to the conclusions and recommendations of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.
“The Security Council encourages the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Children and Armed Conflict, together with relevant child protection actors, to carry out lessons learned initiatives in order to compile comprehensive best practices on the children and armed conflict mandate, including practical guidance on the integration of child protection issues in peace processes.
“The Security Council stresses the importance of regular and timely consideration of violations and abuses committed against children in armed conflict, in this regard welcomes the sustained activity of its Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and invites the Working Group to make full use of tools within its mandate to promote the protection of children affected by armed conflict, including through increasing engagement with concerned Member States, in light of ongoing discussions on enhancing compliance.
“The Security Council urges all parties concerned, including Member States, United Nations entities, as well as financial institutions to support, as appropriate, bearing in mind national ownership, the development and strengthening of the capacities of national institutions and local civil society networks for advocacy, protection and rehabilitation of children affected by armed conflict, including youth-led organizations, as well as national accountability mechanisms with timely, sustained and adequate resources and funding.
“The Security Council reiterates its determination to ensure respect for and the implementation of its resolutions and presidential statements on children and armed conflict to date, as well as respect for other international commitments and obligations for the protection of children affected by armed conflict.”