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Create Conditions for Resumed Talks, Special Coordinator Urges Security Council Ahead of Day-Long Debate on Middle East Peace Process

United States Decision to Cut Funds for Palestine Refugee Agency, Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital Draws Concern, Fear of Further Backsliding

Twenty-five years after the historic Oslo Accords, the United Nations had fallen into a pattern of managing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than resolving it, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today, underscoring the Organization’s responsibility to help the sides return to negotiations and quickly show results.

“Now is not the time to give up on Oslo,” said Nickolay Mladenov via video link from Jerusalem, but rather, to push for policies that rebuilt trust.  The lack of political will to resume negotiations had elicited a heavy price:  violence, settlement expansion, Palestinian political divide and the dire situation in Gaza under the control of Hamas.  “Taken together, these elements kill hope,” he said.

Absent a credible proposal to underpin final status negotiations, the international community must build the conditions for resumed talks, notably by bolstering consensus around the two-State solution.

However, the United States’ 6 December 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital had led to protests and low-level violence across the West Bank and Gaza, he said, while its greatly reduced $60 million pledge to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) had heightened anxieties for 5.3 million refugees.  Allowing the Palestinian national project to backslide risked destabilizing a precarious situation, he stressed, and the recent funding cuts to UNRWA only reinforced those concerns.

In the ensuing open debate, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said the world had borne witness to decisions made in 2017 that denigrated Palestinians’ rights and dismissed the global consensus prevailing for decades.  To the United States, he said:  “We reject this unilateral, provocative decision, which directly contravenes the Charter and United Nations resolutions on the matter.”  It was an understatement to say that Palestinians faced an existential crisis.  He appealed for collective action in following up on the explicit calls made in resolution 2334 (2016).

Israel’s delegate, in turn, said the real threat came from Iran, which allocated $1.5 billion to its proxies, including in Judea and Samaria.  More than $800 million was sent each year to Hizbullah alone, which was then used to terrorize Israel and southern Lebanon.  “These are hard facts that cannot be refuted,” he stressed.  Iran sought to destroy Israel, destabilize the region and threaten the world.  The Council must fully implement resolution 2231 (2015).

Iran’s delegate said “Iran-ophobia” had become a kind of obsession for the United States and Israeli regimes.  The United States’ provocative recognition of Al-Quds Al‑Sharif as the capital of the Israeli regime revealed its complicity in depriving Palestinians their right to an independent State.

Throughout the day, delegates likewise took issue with the United States decision, with the representative of the Russian Federation stressing that the emotional response reflected how delicate the question of Jerusalem truly was.  The solution lay in a prompt resumption of dialogue on all contentious issues.  Long-term and fair agreements that dovetailed with previous decisions of the international community were required, reflecting the interests of both sides.

Lebanon’s delegate, meanwhile, said Israel’s claim of exclusive control of Jerusalem, and the United States’ recognition of that city as Israel’s capital, buried any hope of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace.  Israel’s stated intention to build a wall along the Blue Line and in sensitive occupied areas could lead to conflict.

Jordan’s delegate said decisions about Jerusalem taken outside a comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue were unacceptable.  Jordan would continue to engage with the international community to reject any attempt to change Jerusalem’s historical status.  She called on States to fully support UNRWA, stressing that implementation of relevant Council resolutions was the only way to create the conditions for balance in the region.

Stressing the need for direct negotiations through both parties — rather than through unilateral resolutions of major donors of the peace process — the speaker from the League of Arab States said the United States decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital flouted all international agreements governing the Middle East peace process.

For her part, the representative of the United States said her country had done nothing to pre-judge the final borders of Jerusalem or alter the status of the holy sites.  Rather, it remained committed to the possibility of a two-State solution, if agreed to by both parties.  Recalling that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had recently declared the Oslo peace accord “dead”, she said such words were not those of someone willing to work towards peace.

On that point, Norway’s delegate said his country and the European Union would convene an extraordinary ministerial session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Brussels on 31 January.  That meeting would address measures that could help restart final status negotiations, and sought to assist the Palestinian Authority in reinstating control in Gaza, as outlined in the Cairo agreement of 12 October 2017.

Egypt’s delegate similarly advocated support for Egyptian efforts to foster Palestinian unity, which itself was one of the best means for building a strong, Palestinian society capable of being a partner for peace.

Also speaking today were representatives of China, Netherlands, Kuwait, Sweden, France, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Poland, United Kingdom, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Peru, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Liechtenstein, Cuba, Pakistan, Indonesia, Japan, Venezuela, Botswana, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Estonia, Argentina, Syria, Brazil, Morocco, Turkey, United Arab Emirates (on behalf of the Arab Group), Iraq, Iceland, Qatar, Bangladesh, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Malaysia, as well as the European Union and the Holy See. 

A representative of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People made a statement, as well.

The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 4:28 p.m.

Briefing

NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said “we have all fallen into the paradigm of managing, rather than resolving the conflict”.  There were those who believed it could be solved through peaceful bilateral negotiations, addressing final status issues and the status of Jerusalem on the basis of prior agreements and United Nations resolutions, and that there must be two States, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition.

He said others believed in making unilateral moves that could only lead to a one-State reality.  Still others believed in violence.  They did not recognize that Palestinians and Israelis both had legitimate national, historic and religious connection to the land.  The international community had a duty to prove that they were wrong — and to work with both sides to return to the negotiation table.

As this year would mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Oslo Accords, he said:  “now is not the time to give up on Oslo”, but rather, to push for policies that rebuilt trust, engage on final status issues on the basis of international consensus, and show political leadership to remove obstacles to a sustainable solution.  The lack of political will to restore confidence and resume negotiations had been there for years.  Peace efforts had floundered.  The paralysis had elicited a heavy price:  violence; expanding settlement activity; a Palestinian political divide; and a deteriorating situation in Gaza under the control of Hamas.  “Taken together, these elements kill hope,” he said.  “We either take urgent concrete steps to reverse this perilous course or risk another conflict”.

Expressing deep concern about funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) this year, he said the United States’ $60 million pledge was a significant reduction of its traditional contribution, increasing anxieties for the 5.3 million Palestinian refugees supported by UNRWA.

He said protests and a low level of violence across the West Bank and Gaza continued to follow the United States recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  Since 18 December 2017, seven Palestinian civilians had been killed by Israeli security forces during protests.  On 9 January, an Israeli civilian was shot dead in a drive-by shooting near Nabulus, and on 18 January in Jenin, one Palestinian was killed during an Israeli military raid, reportedly seeking perpetrators of the 9 January attack.  During the reporting period, Palestinian militants had fired eight rockets and mortars from Gaza, with three falling inside Israel, he said, and Israeli Defense Forces targeting Hamas military sites in Gaza, and destroying a tunnel from that area into Israel and Egypt under the Kerem Shalom crossing. 

Turning to settlements, he said that, on 10 January, Israeli planning authorities advanced plans for more than 1,400 housing units in Area C, while one plan for nine units in Psagot had been approved for construction.  Four tenders were published for 500 units that had been processed in 2017.  Further, on 31 December 2017, the Central Committee of the Likud party passed a resolution calling for “unhindered” settlement-building and to “extend Israeli law and sovereignty in all areas of liberated settlement in Judea and Samaria”.  Days later, the Knesset passed an amendment to the “Basic Law: Jerusalem”, which would likely make any peace agreement difficult for Israeli to transfer control over areas currently within the area it defined as Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction to Palestinian authority.  Sixteen Palestinian structures had been demolished due to the lack of building permits that were nearly impossible to obtain, while four other structures were destroyed during a military operation in Jenin.

On the Palestinian political front, he said the Palestinian Central Council, having met in Ramallah on 14 and 15 January, rejected the United States as a partner until it cancelled its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and rescinded the designation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as a terrorist group and closure of the PLO office in Washington, D.C.  It also declared that the Oslo process was no longer valid, and tasked its Executive Committee to suspend recognition of Israel until it recognized the State of Palestine and annulled its annexation of East Jerusalem.

In Gaza, he said implementation of the Egyptian-brokered intra-Palestinian agreement had ground to a halt over issues of tax collection, payment of salaries to public sector employees, the return of Government administration to ministries, and security control.  Norway and the European Union would convene an extraordinary session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee on 31 January to discuss ways to accelerate efforts towards a two-State solution, and enable the Palestinian Authority to resume full control over Gaza.  In Lebanon, efforts continued to consolidate stability following the return of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and the situation of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) area of operations was generally quiet, he added.

“We are at a critical point in the peace process,” he said, with the current volatility hardening positions, which played into the hands of extremists.  The international community must build conditions for resumed talks.  It was vital to support strengthening Palestinian institutions and enhancing service delivery in the West Bank and Gaza.  “We can wait no longer to reverse the negative trajectory of this conflict”, he said.  Every illegal settlement, every person killed and every failed effort in Gaza made it more difficult to overcome divisions.  It was time to break that destructive pattern.

Statements

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, said that 2017 ended on a disheartening note as the world bore witness to decisions denigrating the Palestinian people’s rights and national aspirations, dismissing the global consensus that had prevailed for decades.  Nevertheless, he found solace and hope in the resounding rejection of such decisions and the unequivocal reaffirmations of, among other things, respect for the legal, political and historic status of the city of Jerusalem.  Palestine’s position rejecting the 6 December 2017 decision on Jerusalem by the United States had been fully conveyed to the Council and remained unwavering, he said, adding:  “We remain insistent on respect for the law and our rights, and we reject this unilateral, provocative decision, which directly contravenes the Charter and United Nations resolutions on the matter.”

That position was not intended as disrespect and should not be translated as such by anyone, he said.  On the contrary, it was a position rooted in full respect for the law, for the principles of justice and equity and for the decades‑long international consensus on the parameters of a peaceful solution.  It was a position of respect for the legitimate national aspirations of the Palestinian people who had been so patient and steadfast despite the grave injustices they continued to endure.  “No price tag can be put on the rights and dignity of any people”, who would not be quashed by threats, intimidation or punitive action.  Palestinians remained resolute in calling for the application of international law to the question of Palestine.  Nothing that the Palestinians had ever done should be misconstrued or cynically portrayed as a rejection of peace.  It was, therefore, appalling to witness the resurgence of claims by the Israeli Prime Minister and other Government officials that the President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, was not a man of peace.  History and facts spoke for themselves and such claims could not be farther from the truth.

Against that backdrop and the ever-worsening situation on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it was an understatement to say that the Palestinian people were facing an existential crisis, he said.  Palestine had rung the alarm bells before to no avail; yet it was compelled to do so again due to the gravity of the situation.  The world was witnessing in shocking detail the dehumanization of the Palestinian people, their subjugation and deprivation, attempts to erase their history, heritage and identity, and the systematic decimation of their communities and of their will and hope.  “It is a crisis unquestionably about our very existence in our homeland, our rights, including to self-determination and return, and our survival as a people,” he stressed.  Palestinians were openly degraded and demonized by the occupying Power and the public was being incited against them to the point of outright extremism and terror.

Such actions not only contradicted international law and human rights, but set a dangerous precedent in the Council far beyond the confines of the Palestinian question, he said.  He appealed for compassion and the upholding of humanitarian law and principles of collective responsibilities, urging donors to enhance support to UNRWA.  In the span of a year, Palestinians had seen their hopes for peace rise up, only to be suddenly dashed.  Now was the time for collective action in following up on the explicit calls made in resolution 2334 (2016).  It was also time for the international community to mobilize the political will to implement the relevant resolutions and revive the peace option, averting the grave impact the continued unravelling of the situation would have regionally and globally.  He reiterated calls for a collective peace process under international auspices aimed at achieving a just solution and fulfilling the long-denied rights of the Palestinian people.

DANNY DANON (Israel) said the real threat came from Iran.  Brave people had marched through Iranian streets demanding a better life and chanting:  “Not Gaza, not Lebanon.  I give my life for Iran.”  He praised their moral fight against their Government.  Detailing dangerous Iranian regime activities, he said Israel had warned of “Iranian tentacles of terror”, cited evidence of its build up in Lebanon through its proxy, Hizbullah, and its efforts to sneak into Israel.  In fact, Iran had invested $35 billion in Syria.  He then shared classified information demonstrating the extent of Iran’s military build-up in Syria, so the world would understand the growing threat posed by that country.

He said there were 82,000 fighters under direct Iranian authority in Syria, including 3,000 members of its Revolutionary Guard, 9,000 from Hizbullah and 10,000 violent Shia militants from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Iran also commanded 65,000 local Syrian fighters.  “These are hard facts that cannot be refuted,” he stressed.

Moreover, Iran claimed that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Syria was on the run, he said.  If that were so, then why did Iran keep sending in its forces, recruiting extremists and building bases to house fighters for the long run, he wondered.  The answer was so that it could destabilize the region, threaten Israel and terrorize the free world.  Iran was building missile factories in Syria, turning innocent people into human shields.  It was turning Syria into the largest military base in the world, seeking to control that country, which it required in order to destabilize the region.  “The Shiite Crescent has reached our doorstep,” he warned.  Iran was ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

He said Israel faced that risk on its northern border, through Hizbullah and Iranian-Syrian efforts.  “We can no longer distinguish between Lebanon and Syria,” he said.  Israel supported the 1974 agreement on the engagement in Syria and it would take action to protect its citizens.  The Shiite Crescent was more powerful than ever.  The international community should be concerned about Iran, as the Iranian presence in Syria would spill into Europe and across the globe.

Major European corporations and countries had signed multi-billion-dollar deals with Iran in 2015, he said, citing a $720 million solar deal in that context.  Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran had increased its military spending.  In 2014, 17 per cent of Government spending went to the military, in 2017, it jumped to 22 per cent, or $23 billion.  In 2018, Iran’s military budget would only grow.  The money earned from “your economic deals” would be spent on ballistic missile testing and promoting terror, he said.

Moreover, Iran allocated $1.5 billion to its proxies in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Judea and Samaria, he said, among other places.  More than $800 million was sent each year to Hizbullah alone, which was then used to terrorize Israel and southern Lebanon.  The lifting of sanctions under the Plan of Action had released $100 billion of frozen assets, which Iran was using to increase its “slush fund” for terror.  Iran sought to destroy Israel, destabilize the region and threaten the world.  “When Iran takes control, we are all in danger,” he said, pressing the Council to fully implement resolution 2231 (2015).  “You cannot allow Iran to fund worldwide terror,” he said.  The Council must unite to confront that menace to international stability.

NIKKI R. HALEY (United States) said that there was a lack of courageous leaders who were willing to step forward, acknowledge hard truths and make compromises in order to achieve peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.  In a recent speech to the PLO Central Council, Palestinian President Abbas declared the landmark Oslo peace accord “dead”, rejected any United States role in peace talks, insulted the United States President and invoked an ugly and fictional past that painted Israel as a colonial project engineered by Europeans.  President Abbas’ speech had gotten little attention in the media, despite the fact that it invoked outrageous and indulgent conspiracy theories.  Such words were not those of someone who was willing to work towards peace.  The United States had done nothing to pre-judge the final borders of Jerusalem or alter the status of the holy sites, rather, the United States remained committed to the possibility of a two-State solution, if agreed to by both parties.  Peace required compromise that took into account the core issues of both sides, which was her country’s primary goal.  Hate-filled speeches and end runs around negotiations took the issue nowhere, she said, stressing that peace would not be achieved without courageous leaders.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that the relaunching of the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue had been made considerably more difficult due to settlement activity and inflammatory rhetoric.  Rather than advancing a viable plan, the international community had borne witness to well-known decisions on Jerusalem, which had been met by categorical rejections.  The emotional response to those decisions reflected how delicate the question of Jerusalem truly was, he said, expressing further concern about the decision to cut financing to the Palestinians, including to UNRWA.  The solution to the situation lay in a prompt resumption of dialogue on all contentious issues, including the status of Jerusalem.  Long-term and fair agreements that would dovetail with the previously adopted decisions of the international community were required, reflecting the interests of both sides.  The Russian Federation would continue to support efforts to break the deadlock of the peace process, including through contact with the relevant States.  The conflict would only be resolved through collective efforts.  The Russian Federation believed that any inter- or intra-Palestinian disputes must be resolved through direct dialogue.

In Syria, territory in the northern part of the country had been cleansed of ISIL/Da’esh, setting the stage for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, he said.  Under the Geneva format, constitutional reform and elections would take place in Syria, under the auspices of the United Nations.  He called attention to the persistent, difficult situation in Libya, calling for a political settlement to that situation, while also expressing concern about the humanitarian situation in Yemen, which could only be alleviated through a political settlement.

WU HAITAO (China) said the question of Palestine was at core of Middle East peace.  The humanitarian situation in Gaza was grim.  The Council must remain united and promote a political solution with urgency.  The two-State solution was the right approach and the international community must remain committed to relevant United Nations resolutions and the land-for-peace initiative, among others.  China supported the just cause of Palestinians to restore their legitimate national rights, as well as their right to a fully sovereign independent State based on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  “This position will not change,” he said, citing China’s four-point proposal which called for a political process based on the two-State solution; adherence to durable security; coordinated international efforts; and a holistic approach to promote peace through development.  China would proceed from that basis.  Efforts to resolve the status of Jerusalem should adhere to the principles of respect for diverse history, equity and fairness, implementation of the international consensus and peaceful coexistence.  He called for greater support for UNRWA and for countries hosting Palestinian refugees.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said that a two-State solution was the only viable way of fulfilling the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike, to live in peace, security and dignity.  He expressed concern about developments on the ground, with tensions increasing over the past two months, and condemned all acts of violence, including the firing of rockets from Gaza, the killing of an Israeli citizen in the West Bank on 9 January and the cynical use by militants of the crossing at Kerem Shalom/Karm Abu Salem as a cover for building a tunnel.  He was also concerned by the high number of Palestinian casualties in protests and confrontations in the past months.  The Netherlands strongly opposed the recent Israeli announcements on settlement expansion.  Settlements were illegal under international law and were an obstacle to peace.  Both parties should urgently take significant positive steps to build confidence and improve the situation on the ground.  A political horizon for the two-State solution was needed, in line with relevant Security Council resolutions.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said today was the first time since becoming a Council member that his country was participating on the Palestinian issue.  No party must be allowed to avoid implementation of binding Council resolutions through unrealistic excuses.  Yet, Israel was in breach of resolution 2334 (2016), as it continued its aggressive policies, unilateral measures and provocations in the absence of any serious call by the Council to end its aggressions and comply with its 1949 Geneva Convention obligations.  Its unprecedented settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had become a daily routine for Palestinians, confirming the need to end that situation through a two-State solution.  He welcomed the demand by the General Assembly and the Council to end the occupation, reaffirming the importance of the land-for-peace initiative and the Arab peace initiative.  He cited United Nations principles, including not to infringe on Jerusalem’s special status, and regarding the importance of measures that sought to do so.  It was unacceptable to think that unilateral decisions would ease the conflict.  He encouraged all donor States to provide UNRWA with funding, noting that Kuwait had offered $7.9 million in December 2017 and January 2018.  He reaffirmed East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, and expressed support for all legal and peaceful efforts by the Palestinians at the national and international levels to exert sovereignty over Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) said that only a two-State solution, based on known parameters, international law and the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, could fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians and achieve the security and peace they deserve.  Developments on the ground continued to deteriorate.  The rapid settlement expansion, challenges to the international consensus on the status of Jerusalem and the shrinking space for civil society in Israel and Palestine continued to undermine the prospects for peace.  He was also concerned by Israeli legislative initiatives and policies that risked prejudging future negotiations and undermining the prospects for a two‑State solution.  That was particularly true with regard to legislation and policies that would undermine the status of Jerusalem, including the continued Israeli policy of revoking the residency rights of Palestinians, in violation of international humanitarian law.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said deadly crises in the region had neither normalized nor marginalized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and escalation carried the risk of unbridled regional conflict.  Having taken note of the United States’ commitment to seek resumed negotiations with a view to a final status agreement, he anticipated proposals to be made in that regard, notably within the international framework.  On 22 January, the Palestinian President had reaffirmed his commitment to peace rooted in a two-State principle and he recalled the parameters as:  two States living in peace and security along secure 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land exchanges and Jerusalem as the future capital of both States.  A regional approach with economic incentives could foster a peace agreement, but could not supplant one.  The parties were at a crossroads, where each parameter was imperilled.  Also, there were 600,000 settlers — 200,000 of them in East Jerusalem — and he condemned settlements as illegal, confirmed by resolution 2334 (2016).  The status of Jerusalem must be determined by the parties in an agreement, where it would become the capital of both Israel and Palestine.  France recognized no sovereignty over Jerusalem and denounced the United States’ announcement which departed from international consensus and especially Council resolution 478 (1980).  He expressed regret that Israeli law was making it difficult to share Jerusalem under a future peace agreement.  Until a fair solution to refugee question was reached, UNRWA’s provision of services would be indispensable.  The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting on 31 January should reaffirm the financial and political commitment to the two-State solution.  “We need a commitment from all, beginning with the United States partner,” he said.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said that peace and security in the Middle East remained a matter of serious concern.  Issues ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Syrian and Yemeni crises and the situation in Libya had dominated much of the Council’s discussion for the past year.  The geostrategic importance of the Middle East region was well known, but for the Horn of Africa, the situation had a direction implication on its peace and stability.  It was already witnessing the impact of the Gulf crisis, and the fallout from the Yemeni conflict was being felt across the Red Sea.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the core of the dangerous situation that had defined the Middle East for the past several decades.  As much as Ethiopia supported the right of Israel to exist in peace and security, it also supported the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the right of Palestine to exist as a free and independent State.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) regretted that there were 5 million Palestinian refugees and that those living in the Gaza Strip were suffering under an inhumane blockade.  It was discouraging that there were efforts to expand settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, while Palestinian children were being abducted and held in Israeli jails.  Bolivia rejected the obvious intention of the Israeli Government regarding the construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian lands, which was a clear violation of several resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly.  He expressed dismay regarding the decision by the United States to cut funding to UNRWA and believed that decision would have a significant impact on the humanitarian assistance the Agency was able to provide to needy people.  The reduction in funding would mean the denial of access to basic services, including education and health care, to people who had been stripped of their lands, livelihoods and history.  His country condemned the decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), associating herself with the European Union, said that her country strongly supported all initiatives aimed at strengthening security and stability in the Middle East.  The international community should seek to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian question by reviving the peace process, which was the only way to resolve all final status issues.  Poland believed the aspirations of both parties regarding Jerusalem must be fulfilled through negotiations, adding that the status quo put in place in 1967 pertaining to the holy sites must be upheld.  Her delegation supported a two-State solution that took into account national aspirations, including the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and independence and Israel’s right to ensure its security.  She expressed deep concern about the deteriorating financial situation of UNRWA, which could result in serious security and humanitarian consequences.

STEPHEN BENEDICT HICKEY (United Kingdom) said his country envisioned Israeli and Palestinian States living side by side within secure recognized borders, and Jerusalem as their shared capital.  The United Kingdom would contribute to all credible efforts to restart the peace process.  Statements that demonized the Jewish people were unacceptable and he encouraged Palestinian leaders to implement recommendations from the Quartet report on incitement.  Both sides must adhere to previous agreements.  The Palestinian Central Council’s recommendation to de‑recognize Israel were non-binding and unconstructive, and he welcomed the Palestinian Authority’s recognition of Israel and support for the two-State solution.  Settlements and demolitions must be halted, and humanitarian efforts supported, especially in Gaza and including for the full return of the Palestinian Authority to that area.  Progress must also be made on reconciliation, in line with the Quartet principles.  UNRWA must become more efficient and must be able to continue to carry out its functions, he said, stressing that unexpected reductions in donor disbursements could undermine regional stability.  The United Kingdom shared the United States’ desire to end the conflict and its efforts to submit proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.  It would contribute to refugee compensation and enable trade and investment among the United Kingdom, Israel, a future Palestinian State and neighbours.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said his country favoured a solution based on dialogue to any conflict.  It was essential for Palestinians and Israelis to engage in direct frank dialogue without preconditions.  The only just solution was one in which aspirations were fulfilled in the framework of two States living in peace and security.  Negotiations must be held in the context of the Arab peace initiative and Council resolutions, as must efforts to address the status of Jerusalem.  A just solution based on dialogue meant that none would see their aspirations fulfilled entirely.  While Israel was entitled to live in peace and security, Palestinians’ right to a State could not be denied.  Violence should cease immediately, he said, with parties adhering to international law and refraining from unilateral actions.  The international community should promote dialogue while the Council should take all efforts necessary to that end.

BERNARD TANOH-BOUTCHOUE (Côte d’Ivoire) deplored the entrenchment of positions seen since the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and decision to transfer its embassy to that city.  The bogging down of the peace process and stiffening of positions were liable to permanently undermine efforts to create two States living side by side in peace and security.  He reaffirmed support for the two-State solution, noting that Jerusalem’s status must be negotiated in the framework of United Nations resolutions.  Israeli and Palestinian actors must engage in dialogue and abandon any unilateral action that could alienate prospects for a peaceful political solution.  He expressed regret over the United States’ reduced contribution to UNRWA, encouraging Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to continue dialogue, and the Authority in particular to show an openness to dialogue with neighbouring countries, especially over the welcoming of Palestinian refugees.  On Syria, he urged the fact-finding mission to shed light on circumstances surrounding the use of chemical weapons and favoured a consensus-based mechanism to ensure accountability for the perpetrators.  He also welcomed France’s 23 January launch of an international partnership against impunity for the use of chemical weapons, as well as the extension of the mechanism to deliver assistance across borders to besieged areas, calling for an end to hostilities in de-escalation areas.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) expressed support for a two-State solution based on 1967 borders and negotiated by Israel and Palestine, stating that there was no alternative and no “Plan B”.  It was important to act in conformity with international law and the United Nations Charter.  Peru urged parties directly involved to end, investigate and punish any violation of international human rights and humanitarian law.  Hate speech, anti-Semitism and discrimination in all their forms must be rejected, and relevant Security Council resolutions complied with.  Noting the Secretary-General’s readiness to contribute to a resumption of negotiations, he said it was important for UNRWA to have sufficient support and predictable financing.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), Council President for January, speaking in his national capacity, said the eighth international meeting on Syria, held in Astana on 22 December 2017, had produced several documents promoting confidence-building with the aim of combating terrorism and consolidating the political process in that country.  Kazakhstan would cooperate closely with the Syrian national dialogue in Sochi, Russian Federation, from 29 January to 3 February, he added.  In Yemen, he said the coalition must keep all ports open to facilitate humanitarian assistance.  Emphasizing his country’s support for the two-State solution and the work of UNRWA, which must continue without financial cutbacks, he endorsed the call by the United States’ representative for leaders with political will, great vision, conviction and commitment to peace.

MOHAMED ASIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Maldives, said that his country had always believed that an independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, established on the 1967 borders, living in peace and harmony with Israel, was the only solution to the seven-decade conflict.  He called on Israel to fully implement the decisions of the Council and to respect the legal obligations of the United Nations Charter.  On Syria, he said that, while he recognized the progress being made in finding an end to the conflict, with the all-Syria congress expected to be convened at the end of January, much more needed to be done.  On Yemen, he said that it had suffered the worst famine in years, while violence still prevailed in Libya.  Peace was a prerequisite and consequence of development, and constructive and lasting solutions must be found in those countries.

AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) said peace in the Middle East seemed more remote than ever.  Israel’s claim of exclusive control of Jerusalem, and the United States’ recognition of that city as Israel’s capital, buried any hope of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace.  “It is making our people despair, and desperate people do desperate things,” she said.  A failure by the international community and the Security Council to reaffirm the core principles of peace could plunge the Middle East into more conflict, with dire global implications.  On southern Lebanon, she said Israel’s stated intention to build a wall along the Blue Line and in sensitive occupied areas threatened to destabilize the situation and could lead to conflict.  It also reflected Israel’s total disregard for Council resolution 1701 (2006), she said, urging the Council to prevent further Israeli provocations.  She went on to say that, despite Lebanon’s economic, social and security challenges, the conflict in Syria and the heavy burden of hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees, Lebanon’s leaders were committed to holding parliamentary elections in May.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said that the repeated failure of the Council to act on the most serious crimes in Syria was particularly apparent as chemical weapons attacks continued unabated, in blatant disregard of the most fundamental rules of international law and with horrific consequences for that country’s people.  Liechtenstein deplored the discontinuation of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, whose investigative capacity and preventive dimension was urgently required.  The Council had a crucial responsibility to protect civilians from the most serious crimes under international law, he said, calling attention to the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen which had reached unprecedented dimensions.  His country was concerned about the already-fragile peace process in the Middle East that had been further jeopardized by recent developments that put at risk the possibility of a two-State solution, which was the only promising avenue for achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed her deep concern about the situation in the Middle East and the lack of progress in finding a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  She rejected the unilateral statement made by the President of the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  That was a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and international law.  The Security Council must uphold the responsibility entrusted to it by the Charter in the maintenance of peace and security.  It must call on Israel to end the occupation of the Palestinian territory and to comply with resolutions adopted by the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.  The blockade of Gaza must end immediately.  Cuba would continue to support a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-State solution.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that the global peace and security landscape remained plagued by challenges.  In fundamental ways, the world had gone into reverse.  Nowhere was that fraught situation more apparent than in the Middle East.  The two-State solution was in peril.  That morning, there had been a glaring flight from reality, with some speakers trying to deflect attention from the tragedy of the Palestinian people.  Occupiers had no option but to present alternative facts.  The decision by certain countries to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem had inflamed the situation.  The legal status of Jerusalem was unambiguous.  When principles were trumped by self-serving interests, reason was supplanted by threat and intimidation.  The Middle East could only seek the dividend of peace if it was built on the foundation of justice.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) said that he hoped that in 2018 there would be a final end to the conflict in Syria and the beginning of a political transition process that was accepted by all parties, which would make it possible for its entire population to be part of a better life.  He remained deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation in Yemen that had continued to deteriorate because of ongoing conflict, collapsing basic services and economic decline.  Yemenis had suffered for too long.  They needed the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law by protecting civilians and civilian infrastructure, and by facilitating rapid, safe and unfettered humanitarian access.  He called on all parties to cease hostilities and engage meaningfully within the United Nations to achieve a lasting political settlement.  The subject of Jerusalem was widely known by the international community to be a very sensitive one, and the legally binding status of Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem under the United Nations Charter was unquestionable.

JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, European Union, reiterated its firm commitment to the two-State solution.  The aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem must be fulfilled, and a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both States.  The European Union was also stepping up its efforts to provide a political horizon for solving the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict.  The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement and construction and related activities, including recent evictions in East Jerusalem and plans leading to the forced transfer of Bedouin communities in the West Bank, was clear and had not changed.  The European Union remained strongly opposed to Israel’s settlement policy, which was illegal under international law.

He also expressed concern over the recent significant reductions of funding for UNRWA.  Reduced support would have serious security and humanitarian consequences not only in the West Bank and Gaza but also in neighbouring countries.  He stressed that the European Union had provided extensive and reliable support to UNRWA since 1971.

SIMA SAMI I. BAHOUS (Jordan) said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the main source of instability in the Middle East, and failure to achieve a comprehensive and just settlement would significantly contribute to regional tensions and continued violence.  Implementation of relevant Council resolutions was the only way to create the conditions for balance in the region.  Progress could not be made through unilateral measures, she said, adding that decisions about Jerusalem taken outside a comprehensive resolution of the Israel-Palestinian issue were unacceptable.  Jordan would continue to engage with the international community to confront and reject any attempt to change Jerusalem’s historical status.  Quoting the King of the country, she said Jerusalem must be open to all followers of all Abrahamic religions.  She went on to call on the international community to extend full support to UNRWA, adding that, in Syria, the priority was to find a political settlement.  Hopefully, the ninth round of Geneva talks would pave a way to peace and stability in Syria.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that, to restore peace in the Middle East, it was urgent that the Council applied solutions envisioned by the Charter to put an end to the humanitarian crises that continued to ravage ancient peoples, religions and cultures.  The Palestinian-Israeli peace process was at the centre of the maelstrom sweeping the region and was one of the longest-standing conflicts on the Council’s agenda.  He reiterated the urgent need to resume negotiations between the parties of the central issues of the conflict, on the basis of all relevant Council resolutions.  He underscored that there could be no doubt that the Holy City of Jerusalem had a very special place not only in the hearts of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but also for worshippers of the three monotheistic Abrahamic religions everywhere.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the United States’ provocative decision to recognize Al-Quds Al‑Sharif as the capital of the Israeli regime revealed the complicity of the Israeli and United States regimes to deprive the Palestinians of their basic right to establish their own independent State with that city as its capital.  Illegal settlements were both a grave breach of the fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime which clearly indicated that the Israeli regime never had any interest in peace, he said.  Emboldened by impunity provided by the United States, the Israel regime had shamelessly and flagrantly violated at least 86 Council resolutions since 1948.  The United States was never an honest partner for Middle East peace and it never would be.  He said the Council had failed to act on genuine issues such as the occupation of Palestinian territory and the indiscriminate bombing of Yemen.  Promoting and spreading “Iran-ophobia” had become a kind of obsession for the United States and the Israeli regime, perpetrated by those who sold or bought United States he added.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that his country intended to strengthen its political engagement to stabilize the Middle East.  During a visit to Israel and Palestine in December 2017, his country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs reiterated Japan’s support for a two-State solution and urged both parties to engage constructively in negotiations, in which the United States would still play an important role.  Japan would continue to support UNRWA, he said, adding that the international community must be united in upholding a two-State solution through negotiations on the basis of United Nations resolutions and agreements previously reached by the parties.  The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting at the end of January would be a good opportunity to that end.

MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, League of Arab States, affirmed its support for Middle East peace efforts.  The Council’s meeting today was taking place against the background of the United States decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and transfer its embassy there.  That decision flouted all the international agreements that governed the Middle East peace process.  In order to have global peace, direct negotiations were needed through both parties and not through unilateral resolutions of major donors of the peace process.  The League of Arab States had rejected the United States’ 6 December 2017 position on Jerusalem, and had done so during a meeting of the League of Arab States in Cairo on 9 December 2017.  The statement by the United States had undermined the peace process.  On the vote on Jerusalem in the General Assembly, he noted that the United States had used economic threats to get countries to change their stance on that matter.

SAMUEL MONCADA ACOSTA (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed that organization’s abiding solidarity with the Palestinian people.  The ongoing Israeli occupation and the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a whole remained a serious threat to international peace and security that required urgent attention.  Emphasizing that the Council must fulfil its duties under the United Nations Charter, he said resolution 2334 (2016) was the most viable path to peace.  Provocations, unilateral actions and the escalation of tensions were incompatible with the pursuit of peace, he said, adding that contempt for the Council and disregard for its resolutions would exacerbate the situation.

Addressing the decision by some Governments to move their embassies to Jerusalem, he said unilateral actions taken in flagrant disrespect of Council resolutions, including resolution 478 (1980), jeopardized prospects for a two‑State solution while having a negative impact on the situation on the ground.  He called for an immediate halt to settlement activities and a complete lifting of the blockade on Gaza, adding that threats against UNRWA could lead to a humanitarian disaster in Gaza with potentially destabilizing effects.

NAME TO COME (Botswana), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that he supported the search for a peaceful solution to the situation in the Middle East and expressed concern that the question of Palestine had remained unresolved for many decades.  He was also concerned about the escalation of violence, which had undermined all international efforts for a lasting solution.  His country supported the principle of self-determination, and in that respect, supported the Palestinian people in their quest for sovereignty and independent statehood.  There was no alternative to the two-State solution of two sovereign States living side by side.  He urged all Member States to avoid taking unilateral actions that would jeopardize peace in the Middle East.  He regretted the decision of the United States on 6 December 2017 to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

EDGAR SISA (South Africa) said that another year could not be allowed to proceed without progress on the Middle East peace process.  New challenges, as had been seen with the developments pertaining to the status of Jerusalem, had compounded existing negative developments such as the continuing Israeli illegal settlement activity.  The best option for the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict was premised upon the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence, which entailed a principled position against the military occupation of the Palestinian people and their land.  It was also premised on the right of both the peoples of Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace in their own States, and the belief that there could be no military solution to the conflict.  His country was deeply concerned that unilateral action by some Member States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel undermined the revival of a peace process.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Arab Group, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said Jerusalem was the mother of all cities which, for 1,400 years, had been an Arab and Muslim city, open to all religions.  It was the eternal historical capital of Palestine and so it would remain, he said.  Over 50 years, the Security Council had adopted several resolutions which emphasized that unilateral decisions affecting Jerusalem’s status were null and void, and those resolutions cannot be ignored.  In that vein, the transfer of any embassy to Jerusalem would be null and void, fuel tension, undermine trust in the peace process and affect any chance for peace based on the two-State solution.  He went on to say it was high time for the Security Council to take a firm position against Iran, which had continued its flagrant interference in the internal affairs of Arab States while spreading and supporting terrorism.  On Syria, he noted Saudi Arabia’s efforts to unify that country’s opposition factions, and called for immediate humanitarian access nationwide, the prompt release of detainees and the dignified return of refugees.

SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria) said that as the international community continued to seek avenues to advance the peaceful resolution of the Palestinian question, efforts must remain focused on paving the way for Israel and Palestine to return to meaningful negotiations.  There was no substitute to an agreed multilateral approach for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum in a sustainable manner.  Achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement of the question of Palestine was imperative for the attainment of durable peace and security in the Middle East.  It was for that reason that he acknowledged the adoption of the General Assembly resolution on the status of Jerusalem on 21 December 2017, and called upon all parties to respect relevant United Nations resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) said that a just and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the two-State solution, must be worked towards.  The regional context, including the ongoing radicalization and the spread of terrorism, made it even more urgent to end the conflict.  The status quo was not an option, as the viability of the two-State solution was constantly being eroded by emerging new facts on the ground.  He affirmed their country’s position that the status of Jerusalem had to be resolved through negotiations in line with relevant United Nations resolutions.  Estonia was also concerned about the funding cuts to UNRWA, which had been an essential lifeline for many Palestinians for decades, providing basic services, including food and support as well as children’s education and health care.  Humanitarian aid should not be politicized, he said.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said that his country supported all efforts aimed at achieving peace and security in the Middle East.  He called for unilateral provocative action to be avoided.  Turning to the question of Palestine, he reiterated his country’s firm support for a lasting solution to the Palestinian question based on the two-State solution.  He reaffirmed his support for the inalienable right of the Palestinian people for self-determination.  Settlements ran counter to international law and weakened the possibility for a two-State solution, and led to a continued unsustainable status quo.  Jews, Muslims and Christians must have access to sacred sites, and any attempt to minimize that was unacceptable and would not contribute to finding a solution to the conflict.

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria) said the unilateral decision by the United States to relocate its embassy to the occupied city of Jerusalem was a flagrant violation of Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.  That country’s action had no value whatsoever and would not alter the city’s legal status.  The United States veto of a draft Council resolution on the status of Jerusalem demonstrated that country’s total disregard for international law and its unlimited support to the racist, expansionist and Zionist Israeli regime at the expense of the Palestinian people.  The Assembly’s related resolution, meanwhile, showed how limited United States influence could be.  Despite years of war, Syria had never lost its moral compass, always maintaining its principled position on the Palestinian question, he said, called for the State of Palestine to be given full membership in the United Nations.

It was regrettable that the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General had disregarded the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan, he said.  Israel had continued to confiscate territory in the Syrian Golan, expanding settlements, exploiting resources, distorting history and destroying culture.  Responding to the statement by the representative of Saudi Arabia, he said that to reach a settlement to the conflict in Syria, the regime of the Saudi royal family must stop issuing fatwahs that fuelled terrorism.  It must also stop giving support to more than 100 armed terrorist groups in Syria, including the supply of toxic chemical substances.  Saudi Arabia had been spreading terrorism for decades, he said, calling for a decisive international response.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said that at the heart of the situation in the Middle East was the need to work towards a Palestinian State that was fully sovereign, economically viable and territorially contiguous.  His country believed that the moment had arrived to bring about a political process that would put an end to the war in Syria, while the military victory achieved in 2017 against extremism in Iraq should be followed by a successful process of reconstruction, economic recovery and national reconciliation.  Without a cessation of hostilities, the humanitarian tragedy in Yemen would continue, and in that context, Brazil called on all actors in a position of influence to help bring the parties to the negotiating table and put an end to the fighting as soon as possible.

HICHAM OUSSIHAMOU (Morocco) said the King, as Chair of the Committee on Jerusalem, attached great importance to Palestinians’ rights to an independent State along 4 June 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.  The Government had always sought to achieve just peace in the Middle East based on relevant resolutions and the Arab peace initiative, and made efforts to revive the stalled political process.  Israel’s illegal Judaization activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory allowed no prospects for solutions in the near future.  Jerusalem was a symbol of coexistence for the Arab region.  As Chair of the Committee, the King had expressed the concern of Arab and Muslim countries about the United States decision, and on 6 December 2017, sent a letter to the Secretary-General stressing that any attempt to alter the historic status of Jerusalem would lead to a religious conflict.  Morocco called for preserving the city’s legal and historic status and encouraged the Council to push for a final settlement of the conflict based on international resolutions.

FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the United States decision violated international law.  It demonstrated a blatant disregard of Palestinians’ historic, legal and natural rights, and further, a painful affront to the religious rights of Christians and Muslims worldwide, as well as universal values.  He called on States to refrain from recognizing that decision and to implement resolution 478 (1980).  Al-Quds Al-Sharif was a holy city for all three monotheistic religions, he recalled.

As such, he said all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of East Jerusalem were illegal, stressing that OIC was appalled by the actions of violent settlers and occupation forces in occupied Al‑Khalil/Hebron, which threatened to transform a solvable political conflict into a never ending religious war.  “This must be urgently averted,” he said.  Implementation of resolution 2334 (2016) was paramount to advancing peace and States must uphold their obligations for accountability for any violations.  He reiterated calls for lifting Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, and in light of the recent United States decision to reduce funding to UNRWA, underscored the need for funding to that Agency.

Speaking in his national capacity, he described Turkey’s efforts in fostering peace in Syria.  At the last round of Astana talks, confidence-building measures had been adopted, he said, adding that the Astana and Sochi platforms were complementary to the United Nations process.  Turkey’s resolve to fight terrorism was firm.  Terrorism could have no religious or ethnic justification.  On 21 January, Turkey had launched counter-terrorism operation “Olive Branch”, in line with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, targeting terrorists, hideouts, weapons, vehicles and equipment.  All protections were being taken to protect civilians.  Among its goals was to neutralize terrorists in Afrin, he said, stressing that Turkey would take all measures to protect its national security.

SAUD HAMAD GHANEM HAMAD ALSHAMSI (United Arab Emirates), speaking for the Arab Group, said that Security Council resolution 242 (1967) laid the foundation for any acceptable settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which would require Israel’s withdrawal from the Arab territories.  The resolution remained the only way to address the question of Palestine.  The Arab Peace Initiative presented an historic opportunity for Israel to have normal relations not only with its Arab neighbours, but also with other Muslim countries.  The Amman Summit reiterated last March that the initiative was a strategic option for Arab States.  Unfortunately, Israel proposed only one alternative:  the continuation of its occupation, the perpetuation of its colonization and diminishing Palestinian sovereignty.  Israel had also succeeded in burying the 1993 Oslo Accord and practically ended it by enforcing the brutal apartheid system in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and converting the Gaza Strip into one big prison.

He also addressed final status issues and affirmed the Arab Group’s firm rejection and strong condemnation of the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the occupying Power, and the decision to move its embassy to that city.  The Group considered that action to be null and void, and a serious and dangerous breach of international law and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.  Even though the policy did not have any legal impact that would change the status of Jerusalem, the Arab Group considered it a clear violation of the rights of the Palestinian people, and an attack on both Arab and Muslim nations, as well as on Christians around the world.  It was also a dangerous development that undermined the peace process and the two-State solution.  The Security Council and Member States should not recognize any unilateral measures that targeted Jerusalem’s character or its demographic composition, and should refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

TORE HATTREM (Norway) said that settlement activities undermined prospects for a two-State solution, and should stop.  With the support of relevant parties and stakeholders, Norway and the European Union had decided to convene an extraordinary ministerial session of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Brussels on 31 January.  That meeting would address measures that might have a positive impact on the efforts to restart final status negotiations.  It would also discuss efforts to assist the Palestinian Authority to reinstate its control in Gaza, as outlined in the Cairo agreement of 12 October 2017.  Delivery of essential services by UNRWA was crucial to addressing the basic needs of Palestinian refugees.  The financial situation of the Agency was critical and there was a risk that it would not be able to deliver on its mandate.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said it was, more than ever, important to have peace on the horizon in the Middle East.  Iraq was particularly concerned by the Palestinians’ dire humanitarian situation.  He called on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities, and for those countries which had not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so soon.  Doing so would be an investment in peace.  Renewed interest in the Palestinian issue was an opportunity to renew direct negotiations under the aegis of the United States, European Union and Arab States, he said, welcoming also the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Representative.

EINAR GUNNARSSON (Iceland) said more attention should be paid to the conflict in Yemen, where civilians were paying a huge price in a senseless war.  Compared to other conflicts in the Middle East, the Israel-Palestine conflict should be soluble, he said, emphasizing that actions which led away from the two‑State solution, or which risked undermining trust, enflaming passions and sparking violence, must be avoided.  That applied equally to violence by Palestinians and to disproportionate Israeli military responses, as well as the latter country’s settlement policy.  He added that failure to address the humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees could potentially breed extremism among young people, and that undermining UNRWA now would undermine Middle East peace and stability.

MOHAMED OMAR MOHAMED GAD (Egypt) said the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was worsening:  Palestinians could no longer enjoy their freedom, exercise their right to self-determination, create an independent State or live in peace and security.  The international community was on the horns of a dilemma, as people watched the United Nations closely.  Indeed, any country could allow itself to leave the international community or sign treaties with perfect impunity.  All actors must do their utmost to end the occupation, as regional tensions were growing.  “Institutions are failing,” he said, opening the door for some to practise aggression and violence, and disseminate extremist and racist ideologies.  “We have to act,” he said.  Egypt had always been looking for ways to balance the humanitarian situation in Gaza, efforts that did not absolve the occupying Power of its responsibilities related to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Checkpoint measures must be eased and construction activities restarted.  Stressing that any action that was not aligned with international law had no legal status, he said Egypt had regularly called on parties to return to the negotiating table on the basis of the two-State solution.  Any alternative not agreed by the parties would only increase tensions.  He advocated support for Egyptian efforts to foster Palestinian unity, which itself was one of the best means for building a strong, Palestinian society capable of being a partner for peace.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) renewed support for all efforts aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, expressing support for two States living side by side, and a Palestinian State established along 1967 borders, in line with Council resolutions and the Arab peace initiative.  The parties must deal with Al-Quds Al‑Sharif as part of comprehensive settlement of the Middle East question, she said, citing Council resolution 478 (1980). Indeed, Al-Quds Al‑Sharif was a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations.  Qatar did not recognize any efforts to change the legal position or demographic structure of that city.  She underscored need to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians.  More broadly, she called for stabilizing situation in Syria, in line with the Charter and international law.  Also, illegal unilateral measures against Qatar had grave impacts on regional peace and security, affecting the campaign to combat terrorism.  She rejected any violation of Qatar’s sovereignty, emphasizing that her country had a legitimate right to maintain national security.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country was deeply concerned by unilateral decisions and actions which compromised the standing of East Jerusalem as a final status issue.  The legal status of Jerusalem must be preserved within the framework of relevant United Nations resolutions, he said, urging the Council to prevail upon Israel to immediately halt its illegal settlement activities, lift the blockade on Gaza and end all forms of occupation and violence.  Enhanced, predictable and sustainable financing for UNRWA must be ensured, he said, urging Member States to help uphold the Agency’s ability to make a difference in the lives of Palestinian refugees.  Concluding, he said Bangladesh expected the Council to show unity of purpose in finding peaceful, just and lasting solutions to all protracted conflicts and related humanitarian situations worldwide, including the Palestinian question.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, stressed the Committee’s deep concerns that Israel was continuing the process of imposing game-changing realities on the ground.  Earlier in January, Israel’s Parliament passed a bill that would make it next to impossible for any future Israeli Government to cede any part of Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem, to an independent Palestinian State as part of peace negotiations.  The Committee deplored all human rights violations against the Palestinian people and the breaches of international humanitarian law that continued to be perpetrated in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Until the occupation of that territory ended and Palestinians gained full control over their resources, the Committee called upon the international community to continue supporting the Palestinian people.

JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), recalling the General Assembly’s resolution in December 2017 on the status of Jerusalem, said the decision by the President of the United States to recognize Al-Quds Al-Sharif as the capital of Israel, and to move the United States embassy to that city, deserved global condemnation.  It represented an insult to international legitimacy and the unanimous will of the international community.  The United States and Israel should pay due attention to international efforts to resolve Middle East issues, including the question of Palestine, and participate in the peace process with honesty and diligence.  He reiterated his country’s firm support for the Palestinian people and emphasized the need to end the Israeli military occupation.  He added that the Syrian issue should be resolved peacefully, through dialogue, with no foreign intervention.

SHAHRUL IKRAM YAAKOB (Malaysia), associating himself with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said a resolution of the question of Palestine remained elusive due largely to Israel’s defiance of Council resolutions.  Israel must stop all violations and illegal activities, and fully comply with all its obligations.  The United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would only embolden Israel, as the occupying Power, to continue with its repressive policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.  Malaysia called on the United States to consider rescinding its decision and to work with all parties involved towards a comprehensive and lasting peace, based on the two-State solution.  Noting with serious concern dwindling financial backing for UNRWA, he said his country would continue to extend assistance to that the Agency, within its means, and urged all Member States to do likewise.

HADAS MEITZAD (Israel) referred to the statement by Lebanon’s representative and noted that the President of that country had referred to Hizbullah as a legitimate armed power in Lebanon.  Lebanon should focus its energy on the full implementation of all Security Council resolutions.  She said that the representative of Syria had debased the forum of the Council with conspiracy theories, noting that it was difficult to comprehend how they had the audacity to take the floor when they were targeting their own civilians.  The Syrian Government was perpetrating a siege against its own people in eastern Ghouta using chemical weapons.  Israel, meanwhile, was providing aid to Syrians.  Directing her comments to the representative of Venezuela, she said that country was in a state of moral bankruptcy.  Regarding the statement made by Bolivia’s representative, she said it was disappointing that it was one sided and did not reflect the true situation on the ground.  Concerning the statement by Kuwait’s representative, she said that restricting freedom of expression and jailing citizens who criticized the Government were common practices for Kuwait.

News

Issuing Presidential Statement, Security Council Expresses Deep Concern over Scale, Severity of Violations against Children in Armed Conflict

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.

Briefings

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.

Statements

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.

Presidential Statement

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.”

News

Issuing Presidential Statement, Security Council Expresses Deep Concern over Scale, Severity of Violations against Children in Armed Conflict

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.

Briefings

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.

Statements

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.

Presidential Statement

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.”

News

With ‘Dark Side of Innovation’ on Horizon, First Committee Delegates Call for Joint Action in Combating Cyberattacks

New Text Calls for Creation of United Nations Panel to Investigate Potential Role of Science, Technology in Disarmament

States must join forces to combat the rising threat of non-State actors maliciously using information and communications technology to destabilize socioeconomic development, delegates told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today as they discussed ways to prevent cyberattacks.

Introducing a new draft resolution on the role of science in that regard, India’s representative emphasized that as “the dark side of innovation is moving from the frontier to the front door”, it was critical to ensure a correct understanding of the latest developments in science and technology to allow work in multilateral forums to adjust accordingly.

Asking the Committee to support the draft text, he said it would have the General Assembly request that the Secretary-General create a panel of experts in diverse fields of science and technology to assess current developments and their potential impact on international security and disarmament efforts.

Echoing a common concern, Brazil’s representative warned against the militarization of information and communications technology and the emergence of new systems of related weapons that might trigger a new arms race.  Pakistan’s representative highlighted the growing threat of lethal autonomous weapon systems, calling for a pre-emptive prohibition on further developing such arms.  He also supported the establishment of a group of governmental experts to discuss those issues in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

Yemen’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, welcomed the United Nations establishment of regulatory principles to address concerns about the possibility of information and communications technology being used to damage the political, economic and scientific efforts of States.

Elaborating on that point, the delegate of the Netherlands highlighted the usefulness of recommendations made in the 2013 and 2015 reports of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.  Those “landmark achievements” had acknowledged that international law and particularly the United Nations Charter was applicable and essential in maintaining peace and stability and promoting an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful information and communications technology environment, she said.

Delegates, including Indonesia’s representative, called for an international legal framework to address malicious acts.  Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, he underscored the importance of developing such a framework within the United Nations and in full accordance with the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and peaceful coexistence among States as fundamental in preventing and mitigating such threats.

Likewise, Paraguay’s delegate urged delegates to adopt norms which regulated information and communications technology processes in the context of international peace and security.  Such guidance would help to bridge the technological divide between developing and developed countries, he said.

Expressing concerns about access to technology, Algeria’s representative said that even though new information and communications technology products offered many opportunities to boost socioeconomic development, their use by terrorist groups posed a real danger.  As such, dual-use information and communications technology should not thwart the transfer of those technologies to States that needed them, especially developing countries, he emphasized.

Other delegates, including the representative of Switzerland, stressed the importance of an open, free, accessible and secure cyberspace.  The delegate of the United States underlined creating a climate in which all States could enjoy the benefits of cyberspace was a fundamental goal of her country.  She also introduced a draft resolution on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments.

Briefing the Committee at the outset of the meeting, Karsten Diethelm Geier, Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, highlighted the need to continue discussions on information and communications technology.

He emphasized that because each State had a stake in cybersecurity, a global understanding of threats and the ways to mitigate them was needed and must be pursued through the United Nations.  He also highlighted the importance of involving the private sector, civil society and others in developing capacity and confidence-building measures.

The Committee also held a panel discussion on “Regional disarmament and security”.

During the debate on conventional weapons, the representatives of Botswana, Cambodia, Burkina Faso, Iraq, Argentina, Nigeria, Iran, Niger, Ethiopia, and Mali and Brazil delivered statements.

The debate on other disarmament measures and international security featured the representatives from Singapore (also for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Antigua and Barbuda (for the Caribbean Community), Switzerland, Canada, United Kingdom, Finland, Estonia, Cuba, Greece, China, France, Germany, Zambia, Russian Federation, Austria, Mexico, Australia, Iran and Bangladesh, as well as the European Union.

Delivering statements during the discussion on regional disarmament and security were representatives of Indonesia (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Yemen (for the Arab Group), Belize (for the Caribbean Community), Malaysia (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), United States and Paraguay, as well as the European Union.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Israel, Iran, United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The First Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 24 October, to begin its thematic debate on the disarmament machinery.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met to continue its thematic discussion on conventional weapons and hear a briefing by the Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.  It also began its thematic debate on other disarmament measures and international security.  For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.

Briefing

KARSTEN DIETHELM GEIER, Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, highlighted its work, noting its inability to reach consensus during its previous two cycles.  During the 2015‑2016 cycle, it had failed doing so, but not for lack of trying.  Still, efforts had helped to increase transparency around the Group and obtain outside input.  Experts based their deliberations on trying to formulate concrete guidance on how to help States to implement recommendations contained in previous reports.  Under discussion on information and communications technology were its increasingly malicious use by non-State actors and how that could impair global information and communications technology systems, and its use to interfere in the affairs of other States and to conduct criminal activities.

He said that in discussing how to take forward responsible norms of behaviours by States and how to respond to attacks on critical infrastructure, members had made suggestions on how to prevent non-State actors from conducting malicious information and communications technology activities.  They also made concrete suggestions related to confidence building, including guidance on points of contact and procedures to request information from other States.  The importance of involving private sector, civil society and others in capacity building was also raised.

Despite convergence on these points, significant differences remained, he said.  During the 2016‑2017 cycle, members had been unable to agree on a consensus report on its last day of discussions, he said, regretting to note that many good points had not been carried forward by a generally accepted document, which would have been useful to Member States.  Pointing out that information and communications technology had been discussed at the United Nations since 1998 and that tremendous progress had been made, he emphasized that previous reports stood unaffected by the current lack of consensus.  Highlighting remaining differences, he said “we do ourselves no favour to paper over divisions”.

Each State had a stake in cybersecurity, he said.  As such, there was a need to continue discussions and increase transparency and inclusivity.  A global understanding of threats and the ways to mitigate them was needed and must be pursued through the United Nations.  In terms of holding another Group of Governmental Experts meeting, alternatives should be explored to identify the best format.  Meanwhile, a consensual approach allowing for further progress must be found prior to the General Assembly’s seventy‑third session.

Conventional Weapons

LORATO LUCKY MOTSUMI (Botswana), associating herself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said peace was elusive in a world where armed conflicts were on the rise.  Control measures for conventional weapons must limit their illicit trafficking, particularly because they caused the greatest civilian casualties.  Welcoming the adoption of a declaration on improvised explosive devices, she reiterated Botswana’s support for the fifth Review Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects.  Guided by the Maputo Action Plan 2014‑2019, Botswana was committed to efforts to eliminate anti-personnel mines around the world and to working with partners in areas such as arms control and money laundering.

RY TUY (Cambodia), associating himself with ASEAN and Non-Aligned Movement, his country had, after experiencing civil war, famine and starvation, turned to United Nations rehabilitation programmes, adopting confidence-building measures, especially in the fields of conventional arms, anti-personnel mine clearance and the reintegration of mine victims.  Subregional and regional cooperation, information-sharing mechanisms and trans-border customs cooperation and networks must be established or strengthened.  In that vein, Cambodia would host in December a regional seminar for ASEAN members and Timor‑Leste on the illicit trafficking and the diversion of small arms, light weapons and other conventional arms and ammunition.  It was with collaboration and support from the international community and donors that most of Cambodia’s agricultural lands were now mine-free, even though some rural areas remained to be cleared, he said, noting that because of Cambodia’s experiences, ASEAN had established a regional mine action centre in Phnom Penh.

WENDBIGDA HONORINE BONKOUNGOU (Burkina Faso), associating herself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons threatened international peace, security and stability, fuelling transnational crime and terrorism in many regions and preventing the socioeconomic development of some States.  Noting that more than 877 million such weapons were in circulation, she welcomed the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, which would complement the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials, as would the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, and the Register of Conventional Arms.  Implementing such instruments would allow Burkina Faso to thwart trafficking.  Turning to concerns about anti-personnel mines, she called for the universalization of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.  She also called on all States to pool efforts to provide assistance to countries affected by such weapons.  Cluster bombs also hampered access to large fertile land, she said, calling for the universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Mr. AL-RIKABI (Iraq), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the challenges posed by the development of conventional weapons was no different from those posed by weapons of mass destruction.  Having recently acceded to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Iraq was committed to implementing all of its provisions.  Noting that the indiscriminate spread and trade of small arms and light weapons presented a serious threat to security, he said concerted efforts must continue to reactivate the Programme of Action on Small Arms.  Iraq had been deeply affected by anti-personnel mines, with terrorists having deployed such weapons across large swaths of territory, resulting in destructive effects on the environment and economy.  In that context, he called on donor countries to coordinate with Iraq to provide assistance to help address that grave concern.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the international community should spare no effort in dealing with the proliferation of conventional weapons.  For its part, Argentina had complied with many international legal instruments, co-authored the Arms Trade Treaty and had created a mechanism for keeping weapon-related materials safe.  Argentina had also joined the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which should be used as a framework to negotiate the prohibition of other arms, including lethal autonomous weapons systems and anti-personnel mines.  The humanitarian consequences of the use of those weapons called for a concerted effort by the international community, he said, adding that Argentina promoted confidence-building measures.

KINGSLEY WEINOH (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said illicit trafficking and the use of small arms and light weapons had undermined peace and security and caused the displacement of people.  Demanding renewed efforts to prevent and combat the illicit conventional weapons trade, he welcomed the Arms Trade Treaty, which must be robustly implemented, and urged States to join without delay.  Nigeria had redoubled efforts in strengthening its national borders and had signed and ratified related international legal instruments.  Nigeria was ready to work with other delegations in transforming the vision of international peace and security into reality for the future generations.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with Non-Aligned Movement, said his country’s missile programme was a basic defence requirement that should be viewed in the context of living in a volatile region rather than being assessed in a vacuum.  Iran’s military expenditure had decreased since 2007, indicating a restraint, given the skyrocketing security challenges in the region.  Through that lens, its missile programme had a purely defensive character and would continue with full force, he said, objecting to arguments that considered Iran’s missile launches to be inconsistent with Security Council resolution 2231 (2015).  That resolution only called upon Iran not to undertake activity related to missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, which Iran’s were not, he emphasized.

Mr. ISSA (Niger), said the international community’s efforts to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction and address concerns about conventional weapons had been demonstrated, including through in the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Programme of Action on Small Arms, Arms Trade Treaty and the establishment of practical confidence-building measures through the Disarmament Commission.  For its part, Niger had good relations with its neighbours and had ratified all legal international and regional instruments on disarmament and international security.  He emphasized that firearms control was crucial in West Africa and the Sahel, areas that had been greatly affected by the uncontrolled circulation and proliferation of firearms due to armed conflicts, terrorism and drug trafficking.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia), associating herself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said her country continued to suffer from the spread of small arms and light weapons because of porous borders, the presence of refugee camps and vast arid areas.  Domestic terrorist groups had been using the weapons to provoke and instigate unemployed youth to carry out violent activities.  To address those concerns, Ethiopia was raising public awareness and enhancing efforts to boost inter-agency coordination between law enforcement institutions, he said, noting that her delegation looked forward to the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument to be held in 2018.  Emphasizing the importance of the Mine Ban Convention, she said Ethiopia was committed to destroying its stockpiles.  However, the shortage and obsolete condition of related equipment had hampered that goal, she said, emphasizing that the main responsibility of completing the destruction of mines lay with States parties and that the full implementation of all Mine Ban Convention provisions depended largely on the availability of resources and technical support.

NOËL DIARRA (Mali) said that while small arms and light weapons did not appear to be as sophisticated as weapons of mass destruction, they were more deadly in terms of casualties.  In Mali, terrorist groups had used small arms and light weapons, attacking women and children and undermining development efforts.  Mali was committed to combating conventional weapons trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel region.  Yet, the activities of terrorist groups and traffickers represented a real challenge when it came to combating the arms proliferation and porous borders that needed to be strengthened to stop illegal weapons transfers.  Highlighting  the link between development and security, as demonstrated in Sustainable Development Goal 16.4., he said Mali had submitted a draft resolution on assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil), noting that his country hoped to join the Arms Trade Treaty soon, said a national export control system currently in place was already operating largely in compliance with the instrument.  To avoid the detrimental effects of unregulated international arms transfers, major weapons exporters must join the Arms Trade Treaty.  He also expressed support for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which provided a useful framework to address current and future humanitarian challenges in armed conflicts.  Acknowledging the humanitarian challenge posed by improvised explosive devices, he condemned that those devices had been increasingly used against civilians.  On that issue, Brazil had undertaken efforts to prevent the diversion of relevant controlled materials that could be used to produce such weapons, he said, noting the important connection linking the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the Arms Trade Treaty and the Programme of Action on Small Arms.

Other Disarmament Measures and International Security

DANNY RAHDIANSYAH (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, highlighted the important socioeconomic opportunities provided by information and communications technology and expressed concern over the cases of its illegal use that were detrimental to States.  Developing a legal framework to address such violations should be pursued within the United Nations and in full accordance with the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and peaceful coexistence among States.

Turning to the work of the related Group of Governmental Experts, he called for transparency and the strict application of the principle of equitable geographical representation in its membership.  In that context, he regretted to note that a request by developing countries for participation in the recently constituted Group of Governmental Experts had not been considered.

MARWAN ALI NOMAN AL-DOBHANY (Yemen), on behalf of the Arab Group, associated himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, saying that solutions approved within a multilateral framework and the Charter of the United Nations were the only way to deal with disarmament and international security issues.  He also underlined the fact that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction threatened sustainable development for all.

Turning to the preparation and implementation of disarmament and arms limitation agreements, he stressed the importance of observing environmental norms.  Concerned about the possibility of information and communications technology being used to damage the political, economic and scientific efforts of States, he welcomed the United Nations establishment of regulatory principles.  He also emphasized the need for international cooperation and for the United Nations to play a central role in related initiatives.

JOSEPH TEO CHOON HENG (Singapore), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said members had secured regional peace and strengthened national resilience.  As cyberthreats and attacks undermined trust in the digital future, ASEAN had adopted the Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy in March and had taken several other steps to foster regional cooperation, including support for ongoing work to promote international voluntary cybernorms of responsible State behaviour and the development of a rules-based cyberspace.  He also supported discussions on the adoption of basic, operational and voluntary norms of behaviour to guide information and communications technology use based on the norms set out in the 2015 report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.

Capacity building was an important aspect to enhancing the region’s ability to respond to threats, he said, welcoming the Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations (2016‑2020).  Cybersecurity required coordinated expertise from stakeholders across different domains, as Governments did not have all the answers.  A large percentage of cyberinfrastructure, resources and expertise was in the hands of the private sector, thus necessitating that sector’s involvement.

Mr. HENG, speaking in his national capacity, said the annual Singapore International Cyber Week had facilitated conversations on key issues such as norms or responsible State behaviour in cyberspace and cybersecurity capacity building.  Singapore had also launched a $10 million ASEAN cybercapacity programme, which was a modular, multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary initiative to build capacity across policy and technical areas.  Partnering with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, Singapore had helped to develop a flagship United Nations online training course on the use of information and communications technologies and international security.

CARMEN GONSALVES (Netherlands) said the Internet — increasingly regarded as a “global public good” — must remain open, safe and free for all.  Expressing regret that, despite efforts, the related Group of Governmental Experts had failed to arrive at a consensus on views and recommendations regarding norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour of States, she said its 2013 and 2015 reports were “landmark achievements” and a cause for optimism.  The 2013 report had acknowledged that international law and particularly the United Nations Charter was applicable and essential in maintaining peace and stability and promoting an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful information and communications technology environment.  Important progress on the operationalization of the application of international law had been made in the 2015 consensus report.  Both reports had agreed on common norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour, confidence-building measures and understandings on capacity building that would serve as the building blocks for more stable and predictable interaction among States, she said, urging States to implement the recommendations during the present period of reflection.

JUDIT KÖRÖMI, European Union delegation, expressed regret that the Group of Governmental experts had not reached an agreement on an additional report beyond its 2015 consensus recommendations.  The European Union would continue to implement the consensual views articulated in previous reports and invited other international actors to do the same.  The bloc would continue to promote the establishment of strategic frameworks for conflict prevention, cooperation and stability in cyberspace, which must be based on the application of existing international law, especially the United Nations Charter in its entirety.  It also supported the development and implementation of universal norms of responsible State behaviour, bolstered by targeted regional confidence-building measures between States.

She said States’ information and communications technology use should be guided by principles such as sovereign equality, non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States, the obligation to settle international disputes by peaceful means, the right to respond to internationally wrongful acts, the obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the right to self-defence.  The European Union was committed to addressing cyberthreats globally by assisting third countries in responding to such challenges and increasing law enforcement capabilities to investigate and prosecute cybercrime perpetrators.  In addition, member States had adopted a framework for a joint European Union diplomatic response to malicious cyberactivities, which contributed to conflict prevention, cooperation and stability in cyberspace.

WALTON WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of CARICOM, underlined the importance of considering gender perspectives in advancing effort to achieve disarmament goals.  Citing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and a similar CARICOM-sponsored draft resolution for addressing the vital links between women and disarmament, she said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons recognized the importance of equal, full and effective participation of both men and women in achieving sustainable peace and security.  Additionally, delegates at the sixth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms, had agreed to ensure the participation of women in implementation processes and encourage the collection of disaggregated data on gender and illicit small arms and light weapons.

Recognizing those links was particularly relevant and important to her region, she said.  While men were most often the victims of gun crimes, women were left to become the sole bread-winner for families and risked falling into poverty.  For that reason, women must be included in the disarmament discussion at all levels.   While her region was not affected by armed conflict, it faced tremendous challenges in relation to armed violence.  Approximately 70 per cent of homicides in the region involved the use of firearms, and as a result, resources had to be diverted away from development.  A diverse range of perspectives was needed to ensure that decisions reflected global concerns.  She also emphasized that the underrepresentation of lower-income countries at disarmament forums must be addressed in a holistic manner.

SABRINA DALLAFIOR MATTER (Switzerland) stressed the importance of an open, free, accessible and secure cyberspace.  Switzerland, having participated in the recent Group of Governmental Experts meetings, deeply regretted that it had not adopted a consensus report that would have submitted substantive recommendations to the General Assembly.  Despite significant progress on recommendations for confidence-building measures and capacity-building, it had failed to fulfil its mandate with regard to the application of international law and information and communications technology use.  Expressing concern about the hesitation of certain States to recognize the crucial role of international law in promoting a peaceful and cooperative approach to cybersecurity, she said the United Nations should play an active role in that field and provide practical guidance to States on steps they could take to operationalize and implement the recommendations of the 2015 Group of Governmental Experts report, including norms, rules and principles of responsible State behaviour.

VISHAL KAPUR (Canada) noted that small arms proliferation had facilitated and perpetuated violence against women and girls, including acts of sexual violence and domestic abuse.  Due to entrenched gender roles in many societies, women had to bear the primary responsibility of caring for survivors and were often indirect victims.  In times of conflict, women played a variety of roles, including protectors, combatants, arms dealers, smugglers and providers of support to armed actors.  Given those gender dimensions, the international community must strive to increase the meaningful inclusion of women as full partners in security, disarmament and arms control discussions, including in the tracking and analysis of illicit trafficking networks and trends, in all aspects of the destruction of small arms and light weapons and in international negotiations and peace processes.

RACHEL HICKS (United States), noting that creating a climate in which all States could enjoy the benefits of cyberspace was a fundamental goal of her country, introduced a draft resolution on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments.  There was broad consensus that compliance with international treaties to prevent further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was a central element of the international security architecture.  Without the confidence that countries would honour their commitments, the deals made would not be “worth the paper on which they were printed”.  In that sense, she said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had demonstrated unlawful and dangerous behaviour, including its failure to comply with disarmament and non-proliferation obligations.  She then urged the First Committee to make clear that compliance was essential to peace and security, by supporting the draft resolution on the issue.

AMANDEEP SINGH GILL (India), introducing a new draft resolution on the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament (document A/C.1/72/L.52), said the potential of science and technology for resolving the world’s most intractable problems could help the United Nations system progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  However, “the dark side of innovation is moving from the frontier to the front door”, he said, emphasizing that it was critical to ensure a correct understanding of the latest developments in science and technology to allow work in multilateral forums to adjust accordingly.

Asking the Committee to support the draft text, he said provisions would have the General Assembly call for a comprehensive study of such developments, which would be conducted through a science and security panel established by the United Nations Secretary-General.  The panel would be composed of 18 independent experts drawn from relevant areas including scientific research, industry, disarmament and international law and ethics.  By the draft, the General Assembly would request that Under-Secretary-General to submit a final report containing the panel’s assessments for the General Assembly’s consideration at its seventy-fifth session.

ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) said access to information and communications technology should contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security and be protected against criminal or terrorist use.  Paraguay had adopted a national cybersecurity programme, which would act as a tool for bolstering the security of critical assets and ensuring a reliable and secure cyberspace.  However, national efforts could only be sustainable with cooperation, he said, emphasizing the importance of international cooperation for the effective implementation of a mechanism to prevent cyberattacks.  Urging delegates to adopt norms that regulated information and communications technology processes in the context of international peace and security, he said that doing so would help to bridge the technological divide between developing and developed countries.

LARISSA SCHNEIDER CALZA (Brazil) said the militarization of information and communications technology and emergence of new systems of related weapons might lead to a new type of arms race.  To ensure the peaceful use of those technologies, Brazil favoured strengthening multilateral norms and principles applicable to the conduct of States.  Those norms should respect to the free flow of information and human rights, she said, urging the international community to examine the need to develop a specific legal framework to address proscribed behaviours, including offensive first use, tampering with the supply chain, intentionally introducing vulnerabilities into systems and networks and compromising information security of other States.  She encouraged all States to consider the adoption of a “no-first-use” norm with regards to offensive operations using information and communications technology.  Confidence-building measures and increased international assistance and cooperation must also aim at achieving an open and secure information and communications technology environment.  Having been active in the Groups of Governmental Experts, she said its format must evolve to be more inclusive and allow for the adequate participation of all countries, including developing countries.

MUSTAPHA ABBANI (Algeria), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said new information and communications technology products offered many opportunities to bolster socioeconomic development of countries.  However, their use by terrorist groups represented a threat to international peace and security.  Dual-use information and communications technology should not thwart the transfer of those technologies to States that needed them, especially developing countries.  Algeria had adopted a comprehensive approach for cyber- and general disarmament, establishing relevant tools and an entity to stop cybercrime and protect national security.  Having ratified African and Arab agreements on fighting information-related cybercrime and promoting collaboration among countries, Algeria promoted prosperity and human development in many fields.  Yet, using artificial intelligence could pose great humanitarian, ethical and legal challenges.  For that reason, the international community should adopt clear legislation, he said, emphasizing the importance of compliance with environmental standards when preparing and implementing disarmament agreements.

JEHAZEB KHAN (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said lethal autonomous weapon systems were unethical, unable to comply with international law, lowered the threshold for war and would negatively affect progress on arms control and disarmament.  Calling for a pre-emptive prohibition on further developing those weapons, he supported the establishment of a group of governmental experts to discuss those issues in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  Raising other concerns, he said the transborder unauthorized use of armed drones constituted a violation of international law, he said, citing the Human Rights Council’s opposition to targeting civilians with drones, which amounted to extrajudicial killings.  The threat of non-State actors and terrorists acquiring such weapons was additionally worrisome.  The misuse and unregulated use of information and communications technology also had grave implications for international peace and security, especially as the hostile activities involving cybertechnologies advanced.

Panel Discussion

The Committee held a panel discussion on “Regional disarmament and security”.  The panellists included Mary Soliman, Chief of the Regional Disarmament Branch of the Department of Disarmament Affairs; Anselme Yabouri, the Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa; Melanie Rigimbal, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean; and Yuriy Kryvonos, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.

Ms. SOLIMAN said the centres would continue to foster cooperation with United Nations partners, regional organizations and other stakeholders to prevent the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, in particular their diversion to non-State armed groups.  With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the centres would work with Member States towards realizing the 2030 Agenda, especially Goal 16.4, she said.  In that vein, they would continue to apply a synergistic approach and cooperate with relevant partners and stakeholders, building on comparative advantages and complementarities.  That would ensure the effective delivery of their mandate with maximum benefit to Member States in their respective regions.  Looking ahead, they would continue to work with Member States to identify strategic priority areas for their respective regions, taking into consideration global trends, developments, challenges and opportunities.  As they depended on extra-budgetary resources, she encouraged all Member States to support them through voluntary contributions.

Mr. YABOURI said work had been done with the African Union Commission to support the implementation of its initiative to “silence the guns by 2020” and of the 2030 Agenda.  In the Sahel, efforts included the implementation of the United Nations integrated strategy for the region through its participation in inter-agency discussions.  In Central Africa, substantive support was provided for the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa at its forty-third and forty-fourth ministerial meetings.  The regional centre had also participated in the annual meeting of heads of United Nations field presences in the Central African region in March 2017.  It had held several joint consultations with ECOWAS and had provided assistance for implementing regional and national action plans to African Member States and relevant civil society organizations related to global and regional instruments to combat the illicit trade and proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  While the sustained number of requests for assistance from Member States demonstrated the importance of its work, more was needed to advance peace and control in Africa given its gloomy peace and security situation.

Ms. RIGIMBAL said activities in 19 different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean had reached more than 2,100 national authorities, security sector agents, and young people, with the highest ever participation of females.  Efforts included stockpile management and weapons destruction, with activities geared toward quantitatively measuring progress and advances made toward the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 16.  Initiatives with Colombia had included the provision of technical assistance to the United Nations Verification Mission in the surrendering of arms.  Collaboration with the private sector was also key to ensuring sustainable security measures were adopted.  Meanwhile, the bulk of efforts focused on developing and imparting specialized trainings to combat illicit arms trafficking and provide tools to strengthen conventional arms control.  To use technology to its advantage, the regional centre created a new tool to facilitate the tracing of weapons trafficked through the postal system.  That preventive tool would aid security sector personnel in their fight against illicit arms trafficking, she said.

Mr. KRYVONOS said 10 projects and three collaborative programmes were among a range of activities undertaken in Asia and the Pacific.  The regional centre had also heavily engaged in the preparation for its relocation back to Nepal, which had concluded in February 2017.  Other activities included co-organizing two conferences on issues and challenges facing disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.  With respect to national capacity-building, several projects assisted Member States to implement their commitments relating to conventional arms control, particularly regarding the Programme of Action on Small Arms, Arms Trade Treaty and the Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).  The main outcome of the project implementation was the development, approval and submission of three national action plans by Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004).  In addition, outreach activities engaged regional stakeholders.  Thanks to support from sponsors, the centre had again managed to reach its highest annual project implementation rate.

The Chair of the Committee opened the floor to invite delegates to ask questions to the panellists; no questions were posed.

SIMON CLEOBURY (United Kingdom) emphasized his country’s commitment to promoting international stability frameworks for cyberspace based on the application of existing international law, agreed voluntary norms of responsible State behaviour and confidence-building measures, supported by coordinated capacity-building programmes.  The United Nations Charter applied in its entirety to State actions in cyberspace, he said, adding that the law of State responsibility applied to cyberoperations in peacetime, including the availability of the doctrine of countermeasures in response to internationally wrongful acts.  The United Kingdom would promote the operationalization of agreed norms of responsible State behaviour, focusing on practical measures States could take to put voluntary norms into practice, he said.  It would also support efforts in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other forums to implement confidence-building measures that would contribute to transparency and trust between States in cyberspace.

MARJA LEHTO (Finland) expressed regret that the Group of Governmental Experts had failed to reach an agreement.  International discussions on specific aspects of international law in relation to the use of information and communications technology should continue.  The Group’s recommendations on responsible State behaviour constituted a practical contribution to clarifying the steps States should take in the information and communications technology domain to comply with their obligations to not knowingly allow their territories to be used for activities that might cause significant harm to other States.  “It is necessary to be cybersmart in order to keep up with the changes of the global security environment”, she said, adding that developing resilience was essential worldwide and should be supported by appropriate capacity-building efforts.  OSCE had adopted a set of dedicated confidence-building measures in the area, she noted, calling for its implementation.

MINNA–LIINA LIND (Estonia), associating herself with the European Union, said discussions on the Internet should afford the same attention to security as to the freedom of expression.  She regretted that the Governmental Group for Experts had not achieved a consensus report in 2017 and could not make further progress in analysing how international law applied to the use of information and communications technology, particularly the principle of due diligence, the potential application of the right to self-defence and international humanitarian law.  Estonia supported the establishment of a strategic framework for conflict prevention and stability in cyberspace that was based on international law, in particular the Charter of the United Nations.

ANAYANSI RODRIGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) said the international community should adopt tangible measures to ensure the resources spent on military costs were refocused to promote sustainable development.  Member States should strictly comply with the environmental standards, with multilateralism being used in all disarmament negotiations.  Strict compliance with the United Nations Charter and international law was the only effective means to safeguard international peace and security while establishing a legally binding regulatory framework applicable to information and communications technology.  Denouncing the hostile use of those technologies for subverting legal and political orders of States, she said Cuba was constantly facing attacks from abroad as its communication spectrum had been targeted by the United States.  She called for an immediate end to such aggressive policies that were incompatible with international peace and security.

MARIA THEOFILI (Greece) said safety and security were of the utmost importance as the intertwined foundations of a country’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear material.  Transparent national efforts and strengthened regional cooperation in nuclear power production were critical.  Detailing the international instruments her country had acceded to and the work it had done during its European presidency, she called the Environmental Impact Convention the sine qua non of absolute transparency.  Underlining the centrality of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), she called upon all States to implement the Agency’s nuclear security guidance documents, to use its advisory services and to host peer review and follow-up missions.  As current political developments had created a volatile environment, she called for additional precautions to be taken to enhance the safety of nuclear installations, noting that more and more countries in her region were expressing a strong interest in nuclear power even though such energy had not been an option for the national energy grid of Greece itself.

WANG QUN (China) said that maintaining a peaceful cyberspace was crucial and all should faithfully observe the purposes and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, particularly the principles of sovereignty and non-interference of internal affairs.  Countries should discuss the application of international law in a manner conducive to maintaining peace so as to prevent an arms race in cyberspace and reduce the risk of conflict.  Cooperation was a win‑win concept, he continued.  No one country was immune from the threats of cyberspace and there was no such thing as absolute security.  Countries should reject the cold war mentality and develop a new security concept featuring coordination and sustainability.  The United Nations should play a leading role on the issue and discussion in the last Group of Governmental Experts had reflected the differences among the international community and further highlighted the need to build a broad consensus.  An open, inclusive process that allowed more countries to participate in global Internet governance should be established, he said.  At the same time, efforts should be made to assist developing countries with capacity‑building to bridge the digital divide.

LOUIS RIQUET (France) said existing international law, including the United Nations Charter, applied to cyberspace.  Should a cyberattack constitute a threat to international peace and security, the case might be referred to the Security Council under Chapters VI or VII of the Charter.  As a major cyberattack could constitute an armed attack under Article 51 of the Charter, States could invoke the right to legitimate self-defence in anticipation of a Security Council decision.  He said that in order to guarantee international stability and security in cyberspace, it was essential to have one standard that encouraged the control of exports of offensive cybertools and techniques and another that aimed at preventing non-State actors, including private companies, from carrying out offensive activities in cyberspace on their own behalf and that of other State or non-State actors.

THOMAS FITSCHEN (Germany), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that there were reservations as to whether certain aspect of traditional international law in response to a malicious cyberoperation were really applicable in “cyberspace”.  If a State agent or someone else carried out a cyberoperation in another State to stop an electricity plan, that plan did not happen somewhere in cyberspace, but rather on the territory and in the jurisdiction of that country.  Those relations were governed by international law, he said, adding that some delegations were reluctant to touch upon the lawful counter-measures in cyberoperations.  According to international law, States could be held accountable.  The issue of attributing a certain conduct to a State was not new, he said.  Cyberoperations against territorial integrity of another State could in itself constitute use of force and thus be unlawful.

Ms. LINYAMA (Zambia) said that the increased use of information and communications technology had resulted in increased crimes, such as attacks on computer systems of institutions and terrorism-related activities.  It had also allowed criminal and terrorist syndicates to cross barriers of States to commit crimes, making it difficult to identify the offenders and locate the crime scenes with traditional investigation tools.  The Zambian Government was facing myriad challenges in fighting cybercrime and other criminal activities related to technology.  It had taken various measures to combat cyber- and other technological crime, including through harnessing opportunities offered by information and communications technology for law enforcement, such as electronic surveillance.  Investigation and prosecuting such crimes remained a challenge; it required new skills and procedural tools, including the capacity to collect and analyse digital evidence and to use that evidence in criminal proceedings.  Noting the positive contributions of science and technology, he called for international cooperation in assisting the physical security and monitoring of nuclear facilities and materials.

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation), recalling that his country had been the first to raise concerns about emerging threats in the global information space, had tabled a related draft resolution to the General Assembly.  It was clear that such threats had become one of the most serious challenges to international peace and security.  That was compounded by the fact that recent discussions on international information security had stalled.  He was vigorously opposed to any attempts to unleash the information arms race, he said.  Together with like-minded countries, his country had repeatedly suggested the that the Group of Governmental Experts develop and submit to the General Assembly universal rules in the information space.  Instead, the Group’s discussion had been emasculated and side-lined for secondary aspects.  Certain countries sought to impose unilateral rules that only served their own interests.  Those rules were designed to ensure the chosen ones had a technological advantage and imposed a very dangerous decision to recognize the digital sphere as a theatre of military action.  He expressed concerns at attempts to discredit the role of the United Nations in tackling cybersecurity.  All Member States should participate in the discussion on an equal basis.  To ensure sustainability in negotiations in international information security, the Russian Federation had introduced a draft procedural decision to keep the item “developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security” on its agenda for the seventy-third session.

Mr. HAJNOCZI (Austria), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, expressed regret that the Group of Governmental Experts had failed to agree on a consensus report this year.  Nonetheless, its previous reports would continue to be the basis for efforts to strengthen stability and security in an open and peaceful Internet where human rights and fundamental freedoms were respected.  Confidence-building measures could enhance trust and assurance among States and help reduce the risk of conflict, he said, noting that OSCE had undertaken significant work in that area in recent years.  Outlining some of those efforts, he said that, under the Austrian chairmanship, OSCE had made rebuilding trust and confidence among its three top priorities for 2017.  In February, his delegation had organized a conference on cybersecurity, and a second chairmanship conference would be held on 3 November in Vienna, offering an opportunity to discuss intensifying cooperation on several key areas.  Calling for a steadfast commitment to applying existing international law to the cyber context, he added that the Budapest Convention was an important tool in combating the criminal use of information and communications technology.

ISAAC MORALES (Mexico) said that the international system had a fundamental role to play in cyberspace to make it “open, safe and accessible”.  That should be enforced by regional and other multilateral forums.  The efforts of the Organization’s international security system should achieve balance in encouraging access and peaceful use of cyberspace as a catalyst for development.  Furthermore, the use of cyberspace as a safe place should be ensured by the private sector and Governments.

VANESSA WOOD (Australia) said the foundation for responsible State behaviour in cyberspace was a mutual commitment to existing international law, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The United Nations Charter could be applied in its entirety to State actions in cyberspace, including the prohibition of the use of force, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and the right of States to act in self-defence in response to an armed attack.  To enable agile responses, existing international law was complemented by norms, as established through the Groups of Governmental Experts, among others, of responsible State behaviour, which promote predictability, stability and security.  The international community must now ensure that there were effective and proportionate consequences for those who acted contrary to the consensus on norms.

Mr. AZADI (Iran), associating himself with the statement to be made by the Non-Aligned Movement, said information communication technology played a crucial role in socioeconomic and cultural development.  There was a need to strengthen security and prevent the use of such technology for illegal purposes.  National measures were not sufficient.  Due to both the complex nature and rapid advances in the field, international cooperation was essential.  While it was important there was a common understanding of issues, such an understanding could not adequately emerge through the work of the Group of Governmental Experts.  In that regard, all States must be engaged in an inclusive, interactive debate in a broad-based setting.  Establishing an open-ended working group was an appropriate method to help build upon the work and to discuss issues related to information communication security.

FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern about the potential misuse of information and communications technology to the detriment of international peace and security.  While it was a key vehicle to further growth and development, normative behaviours and cooperation were needed to ensure information security.  The work of the Group of Governmental Experts was useful, he said, adding he looked forward to it moving forward after its setback during its last session.  He also voiced support for the draft decision tabled by the Russian Federation on the field’s developments in international security.  With threats by terrorists using information and communications technology to compromise security and cause harm, there was a need to strengthen the existing legal regime pertinent to that domain and address the weakest links in the cybersphere.  As well, he expressed support for the draft resolution tabled by India on the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament, co-sponsored by his delegation.

ANGGI SAZIKA JENIE (Indonesia), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated her serious concern over the two decades delay in the implementation of the 1995 resolution on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Recalling the opposition expressed by the United States, United Kingdom and Canada at the concluding session of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East had not been achieved.  She emphasised the special responsibility of the co-sponsors of that resolution for its implementation.  Its persistent lack could undermine the effectiveness and credibility of the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a whole.  The Non-Aligned Movement demanded that Israel renounce any possession of nuclear weapons and accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty without any precondition or delay.

MARWAN ALDOBHANY (Yemen), speaking for the Arab Group and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of agreements to establish nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  He emphasized the need to take effective and immediate measures as outlined by the Arab Group resolution addressing the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.  He called upon the three co-sponsors of the Middle East resolution adopted in 1995 to bear the responsibility of the text’s implementation and establish that zone.  The Arab States were concerned for the security and humanitarian and environmental impact due to Israel’s rejection to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  He underlined that the continued delay of the implementation of the 1995 resolution was a serious setback to global nuclear non-proliferation efforts.

LOIS M. YOUNG (Belize), speaking for CARICOM, said that bloc’s member States remained committed to confronting the illicit trade in firearms.  They had benefitted from the memorandum of understanding between the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as from the implementation of the UNODC Regional Programme 2014‑16.  The United Nations Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean was one of several important partners for the Community in implementing its arms control and non-proliferation obligations.  That partnership had resulted in the successful implementation of the Operational Forensic Ballistic Project, she said, also highlighting six sub-regional training sessions completed in August on the topic of “double casting”, which increased national authorities’ capabilities to establish connections between crimes nationally, regionally and internationally.

She went on to emphasize CARICOM’s support for strengthening the role of women in disarmament, noting Trinidad and Tobago’s leadership of the biennial resolution titled “Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control”.  The Community was also committed to the CARICOM-Security Council Resolution 1540 Implementation Programme to prevent the transit, trans-shipment, import, export, re-export or brokering of dual-use materials that could be used in the development of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons and related materials.  It had strengthened its partnership with the United Nations Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean in implementing various project activities related to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, recently launching a Guide on the Development of National Control Lists for the region.  That had assisted CARICOM in reinforcing national export and import regulatory structures for dual use goods, she noted.

JUDIT KÖRÖMI, European Union delegation, said the illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea posed a grave threat to regional and international peace and security.  That country should refrain from further reckless provocations and abandon its programmes.  Addressing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she emphasized the importance of its continued, full and effective implementation.  Facilitated by the European Union, the Plan of Action was the result of 12 years of diplomatic effort.  It had become a key element of the nuclear non-proliferation architecture and was crucial for the security of the region.  She encouraged the United States to maintain its commitment to the Plan of Action and consider the implications for the security of the United States, its partners and the region before taking further steps.

She went on to say that, despite de-escalation efforts, this year had seen the highest number of civilian casualties in Syria.  She condemned the indiscriminate attacks and atrocities perpetrated by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) and other terrorist groups and the systematic violations of human rights by all parties, particularly the Syrian regime.   The use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs and incendiary weapons in Syria might amount to war crimes.  It was deeply shocking and deplorable that chemical weapons had been used in several cases in Syria.  The findings of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding mission, the Joint Investigative Mechanism and the testimonies gathered by the Commission of Inquiry for Syria required strong action by the Security Council.  At the same time, it was also deeply concerning that Syria had not engaged substantively regarding gaps and discrepancies in its chemical weapons declaration with the ongoing investigations of the OPCW Technical Secretariat.

DELFINA JANE ALOYSIUS DRIS (Malaysia), speaking for ASEAN, said she believed that the value of regionalism lay in its inclusivity, rules-based nature, with an emphasis on mutual benefit and respect.  Transparency, confidence-building measures and progress in regional disarmament were indispensable in improving the security environment of the Asia-Pacific region, and in that connection, the Group reaffirmed its commitment to the disarmament treaties to which it was a signatory.  The United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament had worked tirelessly to collaborate on various initiatives, she said, reiterating the commitment to preserving the region, not only as a nuclear-weapons-free zone, but a zone free of all other weapons of mass destruction as enshrined in the ASEAN Charter and the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone.

ASEAN continued to undertake various activities on nuclear safety, security and safeguards, including with respect to capacity building, she continued.  The Group was also working towards the establishment of a formal relationship between the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy and IAEA and was committed to the full operationalization of the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Centre Permanent Secretariat.  Such developing concrete initiatives, building capacity and ensuring continuity through regional cooperation were crucial in making progress on global disarmament commitments.

ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) said regional approaches provided important avenues to disarmament, security and non-proliferation objectives.  In East Asia, the regional architecture had steadily evolved in the face of growing threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.  He reiterated President Donald Trump’s commitment to deny Iran all paths to nuclear weapons.  The United States would work with its international partners to explore options for addressing the flaws in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme.  In closing, he noted that South Asia was a home to two nuclear-weapon States and to the highest concentration of foreign terrorist groups in any region.

ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) denounced the use of force in international relations.  Honouring commitments to transparency and accountability, Paraguay provided its military expenditure information.  He called States to cooperate with the United Nations and supported the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development.  Latin America and the Caribbean was a region free of nuclear weapons, he said, noting the valuable contributions of civil society in disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the representative of Iran represented a regime that was one of the world’s biggest sponsors of terror and had committed atrocities against the people of Syria.  As such, it was hard to see how he had any standing to make accusations against his country.

The representative of the United States said Iran supported terrorism and was complicit in the Assad regime’s crimes against its people, had threatened to wipe Israel off the map, had launched cyberattacks against the United States, had committed human rights abuses and continued its ballistic missile programme.  The United States had sanctioned Iranian entities involved in the country’s ballistic missile programme and remained concerned about its military support for Houthis in Yemen.

The representative of Iran categorically rejected remarks made by his counterpart from Israel.  Chronic threats plaguing the Middle East stemmed from the offensive and brutal practices of the Israeli regime.  Israel was the only country in the region possessing nuclear weapons and facilities that were under no safeguards and had refused to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, blocking the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Israel was one of the world’s biggest military spenders in 2016 and was a huge beneficiary of aid from the United States.  He called on Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty for the sake of peace and stability in the region.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his country had suffered from natural disasters, including an unprecedented drought, which was why countries such as the United States had voluntarily sent it food.  His delegation did not support the draft resolution presented by the United States on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments because of its pure political purpose.  Concerning his country’s nuclear deterrence policy, he said if the United States was afraid of such weapons, then it should get rid of all its nuclear bombs and enter the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon State.

The representative of the United States said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been isolated and had lost billions of dollars because it was developing nuclear and ballistic missile programmes instead of taking care of its own people’s needs.  Furthermore, he was not shocked by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s plan not to vote for United States compliance resolution.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected what the United States delegate had said.

News

With ‘Dark Side of Innovation’ on Horizon, First Committee Delegates Call for Joint Action in Combating Cyberattacks

New Text Calls for Creation of United Nations Panel to Investigate Potential Role of Science, Technology in Disarmament

States must join forces to combat the rising threat of non-State actors maliciously using information and communications technology to destabilize socioeconomic development, delegates told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today as they discussed ways to prevent cyberattacks.

Introducing a new draft resolution on the role of science in that regard, India’s representative emphasized that as “the dark side of innovation is moving from the frontier to the front door”, it was critical to ensure a correct understanding of the latest developments in science and technology to allow work in multilateral forums to adjust accordingly.

Asking the Committee to support the draft text, he said it would have the General Assembly request that the Secretary-General create a panel of experts in diverse fields of science and technology to assess current developments and their potential impact on international security and disarmament efforts.

Echoing a common concern, Brazil’s representative warned against the militarization of information and communications technology and the emergence of new systems of related weapons that might trigger a new arms race.  Pakistan’s representative highlighted the growing threat of lethal autonomous weapon systems, calling for a pre-emptive prohibition on further developing such arms.  He also supported the establishment of a group of governmental experts to discuss those issues in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

Yemen’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, welcomed the United Nations establishment of regulatory principles to address concerns about the possibility of information and communications technology being used to damage the political, economic and scientific efforts of States.

Elaborating on that point, the delegate of the Netherlands highlighted the usefulness of recommendations made in the 2013 and 2015 reports of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.  Those “landmark achievements” had acknowledged that international law and particularly the United Nations Charter was applicable and essential in maintaining peace and stability and promoting an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful information and communications technology environment, she said.

Delegates, including Indonesia’s representative, called for an international legal framework to address malicious acts.  Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, he underscored the importance of developing such a framework within the United Nations and in full accordance with the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and peaceful coexistence among States as fundamental in preventing and mitigating such threats.

Likewise, Paraguay’s delegate urged delegates to adopt norms which regulated information and communications technology processes in the context of international peace and security.  Such guidance would help to bridge the technological divide between developing and developed countries, he said.

Expressing concerns about access to technology, Algeria’s representative said that even though new information and communications technology products offered many opportunities to boost socioeconomic development, their use by terrorist groups posed a real danger.  As such, dual-use information and communications technology should not thwart the transfer of those technologies to States that needed them, especially developing countries, he emphasized.

Other delegates, including the representative of Switzerland, stressed the importance of an open, free, accessible and secure cyberspace.  The delegate of the United States underlined creating a climate in which all States could enjoy the benefits of cyberspace was a fundamental goal of her country.  She also introduced a draft resolution on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments.

Briefing the Committee at the outset of the meeting, Karsten Diethelm Geier, Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, highlighted the need to continue discussions on information and communications technology.

He emphasized that because each State had a stake in cybersecurity, a global understanding of threats and the ways to mitigate them was needed and must be pursued through the United Nations.  He also highlighted the importance of involving the private sector, civil society and others in developing capacity and confidence-building measures.

The Committee also held a panel discussion on “Regional disarmament and security”.

During the debate on conventional weapons, the representatives of Botswana, Cambodia, Burkina Faso, Iraq, Argentina, Nigeria, Iran, Niger, Ethiopia, and Mali and Brazil delivered statements.

The debate on other disarmament measures and international security featured the representatives from Singapore (also for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Antigua and Barbuda (for the Caribbean Community), Switzerland, Canada, United Kingdom, Finland, Estonia, Cuba, Greece, China, France, Germany, Zambia, Russian Federation, Austria, Mexico, Australia, Iran and Bangladesh, as well as the European Union.

Delivering statements during the discussion on regional disarmament and security were representatives of Indonesia (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Yemen (for the Arab Group), Belize (for the Caribbean Community), Malaysia (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), United States and Paraguay, as well as the European Union.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Israel, Iran, United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The First Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 24 October, to begin its thematic debate on the disarmament machinery.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met to continue its thematic discussion on conventional weapons and hear a briefing by the Chair of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.  It also began its thematic debate on other disarmament measures and international security.  For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.

Briefing

KARSTEN DIETHELM GEIER, Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, highlighted its work, noting its inability to reach consensus during its previous two cycles.  During the 2015‑2016 cycle, it had failed doing so, but not for lack of trying.  Still, efforts had helped to increase transparency around the Group and obtain outside input.  Experts based their deliberations on trying to formulate concrete guidance on how to help States to implement recommendations contained in previous reports.  Under discussion on information and communications technology were its increasingly malicious use by non-State actors and how that could impair global information and communications technology systems, and its use to interfere in the affairs of other States and to conduct criminal activities.

He said that in discussing how to take forward responsible norms of behaviours by States and how to respond to attacks on critical infrastructure, members had made suggestions on how to prevent non-State actors from conducting malicious information and communications technology activities.  They also made concrete suggestions related to confidence building, including guidance on points of contact and procedures to request information from other States.  The importance of involving private sector, civil society and others in capacity building was also raised.

Despite convergence on these points, significant differences remained, he said.  During the 2016‑2017 cycle, members had been unable to agree on a consensus report on its last day of discussions, he said, regretting to note that many good points had not been carried forward by a generally accepted document, which would have been useful to Member States.  Pointing out that information and communications technology had been discussed at the United Nations since 1998 and that tremendous progress had been made, he emphasized that previous reports stood unaffected by the current lack of consensus.  Highlighting remaining differences, he said “we do ourselves no favour to paper over divisions”.

Each State had a stake in cybersecurity, he said.  As such, there was a need to continue discussions and increase transparency and inclusivity.  A global understanding of threats and the ways to mitigate them was needed and must be pursued through the United Nations.  In terms of holding another Group of Governmental Experts meeting, alternatives should be explored to identify the best format.  Meanwhile, a consensual approach allowing for further progress must be found prior to the General Assembly’s seventy‑third session.

Conventional Weapons

LORATO LUCKY MOTSUMI (Botswana), associating herself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said peace was elusive in a world where armed conflicts were on the rise.  Control measures for conventional weapons must limit their illicit trafficking, particularly because they caused the greatest civilian casualties.  Welcoming the adoption of a declaration on improvised explosive devices, she reiterated Botswana’s support for the fifth Review Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects.  Guided by the Maputo Action Plan 2014‑2019, Botswana was committed to efforts to eliminate anti-personnel mines around the world and to working with partners in areas such as arms control and money laundering.

RY TUY (Cambodia), associating himself with ASEAN and Non-Aligned Movement, his country had, after experiencing civil war, famine and starvation, turned to United Nations rehabilitation programmes, adopting confidence-building measures, especially in the fields of conventional arms, anti-personnel mine clearance and the reintegration of mine victims.  Subregional and regional cooperation, information-sharing mechanisms and trans-border customs cooperation and networks must be established or strengthened.  In that vein, Cambodia would host in December a regional seminar for ASEAN members and Timor‑Leste on the illicit trafficking and the diversion of small arms, light weapons and other conventional arms and ammunition.  It was with collaboration and support from the international community and donors that most of Cambodia’s agricultural lands were now mine-free, even though some rural areas remained to be cleared, he said, noting that because of Cambodia’s experiences, ASEAN had established a regional mine action centre in Phnom Penh.

WENDBIGDA HONORINE BONKOUNGOU (Burkina Faso), associating herself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons threatened international peace, security and stability, fuelling transnational crime and terrorism in many regions and preventing the socioeconomic development of some States.  Noting that more than 877 million such weapons were in circulation, she welcomed the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, which would complement the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials, as would the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, and the Register of Conventional Arms.  Implementing such instruments would allow Burkina Faso to thwart trafficking.  Turning to concerns about anti-personnel mines, she called for the universalization of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.  She also called on all States to pool efforts to provide assistance to countries affected by such weapons.  Cluster bombs also hampered access to large fertile land, she said, calling for the universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Mr. AL-RIKABI (Iraq), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the challenges posed by the development of conventional weapons was no different from those posed by weapons of mass destruction.  Having recently acceded to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Iraq was committed to implementing all of its provisions.  Noting that the indiscriminate spread and trade of small arms and light weapons presented a serious threat to security, he said concerted efforts must continue to reactivate the Programme of Action on Small Arms.  Iraq had been deeply affected by anti-personnel mines, with terrorists having deployed such weapons across large swaths of territory, resulting in destructive effects on the environment and economy.  In that context, he called on donor countries to coordinate with Iraq to provide assistance to help address that grave concern.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the international community should spare no effort in dealing with the proliferation of conventional weapons.  For its part, Argentina had complied with many international legal instruments, co-authored the Arms Trade Treaty and had created a mechanism for keeping weapon-related materials safe.  Argentina had also joined the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which should be used as a framework to negotiate the prohibition of other arms, including lethal autonomous weapons systems and anti-personnel mines.  The humanitarian consequences of the use of those weapons called for a concerted effort by the international community, he said, adding that Argentina promoted confidence-building measures.

KINGSLEY WEINOH (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said illicit trafficking and the use of small arms and light weapons had undermined peace and security and caused the displacement of people.  Demanding renewed efforts to prevent and combat the illicit conventional weapons trade, he welcomed the Arms Trade Treaty, which must be robustly implemented, and urged States to join without delay.  Nigeria had redoubled efforts in strengthening its national borders and had signed and ratified related international legal instruments.  Nigeria was ready to work with other delegations in transforming the vision of international peace and security into reality for the future generations.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with Non-Aligned Movement, said his country’s missile programme was a basic defence requirement that should be viewed in the context of living in a volatile region rather than being assessed in a vacuum.  Iran’s military expenditure had decreased since 2007, indicating a restraint, given the skyrocketing security challenges in the region.  Through that lens, its missile programme had a purely defensive character and would continue with full force, he said, objecting to arguments that considered Iran’s missile launches to be inconsistent with Security Council resolution 2231 (2015).  That resolution only called upon Iran not to undertake activity related to missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, which Iran’s were not, he emphasized.

Mr. ISSA (Niger), said the international community’s efforts to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction and address concerns about conventional weapons had been demonstrated, including through in the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Programme of Action on Small Arms, Arms Trade Treaty and the establishment of practical confidence-building measures through the Disarmament Commission.  For its part, Niger had good relations with its neighbours and had ratified all legal international and regional instruments on disarmament and international security.  He emphasized that firearms control was crucial in West Africa and the Sahel, areas that had been greatly affected by the uncontrolled circulation and proliferation of firearms due to armed conflicts, terrorism and drug trafficking.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia), associating herself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said her country continued to suffer from the spread of small arms and light weapons because of porous borders, the presence of refugee camps and vast arid areas.  Domestic terrorist groups had been using the weapons to provoke and instigate unemployed youth to carry out violent activities.  To address those concerns, Ethiopia was raising public awareness and enhancing efforts to boost inter-agency coordination between law enforcement institutions, he said, noting that her delegation looked forward to the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument to be held in 2018.  Emphasizing the importance of the Mine Ban Convention, she said Ethiopia was committed to destroying its stockpiles.  However, the shortage and obsolete condition of related equipment had hampered that goal, she said, emphasizing that the main responsibility of completing the destruction of mines lay with States parties and that the full implementation of all Mine Ban Convention provisions depended largely on the availability of resources and technical support.

NOËL DIARRA (Mali) said that while small arms and light weapons did not appear to be as sophisticated as weapons of mass destruction, they were more deadly in terms of casualties.  In Mali, terrorist groups had used small arms and light weapons, attacking women and children and undermining development efforts.  Mali was committed to combating conventional weapons trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel region.  Yet, the activities of terrorist groups and traffickers represented a real challenge when it came to combating the arms proliferation and porous borders that needed to be strengthened to stop illegal weapons transfers.  Highlighting  the link between development and security, as demonstrated in Sustainable Development Goal 16.4., he said Mali had submitted a draft resolution on assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil), noting that his country hoped to join the Arms Trade Treaty soon, said a national export control system currently in place was already operating largely in compliance with the instrument.  To avoid the detrimental effects of unregulated international arms transfers, major weapons exporters must join the Arms Trade Treaty.  He also expressed support for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which provided a useful framework to address current and future humanitarian challenges in armed conflicts.  Acknowledging the humanitarian challenge posed by improvised explosive devices, he condemned that those devices had been increasingly used against civilians.  On that issue, Brazil had undertaken efforts to prevent the diversion of relevant controlled materials that could be used to produce such weapons, he said, noting the important connection linking the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the Arms Trade Treaty and the Programme of Action on Small Arms.

Other Disarmament Measures and International Security

DANNY RAHDIANSYAH (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, highlighted the important socioeconomic opportunities provided by information and communications technology and expressed concern over the cases of its illegal use that were detrimental to States.  Developing a legal framework to address such violations should be pursued within the United Nations and in full accordance with the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and peaceful coexistence among States.

Turning to the work of the related Group of Governmental Experts, he called for transparency and the strict application of the principle of equitable geographical representation in its membership.  In that context, he regretted to note that a request by developing countries for participation in the recently constituted Group of Governmental Experts had not been considered.

MARWAN ALI NOMAN AL-DOBHANY (Yemen), on behalf of the Arab Group, associated himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, saying that solutions approved within a multilateral framework and the Charter of the United Nations were the only way to deal with disarmament and international security issues.  He also underlined the fact that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction threatened sustainable development for all.

Turning to the preparation and implementation of disarmament and arms limitation agreements, he stressed the importance of observing environmental norms.  Concerned about the possibility of information and communications technology being used to damage the political, economic and scientific efforts of States, he welcomed the United Nations establishment of regulatory principles.  He also emphasized the need for international cooperation and for the United Nations to play a central role in related initiatives.

JOSEPH TEO CHOON HENG (Singapore), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said members had secured regional peace and strengthened national resilience.  As cyberthreats and attacks undermined trust in the digital future, ASEAN had adopted the Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy in March and had taken several other steps to foster regional cooperation, including support for ongoing work to promote international voluntary cybernorms of responsible State behaviour and the development of a rules-based cyberspace.  He also supported discussions on the adoption of basic, operational and voluntary norms of behaviour to guide information and communications technology use based on the norms set out in the 2015 report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.

Capacity building was an important aspect to enhancing the region’s ability to respond to threats, he said, welcoming the Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations (2016‑2020).  Cybersecurity required coordinated expertise from stakeholders across different domains, as Governments did not have all the answers.  A large percentage of cyberinfrastructure, resources and expertise was in the hands of the private sector, thus necessitating that sector’s involvement.

Mr. HENG, speaking in his national capacity, said the annual Singapore International Cyber Week had facilitated conversations on key issues such as norms or responsible State behaviour in cyberspace and cybersecurity capacity building.  Singapore had also launched a $10 million ASEAN cybercapacity programme, which was a modular, multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary initiative to build capacity across policy and technical areas.  Partnering with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, Singapore had helped to develop a flagship United Nations online training course on the use of information and communications technologies and international security.

CARMEN GONSALVES (Netherlands) said the Internet — increasingly regarded as a “global public good” — must remain open, safe and free for all.  Expressing regret that, despite efforts, the related Group of Governmental Experts had failed to arrive at a consensus on views and recommendations regarding norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour of States, she said its 2013 and 2015 reports were “landmark achievements” and a cause for optimism.  The 2013 report had acknowledged that international law and particularly the United Nations Charter was applicable and essential in maintaining peace and stability and promoting an open, secure, stable, accessible and peaceful information and communications technology environment.  Important progress on the operationalization of the application of international law had been made in the 2015 consensus report.  Both reports had agreed on common norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour, confidence-building measures and understandings on capacity building that would serve as the building blocks for more stable and predictable interaction among States, she said, urging States to implement the recommendations during the present period of reflection.

JUDIT KÖRÖMI, European Union delegation, expressed regret that the Group of Governmental experts had not reached an agreement on an additional report beyond its 2015 consensus recommendations.  The European Union would continue to implement the consensual views articulated in previous reports and invited other international actors to do the same.  The bloc would continue to promote the establishment of strategic frameworks for conflict prevention, cooperation and stability in cyberspace, which must be based on the application of existing international law, especially the United Nations Charter in its entirety.  It also supported the development and implementation of universal norms of responsible State behaviour, bolstered by targeted regional confidence-building measures between States.

She said States’ information and communications technology use should be guided by principles such as sovereign equality, non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States, the obligation to settle international disputes by peaceful means, the right to respond to internationally wrongful acts, the obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the right to self-defence.  The European Union was committed to addressing cyberthreats globally by assisting third countries in responding to such challenges and increasing law enforcement capabilities to investigate and prosecute cybercrime perpetrators.  In addition, member States had adopted a framework for a joint European Union diplomatic response to malicious cyberactivities, which contributed to conflict prevention, cooperation and stability in cyberspace.

WALTON WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of CARICOM, underlined the importance of considering gender perspectives in advancing effort to achieve disarmament goals.  Citing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and a similar CARICOM-sponsored draft resolution for addressing the vital links between women and disarmament, she said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons recognized the importance of equal, full and effective participation of both men and women in achieving sustainable peace and security.  Additionally, delegates at the sixth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms, had agreed to ensure the participation of women in implementation processes and encourage the collection of disaggregated data on gender and illicit small arms and light weapons.

Recognizing those links was particularly relevant and important to her region, she said.  While men were most often the victims of gun crimes, women were left to become the sole bread-winner for families and risked falling into poverty.  For that reason, women must be included in the disarmament discussion at all levels.   While her region was not affected by armed conflict, it faced tremendous challenges in relation to armed violence.  Approximately 70 per cent of homicides in the region involved the use of firearms, and as a result, resources had to be diverted away from development.  A diverse range of perspectives was needed to ensure that decisions reflected global concerns.  She also emphasized that the underrepresentation of lower-income countries at disarmament forums must be addressed in a holistic manner.

SABRINA DALLAFIOR MATTER (Switzerland) stressed the importance of an open, free, accessible and secure cyberspace.  Switzerland, having participated in the recent Group of Governmental Experts meetings, deeply regretted that it had not adopted a consensus report that would have submitted substantive recommendations to the General Assembly.  Despite significant progress on recommendations for confidence-building measures and capacity-building, it had failed to fulfil its mandate with regard to the application of international law and information and communications technology use.  Expressing concern about the hesitation of certain States to recognize the crucial role of international law in promoting a peaceful and cooperative approach to cybersecurity, she said the United Nations should play an active role in that field and provide practical guidance to States on steps they could take to operationalize and implement the recommendations of the 2015 Group of Governmental Experts report, including norms, rules and principles of responsible State behaviour.

VISHAL KAPUR (Canada) noted that small arms proliferation had facilitated and perpetuated violence against women and girls, including acts of sexual violence and domestic abuse.  Due to entrenched gender roles in many societies, women had to bear the primary responsibility of caring for survivors and were often indirect victims.  In times of conflict, women played a variety of roles, including protectors, combatants, arms dealers, smugglers and providers of support to armed actors.  Given those gender dimensions, the international community must strive to increase the meaningful inclusion of women as full partners in security, disarmament and arms control discussions, including in the tracking and analysis of illicit trafficking networks and trends, in all aspects of the destruction of small arms and light weapons and in international negotiations and peace processes.

RACHEL HICKS (United States), noting that creating a climate in which all States could enjoy the benefits of cyberspace was a fundamental goal of her country, introduced a draft resolution on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments.  There was broad consensus that compliance with international treaties to prevent further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was a central element of the international security architecture.  Without the confidence that countries would honour their commitments, the deals made would not be “worth the paper on which they were printed”.  In that sense, she said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had demonstrated unlawful and dangerous behaviour, including its failure to comply with disarmament and non-proliferation obligations.  She then urged the First Committee to make clear that compliance was essential to peace and security, by supporting the draft resolution on the issue.

AMANDEEP SINGH GILL (India), introducing a new draft resolution on the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament (document A/C.1/72/L.52), said the potential of science and technology for resolving the world’s most intractable problems could help the United Nations system progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  However, “the dark side of innovation is moving from the frontier to the front door”, he said, emphasizing that it was critical to ensure a correct understanding of the latest developments in science and technology to allow work in multilateral forums to adjust accordingly.

Asking the Committee to support the draft text, he said provisions would have the General Assembly call for a comprehensive study of such developments, which would be conducted through a science and security panel established by the United Nations Secretary-General.  The panel would be composed of 18 independent experts drawn from relevant areas including scientific research, industry, disarmament and international law and ethics.  By the draft, the General Assembly would request that Under-Secretary-General to submit a final report containing the panel’s assessments for the General Assembly’s consideration at its seventy-fifth session.

ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) said access to information and communications technology should contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security and be protected against criminal or terrorist use.  Paraguay had adopted a national cybersecurity programme, which would act as a tool for bolstering the security of critical assets and ensuring a reliable and secure cyberspace.  However, national efforts could only be sustainable with cooperation, he said, emphasizing the importance of international cooperation for the effective implementation of a mechanism to prevent cyberattacks.  Urging delegates to adopt norms that regulated information and communications technology processes in the context of international peace and security, he said that doing so would help to bridge the technological divide between developing and developed countries.

LARISSA SCHNEIDER CALZA (Brazil) said the militarization of information and communications technology and emergence of new systems of related weapons might lead to a new type of arms race.  To ensure the peaceful use of those technologies, Brazil favoured strengthening multilateral norms and principles applicable to the conduct of States.  Those norms should respect to the free flow of information and human rights, she said, urging the international community to examine the need to develop a specific legal framework to address proscribed behaviours, including offensive first use, tampering with the supply chain, intentionally introducing vulnerabilities into systems and networks and compromising information security of other States.  She encouraged all States to consider the adoption of a “no-first-use” norm with regards to offensive operations using information and communications technology.  Confidence-building measures and increased international assistance and cooperation must also aim at achieving an open and secure information and communications technology environment.  Having been active in the Groups of Governmental Experts, she said its format must evolve to be more inclusive and allow for the adequate participation of all countries, including developing countries.

MUSTAPHA ABBANI (Algeria), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said new information and communications technology products offered many opportunities to bolster socioeconomic development of countries.  However, their use by terrorist groups represented a threat to international peace and security.  Dual-use information and communications technology should not thwart the transfer of those technologies to States that needed them, especially developing countries.  Algeria had adopted a comprehensive approach for cyber- and general disarmament, establishing relevant tools and an entity to stop cybercrime and protect national security.  Having ratified African and Arab agreements on fighting information-related cybercrime and promoting collaboration among countries, Algeria promoted prosperity and human development in many fields.  Yet, using artificial intelligence could pose great humanitarian, ethical and legal challenges.  For that reason, the international community should adopt clear legislation, he said, emphasizing the importance of compliance with environmental standards when preparing and implementing disarmament agreements.

JEHAZEB KHAN (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said lethal autonomous weapon systems were unethical, unable to comply with international law, lowered the threshold for war and would negatively affect progress on arms control and disarmament.  Calling for a pre-emptive prohibition on further developing those weapons, he supported the establishment of a group of governmental experts to discuss those issues in the context of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  Raising other concerns, he said the transborder unauthorized use of armed drones constituted a violation of international law, he said, citing the Human Rights Council’s opposition to targeting civilians with drones, which amounted to extrajudicial killings.  The threat of non-State actors and terrorists acquiring such weapons was additionally worrisome.  The misuse and unregulated use of information and communications technology also had grave implications for international peace and security, especially as the hostile activities involving cybertechnologies advanced.

Panel Discussion

The Committee held a panel discussion on “Regional disarmament and security”.  The panellists included Mary Soliman, Chief of the Regional Disarmament Branch of the Department of Disarmament Affairs; Anselme Yabouri, the Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa; Melanie Rigimbal, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean; and Yuriy Kryvonos, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.

Ms. SOLIMAN said the centres would continue to foster cooperation with United Nations partners, regional organizations and other stakeholders to prevent the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, in particular their diversion to non-State armed groups.  With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the centres would work with Member States towards realizing the 2030 Agenda, especially Goal 16.4, she said.  In that vein, they would continue to apply a synergistic approach and cooperate with relevant partners and stakeholders, building on comparative advantages and complementarities.  That would ensure the effective delivery of their mandate with maximum benefit to Member States in their respective regions.  Looking ahead, they would continue to work with Member States to identify strategic priority areas for their respective regions, taking into consideration global trends, developments, challenges and opportunities.  As they depended on extra-budgetary resources, she encouraged all Member States to support them through voluntary contributions.

Mr. YABOURI said work had been done with the African Union Commission to support the implementation of its initiative to “silence the guns by 2020” and of the 2030 Agenda.  In the Sahel, efforts included the implementation of the United Nations integrated strategy for the region through its participation in inter-agency discussions.  In Central Africa, substantive support was provided for the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa at its forty-third and forty-fourth ministerial meetings.  The regional centre had also participated in the annual meeting of heads of United Nations field presences in the Central African region in March 2017.  It had held several joint consultations with ECOWAS and had provided assistance for implementing regional and national action plans to African Member States and relevant civil society organizations related to global and regional instruments to combat the illicit trade and proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  While the sustained number of requests for assistance from Member States demonstrated the importance of its work, more was needed to advance peace and control in Africa given its gloomy peace and security situation.

Ms. RIGIMBAL said activities in 19 different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean had reached more than 2,100 national authorities, security sector agents, and young people, with the highest ever participation of females.  Efforts included stockpile management and weapons destruction, with activities geared toward quantitatively measuring progress and advances made toward the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 16.  Initiatives with Colombia had included the provision of technical assistance to the United Nations Verification Mission in the surrendering of arms.  Collaboration with the private sector was also key to ensuring sustainable security measures were adopted.  Meanwhile, the bulk of efforts focused on developing and imparting specialized trainings to combat illicit arms trafficking and provide tools to strengthen conventional arms control.  To use technology to its advantage, the regional centre created a new tool to facilitate the tracing of weapons trafficked through the postal system.  That preventive tool would aid security sector personnel in their fight against illicit arms trafficking, she said.

Mr. KRYVONOS said 10 projects and three collaborative programmes were among a range of activities undertaken in Asia and the Pacific.  The regional centre had also heavily engaged in the preparation for its relocation back to Nepal, which had concluded in February 2017.  Other activities included co-organizing two conferences on issues and challenges facing disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.  With respect to national capacity-building, several projects assisted Member States to implement their commitments relating to conventional arms control, particularly regarding the Programme of Action on Small Arms, Arms Trade Treaty and the Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).  The main outcome of the project implementation was the development, approval and submission of three national action plans by Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004).  In addition, outreach activities engaged regional stakeholders.  Thanks to support from sponsors, the centre had again managed to reach its highest annual project implementation rate.

The Chair of the Committee opened the floor to invite delegates to ask questions to the panellists; no questions were posed.

SIMON CLEOBURY (United Kingdom) emphasized his country’s commitment to promoting international stability frameworks for cyberspace based on the application of existing international law, agreed voluntary norms of responsible State behaviour and confidence-building measures, supported by coordinated capacity-building programmes.  The United Nations Charter applied in its entirety to State actions in cyberspace, he said, adding that the law of State responsibility applied to cyberoperations in peacetime, including the availability of the doctrine of countermeasures in response to internationally wrongful acts.  The United Kingdom would promote the operationalization of agreed norms of responsible State behaviour, focusing on practical measures States could take to put voluntary norms into practice, he said.  It would also support efforts in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other forums to implement confidence-building measures that would contribute to transparency and trust between States in cyberspace.

MARJA LEHTO (Finland) expressed regret that the Group of Governmental Experts had failed to reach an agreement.  International discussions on specific aspects of international law in relation to the use of information and communications technology should continue.  The Group’s recommendations on responsible State behaviour constituted a practical contribution to clarifying the steps States should take in the information and communications technology domain to comply with their obligations to not knowingly allow their territories to be used for activities that might cause significant harm to other States.  “It is necessary to be cybersmart in order to keep up with the changes of the global security environment”, she said, adding that developing resilience was essential worldwide and should be supported by appropriate capacity-building efforts.  OSCE had adopted a set of dedicated confidence-building measures in the area, she noted, calling for its implementation.

MINNA–LIINA LIND (Estonia), associating herself with the European Union, said discussions on the Internet should afford the same attention to security as to the freedom of expression.  She regretted that the Governmental Group for Experts had not achieved a consensus report in 2017 and could not make further progress in analysing how international law applied to the use of information and communications technology, particularly the principle of due diligence, the potential application of the right to self-defence and international humanitarian law.  Estonia supported the establishment of a strategic framework for conflict prevention and stability in cyberspace that was based on international law, in particular the Charter of the United Nations.

ANAYANSI RODRIGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) said the international community should adopt tangible measures to ensure the resources spent on military costs were refocused to promote sustainable development.  Member States should strictly comply with the environmental standards, with multilateralism being used in all disarmament negotiations.  Strict compliance with the United Nations Charter and international law was the only effective means to safeguard international peace and security while establishing a legally binding regulatory framework applicable to information and communications technology.  Denouncing the hostile use of those technologies for subverting legal and political orders of States, she said Cuba was constantly facing attacks from abroad as its communication spectrum had been targeted by the United States.  She called for an immediate end to such aggressive policies that were incompatible with international peace and security.

MARIA THEOFILI (Greece) said safety and security were of the utmost importance as the intertwined foundations of a country’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear material.  Transparent national efforts and strengthened regional cooperation in nuclear power production were critical.  Detailing the international instruments her country had acceded to and the work it had done during its European presidency, she called the Environmental Impact Convention the sine qua non of absolute transparency.  Underlining the centrality of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), she called upon all States to implement the Agency’s nuclear security guidance documents, to use its advisory services and to host peer review and follow-up missions.  As current political developments had created a volatile environment, she called for additional precautions to be taken to enhance the safety of nuclear installations, noting that more and more countries in her region were expressing a strong interest in nuclear power even though such energy had not been an option for the national energy grid of Greece itself.

WANG QUN (China) said that maintaining a peaceful cyberspace was crucial and all should faithfully observe the purposes and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, particularly the principles of sovereignty and non-interference of internal affairs.  Countries should discuss the application of international law in a manner conducive to maintaining peace so as to prevent an arms race in cyberspace and reduce the risk of conflict.  Cooperation was a win‑win concept, he continued.  No one country was immune from the threats of cyberspace and there was no such thing as absolute security.  Countries should reject the cold war mentality and develop a new security concept featuring coordination and sustainability.  The United Nations should play a leading role on the issue and discussion in the last Group of Governmental Experts had reflected the differences among the international community and further highlighted the need to build a broad consensus.  An open, inclusive process that allowed more countries to participate in global Internet governance should be established, he said.  At the same time, efforts should be made to assist developing countries with capacity‑building to bridge the digital divide.

LOUIS RIQUET (France) said existing international law, including the United Nations Charter, applied to cyberspace.  Should a cyberattack constitute a threat to international peace and security, the case might be referred to the Security Council under Chapters VI or VII of the Charter.  As a major cyberattack could constitute an armed attack under Article 51 of the Charter, States could invoke the right to legitimate self-defence in anticipation of a Security Council decision.  He said that in order to guarantee international stability and security in cyberspace, it was essential to have one standard that encouraged the control of exports of offensive cybertools and techniques and another that aimed at preventing non-State actors, including private companies, from carrying out offensive activities in cyberspace on their own behalf and that of other State or non-State actors.

THOMAS FITSCHEN (Germany), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that there were reservations as to whether certain aspect of traditional international law in response to a malicious cyberoperation were really applicable in “cyberspace”.  If a State agent or someone else carried out a cyberoperation in another State to stop an electricity plan, that plan did not happen somewhere in cyberspace, but rather on the territory and in the jurisdiction of that country.  Those relations were governed by international law, he said, adding that some delegations were reluctant to touch upon the lawful counter-measures in cyberoperations.  According to international law, States could be held accountable.  The issue of attributing a certain conduct to a State was not new, he said.  Cyberoperations against territorial integrity of another State could in itself constitute use of force and thus be unlawful.

Ms. LINYAMA (Zambia) said that the increased use of information and communications technology had resulted in increased crimes, such as attacks on computer systems of institutions and terrorism-related activities.  It had also allowed criminal and terrorist syndicates to cross barriers of States to commit crimes, making it difficult to identify the offenders and locate the crime scenes with traditional investigation tools.  The Zambian Government was facing myriad challenges in fighting cybercrime and other criminal activities related to technology.  It had taken various measures to combat cyber- and other technological crime, including through harnessing opportunities offered by information and communications technology for law enforcement, such as electronic surveillance.  Investigation and prosecuting such crimes remained a challenge; it required new skills and procedural tools, including the capacity to collect and analyse digital evidence and to use that evidence in criminal proceedings.  Noting the positive contributions of science and technology, he called for international cooperation in assisting the physical security and monitoring of nuclear facilities and materials.

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation), recalling that his country had been the first to raise concerns about emerging threats in the global information space, had tabled a related draft resolution to the General Assembly.  It was clear that such threats had become one of the most serious challenges to international peace and security.  That was compounded by the fact that recent discussions on international information security had stalled.  He was vigorously opposed to any attempts to unleash the information arms race, he said.  Together with like-minded countries, his country had repeatedly suggested the that the Group of Governmental Experts develop and submit to the General Assembly universal rules in the information space.  Instead, the Group’s discussion had been emasculated and side-lined for secondary aspects.  Certain countries sought to impose unilateral rules that only served their own interests.  Those rules were designed to ensure the chosen ones had a technological advantage and imposed a very dangerous decision to recognize the digital sphere as a theatre of military action.  He expressed concerns at attempts to discredit the role of the United Nations in tackling cybersecurity.  All Member States should participate in the discussion on an equal basis.  To ensure sustainability in negotiations in international information security, the Russian Federation had introduced a draft procedural decision to keep the item “developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security” on its agenda for the seventy-third session.

Mr. HAJNOCZI (Austria), associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, expressed regret that the Group of Governmental Experts had failed to agree on a consensus report this year.  Nonetheless, its previous reports would continue to be the basis for efforts to strengthen stability and security in an open and peaceful Internet where human rights and fundamental freedoms were respected.  Confidence-building measures could enhance trust and assurance among States and help reduce the risk of conflict, he said, noting that OSCE had undertaken significant work in that area in recent years.  Outlining some of those efforts, he said that, under the Austrian chairmanship, OSCE had made rebuilding trust and confidence among its three top priorities for 2017.  In February, his delegation had organized a conference on cybersecurity, and a second chairmanship conference would be held on 3 November in Vienna, offering an opportunity to discuss intensifying cooperation on several key areas.  Calling for a steadfast commitment to applying existing international law to the cyber context, he added that the Budapest Convention was an important tool in combating the criminal use of information and communications technology.

ISAAC MORALES (Mexico) said that the international system had a fundamental role to play in cyberspace to make it “open, safe and accessible”.  That should be enforced by regional and other multilateral forums.  The efforts of the Organization’s international security system should achieve balance in encouraging access and peaceful use of cyberspace as a catalyst for development.  Furthermore, the use of cyberspace as a safe place should be ensured by the private sector and Governments.

VANESSA WOOD (Australia) said the foundation for responsible State behaviour in cyberspace was a mutual commitment to existing international law, including respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The United Nations Charter could be applied in its entirety to State actions in cyberspace, including the prohibition of the use of force, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and the right of States to act in self-defence in response to an armed attack.  To enable agile responses, existing international law was complemented by norms, as established through the Groups of Governmental Experts, among others, of responsible State behaviour, which promote predictability, stability and security.  The international community must now ensure that there were effective and proportionate consequences for those who acted contrary to the consensus on norms.

Mr. AZADI (Iran), associating himself with the statement to be made by the Non-Aligned Movement, said information communication technology played a crucial role in socioeconomic and cultural development.  There was a need to strengthen security and prevent the use of such technology for illegal purposes.  National measures were not sufficient.  Due to both the complex nature and rapid advances in the field, international cooperation was essential.  While it was important there was a common understanding of issues, such an understanding could not adequately emerge through the work of the Group of Governmental Experts.  In that regard, all States must be engaged in an inclusive, interactive debate in a broad-based setting.  Establishing an open-ended working group was an appropriate method to help build upon the work and to discuss issues related to information communication security.

FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern about the potential misuse of information and communications technology to the detriment of international peace and security.  While it was a key vehicle to further growth and development, normative behaviours and cooperation were needed to ensure information security.  The work of the Group of Governmental Experts was useful, he said, adding he looked forward to it moving forward after its setback during its last session.  He also voiced support for the draft decision tabled by the Russian Federation on the field’s developments in international security.  With threats by terrorists using information and communications technology to compromise security and cause harm, there was a need to strengthen the existing legal regime pertinent to that domain and address the weakest links in the cybersphere.  As well, he expressed support for the draft resolution tabled by India on the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament, co-sponsored by his delegation.

ANGGI SAZIKA JENIE (Indonesia), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated her serious concern over the two decades delay in the implementation of the 1995 resolution on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Recalling the opposition expressed by the United States, United Kingdom and Canada at the concluding session of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East had not been achieved.  She emphasised the special responsibility of the co-sponsors of that resolution for its implementation.  Its persistent lack could undermine the effectiveness and credibility of the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a whole.  The Non-Aligned Movement demanded that Israel renounce any possession of nuclear weapons and accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty without any precondition or delay.

MARWAN ALDOBHANY (Yemen), speaking for the Arab Group and associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of agreements to establish nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  He emphasized the need to take effective and immediate measures as outlined by the Arab Group resolution addressing the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.  He called upon the three co-sponsors of the Middle East resolution adopted in 1995 to bear the responsibility of the text’s implementation and establish that zone.  The Arab States were concerned for the security and humanitarian and environmental impact due to Israel’s rejection to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  He underlined that the continued delay of the implementation of the 1995 resolution was a serious setback to global nuclear non-proliferation efforts.

LOIS M. YOUNG (Belize), speaking for CARICOM, said that bloc’s member States remained committed to confronting the illicit trade in firearms.  They had benefitted from the memorandum of understanding between the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as from the implementation of the UNODC Regional Programme 2014‑16.  The United Nations Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean was one of several important partners for the Community in implementing its arms control and non-proliferation obligations.  That partnership had resulted in the successful implementation of the Operational Forensic Ballistic Project, she said, also highlighting six sub-regional training sessions completed in August on the topic of “double casting”, which increased national authorities’ capabilities to establish connections between crimes nationally, regionally and internationally.

She went on to emphasize CARICOM’s support for strengthening the role of women in disarmament, noting Trinidad and Tobago’s leadership of the biennial resolution titled “Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control”.  The Community was also committed to the CARICOM-Security Council Resolution 1540 Implementation Programme to prevent the transit, trans-shipment, import, export, re-export or brokering of dual-use materials that could be used in the development of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons and related materials.  It had strengthened its partnership with the United Nations Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean in implementing various project activities related to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, recently launching a Guide on the Development of National Control Lists for the region.  That had assisted CARICOM in reinforcing national export and import regulatory structures for dual use goods, she noted.

JUDIT KÖRÖMI, European Union delegation, said the illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea posed a grave threat to regional and international peace and security.  That country should refrain from further reckless provocations and abandon its programmes.  Addressing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she emphasized the importance of its continued, full and effective implementation.  Facilitated by the European Union, the Plan of Action was the result of 12 years of diplomatic effort.  It had become a key element of the nuclear non-proliferation architecture and was crucial for the security of the region.  She encouraged the United States to maintain its commitment to the Plan of Action and consider the implications for the security of the United States, its partners and the region before taking further steps.

She went on to say that, despite de-escalation efforts, this year had seen the highest number of civilian casualties in Syria.  She condemned the indiscriminate attacks and atrocities perpetrated by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) and other terrorist groups and the systematic violations of human rights by all parties, particularly the Syrian regime.   The use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs and incendiary weapons in Syria might amount to war crimes.  It was deeply shocking and deplorable that chemical weapons had been used in several cases in Syria.  The findings of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding mission, the Joint Investigative Mechanism and the testimonies gathered by the Commission of Inquiry for Syria required strong action by the Security Council.  At the same time, it was also deeply concerning that Syria had not engaged substantively regarding gaps and discrepancies in its chemical weapons declaration with the ongoing investigations of the OPCW Technical Secretariat.

DELFINA JANE ALOYSIUS DRIS (Malaysia), speaking for ASEAN, said she believed that the value of regionalism lay in its inclusivity, rules-based nature, with an emphasis on mutual benefit and respect.  Transparency, confidence-building measures and progress in regional disarmament were indispensable in improving the security environment of the Asia-Pacific region, and in that connection, the Group reaffirmed its commitment to the disarmament treaties to which it was a signatory.  The United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament had worked tirelessly to collaborate on various initiatives, she said, reiterating the commitment to preserving the region, not only as a nuclear-weapons-free zone, but a zone free of all other weapons of mass destruction as enshrined in the ASEAN Charter and the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone.

ASEAN continued to undertake various activities on nuclear safety, security and safeguards, including with respect to capacity building, she continued.  The Group was also working towards the establishment of a formal relationship between the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy and IAEA and was committed to the full operationalization of the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Centre Permanent Secretariat.  Such developing concrete initiatives, building capacity and ensuring continuity through regional cooperation were crucial in making progress on global disarmament commitments.

ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) said regional approaches provided important avenues to disarmament, security and non-proliferation objectives.  In East Asia, the regional architecture had steadily evolved in the face of growing threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.  He reiterated President Donald Trump’s commitment to deny Iran all paths to nuclear weapons.  The United States would work with its international partners to explore options for addressing the flaws in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme.  In closing, he noted that South Asia was a home to two nuclear-weapon States and to the highest concentration of foreign terrorist groups in any region.

ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) denounced the use of force in international relations.  Honouring commitments to transparency and accountability, Paraguay provided its military expenditure information.  He called States to cooperate with the United Nations and supported the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development.  Latin America and the Caribbean was a region free of nuclear weapons, he said, noting the valuable contributions of civil society in disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the representative of Iran represented a regime that was one of the world’s biggest sponsors of terror and had committed atrocities against the people of Syria.  As such, it was hard to see how he had any standing to make accusations against his country.

The representative of the United States said Iran supported terrorism and was complicit in the Assad regime’s crimes against its people, had threatened to wipe Israel off the map, had launched cyberattacks against the United States, had committed human rights abuses and continued its ballistic missile programme.  The United States had sanctioned Iranian entities involved in the country’s ballistic missile programme and remained concerned about its military support for Houthis in Yemen.

The representative of Iran categorically rejected remarks made by his counterpart from Israel.  Chronic threats plaguing the Middle East stemmed from the offensive and brutal practices of the Israeli regime.  Israel was the only country in the region possessing nuclear weapons and facilities that were under no safeguards and had refused to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, blocking the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Israel was one of the world’s biggest military spenders in 2016 and was a huge beneficiary of aid from the United States.  He called on Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty for the sake of peace and stability in the region.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his country had suffered from natural disasters, including an unprecedented drought, which was why countries such as the United States had voluntarily sent it food.  His delegation did not support the draft resolution presented by the United States on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments because of its pure political purpose.  Concerning his country’s nuclear deterrence policy, he said if the United States was afraid of such weapons, then it should get rid of all its nuclear bombs and enter the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon State.

The representative of the United States said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been isolated and had lost billions of dollars because it was developing nuclear and ballistic missile programmes instead of taking care of its own people’s needs.  Furthermore, he was not shocked by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s plan not to vote for United States compliance resolution.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected what the United States delegate had said.

News

Access to Quality Health Care, Education Vital for Improving Children’s Well-Being, Speakers Stress as Third Committee Concludes Debate

Governments around the world were focused on improving access to quality education and health care for children and adolescents to ensure they reached their full potential, speakers told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as they concluded discussion on children’s rights.

Indeed, children’s fundamental freedoms could be best protected by ensuring their education and health care needs were met, said Bangladesh’s delegate, who noted that children at all educational levels in his country were provided free textbooks on New Year’s Day, the world’s largest such distribution that had seen 360 million textbooks handed out this year.  The education system also had been enhanced by the introduction of information and communications technology in school curricula.

Similarly, Bhutan’s delegate said children were provided free education up to the tenth grade, while in Ukraine, a law on inclusive education ensured all Ukrainian children had access to high-quality education, said that country’s representative.

Efforts to boost education had borne fruit, several said, with South Africa’s delegate noting that 98 per cent of girls were enrolled in school.  Rwanda’s delegate said primary school enrolment had risen to 95.4 per cent, with girls’ 96.5 per cent rate higher than the 94.2 per cent rate for boys.  Overall, primary school completion in Rwanda was 76 per cent.  In Indonesia, said that country’s delegate, a Child Labour Reduction Program focused on education and vocational training had led to 49 children returning to school.

In terms of child health, there had also been gains.  El Salvador’s representative said a comprehensive child health care policy had fostered a 42 per cent decrease in chronic malnutrition and reduced parent-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS.  In Thailand, meanwhile, particular attention had been paid to achieving universal health coverage, said that country’s delegate, with a grant introduced to help poor families with new-born children.  Libya’s representative likewise stressed that, despite instability, his country was determined to provide children with free education and healthcare services, including vaccinations.

Speakers also underscored that education and health care policies must be inclusive to meet children’s varying needs.  The Dominican Republic’s delegate highlighted the establishment of a centre for children with conditions such as autism and Down’s Syndrome.  “We know that investing in the rights of children means investing in our future,” he said.  Echoing this sentiment, Tonga’s delegate added that every child, including those with disabilities, had the right to education. 

Children also deserved access to social services regardless of their nationality, speakers noted.  The representative of the United Arab Emirates said immunizations were offered to Yemeni children who had been affected by conflict.  Spain’s delegate added that child migrants were accorded the same rights as Spanish citizens.

However, the Republic of Korea’s delegate pointed out, girls often lacked access to healthcare and education.  Adolescent girls left school much earlier than their male counterparts.  Girls also suffered disproportionate violence, and lacked access to health care and nutrition.  It was well documented that societies which empowered girls through education achieved better results in every area of development, she observed.

Also speaking were representatives of Botswana, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Iceland, Kazakhstan, China, Georgia, Kuwait, Turkey, Nigeria, Maldives, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Panama, Burundi, Malawi, Morocco, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Armenia, Andorra, Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Sudan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, Bahrain, Congo, Myanmar, Djibouti, Algeria and Togo, as well as of the Holy See, State of Palestine, Sovereign Order of Malta, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and International Labour Organization (ILO).

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 12 October, to consider the rights of indigenous peoples.

Background

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4200).

Statements

EDGAR SISA (Botswana), associating himself with the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), reiterated his commitment to international and regional mechanisms for children’s rights.  Having amended its Children’s Act, Botswana had strengthened its promotion and protection of children’s rights.  Programmes were in place to address growing alcohol and substance abuse among young people, while others for child protection were grounded in providing equitable and quality education.  Botswana endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and had almost achieved universal access to education.  Among the challenges was the declining quality of junior secondary education, he said, stressing that revision of curricula and increased teacher training had been identified as tools to bridge the education gap.

Ms. AL EMADI (Qatar) said achievements in protecting children’s rights included the widespread ratification of Convention on the Rights of the Child.  However, millions of children still faced the brunt of climate change and conflict.  She called for intensified international efforts to protect children wherever they were.  Legislative efforts in Qatar were aligned with development strategies and aimed to foster international cooperation to create an environment conducive to meeting children’s educational and health needs.  Yet, efforts had been hampered by “illegal international measures” imposed on Qatar that had forced families to separate.  Despite those obstacles, she underscored Qatar’s commitment to protect all children.

MARCOS MONTILLA (Dominican Republic), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the national strategy to protect the rights of children and adolescents included the provision of medical services, which had led to a decrease in chronic malnutrition, and support for single women to resume their studies.  The Government also had focused on improving education and increasing public spending on schools.  A centre for children with conditions such as autism and Down’s Syndrome had been established, and to address the issue of violence, a bill was being developed to promote children’s positive upbringing and avoid violence in child rearing.  Ultimately, he said, the country aimed to ensure that its social policies were consistent on the Convention.  “We know that investing in the rights of children means investing in our future,” he added.

MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador), associating herself with CELAC, said promoting children’s and adolescent’s rights was a priority.  El Salvador had made strides in improving education and health services for children, and had introduced laws to better protect their rights.  Girls and boys, for example, had access to comprehensive healthcare, which had fostered a 42 per cent decrease in chronic malnutrition and a reduction in parent-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS.  A paradigm shift also had been made in the legislature to focus on rights protection and ensure that laws aligned with the Convention.  She also urged Member States to promote the human rights of all migrants, particularly children.

MADHUKA WICKRAMARACHCHI (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had successfully incorporated the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into its legal system.  Legislation protected the rights of children to nationality, non-discrimination and to have their best interests safeguarded.  National child protection policies had been adopted to bring Sri Lanka’s standards up to international standard and action plans were in place to end sexual abuse and violence against children.  Turning to the problem of bullying, he said Sri Lanka was one of five countries to have laws prohibiting the act in schools.  He noted the vital role played by parents and teachers in mitigating bullying, also calling for greater cooperation with religious leaders to ensure children get the protection they need.

HELEN INGA S. VON ERNST (Iceland) said free and universal education was crucial to social equality and long-term prosperity as it reduced poverty, boosted economic growth and increased income.  But gender was a discriminating factor, and the international community must focus on girls’ empowerment and participation in education.  Turning to the issue of armed conflict, she said children were often the first to suffer when societies faced conflict, poverty or famine.  With millions of children displaced from among other countries Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar, urgent action was needed.  Governments had an obligation to ensure children’s rights were respected, protected and fulfilled.

MOHAMMAD DAVID ARSLAN (Indonesia) associating himself with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his country was committed to combating violence against children and protecting them from being exploited.  Indonesia had launched a Child Labour Reduction Program focusing on education and vocational training which had successfully withdrawn nearly 49 children engaged in labour and returned them to school.  In addition, Child Labour-Free Zones had been established throughout industrial areas, and measures had been taken to improve both family welfare and economic resilience with a twelve-year free and compulsory education program.  Children’s forums, family learning centres and children’s creative spaces had been established in all 34 provinces.

TSOKI CHODEN (Bhutan) firmly endorsed investment in the rights of children as a fundamental building block for prosperity and sustainable development.  Sound legal frameworks in Bhutan provided protections, including free access to education up to the tenth grade.  Protections against all forms of abuse and exploitation of children had also been put into force.  Such measures had benefited from an expanded definition of violence against children and harsher punishment for perpetrators.  A five-year-plan sought to mainstream child protection issues, with child focal points appointed to all relevant Government offices, she said, adding that measures were also in place to promote the political inclusion of children.

AZAT SHAKIROV (Kazakhstan) said the security and safety of children were prerequisites for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially in conflict zones.  Regions where strife and conflict prevailed required investment in sectors that promoted the socioeconomic needs of young people.  He called for the implementation of action plans to reintegrate child soldiers, with special focus on girls, measures which called for greater United Nations cooperation.  Turning to mass refugee flows, he said all countries involved in the migration cycle must be held accountable for their actions.  He said it was imperative to implement relevant Security Council resolutions to protect children in armed conflict, including the maintenance of schools as safe spaces.

SHAO WU (China) said that her Government had worked relentlessly to put into practice the principle of “children first” by drafting and implementing three successive National Plans of Action for Child Development.  In addition to legislation to tackle domestic violence, the Government had also enacted measures to improve nutrition of children in poverty.  Civil society had a key role to play in the protection of the rights of children, she stressed, adding that developed countries must honour their commitment by increasing substantive assistance to the developing countries in terms of finance and technology to create a better environment for children globally.

TEVITA SUKA MANGISI (Tonga) said that while his country criminalized all forms of child abuse, progress towards protecting children rested in the proper implementation of such laws.  Tonga’s policy targeted the education sector, with every child, including those with disabilities, having the right to education.  Efforts were also improving the quality of teachers and incorporating climate change awareness into curricula.  Monitoring progress called for quality data collection, he noted, adding that Tonga was the second country ever to establish a sound monitoring system and undertake a country-wide census of child development.  He closed by reaffirming that children’s rights were integral to the Government’s work.

EKA KIPIANI (Georgia) said that in the past year, her country had adopted legislative measures and new laws as part of its commitment to protect and promote the rights of children.  Those measures included a new code for juvenile justice.  Georgia had also complied with reporting obligations under the treaty system, and hosted a visit of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in April 2016.  But the humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied regions of Georgia were deteriorating, and children there were deprived of basic human rights, including that to an education in their native language.  The Sustainable Development Goals must be fully implemented everywhere, including in conflict-affected areas.

Mr. MOHAMMAD (Kuwait) expressed concern about children experiencing hardship caused by armed conflict and natural disasters.  In Kuwait, the family was seen as the core provider of care and protection for children, while the State offered support for their spiritual and physical needs.  Noting that Kuwait’s policies had met the requirements of the Convention, he said a family court had also been established to address family conflicts, and in turn, reduce violence against children.  The country had also organized conferences to raise awareness of the risks posed to young people by digital technology and the suffering of Palestinian children.

MURAT UĞURLUOĞLU (Turkey) said his country had taken various initiatives to protect children, including through the adoption of a national plan that aimed to improve their living standards.  The focus had been on health, education and social inclusion, he added.  Party to the Convention, Turkey had also ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.  Turkey attached great importance to the rights of the girl child, and to ensuring education opportunities for both boys and girls.  In conflicts and crises, children were vulnerable to mass abductions, torture and sexual violence, he said, underscoring that there were 835,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey, and that their education was crucial for rebuilding Syria.

ABIODUN RICHARDS ADEJOLA (Nigeria) associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, described a campaign to end violence against children which had fed into Nigeria’s internally displaced persons camps where alleged sexual exploitation had been reported.  In addition, a survey had helped the Government initiate awareness-raising campaigns for parents, families and communities on the need to protect children from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation.  He also highlighted the “End Child Marriage Campaign”; drop-in-centres for child victims of terrorism that targeted re-enrolment in school; the Home Grown School Feeding Program, which aimed to feed children in schools across the country; and the Safe School Initiative as a way to prevent Boko Haram from recruiting children through security measures for their protection.

ZEENA MOHAMED DIDI (Maldives) said children were being used as slaves, weapons and even commodities to trade.  The Maldives had focused on training parents and professionals working with abused children, she added, emphasizing that the number of cases reported to protective services had increased in recent years.  A mobile reporting application and a 24-hour toll free call centre had been launched where reports could be made anonymously.  To reach every island in a timely manner, community social groups were being rolled out across the Maldives.  Domestic abuse and violence against children could be countered in large part by empowering women.  The recently passed Domestic Violence Prevention Act and the Anti-Human Trafficking Act had strengthened protection mechanisms.  She also underscored the importance of education in the advancement of children.

Mr. ALI (Pakistan) underscored that half a billion children — one out of every four — lived in countries affected by conflict, natural disasters or epidemics.  “This is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions,” he stressed, emphasizing that protecting and promoting children’s rights was both smart economics and a moral obligation.  Among the earliest signatories of the Convention on Rights of the Child, Pakistan had since ratified several international instruments, including one on child labour.  The National Commission for Child Welfare and Development and a comprehensive child protection bill provided the necessary national legal basis to protect children from abuse and exploitation.  Pakistan was committed to reducing infant and maternal mortality and increasing literacy to 90 per cent of the population within the next eight years.

PORNRAWE POENATEETAI (Thailand), associating herself with ASEAN, said international attention should be focused on children living in poverty, rural children and migrant children.  Thailand had been working to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, paying particular attention to achieving universal health coverage, under which it had introduced a grant programme providing financial assistance to poor families with newborn children.  All children, including migrant children, received free, quality education in Thailand.  The emerging role of media and technology obliged the international community to minimize the risks of exploitation or abuse through such channels, she said, adding that her country had a national strategy to prevent such online abuse, including cyberbullying.

VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe) said his country had acceded to both the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The Children’s Act, Education Act and Domestic Violence Act were all in place, as were programmes to implement their provisions, such as the National Victim Friendly System which responded to cases of violence and sexual abuse of children.  While police offered victim-friendly lines, there were also child friendly courts and clinics which facilitated child-sensitive court sessions for abuse cases.  Limited resources, low institutional capacity and prevailing social, cultural and political norms were among the challenges to enforcing those reforms.  Police received reports of nearly 100 girls being exposed to sexual abuse every day, he said, in part because they were in early and forced marriages, a practice that had been outlawed since 2016.

Ms. ELMANSOURI (Tunisia), associating herself with the African Group, said the protection of children was a priority, and as such, Tunisia had implemented legislation emphasizing their vulnerability to all forms of violence and exploitation.  Laws protecting women’s rights also recognized children as vulnerable to sexual abuse.  Education was the central pillar of the country’s child protection agenda, with notable investment made to improve school and health infrastructure.  Those efforts had expanded students’ access to food and targeted drop-out rates.  Young people must be given a political voice, she said, adding that Tunisian children had been consulted in the drafting of the latest five-year plan.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), associating herself with CELAC, called children the most valuable social capital of any country.  Considerations for their well-being must recognize them as fully fledged persons with the right to be heard.  Panama was focused on their interests through a national secretariat office and campaigns to combat sexual abuse against children.  Plans were in place to eradicate child labour, with the Office of the First Lady and the Ministry of Labour implementing campaigns.  The list of hazardous work for children also had been updated.  She called attention to alarming rates of violence against children, saying that such acts took an immense toll on the international community.

Mr. KAYINAMURA (Rwanda) said the national policy on orphans and vulnerable children outlined objectives and proposed strategies to care for those young people, while a related children’s plan was guided by principles, such as meeting the needs of every child and prioritizing children in all policies.  The ultimate goal of Rwanda’s policy on children was to protect their rights and ensure they developed by improving services, institutions and systems.  The Government had made strides in protecting their rights, transforming orphanages and providing orphans with home-based care.  In addition, primary school enrolment had risen to 95.4 per cent, with girls’ enrolment at 96.5 per cent — higher than the 94.2 per cent rate for boys.  Overall, primary school completion was at 76 per cent.

SHAMEEM AHSAN (Bangladesh) said children’s rights could be best protected by ensuring their education and healthcare.  Since 2010, children at all educational levels had been provided free textbooks on New Year’s Day, the world’s largest such distribution effort that had seen 360 million textbooks handed out this year.  With schools funded through the Government budget, the education system had been enhanced by the introduction of information and communications technology in school curricula.  In terms of child health, mobile phone and web portals provided health services, complementing the work of 16,438 community and local health clinics for children.  Regarding displaced Myanmar nationals who had sought refuge in Bangladesh, he said his country was trying to extend as much help as possible to the children, who comprised 60 per cent of the refugees.  He urged the international community to ensure those children were protected from violence and aggression, and to help them return to their families in Myanmar.

BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, drew attention to unaccompanied refugee and migrant children, the number of whom had reached a record high globally.  Children were the most defenceless group among refugees and migrants.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child had established legal obligations for States Parties that could not arbitrarily and unilaterally be curtailed, he said, including proper identification and registration, and the right to education.  Violations against the rights of children in armed conflict had increased in intensity and scale, with children used as soldiers, suicide bombers, sex slaves and disposable intelligence-gatherers in the most dangerous military operations.  The protection and integration of children must be a primordial concern for all.

NOKULUNGA ZANDILE BHENGU (South Africa), associating herself with the African Group and SADC, said that while the global North had done well to advance children’s rights, progress in the global South fluctuated from country to country.  Still, South Africa had made strides towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, with 98 per cent enrolment of girls in school and increased budgetary allocations for education.  The social security safety net for children was being expanded to better serve the most vulnerable children, with grants reaching 70 per cent of households.  Substance abuse among young people had taken a heavy toll on South Africa, she said, calling for future reports on child protection to provide guidance on how to address that issue. 

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), associating himself with the African Group, said prevention of violence against children was at the heart of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2030 Agenda.  Burundi was deploying considerable efforts to protect children and taking measures to strengthen legislation on the matter.  A series of committees had been established to promote children’s well-being and safety, while legal tools had been developed to protect children from violence, with a unit in the justice ministry dealing exclusively with children’s issues.  The greatest challenge in Burundi was creating safe environments that mitigated high mortality among children, he said, pledging to put into effect all international mechanisms to protect children.

Ms. AL JABRI (United Arab Emirates) said her country had enhanced its judiciary and legislative system to meet requirements set out in the Convention and its Optional Protocols.  In addition, a strategic plan had been introduced to foster the rights of children with disabilities.  The Government also provided humanitarian assistance to Yemenis in the United Arab Emirates who had been affected by conflict, including immunization for Yemeni children.  Protecting children from radicalism and terrorism was also a focus, and to that end, the country had introduced measures to protect women and children from hate speech.

Mr. BASTIDA (Spain), associating himself with the European Union, said his country had introduced legislative reforms to protect the rights of children and adolescents.  Protecting the rights of children on the move was an issue of concern for Spain, given its location along a historical crossroad.  Child migrants were accorded the same rights as Spanish citizens from a belief that all children should have equal rights regardless of nationality.  Spain also ensured that children from poor families were provided access to basic social services.

LOT DZONZI (Malawi), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the African Group and SADC, said his country had taken special note of the annual report of the Special Representative on Violence against Children.  Malawi had worked to include commitments made under international treaties into its domestic legal framework, including by amending its Constitution to raise the marriage age from 15 years to 18 years.  Poverty was among the factors driving trafficking, and to prevent it, Malawi had made birth registration mandatory.  HIV and AIDS was an ongoing challenge, which Malawi was working to mitigate through a national strategic plan which had reduced HIV infections among children in some age groups by 84 per cent.

Ms. HAIDOUR (Morocco) said her Government had a clear vision to protect the rights of the child.  Constitutional progress had been made to prioritize international mechanisms on the matter.  Efforts prioritized education and took a human-rights-approach to assisting children.  As a result, the rate of children in school had increased from 50 per cent to 80 per cent in recent years.  As part of its national action plan for children and other national mechanisms, Morocco had put in place measures to protect children in armed conflict, allowing them access to the legal system.

YOOSIL HWANG (Republic of Korea) said it was important to educate children in universal values such as human dignity, tolerance, respect for diversity and human rights.  She expressed concern that fewer girls attended school than boys, and that adolescent girls left school much sooner than their male counterparts.  Girls also suffered disproportionate amounts of violence, and lacked access to adequate healthcare and nutrition.  Empowering girls was not merely protecting individuals; it fostered gender equality, she said, stressing that it was well-documented that societies which empowered girls and young women achieved better results in every area of development.  The Republic of Korea would continue to promote global programmes supporting girls’ health, education and vocational training.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said the country had launched a national action plan to address early childhood needs before birth and up to age 10 years.  It offered universal healthcare for children and universal preschool education.  Many young believed that better education could help them overcome family problems, drugs or bullying.  More education would also lead to young people delaying marriage and avoiding unwanted pregnancies, he said, citing a law to prohibit child marriage and penalize those who had sex with people younger than 15 years old.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with CELAC and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his country was determined to place children at the heart of development efforts, notably through its long-term, holistic approach to helping children and bringing perpetrators to justice.  All forms of violence, including bullying, must be targeted, he said, noting that more than one billion children around the world were subjected to violence by care-givers.  Alternative discipline strategies had been devised and corporal punishment prohibited in schools.  Noting the transformational impact of education on girls, he reaffirmed the importance of reintegrating school-aged-mothers into the education system.  There was also a need to share international best practices, he said, and Jamaica would continue to work with all relevant stakeholders.

Mr. ABDELWAHED (Libya), associating himself with the African Group, said his country insisted on protecting children, especially those under 16 years, including the foetus in the womb.  Libya had granted children the rights to education, potable water, nutrition and protection from all forms of violence.  The continuing crisis in Libya meant that special attention was given to displaced children.  To ensure well-being, violence and terrorism must be brought to an end.  Referring to children as the basic pillar of sustainable development, he said social services for them must be expanded.  Despite instability, Libya was determined to provide children with free education and healthcare services, including vaccinations.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia), associating herself with the European Union, said the protection and promotion of children’s rights was a priority.  Strengthened national laws and evidence-based policies were the way to eliminate all violence against children.  For its part, Armenia had approved a national strategy on human rights which allowed children to bring complaints directly to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.  National efforts included collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for the development of childcare policies with integrated health, social protection and inclusive education reform.  Armenia condemned violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, in particular when they concerned the rights and the lives of children.

SAHAR ABUSHAWESH (State of Palestine) said Palestinian children had been traumatized by decades of human rights violations by Israel, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where children continued to be tormented by its policies.  Palestinian children had been killed and injured by Israeli occupying forces and illegal settlers, she said, calling for all perpetrators of crimes against them to be brought to justice.  The occupying Power also had demolished homes and confiscated educational facilities, and she pressed the international community to compel Israel to end that practice.  Expressing concern that Palestinian children continued to be illegally held and subject to ill-treatment in Israeli prisons, she called for greater collective efforts to protect and provide Palestinian children with rehabilitation.

JOAN JOSEP LÓPEZ LAVADO (Andorra) said his country in 2014 had made corporal punishment a criminal offense, joining just 53 States worldwide that had enacted such legislation, which was crucial for the protection of the rights of the child.  Turning to the issue of bullying, he said his country had experienced an increase in children affected by that, which had worsened with the introduction of new technologies and social networks.  In response, his Government had launched a plan to mitigate the problem, and in 2018 it would present a new law to reinforce existing measures and further promote the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Andorra had endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, and more than 40 per cent of the country’s official development assistance (ODA) went to programmes for children.

Mr. KOUDOUGOU (Burkina Faso), associating himself with African Group, said the country had introduced a charter to ensure children’s well-being and enhanced laws to protect children in armed conflict.  The Government also had introduced an inclusive education act, and put in place an institutional framework to fight all forms of violence and harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation.  Those measures were in line with Burkina Faso’s economic and social plan which made healthcare, education and social protection priority areas.  However, the country faced major challenges such as the spread of infectious diseases and prevalence of children in gold mining areas who did not attend school.  The country also grappled with the exploitation of children by terrorist groups.  He called on the international community to support efforts to fight terrorism in the Sahel.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC, recognized the 2030 Agenda as a transformative, human-centred understanding that renewed common efforts to prevent violence against children.  National legislation in Guatemala had created a space for children to enjoy their full rights, he said, noting that measures were in place to undertake a national census that would better guide child-centred programmes and measure children’s level of inclusion.  Guatemala was vulnerable to the activities of trafficking networks seeking to exploit children, he said, adding that persistent abuse of children in armed conflict was an attack on all humans.  He called for the sharing of best practices to bring perpetrators to justice.

LILA DESTA (Ethiopia) associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said the proper implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change would help address obstacles preventing the full realization of children’s rights.  Ethiopia had created a growth and transformation plan that recognized the crucial nature of investing in children.  A national action plan included a focus on protecting children from harmful traditional practices.  Ethiopia had also established a system for registering births.  Given the enormity of the challenges, more cooperation and partnerships were needed at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.  

HANNA HALCHENKO (Ukraine) associating herself with the European Union, said every child must have the opportunity to become a productive member of society, and the right to speak up and be heard.  Ukraine was committed to implementation of the 2030 Agenda, having for instance adopted a law on inclusive education, which ensured all Ukrainian children’s access to high-quality education.  Since the beginning of Russian aggression against her country, 90 boys and 47 girls had lost their lives, she said, adding that the proportion of families with children in difficult situations had significantly increased.  There were 1.7 million internally displaced persons in Ukraine, 232,000 of whom were children.  Ukraine was grateful to UNICEF for its financial and technical assistance to the country.

GEORGI PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria) said all child policies in his country followed a human rights-based approach that took into account the “best interest of the child” principle enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Fruitful partnerships had been established with civil society, social partners, the private sector and the media in Bulgaria to advocate for child protection and to raise awareness about child rights, he said.  As President of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Bulgaria was making every effort to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities were protected and upheld.

Ms. MUKHTAR (Sudan) said cooperation efforts with the United Nations were in place to fulfil national and international obligations related to the protection of children.  A national council for children had been established and child protection units were being deployed by the police.  Sudan had put forth a comprehensive legal system, with a special prosecutor to oversee child-related cases, including those of children in armed conflict.  A joint action plan had been launched with the United Nations to protect children in armed conflict and provide care in conflict areas.  Such efforts sought to eliminate the recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups.

JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said his country had creditably fulfilled its duty as a protector of children’s rights, through providing in its Constitution child protection, as well as by adopting a number of national and social welfare policies.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, he said, expressing great pride in having an advanced system to protect children’s rights.  Happy children gave the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea optimism about the future, he said.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said that amid progress, there were indications of an alarming level of violence against children, as each year, at least one billion children experienced emotional, physical or sexual violence.  She condemned strongly all violations committed against children in armed conflict situations, drawing attention to the fact that Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijan and continued attacks had caused casualties among children and damaged schools.  She went on to describe national measures that had improved the situation of children in Azerbaijan, including a rule on the “State Supervision over the Implementation of Children’s Rights” and adoption of a law on combating domestic violence.

Ms. LIKINA (Russian Federation) said her country was committed to strict observance of international legal commitments.  As safeguarding children’s rights was a focus of Russian leadership, the national children’s action strategy set forth the goals of national policies for children and key mechanisms thereto.  The well-being of children was an absolute value for all, and particular attention should be paid to strengthening the traditional family.  She called on all concerned to be more actively involved in advancing traditional family values internationally.  Ukraine’s delegation had launched an inappropriate discussion, she added.

Mr. AL-TERAIFI (Bahrain), describing accomplishments, cited unified family laws, a child care law and a special fund for children.  In Bahrain, all forms of mistreatment were prohibited, and laws had been enacted to protect children from exploitation.  Since acceding to the Convention, Bahrain had provided all sorts of care services for children, as well as established a national centre for the protection of the child.  Bahrain had submitted periodic reports on the Convention’s implementation, he said, noting that his country would spare no effort in caring for its children.

LAURIA NGUELE MAKOUELET (Congo), associating herself with the African Group, said the well-being of children was at the heart of her country’s policy.  Laws had established equality for all children and banned child marriage, she said, noting that a strong legal architecture was also in place.  Mechanisms to coordinate the protection of children included all relevant stakeholders.  Noting that Congo’s commitment to children went beyond its borders, she said regional partnerships sought to combat trafficking, while investments in health and education had raised school enrolment, including among girls.  Programmes were also in place to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria and an organization had been established to monitor sexual violence.  Thanks to those measures infant mortality was declining, she said.

KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) aligning himself with ASEAN, said children were the future of his country, adding that education was the key to their development.  Myanmar had increased public spending on education, and a new system waived school fees for all high school students.  All primary school students were provided with school uniforms.  Having faced internal armed conflicts for more than six decades, Myanmar sought to build a peaceful and harmonious society.  The Government welcomed the “Children, Not Soldiers” programme of the Special Representative on Violence against Children, and was working closely with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting to prevent underage recruitment into the military.  A new child rights law had been enacted with wide-ranging consultation with civil society.

Mr. MOUSSA (Djibouti) associating himself with the African Group, said children were both exceptional and fragile beings who deserved education, health, and an appropriate environment.  Djibouti condemned all violence against children, adding that the devastating nature of violence against children led to illnesses and other serious consequences.  A child endangered was a dangerous child, and entire segments of society were being lost.  Starting in 2000, the Government had provided free education for all children, and there was no difference in attendance between girls and boys.  Djibouti would continue to promote schooling for girls, he said.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said her Government had identified access to education as central to peace and security in all countries.  As a result, the education budget in Algeria had increased tenfold over the past 15 years.  Some eight million children now received free education across the country, she noted, adding that those benefits extended to refugees and pursued gender parity.  Programmes that took an inclusive approach were being implemented in cooperation with civil society, she said, noting that national child protection efforts had succeeded in improving knowledge about children’s fundamental rights.

Mr. DOUTI (Togo) encouraged more specific action to ensure better quality of life for children.  Having ratified most relevant international mechanisms, Togo had strengthened its legal system by adopting laws which allowed for increased protection of vulnerable children.  Anti-trafficking laws also had achieved positive results in assisting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice.  With the support of several partners, Togo was pursuing increased school enrolment, and a national hotline was created to enable the reporting of child abuse cases. Substantial efforts were also being made to improve the quality of education by investing in infrastructure and training teachers and staff.

MICHAEL ESPIRITU, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said the Order was active in 120 countries providing medical, humanitarian and social assistance, underscoring that children’s welfare was a foremost concern.  The Order fed hungry children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it worked with the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide aid for displaced and malnourished children.  It was also active in Namibia, Uganda, Togo and Benin, where nutrition nurses travelled to villages treating undernourished children where they lived.  Having served the vulnerable for nine centuries, the Order would continue dedicating itself to serving children.

DANIELLE LARRABEE, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the organization had a long history of working to protect children, including those on the move.  The focus now was on establishing new partnerships, joining various international initiatives and ensuring that young people and children had a voice in identifying risks and providing solutions.  For example, in Bangladesh, the Red Crescent Society had held regular discussions with displaced children to learn about their experiences.  Working with its national societies and its 17 million volunteers, IFRC was conducting country evaluations of its work with children on the move in Ecuador, Guatemala, Benin, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Indonesia.  Despite enormous needs and challenges, she was encouraged to see children’s rights garner international attention, particularly welcoming the pledge in the New York Declaration to protect children on the move.

KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), said ILO’s two main international conventions covering children in the world of work had nearly universal ratification.  Yet, ratification of those Conventions — on the minimum age for work and the elimination of the worst forms of child labour — was insufficient in eliminating child labour.  The standards enumerated in the Conventions should be translated into national laws, he said, adding that estimates showed a total of 152 million children in labour globally.  ILO was working to eliminate child labour in complex and multi-tiered global supply chains through a “Child Labour Guidance Tool” which aimed to serve as a resource for companies seeking to meet due diligence requirements.  Effective common standards that were monitored and enforced were needed to help protect children’s rights.

Right of Reply

The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Syria had spread fabricated information to draw attention away from its “heinous” crimes.  The Syrian regime was committing crimes that had claimed thousands of lives and turned a blind eye to the suffering of displaced people.  He reiterated his Government’s commitment to provide aid to countries undergoing humanitarian crises.

The representative of Myanmar, responding to statements made by her counterpart from Bangladesh, said authorities in her country and Bangladesh had agreed on cooperation to address issues along the shared border.  Security forces were well aware of the Geneva Convention and the “law of the land”, and were not harming civilians.  She said Myanmar would work in a neighbourly fashion to address the issue of displaced persons.

The representative of Armenia, responding to statements made by her counterpart from Azerbaijan, said the Government had been addressing refugee issues for more than 25 years as a result of Azerbaijani actions in Nagorno-Karabakh.  Armenia had provided the only viable solution to the issue, yet Azerbaijani aggression persisted.  She said the death of any child was a tragedy and expressed regret that Azerbaijan did not share that view.

The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia’s delegation had distorted the essence of the conflict.  Armenia had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.  International law was on Azerbaijan’s side, and demanded the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied territories.  Armenia should engage in substantive talks, rather than resorting to provocations.  If Armenia was interested in the political settlement of the conflict, it should withdraw its forces.

The representative of Armenia, taking the floor a second time, said Nagorno-Karabakh was under the control of the Nagorno-Karabakh defence army.  Azerbaijan’s delegate had not denied allegations regarding killings of children; atrocities had been well-documented by Azerbaijanis themselves.  

The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia’s delegate had disagreed with what the President of Armenia had said, and asked what Armenian soldiers were doing in a certain city.  Secondly, regarding the killing of children in July, he said a two-year old Azerbaijani girl had been killed, and that ordinary people via social media had said that more Azerbaijani people should be killed.  Concerning the April war, Azerbaijan had undertaken appropriate measures to ensure the safety of its citizens.