News

Condemning Attacks on Aid Efforts, General Assembly Adopts Package of Texts, One Urging States to Better Protect Humanitarian Workers, Respect International Law

The General Assembly today adopted seven draft resolutions, among them texts on credentials, the culture of peace and on strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.

Condemning in the strongest possible terms the alarming increase in threats to and deliberate targeting of aid workers, the Assembly adopted without a vote the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/72/L.22).  By its terms, the Assembly urged States to make every effort to ensure the full implementation of the rules of international law that protect aid workers.

Also by the text’s terms, the Assembly called upon all Governments and parties in complex humanitarian emergencies in countries in which humanitarian personnel were operating to cooperate fully with the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies and organizations and to allow those personnel to perform efficiently their task of assisting the affected civilian population, including refugees and internally displaced persons.  It also called upon all States to consider becoming parties to relevant international instruments.

Prior to taking action on “L.22” as a whole, the Assembly, by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 12 against, with 17 abstentions, decided to retain two paragraphs referencing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Several speakers, including the representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that language related to the Court was worthy of inclusion.

Meanwhile, Sudan’s representative, whose delegation had requested the vote, warned against politicizing humanitarian efforts.  Stressing that the International Criminal Court was not a United Nations organ, he reiterated that it was instead “at best a threat to the peace and stability” in his country.

Also under the humanitarian assistance umbrella, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, three draft resolutions on:  international cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development; strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations; and assistance to the Palestinian people, which had been introduced on 8 December.  (See Press Release GA/11990 of 8 December).

Sharing the perspective of those providing aid, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), highlighted two worrying gaps in the United Nations indivisible new policy on prevention, development and peace.  The first was protection, as the policy focus rested on development and peace with recognition that protection was essential to both.  If people were being attacked, forcibly displaced, looted, impoverished, besieged, unlawfully detained or were too afraid to go to hospitals and schools, they would not attain development or peace.  The second gap was neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action.  States must respect that essential practice — rooted in the Geneva Conventions — so that vulnerable people, both under or beyond the State’s control, could be protected and assisted impartially on the basis of need.

Raising another concern, a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said risks driven by climate change would be unevenly weighted against poorer people living in areas of low development.  As such, she encouraged all stakeholders to ensure real progress by recognizing the added value of local actors in addressing and reducing disaster risks and impacts of climate change.

Turning to its agenda item on the culture of peace, the Assembly adopted the draft resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/72/L.29), reaffirming that interreligious and intercultural dialogue constituted important dimensions of the dialogue among civilizations.  It also condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence and underlined the importance of moderation as a value within societies for countering violent extremism and for further contributing to the promotion of interreligious dialogue, tolerance and cooperation.

By the terms of the draft resolution “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/72/L.30), adopted without a vote, the Assembly urged the appropriate authorities to provide age-appropriate education in children’s schools, including lessons in mutual understanding, tolerance, active and global citizenship and human rights.  It also underlined that early childhood development contributes to the development of more peaceful societies through advancing equality, tolerance, human development and promoting human rights.

The Assembly, by the draft’s terms, called for investment in early childhood education, including through effective policies and practices.  It also invited Member States to continue to emphasize and expand their activities promoting a culture of peace and to ensure that peace and non-violence were fostered at all levels.

Considering the Report of the Credentials Committee (document A/72/601), the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution, contained therein, on the credentials of representatives to the seventy-second session of the General Assembly.

In other business, the Assembly also elected the following 17 members to the Committee for Programme and Coordination for a three‑year term beginning on 1 January 2018:  Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Cuba, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, United Kingdom, and United States.  It postponed to a date to be announced the appointment of members to the Committee on Conferences.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Canada (also for Australia, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway) Russian Federation, Ireland, Iran, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Armenia, United States, Brazil, El Salvador, as well as the State of Palestine and the Holy See.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply was the representative of Azerbaijan.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 12 December, to consider global health and foreign policy.

Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance

ABDULLAH ABU SHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, said everyone must work together to ensure “no one gets left behind” in the quest for sustainable development.  All United Nations aid to the Palestinian people was strictly for relief and reconstruction.  “We cannot use these funds for true development,” he said, emphasizing that the Israeli occupation must be rejected so Palestinians could attempt to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Describing a five‑year Palestinian strategy focused on the adaptation and monitoring of development goals, he said all such progress, however, was being jeopardized by the Israeli occupation.  Despite grave scarcity of resources and problems caused by the occupation, Palestinian determination remained unshakeable.  “We are capable of overcoming all difficulties,” he said, noting all the sacrifices the Palestinian people had made to date.

PHILIP SPOERRI, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said there were two worrying gaps in the United Nations indivisible new policy on prevention, development and peace.  The first was protection, as the policy focus rested on development and peace with recognition that protection was essential to both.  If people were being attacked, forcibly displaced, looted, impoverished, besieged, unlawfully detained or were too afraid to go to hospitals and schools, they would not attain development or peace.  Inadequate detention policies also posed a risk to development and peace because inhumane detention practices could increase political grievances.  The second gap was neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action.  States must respect that essential practice — rooted in the Geneva Conventions — so that vulnerable people, both under or beyond the State’s control, could be protected and assisted impartially on the basis of need.

ANNE CHRISTENSEN, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said risks driven by climate change would be unevenly weighted against poorer people living in areas of low development.  Those included individuals crowded in urban slums without access to reliable water and electricity sources as well as displaced persons in disaster‑prone and climate‑exposed areas.  Addressing such risks would require increased investment in local action and strong effort to ensure assistance reached those suffering the most.  Ways must be found of linking science to policy, decision‑making and action on the ground — for example, addressing climate extremes through early warning systems that reached the most vulnerable communities and enabled them to act.  Her organization had been working on quick and early action by communities and local authorities through an innovative method of advance financing based on weather forecasts.  She encouraged all stakeholders to ensure real progress by recognizing the added value of local actors in addressing and reducing disaster risks and impacts of climate change.

Prior to taking action on the draft resolution “Safety and security of humanitarian personnel and protection of United Nations personnel” (document A/72/L.22), representatives explained their delegations’ positions.

The representative of Canada, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and Norway, regretted to note that a separate recorded vote had been called on several paragraphs of “L.22”, which sought to remove text that had been agreed upon for years.  Recent attacks on humanitarian and medical personnel in recent years only amplified the text’s relevance, she said.  Preambular paragraph 28 underscored the role the International Criminal Court could play and operative paragraph 7 called on all States to consider becoming party to the Court, she said, calling on all to vote to retain those paragraphs.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the seventy‑second session marked the second year that delegations were calling for others to review language in certain paragraphs because the draft resolution could no longer be considered consensual.  With the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the international community was expecting concrete actions to deal with impunity, settle existing conflicts and prevent new flashpoints of tension.  Yet many years into the Court’s existence, those expectations remained.  The alternative wording that had been proposed to the paragraphs in question deserved support because they considered salient issues.  Moreover, the proposed amendments should be supported because if adopted, they would return “L.22” to its consensual nature.

The representative of the Netherlands, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed regret that Sudan had called for a vote on preambular and operative paragraphs in “L.22”.  The International Criminal Court was a tool to fight impunity and contribute to international peace.  Its role was to complement rather than replace existing national judicial systems, he said, also stressing that perpetrators of crimes against humanity must always be held accountable.  The fight against impunity for the most serious crimes was critical in ensuring a fair and just society.  Peace and justice were complementary and not mutually exclusive, he said, expressing support for the paragraphs in question.

The representative of Sudan expressed serious reservations regarding the inclusion of references to the International Criminal Court in “L.22”.  The Court was not an organ of the United Nations, despite some parties painting it as such.  The principle of free consent meant that only those who were party to an agreement were bound by it.  Since 2003, the Court had been an impediment to peace in Darfur, creating a wedge between peace and justice, and was “at best a threat to the peace and stability in my country”, he said, adding that the Court was also fraught with corruption and scandals and lacked independence, as half of its budget was drawn from voluntary contributions from States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who exercised control over it.  Noting the rejection of his delegation’s proposal to replace language in preambular paragraph 28 and operative paragraph 7, he emphasized that lofty goals of humanitarian assistance must not be mixed with a political agenda.

The Assembly then decided, by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 12 against, with 17 abstentions, to retain preambular paragraph 28 and operative paragraph 7 of “L.22”.  Acting without a vote, it adopted “L.22” as a whole.

In a point of order, the representative of Israel referenced an Assembly resolution that had been adopted in 1998 on the participation of Palestine in the work of the United Nations.  The subject matter of today’s resolution did not fall under the rules of co-sponsorship, which were clearly indicated in the rules governing the United Nations.  Any decision to disregard those rules violated United Nations resolutions and undermined the Organization’s work.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.23).

The representative of Israel said Palestine’s participation as a co-sponsor did not fall under the rules of co-sponsorship.  Any decision to disregard those rules undermined the United Nations work.

The Assembly adopted without a vote the draft resolution “International cooperation on humanitarian assistance in the field of natural disasters, from relief to development” (document A/72/L.24).

Also without a vote, it adopted the draft resolution “Assistance to the Palestinian people” (document A/72/L.25).

An observer for the Holy See reiterated his delegation’s reservations, including the belief that abortion was not a dimension of the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and “health-care services”.  With reference to gender, that concept was not to be interpreted as a social construction.

Credentials Committee

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), Chair of the Credentials Committee, introduced the “Report of the Credentials Committee” (document A/72/601), containing a draft resolution on the credentials of the representatives of Member States to the seventy-second session of the General Assembly.  The Committee had approved that draft resolution, which would have the Assembly accept the credentials of representatives of a number of Member States.

The representative of Iran, explaining his delegation’s position, said he supported a consensus decision, but expressed reservations to parts of the report that could constitute the recognition of the Israeli regime.

The representative of Indonesia drew attention to the “unfriendly” action of Vanuatu in including on their list of delegations a non-citizen of Vanuatu who had acted in a separatist movement of West Papua.  That person had spread malicious rumours and should not be granted credentials.  Indonesia objected to that act and rejected whatever message it had intended to convey.  It violated norms of multilateral conduct and the rights of Member States, he said, adding that the accreditation of Vanuatu, with knowledge that those individuals had such a mindset, was an act of hostility against Indonesia.  Member States should not play into the hands of separatists.  As such, Indonesia requested an explanation from Vanuatu concerning their delegation.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.

Culture of Peace

TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), introducing the draft resolution “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/72/L.29), said the text aimed to strengthen mechanisms and take action to promote sincere and constructive dialogue across cultural and religious divides.  The world was facing seemingly intractable conflicts and complex challenges that not only caused immense human suffering and economic loss, but also hindered socioeconomic cooperation and the pursuit of inclusive societies.  Suspicion and ignorance among various religions and civilizations were being exploited by extremist and terrorist groups to propagate their agendas.  It was essential to build on shared values and aspirations by strengthening mechanisms and actions through constructive dialogue, better understanding, moderation and promoting a global culture of peace.  He also pointed out several oral revisions to the text.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), introducing the draft resolution “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/72/L.30), said that the current version of the text contained four new elements.  It acknowledged the high-level event on Culture of Peace and its focus on early childhood development and recalled that General Assembly resolution 70/272 on the review of the United Nations peacebuilding architecture had introduced the notion of “sustaining peace”.  In addition, “L.30” noted the establishment of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and recognized the role of the work of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in promoting a culture of people.  The draft also reiterated the request to consider convening in September 2018 a high-level forum devoted to the implementation of the Programme of Action.

The Assembly then adopted without a vote “L.29” as orally revised.

Also without a vote, it adopted “L.30”.

The representative of Armenia, explaining his delegation’s position, said objections to some paragraphs in “L.29” were based on the fact that Azerbaijan had abused international fora.  Preambular paragraph 23 concerned an event named World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, which was a glaring example of manipulation against Armenia.  Due regard should be given to Azerbaijan’s destruction of heritage, as in the case of the obliteration of a medieval cemetery.  As such, Armenia disassociated itself from that paragraph.

The representative of the United States said his country was committed to a culture of peace through rejecting violence and promoting human rights, including by supporting efforts to enhance interreligious dialogue.  However, each country had its own development priorities.  The word “moderation” remained undefined in international law, he noted, adding that programmes and policies must respect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The representative of Canada said operative paragraph 10 in “L.29” noted that interventions countering violent extremism were context-specific.  Respect for human rights, diversity and inclusion were needed to help communities to become more resilient.  Intercultural and interreligious dialogue was needed to create mutual respect and understanding.  It was a difficult balance, but Canada was committed to working with partners to preserve it.

The representative of Brazil said his delegation endorsed the twin resolutions on the peacebuilding architecture, yet cautioned that while supporting both the culture of peace and sustaining peace concepts, those actions should run on parallel tracks to avoid conflating mandates and concepts.  The General Assembly could do more on the human rights and development elements of the culture of peace.

The representative of El Salvador said constructing a culture of peace required institutions to be strengthened, noting that “L.30” underscored the importance of development in early childhood.  It was crucial to ensure children completed their early education and for curricula to include the culture of peace.  El Salvador was a member of the Peacebuilding Commission, he said, adding that his country had experienced a transition and was now working on supporting the United Nations to facilitate a new national agreement.  It was important to create strong institutions, he said, calling on all Member States to support the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in implementing a culture of peace in connection with the Sustainable Development Goals.  He also appealed to the General Assembly President to convene a high-level forum on the implementation of the Programme of Action.  Peace could not be considered in a reductive fashion as just the absence of war; peace was an endeavour that the international community must produce together.

Right of Reply

The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said multiculturalism was a long-standing tradition in his country.  “L.29” welcomed the Declaration and referred to the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue and other fora.  Yet, there was nothing surprising in Armenia’s attempts to politicize resolutions.  By obstructing efforts and challenging global initiatives because of its relation to Azerbaijan, Armenia had demonstrated that its good faith was elusive.  Regarding human rights and international humanitarian law, he said Azerbaijan had preserved its diversity to the present day.

Programme and Coordination Committee Elections

The Assembly then turned to the election to the Committee for Programme and Coordination the following members, nominated by the Economic and Social Council, for a three-year term beginning on 1 January 2018:  Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Cuba, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, United Kingdom and United States.

The Economic and Social Council had nominated Botswana, Burkina Faso and Cameroon for the three of the four seats among African States; India, Iran, Japan and Pakistan for the four seats among Asia-Pacific States; Belarus, Bulgaria and the Republic of Moldova for the three seats among Eastern European States; Brazil, Chile and Cuba for three of the four seats among the Latin American and Caribbean States; and Germany, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States for four of the five seats among the Western European and other States.

The following States were eligible for immediate re-election, after 1 January 2018:  Argentina, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Eritrea, France, Haiti, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The Economic and Social Council had postponed the nomination of one member from each of the following groups:  African States, Latin American and Caribbean States and Western European and other States for election for three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2018.  Members were also reminded of the remaining two vacancies among the Western European and other States, for terms beginning on the date of election and expiring on 31 December 2017 and 31 December 2018, respectively.

As one seat from Asia-Pacific States for a term beginning on the date of appointment and ending on 31 December 2019 remained vacant, the General Assembly President appointed China to fill that vacancy.  The General Assembly would take action to fill remaining vacancies upon the receipt of nominations by the Economic and Social Council.

The Assembly then postponed to a later date the appointment of members of the Committee on Conferences.

News

Human Rights Council President Urges Governments to Protect Fundamental Freedoms in Word, Deed, as Third Committee Considers Report of Geneva-Based Body

The President of Human Rights Council urged Governments to ensure that efforts to protect fundamental freedoms existed “not just in words, but in practice”, as he presented his annual report to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) today.

Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli, who had addressed the General Assembly plenary earlier in the day, said the Council adopted 114 resolutions, presidential statements and decisions, 80 of them without a vote.

The situation in Myanmar deserved special attention, he said.  The Council had created an independent fact‑finding mission to examine alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine State, extending its mandate to September 2018 when its final report would be considered.

Turning to Syria, he said the Council had held interactive dialogues with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, and extended that body’s mandate for another year.

More broadly, he said the Council had established a new special procedures mandate ‑  the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members — and created a joint task force to bridge the gap between the Council’s workload and resources.  He also informed delegates he had received reports of threats against those who had cooperated with the Council.  Any such intimidation was unacceptable.

In the ensuing debate, described potential areas for the Council’s reform, with Eritrea’s delegate, on behalf of the African Group, stressing that the body should never be used as a tool for political purposes.  He also rejected the Council’s practice of “naming and shaming” and imposing mandates that did not enjoy the support of the concerned country.

The representative of the European Union said there was potential to strengthen dialogue between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council’s mandate must be carried out so that early warning could become early action, he said, calling the independent Special Procedures mandate‑holders the world’s “eyes and ears,” attentive to emerging crises.

Earlier in the day, the Third Committee concluded its debate on refugees, with speakers from host countries highlighting the challenges of sheltering large numbers of displaced people.  The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said his country had welcomed more than 318,397 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He called for international support for local integration of the refugees.  Sudan’s delegate said the inflow of refugees into her country was mixed with illegal migrants who had been trafficked, while Uganda’s delegate called for international support, as assisting refugees had over‑stretched its meagre resources.

Ukraine’s delegate, meanwhile, said 1.6 million people had been internally displaced from Russian‑occupied areas of Ukraine.  Similarly, Georgia’s delegate said the ethnic Georgian population in occupied regions faced an imminent threat of expulsion.  The representative of Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply, objected to baseless accusations against her country.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States and the Russian Federation had never controlled those territories.  Further, citizens were fleeing Ukraine due to crimes by ultranationalists and Ukrainian authorities.  The Russian Federation had offered voluntary donations to the High Commissioner for Refugees to manage the situation in eastern Ukraine, she added.

Also speaking in the discussion on refugees were representatives of Pakistan, China, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Argentina, Serbia, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Thailand, Botswana, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Ethiopia, Zambia, Nigeria, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Mali and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Also speaking in the debate on the Human Rights Council report were representatives of Paraguay, Egypt, Colombia, Eritrea, Japan, Iraq, Syria, Botswana, United States, Cuba, Iran, Algeria, Nigeria, El Salvador, Latvia, India, China and Morocco.

The representatives of Algeria, Ukraine, Georgia, Morocco and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 6 November to continue its work.

Background

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4216).

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) commended the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants but stressed that more must be done to find solutions to the refugee crisis.  Pakistan had sheltered millions of Afghan refugees in the past four decades, providing them with education, health care and jobs.  While the Prime Minister had said that they would not be repatriated forcibly, host countries had largely been taken for granted and their national resources stretched to cater to refugee needs.  He called for equal burden sharing and establishing long‑term solutions to address the root causes of displacement.

ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia) said the ethnic Georgian population living in occupied regions faced an imminent threat of expulsion.  Harsh restrictions had been imposed on education in the native Georgian language and Georgian classes had been prohibited in the Gali district and Tskhinvali region.  Further, the closure of entry and exit points across the occupation line by Russian occupation forces had also severely restricted the freedom of movement of local residents.  Those occupation forces had demolished the homes of internally displaced people from Georgia in the occupied Tskhinvali region.  She said talks on humanitarian issues in occupied regions, and on displaced people from Georgia, had been politicized by the Russian Federation.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said it was crucial to focus on both the symptoms and root causes of the refugee problem.  Root causes, such as social instability and imbalance in development, should be addressed by stepping up assistance for development.  There was also a need to resolve disputes through dialogue.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should summarize its experience and practices of pilot projects for implementing the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and use the information for the formulation of the Global Compact for Refugees.  Negotiations of the Global Compact must be driven by Member States and should be advanced gradually.  She called on UNHCR to maintain its objectivity and neutrality and avoid interfering in internal affairs of countries and politicizing refugee protection mechanisms.

Ms. ALFASSAM (Kuwait) said the displacement crisis had worsened in recent years, threatening international stability.  Noting the High Commissioner’s focus on addressing its causes, she called on all States to cooperate in relevant efforts.  Pointing to the New York Declaration as a cornerstone to improve the living conditions of refugees and migrants, she said Kuwait was providing assistance through pledging conferences, contributing more than $2 million to assist refugees in the Middle East and elsewhere.  The situation of refugees without official documents was a priority, she said, and relevant documentation was being issued to those in Kuwait.

Ms. SUKKAR (Jordan) said those fleeing conflict and entering Jordan had reached 2.8 million, with a majority being Syrian nationals.  Those circumstances had severely stressed public services, impacting Jordan’s development trajectory.  The Government was pursuing long‑term plans to address the refugee crisis and had established a single national framework to address the matter.  Syrian refugees without required documentation had been allowed to enrol in school, and some 200 schools now operated double shifts to allow for the attendance of refugee children.  Health services were also being provided, including gender‑sensitive attention to women and girls.  The protracted nature of the regional crisis had pushed Jordan’s assistance capacity to its limits, she said, stressing the importance of burden sharing.

MARWAN FRANCIS (Lebanon) expressed deep concern over the protracted situation of forced migration and stressed that the crisis should not become “the new normal”.  The international community must work together, he said, noting that burden and responsibility sharing were fundamental to addressing forced migration.  The causes of the crisis must also be tackled, and assistance must account for the specific context of each situation.  The return of refugees to their homes also must be a priority, he affirmed, adding that Lebanon hosted 1.2 million Syrian refugees and 400,000 Palestinian refugees.  The mass influx was straining limited assistance capabilities, he said, commending the High Commissioner’s efforts to engage with development partners.

Ms. MARTINIC (Argentina) called the adoption of the New York Declaration a step in the right direction, noting that while her country was committed to sheltering Syrian refugees, there was a need to establish sustainable regional and international solutions.  In November, Argentina would host two subregional meetings on implementation of the Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action to address displacement trends.  While no country was free from the impact of refugee movements, developing countries had been most affected and there was a need to identify institutional frameworks that would help them both better address refugee needs, and particularly, the rights of women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and disabled refugees.

MARINA IVANOVIC (Serbia) said increasing numbers of refugees in his country had strained its accommodation capacities.  The large influx had also led to growing xenophobia and intolerance.  Serbia had offered refugees and migrants accommodation, food and health protection.  Its experience dated to the 1990s when thousands of people from the former Yugoslavia had fled to Serbia.  The country had also sheltered 200,000 internally displaced people from Kosovo and Metohija since 1999.  The regional housing programme for refugees, implemented by four countries in cooperation with the European Commission, UNHCR, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), was an example of partnership between host countries, countries of origin and international partners.

Ms. HWANG (Republic of Korea) said the global refugee crisis had overwhelmed humanitarian responses.  However, the New York Declaration was reason to be optimistic and the recent pledging conference for Myanmar was a timely event.  Calling for durable solutions to the crisis, she urged humanitarian actors to address the causes of displacement and redouble efforts to strengthen partnerships with the private sector and development agencies.  Underlining the principle of non‑refoulement, she said no country could cope with the refugee crisis alone.  Republic of Korea was the first country in Asia to adopt an independent refugee law and was implementing a pilot resettlement programme for refugees.

HARRISON W. MSEKE (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), drew attention to the challenges facing host nations as they tried to implement the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.  A poor country, United Republic of Tanzania had nevertheless met its obligations, welcoming more than 318,397 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  As part of the pilot roll‑out of the Framework, it would focus on admission and rights, emergency response, inclusion and self‑reliance, local integration of new citizens, third‑country options and voluntary repatriation and reintegration.  To the latter point, the Government would establish group processing for Congolese refugees, while ensuring that returns to Burundi were conducted in line with the principles of voluntary repatriation.  He requested international support for the local integration of 1,972 Burundian refugees who had been granted citizenship, referring to a concept note outlining proposed projects for the Kigoma region, which hosted the most refugees.

The representative of Ukraine said his country had faced numerous humanitarian challenges due to the Russian aggression.  Some 1.6 million people had been internally displaced from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, while many others lacked basic water and sanitation services. The humanitarian response plan was underfunded and while Ukraine was grateful for support from the High Commissioner’s Office, humanitarian aid into the country had been blocked by local authorities backed by the Russian Government.  Such human rights violations against ethnic Ukrainians had forced many to flee their homes.

The representative of South Africa, associating him with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that his country continued to “open our ports of entry to refugees and asylum seekers,” giving them the right of access to education, healthcare, jobs, legal aid and access to courts.  Voicing concern about the consequences of refugee outflows which continued to fall disproportionately on developing countries, he said that international cooperation in sharing the burden of hosting refugees had become critical in addressing such challenges.  In that regard, his the momentum gained towards the elaboration of the Global Compact for Refugees through discussions on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework was encouraging.  One of its key outcomes had been to ease the pressure through burden sharing; thus, the Framework should ensure adequate, predictable and equitable sharing of such burdens aimed at drastically easing the pressure on hosts.  Underlining that the establishment of development funding mechanisms should be mindful of those principles, he voiced his strong support for close cooperation and joint planning between humanitarian and development actors.

SUPATTRA AUEAREE (Thailand) said the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Migration were complementary, expressing support for the Framework.  In turn, that Framework would generate inputs for the international community to draft the Global Compact on Refugees, on track for adoption in September 2018.  Reviewing Thailand’s efforts, she cited efforts by her Government and Myanmar to facilitate the voluntary return of 71 displaced persons from Myanmar.  Thailand supported UNHCR’s “#Ibelong” campaign to end statelessness by 2024, and had implemented measures which would enable around 80,000 children born in Thailand to apply for Thai nationality.  The Cabinet also had finalized and implemented a screening system for undocumented immigrants and refugees, to address the problem of mixed migration.

PHOLOGO GAUMAKWE (Botswana), associating himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Group, said Africa continued to account for a large number of refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers.  Displacement had resulted from protracted conflict, he said, adding that the global refugee crisis was a stark reminder of the need to assume collective responsibility for the provision of humanitarian response.  Noting that Botswana was host to 3,500 refugees, he said the repatriation process must be re‑engineered to reduce turnaround times for those wishing to return home.  Stressing the need for long‑term solutions, he said financial assistance was central to addressing the crisis.

Ms. MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said addressing the needs of displaced persons required the resolution of armed conflict, adding that attention to the issue of internally‑displaced persons was far from sufficient.  Armenian aggression had resulted in large‑scale displacement in her country.  Azerbaijan was making progress in providing assistance to displaced persons, she said, adding that several United Nations agencies had reported positively on the matter.  She underlined that approaches to alleviate the plight of internally‑displaced persons would be incomplete if they did not place repatriation as their priority.

The representative of Morocco said the global humanitarian crisis was spreading, with Africa particularly affected by displacement.  He commended the efforts of sub‑Saharan States that had welcomed refugees and urged that assistance be given to them.  Several States were profiting from the refugee populations they hosted, which was the case in Algeria.  Refugees in Algeria had been stripped of their humanitarian rights, with camps in Tindouf falling victim to fraud.  Humanitarian aid was being diverted from refugee camps, he said, asking for a re‑evaluation of assistance being provided to refugees in the region.  Algeria could not continue to use refugees as a means to enrich itself, he affirmed.

HAILESELASSIE SUBBA GEBRU (Ethiopia) voiced concern that the High Commissioner’s budget was underfunded, citing a 75 per cent funding gap in the refugee response plan for Ethiopia.  Also concerning were the protection challenges related to human trafficking and smuggling, sexual and gender‑based violence and forced recruitment.  Assistance must go beyond repatriation, efforts which would require better collaboration between humanitarian and development actors in countries of origin.  He encouraged the expansion of resettlement opportunities as a means of international protection, stressing that partnership should remain the cornerstone of UNHCR’s approach.  International refugee protection should be guided by principle of burden and responsibility sharing, and support provided for least developed countries, which were hosts to the largest numbers of refugees

HELLEN CHIFWAILA, (Zambia), said her country hosted 57,000 refugees.  Since August, it had received some 3,360 Congolese refugees fleeing clashes between the forces of their Government and militia groups.  Noting that Zambia was ready to work with partners to provide assistance, she said the Government had introduced a law outlining provisions for the establishment of a refugee fund and refugee settlements.  Zambia was also considering the possibility of relaxing the encampment policy, in turn allowing refugees to engage in employment and achieve self‑reliance.  Around 20,406 refugees lived outside the settlements, she said, noting that the Government was providing education to refugee children in settlements.

ALEX AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, said all States must promote the rights of refugees, migrants and displaced persons, and expressed concern over the welfare of refugees around the world.  The advent of Boko Haram’s insurgency had led to the establishment of camps for internally-displaced persons across Nigeria, which were ensuring access to life‑saving social services.  Displaced children were being granted access to education, with safe school initiatives in place.  Nigeria was carrying out a policy of civilian protection to better protect the population from armed conflict, he said.

DIZERY SALIM, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), recalled that the Uganda Red Cross had participated in drafting the terms of reference for the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework Secretariat.  While local actors had a strong understanding of circumstances, politics and culture relevant to the provision of refugee protection and assistance, global actors could do more to provide a quality, sustainable and principled response.  “There are times when we treat them as contractors instead of partners,” she said, and it was essential to boost their institutional capacity and provide core funding.  A good legal framework could strengthen the role of local actors and Governments alike.  IFRC had worked for more than a decade in more than 100 countries to strengthen domestic legal frameworks to facilitate responses to large‑scale emergencies.  On refugee resilience, she said participatory assessments should include host communities, which were often vulnerable themselves and whose generosity should not be taken for granted.

MOUSSA DOLLO (Mali) said his country was emerging from a socio‑political crisis which had forced thousands of citizens to flee their homes.  Mali attached great importance to refugee crises, and had introduced both a national policy and action plan to address the needs of internally displaced persons.  It also had worked with neighbouring countries, including Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, to facilitate the return of Malian refugees.  With the Government working to establish peace and reconciliation in Mali, a tripartite agreement had resulted in 70,000 Malian citizens returning from Burkina Faso.  He thanked neighbouring countries for their help in sheltering Malian refugees.

Ms. SALIM (International Committee of the Red Cross) said that despite meaningful progress, millions of people continued to be displaced by armed conflict and other violence, many within their own countries.  More must be done to prevent such circumstances and support both displaced people and their hosts.  He highlighted the need to better respond to displacement in cities, welcoming that Special Rapporteur Jimenez‑Damary had focused on enhancing the participation of displaced people in decisions affecting them.  States should mark the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement by drawing on good practices in addressing the needs of internally displaced people.

Ms. MUKHTAR (Sudan) said the geographic location and cultural heritage of her country had attracted refugees for years.  Sudan was committed to addressing the needs of refugees but faced challenges, as their inflow was mixed with illegal migrants who had been trafficked.  As such, the Government had enacted a law against human trafficking.  But Sudan had received little international assistance to deal with the refugee crisis.  The Government had provided the best treatment possible and would continue to provide refugees with health care, security and education, while working to facilitate their return.

KINTU NYAGO (Uganda) said the large influx of refugees from South Sudan and other countries into Uganda led to the hosting of a solidarity summit on the matter earlier this year.  Assisting refugees was over‑stretching the Government’s meagre resources, he said, adding that a grassroots‑based assistance programme was being implemented with help from the World Bank and United Nations.  Termed the “Uganda Model”, that programme faced land‑management and service‑access challenges, he said, urging the international community to provide support to ensure the approach accomplished long‑term solutions.

Right of reply

The representative of Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply in response to her counterparts from Georgia and Ukraine, objected to baseless accusations against her country.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States and the Russian Federation had never controlled those territories, she said, adding that Georgia had ignored the needs of those forcibly displaced.  Further, the reason citizens were fleeing Ukraine was due to crimes committed by ultranationalists and Ukrainian authorities who had started a conflict in the country’s eastern regions.  The Russian Federation did not control republics and there were no Russian forces there.  It had offered voluntary donations to UNHCR to manage the situation in eastern Ukraine, she said, adding that the republic of Crimea was a subject of the Russian Federation in accordance with international law.

The representative of Algeria said to Morocco’s delegate on the question of refugees that Algeria was a host country for refugees.  There was no issue around Algeria’s calling into question any resolution adopted by the United Nations, he said.  It was Morocco that was “slithering away,” creating delays each time.  Algeria had been constant in its defence of self‑determination.  Morocco claimed innocence in the context of human rights, but in Western Sahara, its record was clear and confirmed, he said.  Morocco was an occupying power, not an administering power.  From the standpoint of international law, the territory was described in various United Nations resolutions.

The representative of Ukraine reminded the representative of the Russian Federation that in 2014, the latter had deployed so‑called “green men” to the territory of Crimea, and that an unlawful referendum had been held on the territory.  In 2014 the Russian Federation had fuelled war in Ukraine and now was proud of helping refugees from Ukraine.  Citing a Russian proverb, he said “no matter how many times you are going to say halva, it is not going to be any sweeter.”

The representative of Georgia said in response that the Russian Federation had misled the international community and undermined the rights of persons internally displaced from the occupied territories of Georgia.  Further, the Russian Federation had not complied with the United Nations Charter or resolutions on Georgia, and its violations had been noted by an international fact‑finding mission.  The Russian Federation bore responsibility for resolving the issue of internally displaced persons and improving the human rights situation in Ukraine.

The representative of Morocco, in response to Algeria’s delegate, said the latter country had demonstrated complete disregard for and ignorance of international law.  Algeria’s claim that Morocco had occupied the Sahara was false because the territory had always belonged to Morocco.

The representative of Algeria, responding to Morocco’s delegate, said the latter country had illegally occupied Western Sahara and Algeria was not alone in voicing that opinion.  The right to self‑determination should be exercised in accordance with international law and Algeria stood by that position.

The representative of Morocco, responding to Algeria’s delegate, said the people of the Sahara had pledged allegiance to Morocco.  Algeria sought to create a territorial problem because of its “hegemonic designs”.  Yet it had only highlighted the importance of self‑determination in the context of the Sahara, not in the context of other countries.

Human Rights Council Report

JOAQUÍN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI, President of the Human Rights Council, presented the body’s annual report (document A/72/53), outlining its activities, resolutions, decisions and presidential statements adopted at its regular session, as well as its special session in December 2016.  Over the year, the Council had adopted 114 resolutions, presidential statements and decisions, 80 of them without a vote.  By the end of 2017, it would have reviewed 28 States’ human rights obligations under its universal periodic review.  Once again, the Council had seen greater participation by small island developing States and least developed countries, thanks to the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund that had supported 27 delegates and fellows from 26 countries.

He said the situation in Myanmar deserved special attention and the Council had created an independent fact‑finding mission to examine alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine State, extending its mandate to September 2018 when its final report would be considered.  On the situation in Syria, he said interactive dialogues with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry had been held and the Commission’s mandate had been extended for another year.  He went on to describe other efforts related to South Sudan, Burundi, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Libya, Georgia and Yemen.

In 2017, the Council had established a new mandate, namely the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, and decided against extending the mandates of the Independent Experts on Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti.  He said 118 Member States and one Observer State had extended a standing invitation to thematic special procedures, but he expressed concern that a few States had decided not to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms.  Calling on all States to provide full cooperation, he stressed it was also essential that civil society actors and national human rights bodies be provided with a safe space for their voices to be heard.

The Council had adopted several resolutions, with recommendations made to the General Assembly, he said, notably regarding Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It had requested the Assembly to submit the reports and oral updates of the respective commissions of inquiry on the situations in Eritrea and Burundi.  To bridge the gap between the Council’s workload and resources allocated to it, a joint task force had been established, which had suggested measures to help save time.  He also said he had received reports of threats against those who had cooperated with the Council, emphasizing that any such intimidation was unacceptable.  He urged the international community to ensure that efforts to protect human rights existed “not just in words, but in practice”.

When the floor opened, the representative of Colombia asked how United Nations reform proposed by the Secretary‑General accounted for human rights issues.

The representative of Spain said the Human Rights Council was the primary specialized body for human rights in the United Nations system, adding more work was needed to improve coordination between the relevant agencies in New York and Geneva.  She said resources had fallen short of meeting the Council’s needs for 2018 and suggested streamlining upcoming meetings.

The representative of Japan said the Council must be subject to constant review to better meet the needs of people worldwide.  The General Assembly should pay attention to reviews of the Council and asked what priority areas had been identified in that regard.

The representative of Eritrea asked what the Human Rights Council was doing to ensure attention was being given to all rights issues, especially with regards to financing.

The representative of Hungary, associating himself with the European Union, said the Council constituted the best universal framework to protect basic rights.  Noting the needs of vulnerable groups, he called for the de‑politicization of its work.

The representative of Latvia stressed the importance of strengthening ties between the Council and the General Assembly.  Referencing reprisals against people cooperating with United Nations human rights agencies, she asked what could be done to ensure Organization‑wide action to mitigate reprisals.

The representative of Switzerland said civil society played a pivotal role in strengthening rights and asked what obstacles had been encountered in protecting persons cooperating with the Council.  She also asked how the protection of those persons could be strengthened and what working relations should be established among relevant agencies.

The representative of Germany said the United Nations could benefit from closer interaction among its institutions.  Civil society representatives had a clear place in the Council’s work and he asked how those wishing to cooperate with it could effectively be protected from reprisals.

The representative of Austria noted the importance of responding early to emerging crises and said the Council had a broad role to play in the Secretary‑General’s prevention agenda.  He asked how the Council could contribute to those efforts.

The representative of Australia said human rights and prosperity went hand‑in‑hand and committed his Government to enhancing the Council’s effectiveness.  Turning to management reform, he asked how the Council’s work could be streamlined.

The representative of Lichtenstein asked how the Council could strengthen engagement with other relevant agencies.

The representative from the European Union said he valued the independence of the Council’s work and its engagement with civil society.  He asked how the universal periodic review process could be improved, and how Member States could address difficulties in sourcing Council meetings.

The representative of the Republic of Korea expressed concern over reports of intimidation and reprisals against individuals cooperating with United Nations human rights institutions and asked how the Council’s working methods could be improved.

The representative of Norway welcomed the Council’s autonomy and said that combating discrimination promoted stability.  Expressing concern over the Council’s increasing workload, he asked how work could be made more efficient.

The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, said the Council was performing well, but questions remained regarding the promotion of universal participation in its work.  He asked how Member States and observers could foster a more inclusive Council.

The representative of South Africa said the Council’s status as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly had been maintained in relevant resolutions and attempts to review the Council should only be done through the relevant framework.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the international community must take on abuses wherever they occurred, and called on all countries, particularly new and existing Council members, to cooperate with the Special Procedures.  He asked how the States could best protect civil society space at the Council and, in turn, how the Council could support the mainstreaming of human rights across the United Nations system.

The representative of Bahamas asked for an evaluation of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, and for reflections on what impact small developing countries such as the Bahamas could have on the Council’s work.

The representative of Iraq said human rights reports should be presented in a periodic manner, and asked if the legal framework must be strengthened in the context of pursuing terrorist groups committing war crimes and genocide.  He also wondered how States could be encouraged to improve their interaction with the Council.

The representative of Indonesia asked about strategies for ensuring that genuine dialogue with the Council was sustained.  Human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  They must be treated in a fair and equal manner, and those principles should guide the Council’s work.

The representative of Guatemala acknowledged the importance of strengthening the Human Rights Council, and his country would continue to support its work in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  He asked how Member States in New York could ensure better coordination between the Third Committee and the Council.

The representative of Argentina said there should be smooth cooperation between New York and Geneva, expressing concern about reported attacks on mandate‑holders and a lack of cooperation with them by Member States.  All States must respect for the Council’s independence.  Argentina urged all to bolster cooperation with Special Procedures, and States to uphold their reporting commitments.

Mr. MARTELLI responded to questions about reform by stressing the importance of information flow.  The international community must consult at the grass‑roots level on how suggested reforms could take place.  Underscoring the importance of implementing resolutions, he said they must reach communities and local governments.  On the issue of resources, he said the Human Rights Council had started to limit speaking time, among other measures.  The universal periodic review was a valuable resource that States could not lose or waste, he said, noting that many countries voluntarily presented midterm reports in advance of deadlines.  Parliaments must be included in human rights work, as they ensured that new international legislation could be transposed into domestic law.

The United Nations human rights system was an admirable one, he said, noting that in the previous cycle of meetings, 900 interventions had been made by civil society.  Emphasizing the importance of accurate information, he said States must not politicize the Human Rights Council, though the world was politicized; they must work according to universality and respect for the legal framework.  On the links between New York and Geneva, he noted that there were procedures in place that allowed discussion to take place before decisions were taken by the 47 countries voting in the Human Rights Council.  Prioritization remained crucial, but ultimately, complementarity between New York and Geneva existed and must be bolstered.  The goal was to improve decision‑making in a more holistic fashion in a future‑oriented perspective.  Human rights work would never fade from the agenda; it was a process.

Ms. HAILE (Eritrea), speaking on behalf of the African Group, stressed that the Council’s mandate must be driven by the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue free from politicization, selectivity and double standards.  The universal periodic review was the pillar of the Council’s work, she said, calling for the adequate funding of mechanisms that would allow States to implement Council recommendations.  Reaffirming the Group’s commitment to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, she commended the Council’s work in the area of practical enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.  Fulfilling those rights was key to eradicating extreme poverty, she assured.

The African Group prioritized dialogue and international cooperation aimed at assisting States to fulfil human rights obligations, she said.  Meeting those obligations required recognizing that extreme poverty and social exclusion constituted violations of human dignity, she said, voicing concern over the apparent “hierarchy of rights”.  She also expressed concern over attempts to undermine the Third Committee’s mandate by having the Council’s report submitted to the General Assembly without the Committee’s endorsement.  To that end, the Africa Group would continue to present its annual resolution on the Council’s report, she assured.

CHARLES WHITELEY, European Union delegation, said there was potential to strengthen dialogue between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council’s mandate to help prevent rights violations must be carried out so that early warning could become early action, he said, calling the independent Special Procedures mandate‑holders the world’s “eyes and ears,” attentive to emerging crises.  Underscoring the importance of the Council’s independence, he strongly opposed any attempts to undermine its institutional position within the United Nations.  In Syria, the Council’s efforts to foster accountability and fight impunity were crucial, he said, also describing its work related to Yemen, Sri Lanka and its assistance to other countries including Haiti, Libya and Mali.

The European Union condemned violence, harassment, intimidation, reprisals or threats thereof to civil society and human rights defenders, he said.  Noting that Council members should uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, he urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo to cooperate with the international expert group, and Burundi to do likewise with the Commission of Inquiry.  The European Union welcomed the Council’s establishment of an Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission to Myanmar, as well as the extensions of the Special Rapporteur mandates addressing human rights in Myanmar, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea and Belarus, as well as the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay) said that during its membership on the Council, his country had worked to promote productive dialogue and championed several initiatives to benefit all people.  Paraguay had pursued initiatives to strengthen monitoring of implementation to accomplish the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  He underscored the importance of appropriate national rights protection mechanisms and assistance from the United Nations to promote and protect human rights of all people.  Rights must be enjoyed in a just and equitable fashion, he said, underscoring the need to strengthen the Council through the provision of necessary resources.

MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council could only work effectively if its efforts were applied in the context of genuine inter‑Governmental dialogue.  The Council’s mandate was outlined by the General Assembly and he expressed concern over efforts to alter its mission.  There was a need to streamline the Council’s work and he affirmed the interdependence of all rights, including the right to development, which must be pursued on equal footing.  He welcomed the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on the right to development.

MEJIA VELEZ (Colombia) insisted that efforts were needed to streamline the number of resolutions considered by the Council.  The body helped to advance respect for all rights, notably by strengthening the structures that protected those rights.  Still, colossal challenges remained, she said, welcoming the start of the third universal periodic review cycle.  The review process could foster global cooperation on human rights issues, she noted, commending implementation of recommendations made during the review cycles.  Pointing to Colombia’s recent peace agreement, she expressed the need to promote human rights in rural areas and support gender‑specific approaches.

Ms. HAILE (Eritrea), associating herself with the African Group, underscored the importance of ensuring the Human Rights Council was not used as a tool for political purposes, noting that it had been established to address the manipulation and double standards characterizing the Commission on Human Rights.  Eritrea rejected the practice of “naming and shaming” and of imposing mandates that did not enjoy the support of the concerned country.  It was unfortunate that the Council continued to be embroiled in a regional conflict, she said, singling out the universal periodic review as the appropriate forum for discussions.  Human rights were interrelated and indivisible, but some countries continued to ignore economic, social and cultural rights in favour of civil and political rights.

JUN SAITO (Japan) said his country had been promoting and protecting human rights in the Asia‑Pacific region, sponsoring country‑specific resolutions in the Human Rights Council.  The international community should render the Council more effective and efficient, and it was worth considering a review of the schedules, frequencies and procedures of the human rights mechanisms as a whole, he said.  As Special Procedures were essential functions, a review of them by a third party could be helpful to improving their quality and efficiency.  Indeed, the Council was becoming ever more important and should keep updating itself.

ALI MAAN (Iraq) said his country’s Constitution ensured all people were equal under the law.  As the international war on terror persisted, Iraq understood the consequences of terror and vowed to remain at the forefront of the fight.  Social problems like poverty and injustice were at the root of negative phenomena across the world, he said, urging efforts to “dry up” sources of terror.  He called for implementation of programmes that countered exclusion and enhanced human rights in all countries as a means to spread a culture of acceptance.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) expressed opposition to the Council President’s report and in particular to sections referring to Syria.  The report threatened the credibility of the Council and universal periodic review, he said, condemning efforts to politicize human rights issues.  Noting that the President had gone beyond his mandate, he said the Council had failed to identify Syria’s efforts to combat terror, as well as the negative effects resulting from unilateral measures imposed against it by certain Member States.  The President also had failed to condemn violence in Yemen caused by Saudi Arabia, he said, objecting to selectivity in addressing human rights.

Mr. GAUMAKWE (Botswana), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council’s work load continued to grow, threating efforts to mitigate rights violations.  The increased scope of the agenda called for reflection on how to effectively use resources.  Botswana had held multi‑stakeholder consultations in drafting human rights legislation and was drafting a bill to transform the Ombudsman’s office into a hybrid national human rights institution.  The universal periodic review and national efforts had strengthened the bridge between the State and civil society, he assured, stressing that holistic approaches were vital to preventing rights violations.

Ms. BROOKS (United States) said the Council’s credibility had been damaged by the presence of members with poor human rights records and hostility to its primary mission, as evidenced by the election of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Reform of its agenda was needed.  All States must work to strengthen the Council through positive action in New York and Geneva, she said, underscoring that civil society must be able to engage with the United Nations without fear of retaliation.  The United States was appalled by direct threats of retaliation, including by Human Rights Council members; Special Procedures had also reported on reprisals.  The international community must do more to put end to such threats.  The Council must be a voice for people fighting for human rights, and as such, must have members committed to human rights.

CASTILLO SANTANA (Cuba) said the Human Rights Council had been established out of a need to tackle double standards and political manipulation, all traits characterizing the defunct Commission.  Yet, the trend to impose selectivity and double standards was concerning; cooperation and respectful dialogue should steer the Council’s work.  Special Procedures mandate‑holders should also observe the Code of Conduct.  As long as an unjust and exclusive international economic order persisted, along with unilateral coercive measures and blockades, the Council must demand the end to those practices.

Ms. KHALVANDI (Iran) affirmed her country’s commitment to constructive dialogue on human rights issues in the Human Rights Council.  Yet, the Council was being exploited for political purposes, and politicization was eroding the benefits of the universal periodic review.  Stressing that the Council had been developed to ensure impartiality, she said country‑specific resolutions only fomented confrontation.  They diverted resources that could be used to promote human rights and she disassociated herself with sections of the Council report referring to Iran.  She underscored the role of the Council in confronting discrimination and terrorism, and urged it to raise awareness of the destructive power of terrorists and their supporters.

ZOUBIR BENARBIA (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, expressed support for the Council’s mandate.  Emphasizing that it should be carried out in line with the principles of cooperation and dialogue free from politicization and double standards, he said Algeria had presented its third universal periodic review in 2017, and voiced support for that mechanism’s neutral and cooperative approach to reviewing countries’ human rights situations.  Because economic rights were as important as political and civil rights, he stressed that the Council should consider questions regarding the right to food, the effects of foreign debt and the impact of unilateral coercive measures.

ALEX AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, underlined his country’s role — as the largest democracy in Africa — in formulating key international human rights policies and agendas.  Noting that Nigeria was a State party to such instruments, and that it had recently been re-elected to the Council for the 2018‑2020 term, he cited the 1996 creation of a National Human Rights Commission to monitor compliance with Government obligations.  In addition, Nigeria had put in place a national action plan on human rights and a national consultative forum to articulate the means of fulfilling recommendations adopted by the Government during various review cycles of the Council’s machinery.

Mr. HASBUN (El Salvador) said human rights were a state policy for his country and a pillar of its foreign policy.  El Salvador had ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Optional Protocol on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child pertaining to Communications Procedures.  It also had reformed the family code to prohibit child marriage.  As a Human Rights Council member, El Salvador had championed the rights of migrant children and adolescents, presenting a resolution adopted by consensus on that subject.  While a subsidiary organ of the Assembly, the Council had its own remit, reflected in the fact that civil society was involved in its work.

Ms. GINTERE (Latvia), associating herself with the European Union, said the international community must ensure the Council was able to respond to challenges in an effective and timely manner, noting that her country had served as a member for the past three years, advocating for gender equality and freedom of expression both online and offline.  It was heartening that the number of standing invitations to Special Procedures had increased, and she pressed all States to ensure genuine cooperation with them.  The Council faced a growing workload, challenging its ability to respond to crises.  Latvia supported initiatives aiming to strengthen its effectiveness, emphasizing that Member States must not only criticize the Council but renew their political will.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said difficulties stemming from diverging priorities had emerged regarding the Council’s agenda.  Pointing to calls for reform, he said contradictory approaches to promoting human rights were being used.  The Council’s expanding work and proliferation of special procedures created unclear priorities.  Country‑specific procedures were largely counterproductive, he said, pointing to the universal review as a success, one he attributed to the cooperative spirit of the process.  Naming and shaming would not improve human rights, he assured, calling for a more representative Council.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine) said a main responsibility of the Council was the timely response to gross rights violations.  Greater attention must be paid to the development of conceptual approaches to abuses such as crimes against humanity and genocide.  He commended the Council’s special procedures and universal periodic review, saying they promoted protection of rights across the world.  The cooperation of all relevant human rights actors was needed to ensure that review processes were transparent and that States were accountable for their actions.  Expressing appreciation for the Council’s contributions in addressing the situation in the occupied Crimean peninsula, he said Russian‑backed terrorists were conducting a war against the people of Ukraine and called for an impartial assessment of all rights violations.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said difficulties stemming from diverging priorities had emerged regarding the Council’s agenda.  Pointing to calls for reform, he said contradictory approaches to promoting human rights were being used.  The Council’s expanding work and proliferation of special procedures created unclear priorities.  Country‑specific procedures were largely counterproductive, he said, pointing to the universal review as a success, one he attributed to the cooperative spirit of the process.  Naming and shaming would not improve human rights, he assured, calling for a more representative Council.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said the Human Rights Council had the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights, and as such, should serve as an effective platform for constructive dialogue.  The Council faced multiple challenges, including confrontation and politicization of its work, he said, adding that different types of human rights were not being promoted in a balanced manner.  Noting that some special procedures were going beyond their terms of reference, he underscored the need to enhance the Council’s credibility and urged it carry out its work according to its mandate.

Ms. MOUFLIH (Morocco), associating herself with the African Group, said the Council had become the principal United Nations body in charge of human rights, and had made technical assistance one of the foundations of its work.  Special procedures played an important role, providing the Council with expertise on thematic issues.  The international community had an obligation to protect the Council from being used for other reasons.  The increasing importance of human rights required an active Human Rights Council with increased visibility, she said, yet there had been few references to its work in the media.  The Council should adopt a media strategy to increase the visibility of its work.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the allegation of the European Union’s delegate, stressing that non‑interference in the internal affairs of other countries should be strictly observed.  He also rejected the Council’s resolutions because the body was completely politicized and had no relevance to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The most serious rights violations were being committed in European countries.  The European Union should focus on its own deplorable human rights situations, rather than on non‑existent issues in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

News

Human Rights Council President Urges Governments to Protect Fundamental Freedoms in Word, Deed, as Third Committee Considers Report of Geneva-Based Body

The President of Human Rights Council urged Governments to ensure that efforts to protect fundamental freedoms existed “not just in words, but in practice”, as he presented his annual report to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) today.

Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli (El Salvador), who had addressed the General Assembly plenary earlier in the day, said the Council had adopted 114 resolutions, presidential statements and decisions, 80 of them without a vote.

The situation in Myanmar deserved special attention, he said.  The Council had created an independent fact‑finding mission to examine alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine State, extending its mandate to September 2018 when its final report would be considered.

Turning to Syria, he said the Council had held interactive dialogues with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, and extended that body’s mandate for another year.

More broadly, he said the Council had established a new special procedures mandate ‑ the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members — and created a joint task force to bridge the gap between the Council’s workload and resources.  He also informed delegates he had received reports of threats against those who had cooperated with the Council.  Any such intimidation was unacceptable.

In the ensuing debate, speakers described potential areas for the Council’s reform, with Eritrea’s delegate, on behalf of the African Group, stressing that the body should never be used as a tool for political purposes.  He also rejected the Council’s practice of “naming and shaming” and imposing mandates that did not enjoy the support of the concerned country.

The representative of the European Union said there was potential to strengthen dialogue between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council’s mandate must be carried out so that early warning could become early action, he said, calling the independent special procedures mandate‑holders the world’s “eyes and ears”, attentive to emerging crises.

Earlier in the day, the Third Committee concluded its debate on refugees, with speakers from host countries highlighting the challenges of sheltering large numbers of displaced people.  The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said his country had welcomed more than 318,000 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He called for international support for local integration of the refugees.  Sudan’s delegate said the inflow of refugees into her country was mixed with illegal migrants who had been trafficked, while Uganda’s delegate called for international support, as assisting refugees had over‑stretched its meagre resources.

Ukraine’s delegate, meanwhile, said 1.6 million people had been internally displaced from Russian‑occupied areas of Ukraine.  Similarly, Georgia’s delegate said the ethnic Georgian population in occupied regions faced an imminent threat of expulsion.  The representative of Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply, objected to baseless accusations against her country.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States and the Russian Federation had never controlled those territories.  Further, citizens were fleeing Ukraine due to crimes by ultranationalists and Ukrainian authorities.  The Russian Federation had offered voluntary donations to the High Commissioner for Refugees to manage the situation in eastern Ukraine, she added.

Also speaking in the discussion on refugees were representatives of Pakistan, China, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Argentina, Serbia, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Thailand, Botswana, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Ethiopia, Zambia, Nigeria and Mali, as well as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Also speaking in the debate on the Human Rights Council report were representatives of Paraguay, Egypt, Colombia, Eritrea, Japan, Iraq, Syria, Botswana, United States, Cuba, Iran, Algeria, Nigeria, El Salvador, Latvia, India, China and Morocco.

The representatives of Algeria, Ukraine, Georgia, Morocco and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 6 November, to continue its work.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4216).

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) commended the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants but stressed that more must be done to find solutions to the refugee crisis.  Pakistan had sheltered millions of Afghan refugees in the past four decades, providing them with education, health care and jobs.  While the Prime Minister had said that they would not be repatriated forcibly, host countries had largely been taken for granted and their national resources stretched to cater to refugee needs.  He called for equal burden sharing and establishing long‑term solutions to address the root causes of displacement.

ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia) said the ethnic Georgian population living in occupied regions faced an imminent threat of expulsion.  Harsh restrictions had been imposed on education in the native Georgian language and Georgian classes had been prohibited in the Gali district and Tskhinvali region.  Further, the closure of entry and exit points across the occupation line by Russian occupation forces had also severely restricted the freedom of movement of local residents.  Those occupation forces had demolished the homes of internally displaced people from Georgia in the occupied Tskhinvali region.  She said talks on humanitarian issues in occupied regions, and on displaced people from Georgia, had been politicized by the Russian Federation.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said it was crucial to focus on both the symptoms and root causes of the refugee problem.  Root causes, such as social instability and imbalance in development, should be addressed by stepping up assistance for development.  There was also a need to resolve disputes through dialogue.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should summarize its experience and practices of pilot projects for implementing the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and use the information for the formulation of the Global Compact for Refugees.  Negotiations of the Global Compact must be driven by Member States and should be advanced gradually.  She called on UNHCR to maintain its objectivity and neutrality and avoid interfering in internal affairs of countries and politicizing refugee protection mechanisms.

Ms. ALFASSAM (Kuwait) said the displacement crisis had worsened in recent years, threatening international stability.  Noting the High Commissioner’s focus on addressing its causes, she called on all States to cooperate in relevant efforts.  Pointing to the New York Declaration as a cornerstone to improve the living conditions of refugees and migrants, she said Kuwait was providing assistance through pledging conferences, contributing more than $2 million to assist refugees in the Middle East and elsewhere.  The situation of refugees without official documents was a priority, she said, and relevant documentation was being issued to those in Kuwait.

SAMAR SUKKAR (Jordan) said those fleeing conflict and entering Jordan had reached 2.8 million, with a majority being Syrian nationals.  Those circumstances had severely stressed public services, impacting Jordan’s development trajectory.  The Government was pursuing long‑term plans to address the refugee crisis and had established a single national framework to address the matter.  Syrian refugees without required documentation had been allowed to enrol in school, and some 200 schools now operated double shifts to allow for the attendance of refugee children.  Health services were also being provided, including gender‑sensitive attention to women and girls.  The protracted nature of the regional crisis had pushed Jordan’s assistance capacity to its limits, she said, stressing the importance of burden sharing.

MARWAN FRANCIS (Lebanon) expressed deep concern over the protracted situation of forced migration and stressed that the crisis should not become “the new normal”.  The international community must work together, he said, noting that burden and responsibility sharing were fundamental to addressing forced migration.  The causes of the crisis must also be tackled, and assistance must account for the specific context of each situation.  The return of refugees to their homes also must be a priority, he affirmed, adding that Lebanon hosted 1.2 million Syrian refugees and 400,000 Palestinian refugees.  The mass influx was straining limited assistance capabilities, he said, commending the High Commissioner’s efforts to engage with development partners.

GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina) called the adoption of the New York Declaration a step in the right direction, noting that while her country was committed to sheltering Syrian refugees, there was a need to establish sustainable regional and international solutions.  In November, Argentina would host two subregional meetings on implementation of the Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action to address displacement trends.  While no country was free from the impact of refugee movements, developing countries had been most affected and there was a need to identify institutional frameworks that would help them both better address refugee needs, and particularly, the rights of women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and disabled refugees.

MARINA IVANOVI Ć (Serbia) said increasing numbers of refugees in his country had strained its accommodation capacities.  The large influx had also led to growing xenophobia and intolerance.  Serbia had offered refugees and migrants accommodation, food and health protection.  Its experience dated to the 1990s when thousands of people from the former Yugoslavia had fled to Serbia.  The country had also sheltered 200,000 internally displaced people from Kosovo and Metohija since 1999.  The regional housing programme for refugees, implemented by four countries in cooperation with the European Commission, UNHCR, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), was an example of partnership between host countries, countries of origin and international partners.

Ms. HWANG (Republic of Korea) said the global refugee crisis had overwhelmed humanitarian responses.  However, the New York Declaration was reason to be optimistic and the recent pledging conference for Myanmar was a timely event.  Calling for durable solutions to the crisis, she urged humanitarian actors to address the causes of displacement and redouble efforts to strengthen partnerships with the private sector and development agencies.  Underlining the principle of non‑refoulement, she said no country could cope with the refugee crisis alone.  Republic of Korea was the first country in Asia to adopt an independent refugee law and was implementing a pilot resettlement programme for refugees.

HARRISON W. MSEKE (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), drew attention to the challenges facing host nations as they tried to implement the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.  A poor country, United Republic of Tanzania had nevertheless met its obligations, welcoming more than 318,000 refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo.  As part of the pilot roll‑out of the Framework, it would focus on admission and rights, emergency response, inclusion and self‑reliance, local integration of new citizens, third‑country options and voluntary repatriation and reintegration.  To the latter point, the Government would establish group processing for Congolese refugees, while ensuring that returns to Burundi were conducted in line with the principles of voluntary repatriation.  He requested international support for the local integration of 1,972 Burundian refugees who had been granted citizenship, referring to a concept note outlining proposed projects for the Kigoma region, which hosted the most refugees.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine) said his country had faced numerous humanitarian challenges due to the Russian aggression.  Some 1.6 million people had been internally displaced from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, while many others lacked basic water and sanitation services. The humanitarian response plan was underfunded and while Ukraine was grateful for support from the High Commissioner’s Office, humanitarian aid into the country had been blocked by local authorities backed by the Russian Government.  Such human rights violations against ethnic Ukrainians had forced many to flee their homes.

LESETLA ANDREAS TEFFO (South Africa), associating himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that his country continued to “open our ports of entry to refugees and asylum seekers,” giving them the right of access to education, healthcare, jobs, legal aid and access to courts.  Voicing concern about the consequences of refugee outflows which continued to fall disproportionately on developing countries, he said that international cooperation in sharing the burden of hosting refugees had become critical in addressing such challenges.  In that regard, the momentum gained towards the elaboration of the Global Compact for Refugees through discussions on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework was encouraging.  One of its key outcomes had been to ease the pressure through burden sharing; thus, the Framework should ensure adequate, predictable and equitable sharing of such burdens aimed at drastically easing the pressure on hosts.  Underlining that the establishment of development funding mechanisms should be mindful of those principles, he voiced his strong support for close cooperation and joint planning between humanitarian and development actors.

SUPATTRA AUEAREE (Thailand) said the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Migration were complementary, expressing support for the Framework.  In turn, that Framework would generate inputs for the international community to draft the Global Compact on Refugees, on track for adoption in September 2018.  Reviewing Thailand’s efforts, she cited efforts by her Government and Myanmar to facilitate the voluntary return of 71 displaced persons from Myanmar.  Thailand supported UNHCR’s “#Ibelong” campaign to end statelessness by 2024, and had implemented measures which would enable around 80,000 children born in Thailand to apply for Thai nationality.  The Cabinet also had finalized and implemented a screening system for undocumented immigrants and refugees, to address the problem of mixed migration.

PHOLOGO GAUMAKWE (Botswana), associating himself with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Group, said Africa continued to account for a large number of refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers.  Displacement had resulted from protracted conflict, he said, adding that the global refugee crisis was a stark reminder of the need to assume collective responsibility for the provision of humanitarian response.  Noting that Botswana was host to 3,500 refugees, he said the repatriation process must be re‑engineered to reduce turnaround times for those wishing to return home.  Stressing the need for long‑term solutions, he said financial assistance was central to addressing the crisis.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said that addressing the needs of displaced persons required the resolution of armed conflict, adding that attention to the issue of internally displaced persons was far from sufficient.  Armenian aggression had resulted in large‑scale displacement in her country.  Azerbaijan was making progress in providing assistance to displaced persons, she said, adding that several United Nations agencies had reported positively on the matter.  She underlined that approaches to alleviate the plight of internally displaced persons would be incomplete if they did not place repatriation as their priority.

OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said the global humanitarian crisis was spreading, with Africa particularly affected by displacement.  He commended the efforts of sub‑Saharan States that had welcomed refugees and urged that assistance be given to them.  Several States were profiting from the refugee populations they hosted, which was the case in Algeria.  Refugees in Algeria had been stripped of their humanitarian rights, with camps in Tindouf falling victim to fraud.  Humanitarian aid was being diverted from refugee camps, he said, asking for a re‑evaluation of assistance being provided to refugees in the region.  Algeria could not continue to use refugees as a means to enrich itself, he affirmed.

HAILESELASSIE SUBBA GEBRU (Ethiopia) voiced concern that the High Commissioner’s budget was underfunded, citing a 75 per cent funding gap in the refugee response plan for Ethiopia.  Also concerning were the protection challenges related to human trafficking and smuggling, sexual and gender‑based violence and forced recruitment.  Assistance must go beyond repatriation, efforts which would require better collaboration between humanitarian and development actors in countries of origin.  He encouraged the expansion of resettlement opportunities as a means of international protection, stressing that partnership should remain the cornerstone of UNHCR’s approach.  International refugee protection should be guided by principle of burden and responsibility sharing, and support provided for least developed countries, which were hosts to the largest numbers of refugees.

HELLEN CHIFWAILA (Zambia) said her country hosted 57,000 refugees.  Since August, it had received some 3,360 Congolese refugees fleeing clashes between the forces of their Government and militia groups.  Noting that Zambia was ready to work with partners to provide assistance, she said the Government had introduced a law outlining provisions for the establishment of a refugee fund and refugee settlements.  Zambia was also considering the possibility of relaxing the encampment policy, in turn allowing refugees to engage in employment and achieve self‑reliance.  Around 20,406 refugees lived outside the settlements, she said, noting that the Government was providing education to refugee children in settlements.

ALEX AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, said all States must promote the rights of refugees, migrants and displaced persons, and expressed concern over the welfare of refugees around the world.  The advent of Boko Haram’s insurgency had led to the establishment of camps for internally displaced persons across Nigeria, which were ensuring access to life‑saving social services.  Displaced children were being granted access to education, with safe school initiatives in place.  Nigeria was carrying out a policy of civilian protection to better protect the population from armed conflict, he said.

DIZERY SALIM, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), recalled that the Uganda Red Cross had participated in drafting the terms of reference for the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework Secretariat.  While local actors had a strong understanding of circumstances, politics and culture relevant to the provision of refugee protection and assistance, global actors could do more to provide a quality, sustainable and principled response.  “There are times when we treat them as contractors instead of partners,” she said, and it was essential to boost their institutional capacity and provide core funding.  A good legal framework could strengthen the role of local actors and Governments alike.  IFRC had worked for more than a decade in more than 100 countries to strengthen domestic legal frameworks to facilitate responses to large‑scale emergencies.  On refugee resilience, she said participatory assessments should include host communities, which were often vulnerable themselves and whose generosity should not be taken for granted.

MOUSSA DOLLO (Mali) said his country was emerging from a socio‑political crisis which had forced thousands of citizens to flee their homes.  Mali attached great importance to refugee crises, and had introduced both a national policy and action plan to address the needs of internally displaced persons.  It also had worked with neighbouring countries, including Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, to facilitate the return of Malian refugees.  With the Government working to establish peace and reconciliation in Mali, a tripartite agreement had resulted in 70,000 Malian citizens returning from Burkina Faso.  He thanked neighbouring countries for their help in sheltering Malian refugees.

KATHLEEN HAGAN, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that, despite meaningful progress, millions of people continued to be displaced by armed conflict and other violence, many within their own countries.  More must be done to prevent such circumstances and support both displaced people and their hosts.  He highlighted the need to better respond to displacement in cities, welcoming that Special Rapporteur Jimenez‑Damary had focused on enhancing the participation of displaced people in decisions affecting them.  States should mark the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement by drawing on good practices in addressing the needs of internally displaced people.

Ms. MUKHTAR (Sudan) said the geographic location and cultural heritage of her country had attracted refugees for years.  Sudan was committed to addressing the needs of refugees but faced challenges, as their inflow was mixed with illegal migrants who had been trafficked.  As such, the Government had enacted a law against human trafficking.  But Sudan had received little international assistance to deal with the refugee crisis.  The Government had provided the best treatment possible and would continue to provide refugees with health care, security and education, while working to facilitate their return.

KINTU NYAGO (Uganda) said the large influx of refugees from South Sudan and other countries into Uganda led to the hosting of a solidarity summit on the matter earlier this year.  Assisting refugees was over‑stretching the Government’s meagre resources, he said, adding that a grassroots‑based assistance programme was being implemented with help from the World Bank and United Nations.  Termed the “Uganda Model”, that programme faced land‑management and service‑access challenges, he said, urging the international community to provide support to ensure the approach accomplished long‑term solutions.

Right of Reply

The representative of Russian Federation, exercising the right of reply in response to her counterparts from Georgia and Ukraine, objected to baseless accusations against her country.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent States and the Russian Federation had never controlled those territories, she said, adding that Georgia had ignored the needs of those forcibly displaced.  Further, the reason citizens were fleeing Ukraine was due to crimes committed by ultranationalists and Ukrainian authorities who had started a conflict in the country’s eastern regions.  The Russian Federation did not control republics and there were no Russian forces there.  It had offered voluntary donations to UNHCR to manage the situation in eastern Ukraine, she said, adding that the republic of Crimea was a subject of the Russian Federation in accordance with international law.

The representative of Algeria said to Morocco’s delegate on the question of refugees that Algeria was a host country for refugees.  There was no issue around Algeria’s calling into question any resolution adopted by the United Nations, he said.  It was Morocco that was “slithering away,” creating delays each time.  Algeria had been constant in its defence of self‑determination.  Morocco claimed innocence in the context of human rights, but in Western Sahara, its record was clear and confirmed, he said.  Morocco was an occupying power, not an administering power.  From the standpoint of international law, the territory was described in various United Nations resolutions.

The representative of Ukraine reminded the representative of the Russian Federation that in 2014, the latter had deployed so‑called “green men” to the territory of Crimea, and that an unlawful referendum had been held on the territory.  In 2014 the Russian Federation had fuelled war in Ukraine and now was proud of helping refugees from Ukraine.  Citing a Russian proverb, he said “no matter how many times you are going to say halva, it is not going to be any sweeter.”

The representative of Georgia said in response that the Russian Federation had misled the international community and undermined the rights of persons internally displaced from the occupied territories of Georgia.  Further, the Russian Federation had not complied with the United Nations Charter or resolutions on Georgia, and its violations had been noted by an international fact‑finding mission.  The Russian Federation bore responsibility for resolving the issue of internally displaced persons and improving the human rights situation in Ukraine.

The representative of Morocco, in response to Algeria’s delegate, said the latter country had demonstrated complete disregard for and ignorance of international law.  Algeria’s claim that Morocco had occupied the Sahara was false because the territory had always belonged to Morocco.

The representative of Algeria, responding to Morocco’s delegate, said the latter country had illegally occupied Western Sahara and Algeria was not alone in voicing that opinion.  The right to self‑determination should be exercised in accordance with international law and Algeria stood by that position.

The representative of Morocco, responding to Algeria’s delegate, said the people of the Sahara had pledged allegiance to Morocco.  Algeria sought to create a territorial problem because of its “hegemonic designs”.  Yet it had only highlighted the importance of self‑determination in the context of the Sahara, not in the context of other countries.

Human Rights Council Report

JOAQUÍN ALEXANDER MAZA MARTELLI (El Salvador), President of the Human Rights Council, presented the body’s annual report (document A/72/53), outlining its activities, resolutions, decisions and presidential statements adopted at its regular session, as well as its special session in December 2016.  Over the year, the Council had adopted 114 resolutions, presidential statements and decisions, 80 of them without a vote.  By the end of 2017, it would have reviewed 28 States’ human rights obligations under its universal periodic review.  Once again, the Council had seen greater participation by small island developing States and least developed countries, thanks to the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund that had supported 27 delegates and fellows from 26 countries.

He said the situation in Myanmar deserved special attention and the Council had created an independent fact‑finding mission to examine alleged human rights violations by military and security forces, particularly in Rakhine State, extending its mandate to September 2018 when its final report would be considered.  On the situation in Syria, he said interactive dialogues with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry had been held and the Commission’s mandate had been extended for another year.  He went on to describe other efforts related to South Sudan, Burundi, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Libya, Georgia and Yemen.

In 2017, the Council had established a new mandate, namely the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, and decided against extending the mandates of the Independent Experts on Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti.  He said 118 Member States and 1 Observer State had extended a standing invitation to thematic special procedures, but he expressed concern that a few States had decided not to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms.  Calling on all States to provide full cooperation, he stressed it was also essential that civil society actors and national human rights bodies be provided with a safe space for their voices to be heard.

The Council had adopted several resolutions, with recommendations made to the General Assembly, he said, notably regarding Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  It had requested the Assembly to submit the reports and oral updates of the respective commissions of inquiry on the situations in Eritrea and Burundi.  To bridge the gap between the Council’s workload and resources allocated to it, a joint task force had been established, which had suggested measures to help save time.  He also said he had received reports of threats against those who had cooperated with the Council, emphasizing that any such intimidation was unacceptable.  He urged the international community to ensure that efforts to protect human rights existed “not just in words, but in practice”.

When the floor opened, the representative of Colombia asked how United Nations reform proposed by the Secretary‑General accounted for human rights issues.

The representative of Spain said the Human Rights Council was the primary specialized body for human rights in the United Nations system, adding more work was needed to improve coordination between the relevant agencies in New York and Geneva.  She said resources had fallen short of meeting the Council’s needs for 2018 and suggested streamlining upcoming meetings.

The representative of Japan said the Council must be subject to constant review to better meet the needs of people worldwide.  The General Assembly should pay attention to reviews of the Council and asked what priority areas had been identified in that regard.

The representative of Eritrea asked what the Human Rights Council was doing to ensure attention was being given to all rights issues, especially with regards to financing.

The representative of Hungary, associating himself with the European Union, said the Council constituted the best universal framework to protect basic rights.  Noting the needs of vulnerable groups, he called for the de‑politicization of its work.

The representative of Latvia stressed the importance of strengthening ties between the Council and the General Assembly.  Referencing reprisals against people cooperating with United Nations human rights agencies, she asked what could be done to ensure Organization‑wide action to mitigate reprisals.

The representative of Switzerland said civil society played a pivotal role in strengthening rights and asked what obstacles had been encountered in protecting persons cooperating with the Council.  She also asked how the protection of those persons could be strengthened and what working relations should be established among relevant agencies.

The representative of Germany said the United Nations could benefit from closer interaction among its institutions.  Civil society representatives had a clear place in the Council’s work and he asked how those wishing to cooperate with it could effectively be protected from reprisals.

The representative of Austria noted the importance of responding early to emerging crises and said the Council had a broad role to play in the Secretary‑General’s prevention agenda.  He asked how the Council could contribute to those efforts.

The representative of Australia said human rights and prosperity went hand‑in‑hand and committed his Government to enhancing the Council’s effectiveness.  Turning to management reform, he asked how the Council’s work could be streamlined.

The representative of Liechtenstein asked how the Council could strengthen engagement with other relevant agencies.

The representative from the European Union said he valued the independence of the Council’s work and its engagement with civil society.  He asked how the universal periodic review process could be improved, and how Member States could address difficulties in sourcing Council meetings.

The representative of the Republic of Korea expressed concern over reports of intimidation and reprisals against individuals cooperating with United Nations human rights institutions and asked how the Council’s working methods could be improved.

The representative of Norway welcomed the Council’s autonomy and said that combating discrimination promoted stability.  Expressing concern over the Council’s increasing workload, he asked how work could be made more efficient.

The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, said the Council was performing well, but questions remained regarding the promotion of universal participation in its work.  He asked how Member States and observers could foster a more inclusive Council.

The representative of South Africa said the Council’s status as a subsidiary body of the General Assembly had been maintained in relevant resolutions and attempts to review the Council should only be done through the relevant framework.

The representative of the United Kingdom said the international community must take on abuses wherever they occurred, and called on all countries, particularly new and existing Council members, to cooperate with the Special Procedures.  He asked how the States could best protect civil society space at the Council and, in turn, how the Council could support the mainstreaming of human rights across the United Nations system.

The representative of Bahamas asked for an evaluation of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, and for reflections on what impact small developing countries such as the Bahamas could have on the Council’s work.

The representative of Iraq said human rights reports should be presented in a periodic manner, and asked if the legal framework must be strengthened in the context of pursuing terrorist groups committing war crimes and genocide.  He also wondered how States could be encouraged to improve their interaction with the Council.

The representative of Indonesia asked about strategies for ensuring that genuine dialogue with the Council was sustained.  Human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  They must be treated in a fair and equal manner, and those principles should guide the Council’s work.

The representative of Guatemala acknowledged the importance of strengthening the Human Rights Council, and his country would continue to support its work in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  He asked how Member States in New York could ensure better coordination between the Third Committee and the Council.

The representative of Argentina said there should be smooth cooperation between New York and Geneva, expressing concern about reported attacks on mandate‑holders and a lack of cooperation with them by Member States.  All States must respect for the Council’s independence.  Argentina urged all to bolster cooperation with Special Procedures, and States to uphold their reporting commitments.

Mr. MARTELLI responded to questions about reform by stressing the importance of information flow.  The international community must consult at the grass‑roots level on how suggested reforms could take place.  Underscoring the importance of implementing resolutions, he said they must reach communities and local governments.  On the issue of resources, he said the Human Rights Council had started to limit speaking time, among other measures.  The universal periodic review was a valuable resource that States could not lose or waste, he said, noting that many countries voluntarily presented midterm reports in advance of deadlines.  Parliaments must be included in human rights work, as they ensured that new international legislation could be transposed into domestic law.

The United Nations human rights system was an admirable one, he said, noting that, in the previous cycle of meetings, 900 interventions had been made by civil society.  Emphasizing the importance of accurate information, he said States must not politicize the Human Rights Council, though the world was politicized; they must work according to universality and respect for the legal framework.  On the links between New York and Geneva, he noted that there were procedures in place that allowed discussion to take place before decisions were taken by the 47 countries voting in the Human Rights Council.  Prioritization remained crucial, but ultimately, complementarity between New York and Geneva existed and must be bolstered.  The goal was to improve decision‑making in a more holistic fashion in a future‑oriented perspective.  Human rights work would never fade from the agenda; it was a process.

AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea), speaking on behalf of the African Group, stressed that the Council’s mandate must be driven by the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue free from politicization, selectivity and double standards.  The universal periodic review was the pillar of the Council’s work, he said, calling for the adequate funding of mechanisms that would allow States to implement Council recommendations.  Reaffirming the Group’s commitment to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, he commended the Council’s work in the area of practical enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.  Fulfilling those rights was key to eradicating extreme poverty, he assured.

The African Group prioritized dialogue and international cooperation aimed at assisting States to fulfil human rights obligations, he said.  Meeting those obligations required recognizing that extreme poverty and social exclusion constituted violations of human dignity, he said, voicing concern over the apparent “hierarchy of rights”.  He also expressed concern over attempts to undermine the Third Committee’s mandate by having the Council’s report submitted to the General Assembly without the Committee’s endorsement.  To that end, the African Group would continue to present its annual resolution on the Council’s report, he assured.

CHARLES WHITELEY, European Union delegation, said there was potential to strengthen dialogue between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council.  The Human Rights Council’s mandate to help prevent rights violations must be carried out so that early warning could become early action, he said, calling the independent Special Procedures mandate‑holders the world’s “eyes and ears,” attentive to emerging crises.  Underscoring the importance of the Council’s independence, he strongly opposed any attempts to undermine its institutional position within the United Nations.  In Syria, the Council’s efforts to foster accountability and fight impunity were crucial, he said, also describing its work related to Yemen, Sri Lanka and its assistance to other countries including Haiti, Libya and Mali.

The European Union condemned violence, harassment, intimidation, reprisals or threats thereof to civil society and human rights defenders, he said.  Noting that Council members should uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, he urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo to cooperate with the international expert group, and Burundi to do likewise with the Commission of Inquiry.  The European Union welcomed the Council’s establishment of an Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission to Myanmar, as well as the extensions of the Special Rapporteur mandates addressing human rights in Myanmar, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea and Belarus, as well as the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay) said that during its membership on the Council, his country had worked to promote productive dialogue and championed several initiatives to benefit all people.  Paraguay had pursued initiatives to strengthen monitoring of implementation to accomplish the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  He underscored the importance of appropriate national rights protection mechanisms and assistance from the United Nations to promote and protect human rights of all people.  Rights must be enjoyed in a just and equitable fashion, he said, underscoring the need to strengthen the Council through the provision of necessary resources.

MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council could only work effectively if its efforts were applied in the context of genuine inter‑Governmental dialogue.  The Council’s mandate was outlined by the General Assembly and he expressed concern over efforts to alter its mission.  There was a need to streamline the Council’s work and he affirmed the interdependence of all rights, including the right to development, which must be pursued on equal footing.  He welcomed the appointment of the Special Rapporteur on the right to development.

MEJIA VELEZ (Colombia) insisted that efforts were needed to streamline the number of resolutions considered by the Council.  The body helped to advance respect for all rights, notably by strengthening the structures that protected those rights.  Still, colossal challenges remained, she said, welcoming the start of the third universal periodic review cycle.  The review process could foster global cooperation on human rights issues, she noted, commending implementation of recommendations made during the review cycles.  Pointing to Colombia’s recent peace agreement, she expressed the need to promote human rights in rural areas and support gender‑specific approaches.

Ms. HAILE (Eritrea), associating herself with the African Group, underscored the importance of ensuring the Human Rights Council was not used as a tool for political purposes, noting that it had been established to address the manipulation and double standards characterizing the Commission on Human Rights.  Eritrea rejected the practice of “naming and shaming” and of imposing mandates that did not enjoy the support of the concerned country.  It was unfortunate that the Council continued to be embroiled in a regional conflict, she said, singling out the universal periodic review as the appropriate forum for discussions.  Human rights were interrelated and indivisible, but some countries continued to ignore economic, social and cultural rights in favour of civil and political rights.

JUN SAITO (Japan) said his country had been promoting and protecting human rights in the Asia‑Pacific region, sponsoring country‑specific resolutions in the Human Rights Council.  The international community should render the Council more effective and efficient, and it was worth considering a review of the schedules, frequencies and procedures of the human rights mechanisms as a whole, he said.  As Special Procedures were essential functions, a review of them by a third party could be helpful to improving their quality and efficiency.  Indeed, the Council was becoming ever more important and should keep updating itself.

ALI MAAN (Iraq) said his country’s Constitution ensured all people were equal under the law.  As the international war on terror persisted, Iraq understood the consequences of terror and vowed to remain at the forefront of the fight.  Social problems like poverty and injustice were at the root of negative phenomena across the world, he said, urging efforts to “dry up” sources of terror.  He called for implementation of programmes that countered exclusion and enhanced human rights in all countries as a means to spread a culture of acceptance.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) expressed opposition to the Council President’s report and in particular to sections referring to Syria.  The report threatened the credibility of the Council and universal periodic review, he said, condemning efforts to politicize human rights issues.  Noting that the President had gone beyond his mandate, he said the Council had failed to identify Syria’s efforts to combat terror, as well as the negative effects resulting from unilateral measures imposed against it by certain Member States.  The President also had failed to condemn violence in Yemen caused by Saudi Arabia, he said, objecting to selectivity in addressing human rights.

Mr. GAUMAKWE (Botswana), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council’s work load continued to grow, threating efforts to mitigate rights violations.  The increased scope of the agenda called for reflection on how to effectively use resources.  Botswana had held multi‑stakeholder consultations in drafting human rights legislation and was drafting a bill to transform the Ombudsman’s office into a hybrid national human rights institution.  The universal periodic review and national efforts had strengthened the bridge between the State and civil society, he assured, stressing that holistic approaches were vital to preventing rights violations.

Ms. BROOKS (United States) said the Council’s credibility had been damaged by the presence of members with poor human rights records and hostility to its primary mission, as evidenced by the election of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Reform of its agenda was needed.  All States must work to strengthen the Council through positive action in New York and Geneva, she said, underscoring that civil society must be able to engage with the United Nations without fear of retaliation.  The United States was appalled by direct threats of retaliation, including by Human Rights Council members; Special Procedures had also reported on reprisals.  The international community must do more to put end to such threats.  The Council must be a voice for people fighting for human rights, and as such, must have members committed to human rights.

CASTILLO SANTANA (Cuba) said the Human Rights Council had been established out of a need to tackle double standards and political manipulation, all traits characterizing the defunct Commission.  Yet, the trend to impose selectivity and double standards was concerning; cooperation and respectful dialogue should steer the Council’s work.  Special Procedures mandate‑holders should also observe the Code of Conduct.  As long as an unjust and exclusive international economic order persisted, along with unilateral coercive measures and blockades, the Council must demand the end to those practices.

Ms. KHALVANDI (Iran) affirmed her country’s commitment to constructive dialogue on human rights issues in the Human Rights Council.  Yet, the Council was being exploited for political purposes, and politicization was eroding the benefits of the universal periodic review.  Stressing that the Council had been developed to ensure impartiality, she said country‑specific resolutions only fomented confrontation.  They diverted resources that could be used to promote human rights and she disassociated herself with sections of the Council report referring to Iran.  She underscored the role of the Council in confronting discrimination and terrorism, and urged it to raise awareness of the destructive power of terrorists and their supporters.

ZOUBIR BENARBIA (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, expressed support for the Council’s mandate.  Emphasizing that it should be carried out in line with the principles of cooperation and dialogue free from politicization and double standards, he said Algeria had presented its third universal periodic review in 2017, and voiced support for that mechanism’s neutral and cooperative approach to reviewing countries’ human rights situations.  Because economic rights were as important as political and civil rights, he stressed that the Council should consider questions regarding the right to food, the effects of foreign debt and the impact of unilateral coercive measures.

ALEX AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group, underlined his country’s role — as the largest democracy in Africa — in formulating key international human rights policies and agendas.  Noting that Nigeria was a State party to such instruments, and that it had recently been re-elected to the Council for the 2018‑2020 term, he cited the 1996 creation of a National Human Rights Commission to monitor compliance with Government obligations.  In addition, Nigeria had put in place a national action plan on human rights and a national consultative forum to articulate the means of fulfilling recommendations adopted by the Government during various review cycles of the Council’s machinery.

Mr. HASBUN (El Salvador) said human rights were a state policy for his country and a pillar of its foreign policy.  El Salvador had ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Optional Protocol on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child pertaining to Communications Procedures.  It also had reformed the family code to prohibit child marriage.  As a Human Rights Council member, El Salvador had championed the rights of migrant children and adolescents, presenting a resolution adopted by consensus on that subject.  While a subsidiary organ of the Assembly, the Council had its own remit, reflected in the fact that civil society was involved in its work.

Ms. GINTERE (Latvia), associating herself with the European Union, said the international community must ensure the Council was able to respond to challenges in an effective and timely manner, noting that her country had served as a member for the past three years, advocating for gender equality and freedom of expression both online and offline.  It was heartening that the number of standing invitations to Special Procedures had increased, and she pressed all States to ensure genuine cooperation with them.  The Council faced a growing workload, challenging its ability to respond to crises.  Latvia supported initiatives aiming to strengthen its effectiveness, emphasizing that Member States must not only criticize the Council but renew their political will.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said difficulties stemming from diverging priorities had emerged regarding the Council’s agenda.  Pointing to calls for reform, he said contradictory approaches to promoting human rights were being used.  The Council’s expanding work and proliferation of special procedures created unclear priorities.  Country‑specific procedures were largely counterproductive, he said, pointing to the universal review as a success, one he attributed to the cooperative spirit of the process.  Naming and shaming would not improve human rights, he assured, calling for a more representative Council.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine) said a main responsibility of the Council was the timely response to gross rights violations.  Greater attention must be paid to the development of conceptual approaches to abuses such as crimes against humanity and genocide.  He commended the Council’s special procedures and universal periodic review, saying they promoted protection of rights across the world.  The cooperation of all relevant human rights actors was needed to ensure that review processes were transparent and that States were accountable for their actions.  Expressing appreciation for the Council’s contributions in addressing the situation in the occupied Crimean peninsula, he said Russian‑backed terrorists were conducting a war against the people of Ukraine and called for an impartial assessment of all rights violations.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said difficulties stemming from diverging priorities had emerged regarding the Council’s agenda.  Pointing to calls for reform, he said contradictory approaches to promoting human rights were being used.  The Council’s expanding work and proliferation of special procedures created unclear priorities.  Country‑specific procedures were largely counterproductive, he said, pointing to the universal review as a success, one he attributed to the cooperative spirit of the process.  Naming and shaming would not improve human rights, he assured, calling for a more representative Council.

YAO SHAOJUN (China) said the Human Rights Council had the primary responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights, and as such, should serve as an effective platform for constructive dialogue.  The Council faced multiple challenges, including confrontation and politicization of its work, he said, adding that different types of human rights were not being promoted in a balanced manner.  Noting that some special procedures were going beyond their terms of reference, he underscored the need to enhance the Council’s credibility and urged it carry out its work according to its mandate.

MAJDOLINE MOUFLIH (Morocco), associating herself with the African Group, said the Council had become the principal United Nations body in charge of human rights, and had made technical assistance one of the foundations of its work.  Special procedures played an important role, providing the Council with expertise on thematic issues.  The international community had an obligation to protect the Council from being used for other reasons.  The increasing importance of human rights required an active Human Rights Council with increased visibility, she said, yet there had been few references to its work in the media.  The Council should adopt a media strategy to increase the visibility of its work.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the allegation of the European Union’s delegate, stressing that non‑interference in the internal affairs of other countries should be strictly observed.  He also rejected the Council’s resolutions because the body was completely politicized and had no relevance to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The most serious rights violations were being committed in European countries.  The European Union should focus on its own deplorable human rights situations, rather than on non‑existent issues in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

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

Increased Support for Education Crucial to Reaching Sustainable Development Goals, Speakers Tell High-Level General Assembly Event

Education was the key for achieving all 17 Goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but realizing that Goal’s full potential would require increased financing, smarter use of technological innovations and greater access to learning opportunities, especially for women and girls, speakers told the high-level General Assembly event on education today.

The event, last in a series focusing on drivers of sustainable development, aimed to generate ideas for advancing global efforts to implement Goal 4 of the Agenda — ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.  Participants included ministers, senior Government officials and other high-level representatives.

General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) emphasized in his opening remarks that inclusive, equitable and quality education fuelled sustainable growth.  However, Goal 4 would require a massive scaling-up of efforts.  More than 263 million children worldwide were out of school, while one third of the world’s children lacked basic literacy and numeracy skills.  Those living amid armed conflict and natural disasters were most vulnerable.  “We are going to have to get the wheels of implementation turning faster than they have been,” he said.

It was critical to ensure investment in teachers, technological advances, and an increase of women and girls’ access to education, he said.  Recalling his meeting with three young women who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria, he recounted how they spoke of their resolve to achieve higher education and their mission to call on the international community to step up its efforts for all girls around the world to have access to schooling.  Those girls, he underscored, should serve as an inspiration for the meeting.

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said inclusive and equitable quality education would prepare the world’s young people to shape a more peaceful and prosperous society for everyone.  Goal 4 was the world’s promise to deliver on equitable and quality education for all, she said, describing it as a “docking station” for all the other Sustainable Development Goals.

However, she emphasized that much work remained to be done on education in many countries, villages and communities.  There must be a focus on several areas, including financing for education, which remained insufficient in many developing countries, greater use of technology, girls’ education, lifelong learning, and extending educational opportunities in humanitarian situations.

Irina Bokova, Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), pointed out that in developing countries, least developed countries, small island developing States, and refugee camps alike, when children were asked what they wanted most, the answer was education.  Recalling that the 2030 Agenda had promised to leave no one behind, she said “that must start at the benches of schools”.  Nonetheless, some 200 million adolescents worldwide, mostly girls, were still out of school and most of the illiterate adolescents were girls.  Because of continuing discrimination, they dropped out of secondary education.

Moreover, some 50 per cent of refugees had no access to secondary education, she said.  If all adults completed secondary education, 420 million people could be lifted out of poverty.  However, funding to education had fallen for the sixth consecutive year.  Governments should allocate 4 to 6 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to education, and wealthier nations should support those countries in need.  For its part, UNESCO would continue to lead “from the front”, she said, highlighting the various ways it was supporting education initiatives at the national and regional levels.

“The status quo is not acceptable,” she stressed, emphasizing the need for awareness-raising and placing education at the heart of international and national agendas.  Financing, particularly at the national level, was essential.  Partnerships were critical in attaining all the goals.  “No one today can act alone,” she said.  Education remained a prerequisite in the attainment of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“My parents have never been to school, but they understand the importance of education,” said Saul Mwame, founder of Building Africa’s Future Foundation.  His parents had worked hard their whole lives so that he could achieve his dreams of becoming an aeronautical engineer.  His aim now was to ensure that not only boys got to go to school but girls as well, including his younger sister.  It would not be possible for someone like him, born in the United Republic of Tanzania, to share his story had it not been for the work of the United Nations and civil society.

Education had an immense positive impact on the well-being of individuals, he continued, emphasizing that sustainable development could only be realized through quality education.  His goal was to create awareness among young people on the critical role of education.  Young people must be inspired to use their minds to solve the many problems the world faced.  Human beings were created to help one another.  “Nothing is impossible but what has been achieved is not enough,” he stressed.  No matter what path one came from, he or she had a role to play in making education accessible to all people.

As the event drew to a close, Dessima Williams, Special Adviser, Sustainable Development Goals, Office of the President of the General Assembly, said today’s discussions were encouraging.  She also welcomed the several initiatives announced today, including by the ministers of Norway and Ghana, for continuing to finance education initiatives and providing high school education for free, respectively.

Also presented during the day-long event were panel discussions focusing on four themes:  what it would take to achieve Goal 4; innovation in education; education in vulnerable and humanitarian situations; and education for sustainable development and education for global citizenship.

Panel Discussions

A ministerial-level dialogue was held on “What will it take to achieve SDG 4?” moderated by Alice Albright, Chief Executive Officer, Global Partnership for Education.  Panellists included Koumba Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education; Ju-ho Lee, Former Minister for Education, Republic of Korea; and Helena Barroco, Diplomatic Adviser to Former President of Portugal Jorge Sampaio.

Ms. ALBRIGHT said the deadline of 2030 was looming large, but progress towards Goal 4 was far too slow.  “We cannot keep doing things in the same way,” she said, emphasizing the need to increase financing, strengthening educational systems and promoting innovation through new ideas, platforms and partnerships.

Ms. BOLY BARRY, addressing the challenges facing education today, said nearly 1 billion people today had no access to the right to education, a number that included more than 600 million adults and youth, as well as 263 million children, with more than 60 per cent of the total being women.  Quality was also a problem, with many children in school not learning very much and 40 per cent of primary school pupils were leaving school without mastering basic math or language skills.  It was as the educational system was turning out unemployed people.  Another challenge was governance, she said, emphasizing the need to take into account every aspect of society in all its diversity.  She also highlighted the need to raise awareness, asking how many teachers understood Goal 4 and the Incheon Declaration.

Mr. LEE, describing how the Republic of Korea had dealt with educational challenges, said his Government and private spending on education accounted for 9 per cent of its GDP.  Driving such high spending was his country’s belief in the power of education.  Regardless of economic and social background, if a child showed promise, they could go as far as gaining admission to world-class universities with support from public and private foundations.  The Government had also made education a top policy priority for combatting poverty and building the economy.  Such a holistic approach to education had enabled the Republic Of Korea to become a very high achieving country in economic and social terms.  He went on to discuss the report of the Education Commission, of which he was a member, titled “The Learning Generation”, noting its conclusion that, with sufficient investment, it was possible to get all young people into educational settings within a generation.

Joining in on the discussion, several ministers for education shared their countries’ experience and challenges.

ROBERTO AGUILAR GOMEZ, Minister for Education, Bolivia, said in the last 11 years, his Government had substantially increased its education funding.  “We made a revolutionary jump in placing education at the top of our priorities,” he added.

LEONOR MAGTOLIS BRIONES, Education Minister, the Philippines, echoed a similar sentiment, stating that the highest level of Government spending — higher than the military — went to education.  The Philippines were developing a prototype of an electronic classroom, which would be able to reach the highest mountains, with or without electricity.

Several speakers continued to underscore the need for financing in education.

SOPHON NAPATHORN, Vice-Minister for Education of Thailand, noted that 4 per cent of his country’s GDP was allocated to education.  Youth younger than 15 years could study for free and the Government continued to develop a curriculum to serve national needs and market demands.

LEILA BOKHAIR, State Secretary, Norway said that domestic financing was by far the most important source of financing and must be scaled up.  However, there was also recognition for external resources.  Her Government would continue to promote education as a top priority, while prioritizing vulnerable and marginalized children.

YAW O ADUTWUM, Deputy Minister for Education, Ghana, pointed out that poor and vulnerable people did not participate in secondary education.  For that reason, Ghana would, for the first time, be providing high school education for free starting in September.

Ms. BARROCO, responding to a question about education in humanitarian situations, discussed the work of the Global Platform for Syrian Students, a scholarship programme for Syrian refugees founded by Jorge Sampaio, former President of Portugal.  Higher education in emergency situations was a neglected issue, with such education mostly being seen as a luxury.  However, a country could not rebuild itself without preparing the next generation of its leaders.  In the case of Syria, prior to the conflict 25 per cent of its secondary school graduates had gone on to university, either in Syria or overseas.  Because overseas universities had experience in admitting foreign students, the Global Platform, with 150 students participating, was a successful pilot programme that could be replicated elsewhere.  However, such an initiative must be firmly grounded in the multilateral system, with a coordination system that would allow universities to connect with refugees, as well as a financing facility.  Going forward, the Global Platform was planning to introduce a “solidarity levy,” inviting students around the world to contribute $1 or £1 or €1 that would help finance higher education for young Syrian refugees.

In the ensuing discussion, ministers offered their national perspective.

VICTOR SANCHEZ, Vice-Minister for Education, Dominican Republic, shared the benefits of expanding school hours, beginning at 8 a.m. and continuing to 4 p.m.   That change not only helped children stay out of trouble, but also enabled students, who perhaps did not have easy access to nutritious meals, to be fed.

MOISERAELE MASTER GOYA, Assistant Minister for Education, Botswana, said his country was the first in its region to achieve universal access to education.  Challenges remained, however, in the field of sustaining quality.  Botswana’s economy, highly dependent on diamonds, had been critically impacted by the international financial crisis.  For that reason, it was important to diversify the economy.

Also participating in the discussion was Olga Nachtmannova, Deputy Minister for Education, Slovakia; John McLaughlin, Deputy Minister for Education of New Brunswick, Canada; Tilaye Gete, State Minister, Ethiopia; Mercedes Miguel, Minister for Education, Argentina; and Aishath Shiham, Minister for Education, the Maldives.

A panel was also held on “Innovation in Education”, moderated by Vikas Pota, Chief Executive Officer, Varkey Foundation.  Panellists included Leslee Udwin, founder and Chief Executive Officer, Think Equal; Shai Reshef, President and founder, University of the People; Maggie MacDonnell, Winner of the Global Teacher Prize 2017; and Asmaa Alfadala, Director of Research and Content Development, World Innovation Summit for Education.  It also featured Muhammad Usman, Executive Director, Centre for Renewable Energy and Action on Climate Change.

A panel discussion was held on the theme “Education in vulnerable and humanitarian situations”.  Moderated by Dean Brooks, Director, Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, it featured presentations by Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Yasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot Wait; Carolyn Miles, Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children USA; Geoffrey Loane, Education Adviser to the Director of Operations, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); and Fahad Al-Sulaiti, Chief Executive Officer, Education Above All, Qatar.  Speaking as respondents were Petra Němcová, Happy Hearts Fund, and Dor Akech Achiek, Settlement Services International.

Mr. BROOKS put forth a number of questions to the panel on such topics as the effectiveness of current humanitarian mechanisms with regard to education, ways to assess their impact and how they could be improved upon, and how gaps between humanitarian assistance and development aid affected sustainable learning.

Mr. ABDI said the number of children forcibly displaced by conflict — 50 million — should be a source of shock and shame.  The cost of failing such children was high, yet the humanitarian system was unable to guarantee them an education.  Since 2005, there had been only a 4 per cent increase in the amount of funding for education in emergency situations.  Twenty-five per cent of UNICEF’s global funding appeal was for educating children in emergencies.  He underscored the need for partnerships, saying no Government, agency or non-governmental organization had a monopoly on solutions.

Ms. SHERIF said the fact that the 2.7 per cent of humanitarian resources invested in human capital demonstrated a complete disregard for human life.  Education did not get the muscle and support that it deserved.  Education Cannot Wait was a global instrument for political, strategic and financial initiatives that would put children’s education at the centre of how humanitarian crises and emergencies were addressed.  It offered predictable funding, but it also required financial commitment and support from partners.  Its objective was to ensure quality results on the ground, empowering young people to achieve their potential and become agents of change — “the future Nelson Mandelas of their countries”.

Ms. MILES, noting that more than 4,000 schools had been targeted during the Syrian crisis alone, emphasized that schools were safe places for children to go to, protecting them from early marriage, child labour and trafficking, especially in times of conflict and chaos.  She underscored the importance of sustained investment; improving the quality of education, including building teacher capacity; and inclusive policies to ensure that every child could go to school.

Mr. LOANE said education was arguably one of the public services least resilient to external shocks.  Part of ICRC’s work involved introducing sets of values and principles to enable children to discuss what was happening around them and to give teachers the skills to help them do so.  In its contacts with States and non-State armed groups, ICRC addressed the responsibility for ensuring that education services continued.  Noting that schools could be occupied for military purposes, or become targets, he said the absence of education was a motivating factor for families to become displaced.

Mr. AL-SULAITI said attacks on education must stop.  His organization was working with others to find solutions.  Although there were many options, there were perhaps not enough to halt attacks on education.  If education accounted for 2 to 4 per cent of funding for humanitarian action, would 10 or 15 per cent be enough, he asked, going on to emphasize the importance of a multisectoral approach in implementing the Goals and the role of schools in ensuring the success of vaccination campaigns.

Ms. NĔMCOVÁ, speaking as a respondent, said natural disasters should not be looked at separately.  All schools built by her organization were designed to withstand floods, hurricanes and earthquakes.  Proactive solutions were needed, as well as more collaboration to create better sustainable responses.

Mr. ACHIEK, originally from South Sudan, also spoke as a respondent, crediting formal education in a refugee camp in Kenya for enabling him to get a master’s degree and work in the humanitarian and community services sector in Australia.  He emphasized the role of non-conventional educational activities, such as youth leadership programmes, saying their success depended on creating environments in which both girls and boys participated equally.

In the ensuing discussion, participants offered their national perspectives.

The representative of Georgia said that in those regions of her country under foreign military occupation, education in the Georgian language was being replaced by Russian.  That represented a huge challenge that needed to be tackled with the international community.

BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, quoted Pope Francis, saying the right to education was ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to assist families in that regard.  That principle required promoting a “culture of encounter” that involved a real atmosphere of respect, esteem, sincere listening and solidarity that did not blur or lessen one’s identity.  Such a culture could respond to many forms of violence, poverty, exploitation, discrimination, marginalization, waste and restrictions on freedom that the Goals sought to remedy.

LEONOR MAGTOLIS BRIONES, Secretary of the Department of Education of the Philippines, recalled her childhood during the Second World War, during which her mother, a teacher, held classes in the mountains, teaching pupils to write on banana leaves.  Today in the Philippines, an intense outpouring of generosity had helped to ensure that education continued in typhoon-hit sections of the country.  Children evacuated from conflict areas in the predominantly Muslim part of the country had been guaranteed places in schools in predominantly Christian areas.  It was also announced on 5 June that classes would continue in Mindanao where martial law had been declared.  Children were not parties to conflict, she said.  They had a right to education and the entire country was taking them in.

A representative of Ecuador said around 1,400 schools sustained damage during an earthquake on 16 April 2016 in the north of his country.  In response, some schools were repaired while provisional classrooms were put into place.  Meanwhile, funds were raised through solidarity campaigns.  More than one year on, Ecuador was recovering, he said, thanking friendly countries and others for their solidarity.

Also speaking were Leila Bokhari, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway and a representative of Australia.

Another panel, “Education for Sustainable Development and Education for Global Citizenship”, was moderated by Dankert Vedeler, Assistant Director-General, Ministry of Education of Norway and Co-Chair of the Education 2030 Steering Committee.  Panellists included Hahn Choonghee, Co-Chair, Group of Friends on Education for Global Citizenship; Susan Hopgood, President, Education International; May East, Chief Executive, Gaia Education; and Fran Siracusa, Member, Global Goals Educator Task Force.  Participating as respondents were Sanaya Bharucha, Teach for India, Senior Manager, Student Leadership and Musarrat Maisha Reza, Director of Programme Design and Development, Be the Peace-Be the Hope. 

Mr. HAHN said education in the past had been regarded as teaching knowledge and skills for higher opportunity or a better job.  However, now education must be transformed into a tool helping to achieve a better future for all.  Curricula must cater to each country’s unique needs in order for them to realize their full potential.  “It is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed,” he said, citing the United Nations Charter’s guiding principles.  Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) was trying to recruit young people worldwide.  Therefore, young people must be able to think critically, reject extremism and develop tolerance for others.  At a time of increasing global challenges and threats, worsened by local tensions and conflict, learning to live together was more important than ever before.  Global Citizenship could contribute greatly towards finding lasting education solutions.

Ms. HOPGOOD said that the global political climate had changed substantially since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in 2015.  Nationalistic movements in several parts of the world had presented new challenges.  A major component for systematic change was financing, she continued, expressing concern that Governments too often were not meeting their commitments.  Teaching and learning continued to take place in unsafe and unhealthy environments.  “Tools, time and trust” were the three major components required to allow educators to teach.  Furthermore, education must return to a holistic approach and teachers must be freed from oppressive standardized tests.  Building the right curriculum would help make sustainable development a component of all subjects.  “Quality education is not teaching about the Sustainable Development Goals but rather teaching [them],” she continued, adding that by teaching the targets, “we make them real”.  It would also create the opportunity for children to get involved in their future.

Ms. EAST said that between now and 2030 some 2 billion babies were expected to be born and would need, eventually, to be educated.  In addition to that, by 2030 some 1.2 billion young people would reach working age and would need jobs.  Much more was required to incorporate education on sustainable development into school curricula.  The focus must be on retraining educators.  Education must promote interdependence and working together to reverse climate change and create a collaborative rather than a competitive society for all.  Every school should establish a school garden as a microsymbol of life, enabling children to learn about the soil, water, nutrition, health and the connection between humans and nature.  Students could also learn about sharing, equality and social justice.

Ms. SIRACUSA underscored various challenges she faced as a teacher when educating her students about the Sustainable Development Goals.  Describing the activities of her organization, Global Goals Educator Task Force, she stressed the need to inform and empower young people so that one day they could take control of their future.  She also noted various pathways and spaces the Task Force had created for educators and teachers to take part in, including a social media presence that helped support teachers as they taught sustainable development.  The Task Force had also created an Ambassador Programme that every educator could take part in.

Ms. REZA, participating as a respondent, said it was important to implement experimental learning, which would encourage others to turn privilege into a platform for action.  She also noted that 65 per cent of girls in Bangladesh were married before their eightieth birthday and highlighted the crucial role of local leaders to affect change.

Ms. BHARUCHA, also speaking as a respondent, said that her organization, Teach for India, was focused on creating a country where all children, not just the privileged few, could attain an education.  She also underscored the power of holistic education.

FLORENCE ROBINE, Ministry for Education, France, said that policies must be based on science and facts.  She expressed concern that norms were being imposed on children, including evaluations carried out at a very young age. “How could children as young as 3 or 4 be classified?”

Also speaking today were representatives of Bulgaria, Namibia, Bolivia and Canada.