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Full Participation of Youth in Decision-making Key to Shaping Brighter Future for All, Social Development Commission Hears as General Debate Continues

Younger generations must have readily available tools enabling their full participation in decision‑making arenas to better shape a brighter future for all, the Commission for Social Development heard today as it continued its general debate.

“We live in a non‑linear and non‑static world,” said a young delegate, briefing the Commission on discussions at the Economic and Social Council Youth Forum held 30‑31 January.  (See Press Release ECOSOC/6881.)  “We are left with two options:  Submit or reinvent.”

While many young people had chosen the latter option and were now formulating new solutions across a range of sectors, she underlined the urgent need for more investment to involve youth in advancing the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  In the Youth Forum’s current deliberations, participants had called for improving the use of science, technology and innovation, greater involvement of young people at the grassroots level, more transparent Governments, reducing the voting age and stronger efforts to prevent radicalization, among other things.

Boosting youth participation in efforts to shape a better world for all based on 2030 Agenda principles was a recurrent theme during the Commission’s day‑long general debate.  Many representatives and their youth delegates highlighted pressing concerns, from clean water access to quality education.  Some warned of new challenges to food and water security, given that by 2030 about 60 per cent of the world’s population would live in cities, and over half of those urban dwellers would be under age 18.

Imagine a world in which every person supported the vision of the 2030 Agenda because they had the knowledge and skills to do so, one of Germany’s youth delegates told the Commission.  To make that happen, he asked Member State representatives to take action in three areas — guarantee human rights for all, establish a youth delegate programme and support youth organizations to provide young people with the skills they needed today to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, including preparing them for jobs that did not yet exist.

His peer reminded delegates that young people’s inspirational visions could in fact guide policy in significant ways, as they largely believed in intercultural dialogue and equal gender rights.

“We all want to live in richer societies, have better access to education and better jobs; this aspiration of ours makes us firm believers in the [Sustainable Development] Goals and staunch promoters of their [2030] Agenda,” Serbia’s youth delegate said, emphasizing the role young people could play in implementing 2030 Agenda targets related to education and poverty eradication.

Some young representatives described how they were already involved in development efforts, with some calling for further action to make them true agents of change.  Youth engagement in Bulgaria’s national and global processes had become a tradition, with young people having an important role to play in mobilizing their local communities to initiate action that would contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, said youth delegates from that country.

Including youth at all levels of decision‑making was crucial for fostering positive social change and creating sustainable societies, they went on to say, calling on Member States to ensure their inclusion.  They underlined that young people must be enabled to act as agents of positive social change, contributing to promoting awareness of the 2030 Agenda and using sports and intercultural dialogue as tools to enhance tolerance and respect for human rights.

Throughout the day, many delegates voiced their recognition of the power and potential of younger generations.  Afghanistan’s representative said because his country recognized the critical role youth would play in its sustainable development, a national youth policy was now working to address high youth unemployment rates and bolster investments in young Afghans.  Similarly, Senegal’s delegate said a national fund had invested $411 million to enhancing youth employment opportunities, and Qatar’s representative said a recently signed memorandum of understanding between his Government and the United Nations aimed at combating terrorism and protecting young people, in particular from recruitment by violent extremists.

Also participating were representatives and youth delegates of Morocco, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Romania, Finland, Cuba, Mali, Cabo Verde, Botswana, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Italy, Monaco, Maldives, Cameroon, Benin, Brazil, Turkey, China, Zambia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, Myanmar, Honduras, Iraq, Iran, Austria, Nepal, Ecuador, Republic of Moldova, Colombia, Sweden, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Libya, Nigeria, United States, Azerbaijan and Jamaica, as well as the Holy See.

Representatives of Soroptimist International and the International Federation on Ageing also spoke.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 2 February, to continue its work.

Briefing by Youth Delegate

RUXANDA RENITA, a youth representative speaking on behalf of the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth, briefed the Commission on the ongoing United Nations Youth Forum, stressing:  “We live in a non‑linear and non‑static world.”  More than 50 million young people around the world were migrants or refugees in search of a new home, she said, adding that for many of them basic services, such as the right to safe water, seemed a distant dream.  “We are left with two options:  Submit or reinvent,” she said, noting that many young people had chosen the second option and were now formulating new solutions, especially in the social and environmental arenas.  As an immigrant herself, she had jumped from continent to continent in search of a home where all her human rights would be realized.

In the Youth Forum’s current deliberations, young people had reaffirmed the basic right to safe water and sanitation, identifying the excessive burden women faced in those areas due to social taboos around menstrual hygiene, she said.  Participants had identified a need to improve energy access to all populations and enhance the flexibility and effectiveness of energy systems in remote areas around the world.  Cities also needed to become more youth- and gender‑responsive, enhanced efforts to combat social exclusion and ensure the safety of women and young people.  A breakout session on Sustainable Development Goal 12 had spotlighted the role of social entrepreneurs, and youth present for that discussion had underlined the need to use both formal and non‑formal education, as well as better knowledge‑sharing, to improve the world’s consumption and production patterns.

Among other things, participants had called for improving the use of science, technology and innovation, greater involvement of young people at the grassroots level, more transparent Governments, reducing the voting age and stronger efforts to prevent radicalization.  Within the United Nations system, youth participation had increased in recent years, as had the awareness of the important role young people would play in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  However, she said, more investment in such initiatives was still urgently needed.

Statements

SIDY GUEYE, Permanent Secretary of Ministry for Family, Women and Gender of Senegal, associating himself with the statements previously delivered on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China as well as the African Group, outlined programmes aimed at reorienting Senegal’s strategies to achieve a minimum 75 per cent health care coverage and the reduction of outward migration.  A national fund devoted $411 million to enhancing employment opportunities for youth, and would be increased in upcoming years.  National funds also offered support to entrepreneurs, and the country had declared 2018 a year of social development.  The “National Agency of the Green Wall” had established a programme against decertification, working to reduce poverty and create jobs.  Other Government ministries and agencies worked to ensure that rural populations remained independent and successful in their production activities.

MIRWAIS BAHEEJ, Director General of Planning and Consolidation of the Ministry for Economy of Afghanistan, said the threats of violent extremism and terrorism in his country continued to hamper efforts to combat poverty.  However, the Government and people remained committed to move Afghanistan forward towards sustainable development, peace and prosperity.  Among other priorities, the Government was working to boost women’s control over economic assets, create 1 million new jobs across various sectors, and increase production in order to substitute Afghanistan’s imports with domestic products.  Noting that returning refugees and displaced persons were migrating in large numbers to the country’s’ cities, putting more pressure on local governments, he said the national Government had responded through accelerated efforts to increase job opportunities for returnees, and thereby improve their self‑reliance.  It was also working to provide every Afghan village with access to basic services and the mechanisms for their delivery, as well as critical infrastructure, which would also create many new jobs.  Afghanistan recognized the critical role youth would play in its sustainable development, and had therefore put in place a National Youth Policy that was now working to address the country’s high youth unemployment rates and bolster investments in young Afghans.

ABDESSAMAD LAURANI, Director of Social Development, Ministry for Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development of Morocco, said national progress over the last 15 years had been seen in areas such as human rights due to better investments in infrastructure and targeted programmes.  Poverty had been reduced, basic services now reached all citizens and youth had been integrated into social development policies.  Industrial, tourism and artisanal sectors had been developed alongside gains seen in agricultural and fisheries, with job creation that encouraged youth to undertake a spirit of entrepreneurship.  Water resources had been addressed through waste management and renewable energy efforts.  Vulnerable groups had benefited from policies addressing gender equality, child protection and protections for persons with disabilities.  A new social registry aimed at combating poverty, institutional reform was improving coordination to ameliorate social assistance programmes and national plans considered youth, literacy and immigration.

A youth delegate from Germany said young people’s inspirational visions could guide policy in significant ways, as they believed in intercultural dialogue and equal gender rights.  Asking delegates how they viewed the world when they had been young themselves, for instance, dreaming of a bright future or falling in love with someone whom they should not have due to various forms of discrimination, she wondered whether they would have liked the international community to help them realize their visions.

A youth delegate from Germany asked Member State representatives to imagine a world in which every person supported the vision of the 2030 Agenda because they had the knowledge to do so.  He then asked them to take action in three areas — guarantee human rights for all, establish a youth delegate programme and support youth organizations to provide young people with the skills they needed today to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, including preparing them for future jobs that did not exist today.

PATRYCJA PUZ, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Poland, aligning herself with the European Union, said family development and security form pillars of the Government’s policies.  A flagship scheme of family allowance had allowed extended investments in children’s education while a housing subsidy programme was reaching those in need.  Social policy on older persons was being developed to set standards for assistance from welfare institutions.  Medium- and long‑term actions aimed at advancing progress on responsible development were expected to decrease the number of people living in poverty.  Actions also aimed to improve health care services.

PASCAL FOUDRIERE, Deputy Head of the European and International Affairs Unit of the Ministry for Solidarities and Health of France, associating himself with the European Union, said many countries had seen accelerated ageing in their populations and some remained unable to adapt their policies accordingly.  Europe in particular must adapt its Government programmes to the needs of the twenty‑first century, he said, describing poverty eradication as a central goal and underlining the need for commitment at the highest level.  National level social policies must be mutually strengthening and fully aligned with other measures, including economic ones, and such fully integrated approaches must also involve researchers, civil society, entrepreneurs, farmers, and others on the ground.  New approaches must be identified to overcome the failures of past policies, he said, also calling for more equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.  Ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games to be hosted in France in 2020, the country had invested some 870 million euros in improved transport and accessibility, and was increasing job creation and hiring.

NAJAT DAHAM AL ABDALLAH, Director of Family Affairs of Qatar, expressing her country’s commitment to inclusive social development and poverty eradication, said it promoted the creation of environments conducive to youth skills development and their participation in public life.  Among other things, Qatar had recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations aimed at combating terrorism and protecting young people in particular from recruitment by violent extremists.  Underlining efforts currently under way to ensure that the 2020 Football World Cup — to be held in Qatar — would be inclusive for all people, including those with disabilities, she went on to note that the country’s Vision 2030 plan was fully aligned with the global 2030 Agenda.  Nevertheless, Qatar faced serious challenges following the June 2017 application of unjust, unilateral economic sanctions against it.  Describing those measures as major violations of the economic, social and human rights of the Qatari people, she said they had disproportionately affected women and children, prevented students from continuing their university studies, and restricted the critical travel of Qatari citizens to other countries.

RALITSA DIKANSKA and ASSYA PANDZHAROVA, youth delegates of Bulgaria, said they were proud their country included youth empowerment and participation as one of its four main priorities in its political agenda.  Youth engagement in national and global processes had become a tradition for Bulgaria, with young people having an important role in mobilizing their local communities to initiate action that would contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Their involvement was essential to eliminate poverty and all forms of inequalities and discrimination.  Young people must be enabled to act as agents of positive social change, helping to promote awareness of the 2030 Agenda and using sports and intercultural dialogue as tools to enhance tolerance and respect for human rights.  Including youth at all levels of decision‑making was crucial for fostering positive social change and creating sustainable societies, they said, calling on Member States to ensure their inclusion.

JAHKINI BISSELINK, youth delegate from the Netherlands, said by 2030 about 60 per cent of the world’s population would live in cities, 60 per cent of which would comprise people under age 18 who would face new challenges such as food and water accessibility.  Empowering youth as agents of change would help to address those challenges, she said, suggesting ways to do so, including stimulating cross‑cutting youth participation, promoting inclusive dialogue and enabling local talent development.  Elaborating on those recommendations, she urged all State and non‑State actors to start organizing and stimulating youth participation from local to global levels.  As a young person who had been a news reporter at age 11 and a museum employee at age 16, she said such opportunities in rural and urban areas, especially for girls, stimulated talent development.  Urban and rural areas needed vibrant local youth participation to realize their full potential to create resilient communities.

SAMEDIN ROVCANIN, youth delegate from Serbia, said youth inclusion was critically important in efforts related to the 2030 Agenda, pointing at the dreamers who had first conceived of the Millennium Development Goals.  “We all want to live in richer societies, have better access to education and better jobs; this aspiration of ours makes us firm believers in the [Sustainable Development] Goals and staunch promoters of their [2030] Agenda,” he said, emphasizing the role young people could play in implementing the Goals related to education and poverty eradication.  Commending the United Nations and its Member States for including his peers in related discussions, he said Serbia had taken important steps to address national challenges, including creating a road map for strategic cooperation in improving good governance, reducing poverty and protecting the environment.

IOANA COVEI, youth delegate from Romania, said that to address the Commission’s theme of inclusive, resilient and sustainable development, her country looked to an expanded definition of what it meant to be poor, one that looked not only at income or basic needs, but also at empowerment.  As the definition of a dignified life had evolved, poverty had come to include not only access to material resources but also to culture, political participation and the life of the community in general.  Youth was a time when people made important decisions in their lives.  For example, they could decide whether education was worth pursuing.  Increased financial support for young people with lower incomes was important, so that poverty was not an obstacle to accessing a universal right.

VLAD MACELARU, youth delegate from Romania, said that for young people with disabilities, unequal access to education could lead to a significantly higher rate of unemployment, and it was important to stress that much more should be done in terms of accessibility.  More training for teachers so that they could work with children with disabilities was essential to foster development.  Ethnic identity was another layer that could lead to income poverty and poverty in terms of access.  Obstacles to social development were connected and interdependent, and focusing on them separately diminished the potential for change.

KAI SAUER (Finland), associating himself with the European Union, said recent global crises had shown that economic approaches had negatively affected not only social rights but also long‑term fiscal and economic policies.  In contrast, new momentum towards more integrated policies should lead to improved social conditions and poverty eradication.  Calling for determined and integrated action to implement the 2030 Agenda — and for more attention to the follow‑up processes and the full use of indicators — he said Finland was currently carrying out several major reforms and pilot programmes related to economic and social rights.  A basic income experiment, started at the beginning of 2016, had selected 2,000 random persons as a sample to receive basic income as a substitute for some basic benefits including unemployment allowance.  That basic income — fixed at 560 euros per month — was tax-free, and meant to encourage people to accept temporary and part‑time work, allowing for a more empowering and streamlined employment incentive system.  Based on its results, Finland would consider introducing basic income as a tool in its renewed social security system.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that in many countries, extreme poverty was still growing, and prospects for complying with Goal 1 were discouraging.  Political will was not enough, she said, emphasizing the need for material and financial resources, technology transfer and human resource training.  Developed countries must honour their commitments vis‑à‑vis official development assistance (ODA) and the international community must develop a genuine culture of solidarity.  A just international order must be promoted, protectionist and discriminatory trade policies against countries in the South must cease and developed countries must assume their historic responsibility for a serious environmental crisis.  She went on to note the progress Cuba had made in social development despite an economic, commercial and financial blockade that had gone on for nearly six decades.

ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the social needs of Mali’s people were a priority for its Government, which focused in particular on water, education, energy, health care and rural roads.  It was also focused on the social integration of older persons, persons with disabilities, women and children, as well as those who were victims of natural disasters or otherwise in need of humanitarian assistance, and broader efforts were also under way to reduce social risks.  Noting that 15 per cent of Mali’s national budget had been allocated to support the agricultural sector, surpassing the percentage mandated by the African Union, he said part of those funds were allotted as subsidies to farmers.  In 2016, the Government had adopted a strategic framework aimed at economic recovery and sustainable development in a Mali that was unified and at peace.  Included in that plan was a wide expansion of health insurance coverage and the establishment of a month of solidarity, to be celebrated annually in October, as well as additional efforts to support the most vulnerable.

JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde) said the world had recently seen progress in eliminating poverty, but “a long journey is ahead of us” in reducing the many inequalities that had emerged.  His country was committed to reducing poverty rates and had already made substantial progress during the Millennium Development Goal period.  The country’s strategic plan for the period 2017‑2022 was aligned with the 2030 Agenda, and prioritized inclusive economic and social development.  The needs of specific groups, including women, persons with disabilities and youth, were taken into account in that strategy as well as in national legislation.  Government measures also aimed to ensure the universal access to health care and social protection for elderly persons.  While domestic resources were central to funding all those measures, external partnerships also remained critical to helping Cabo Verde address its social issues and eradicate poverty.  In that context, he expressed concern that the country’s graduation from the least developed country category had excluded it from receiving much‑needed aid, and called on partners to continue to support the development efforts of graduated small island developing States.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that 1.1 billion people had been lifted out of extreme poverty between 1990 and 2013.  Of the estimated 768.5 million people in the world living in extreme poverty, 390.2 million were in Africa.  In Botswana, it was estimated that 5.8 per cent of the population lived in abject poverty.  His Government had adopted several strategies, policies and programmes aimed at promoting sustainable development and eradicating extreme poverty.  A comprehensive social protection system that targeted the vulnerable and needy persons was also in place.  The Government had also created a Technical Devices Fund Levy, which promoted investment in the creative industries as an engine for job creation, poverty alleviation and economic diversification.  Funds had been allocated to promote arts, crafts and performances by local artists.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), citing his country’s progress in various social and economic development areas, said that as the world considered the future of social development, poverty eradication and the situation of least developed countries would be of particular concern.  Ensuring quality jobs, food security and nutrition and empowering people would be critical, he said, pointing out that Bangladesh had been enjoying a gradual but significant reduction in poverty, having seen a 6 per cent economic growth rate for more than a decade.  Bangladesh aimed to become a middle‑income country by 2021 and a developed nation after that.  Noting that its latest five‑year development plan was fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda, he said top priorities included the reduction of inequality through enhanced education programmes and social safety nets.  The country’s inclusive and “whole‑of‑society” approach targeted vulnerable groups and families in order to ensure that no one was left behind.  However, the major recent humanitarian crisis emerging from Myanmar — with over 1 million Rohingyas having arrived in Bangladesh, most since August 2017 — was posing considerable challenges that threatened to negatively impact Bangladesh’s development efforts.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), associating herself with the Group of 77, warned that increasing vulnerability and exclusion, the persistence of unaccountable institutions and continuing conflicts and violence all threatened global development efforts.  That was even more true at a time when “the monster of social discrimination and exclusion based on religion, race, gender and ethnicity is raising its ugly head once again,” she stressed, adding that only realistic and determined social and economic policymaking and implementation could effectively combat poverty.  The Government of Pakistan had put in place people‑centred policies aimed at lifting people out of poverty, promoting fiscal inclusion, boosting agricultural growth, accelerating rural development and providing education opportunities.  The Pakistan Vision 2025 plan aimed to create new and better opportunities for the country’s people, and such initiatives as the Benazir Income Support Programme — a nationwide social safety net plan — provided support to vulnerable people.  Citing gender empowerment as another crucial element, she also drew attention to robust regional partnerships and examples of South‑South cooperation, such as the China‑Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua), aligning herself with the Group of 77, said national efforts were advancing progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including through poverty eradication programmes and multisector projects guided by policies boosting job opportunities, increasing skills and ensuring women’s empowerment.  Government strategies and policies would continue to focus on health, education, housing and employment, she said, emphasizing that human rights‑centred approaches were shaping future efforts.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍS (Bolivia), endorsing the statement made by the Group of 77, said a global context of social crisis, exclusion, migration, climate change consequences and youth unemployment had demonstrated rapidly increasing income gaps nationally and globally.  Public policies in Bolivia had significantly reduced extreme poverty levels over the past decade, with a gross domestic product (GDP) that had more than doubled since 2005 alongside steady declines in school dropout levels and child mortality rates.  Laws, policies and efforts were addressing the needs of persons with disabilities, and gains had been made in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  Emphasizing Bolivia’s generous social spending programme, he said that before 2005, 82 per cent of the country’s oil wealth rested with transnational corporations and 18 per cent in national hands.  Today, those figures were reversed, which could serve as an example to others.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) commended the work and priority themes of the Commission in regard to helping States implement the 2030 Agenda.  Eradicating poverty would help to address the other Sustainable Development Goals and targets, he said, adding that Italy fully supported efforts to address the needs of groups such as women, migrants and children.  The vicious cycle of poverty must be overcome by building resilience and ending a culture of dependency.  Italy invested in young people as key drivers of change, including education programmes focused on human rights and the importance of intercultural dialogue.  Citing other efforts, he said persons with disabilities enjoyed protection under laws and innovative projects.

ISABELLE F. PICCO (Monaco), noting that the 2030 Agenda goals had been based on the 1995 Copenhagen Programme of Action, raised three areas of concern — poverty eradication, health care and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.  While progress had been achieved on the former, a new type of poverty in the form of nutritional or sanitary deprivation was emerging.  Access to education and decent work would help to reduce inequalities, particularly between rural and urban populations, by investing in the most disadvantaged.  Monaco also placed great importance on building effective health care systems that reached the most vulnerable.  Turning to the needs of older persons, she said Monaco supported inclusive societies to foster sustainable development.

GEORGINA GALANIS, Soroptimist International, speaking on behalf of the Coalition for Global Citizenship 2030, said members promoted the values of the United Nations.  The 2030 Agenda aimed at freeing the world of poverty and the correction of current inequalities in a sustainable manner.  Global citizens aimed at empowering themselves in their communities, she said, emphasizing the need to take action on eliminating poverty and meaningfully addressing related pressing concerns.  The root causes must be addressed, including the impoverishment of values that had led to, among other things, militarism and greed.  To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, actions must centre on respect for one another, she said.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said poverty was a common enemy of civil society and eliminating it should be a shared goal.  Turning to the 2030 Agenda targets, he said national investments in education, housing and health were part of efforts to ensure that no one was left behind.  Providing some examples, he said a national elderly policy provided financial and emotional support to older persons and the 2016 Gender Equality Act was addressing related objectives.  Eradicating poverty required investing in the greatest resource:  people, he said, adding that the most vulnerable must be reached with effective partnerships to craft shared solutions for a shared goal.

PAULINE IRENE NGUENE, Minister for Social Affairs of Cameroon, said a “light of hope” was now emerging against the backdrop of numerous critical challenges around the world.  Those were due, in part, to important recent international agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015‑2030 and the 2030 Agenda, among others.  The latter recognized that continued poverty was a “ticking time bomb”, she said, adding that Cameroon was taking a cross‑cutting approach within the context of people‑centred sustainable development.  Its projects aimed to create behaviour change, empower citizens, reduce poverty, improve solidarity, and boost the provision of social security to the most vulnerable.  Efforts were also targeting key sectors such as transport, infrastructure, housing and the extractive industries in order to create new jobs.  Social inclusion programmes were also in place, she said, noting that a wave of refugees fleeing attacks by the Boko Haram terrorist group — along with a food crisis resulting from climate change — were creating obstacles to Cameroon’s social development and its eradication of poverty.  “We must respect the commitments promised to poor countries,” she added, calling for international support and solidarity, and for all nations to overcome barriers to the eradication of poverty worldwide.

ZELMA YOLLANDE NOBRE FASSINOU (Benin), agreeing with other speakers that poverty eradication was one of the 2030 Agenda’s central goals, associated herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group.  The Secretary‑General’s report noted that the absolute number of persons affected by hunger around the world had increased in the last year, following about a decade of reductions.  Progress was even more hindered in least developed countries, and the eradication of extreme poverty required transformed economies, food security, safety and stability.  The “Benin Revealed” programme tackled the structural factors that impacted the most vulnerable.  Noting that some 41 per cent of her country’s population still lived below the poverty line, she pledged to permanently reverse that trend, including through bolstered job creation and better basic services.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) said that, in his country, a central register with disaggregated data covering millions of families had helped to identify poverty and design universal programmes, policies and measures to combat it.  In particular, the Unified Social Assistance System had been created to support at‑risk families, and the Bolsa Família programme worked to empower women and enhance their participation in social and economic life.  Meanwhile, a minimum salary was guaranteed to all older persons and persons with disabilities whose own incomes did not cover their basic needs, and a new Happy Child Programme aimed to break the cycle of poverty.  Among other concrete proposals, he recommended the creation of a binding international instrument on the rights of older persons and a specific Sustainable Development Goal target on the promotion and protection of their rights.  Also voicing support for the family unit as a critical element of sustainable social development, he said the Government continued to fund additional programmes such as one seeking to end the violence that primarily affected young men of African descent.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), stressing that decent work and social protection policies were fundamental tools for the eradication of poverty, said ensuring access of persons with disabilities to basic social services and legal support were of paramount importance.  In addition, there was a need to raise awareness about the rights of older persons and to consider the new demographic realities of the ageing population.  Social development must also further women’s empowerment and ensure gender equality, while paying particular attention to Africa and the least developed countries.  Turkey was committed to building a more dignified and prosperous future for those countries, he said, noting that science, technology and innovation as well as the transfer of technology would play a crucial role in that regard.  Spotlighting the role of the dedicated Technology Bank, to be inaugurated this spring in Turkey, he went on to outline several national policies including its open door and non‑refoulement policies towards refugees such as those from Syria.

WU HAITAO (China) said that countries should incorporate the idea of inclusiveness and benefit‑sharing in their development strategies, as well as continuously improve institutional mechanisms that balanced efficiency and fairness.  His country advocated for and promoted the global endeavour to eradicate poverty.  Since 1978, it had lifted 700 million people out of poverty.  China supported the Commission in holding a symposium on persons with disabilities to monitor the implementation of the 2030 Agenda targets related to that matter.  Population ageing should be dealt with to enable every elderly person to enjoy life, and efforts were needed to mobilize society to cultivate the custom of respecting and caring for the elderly.  Guidance should be given to youth so that they could contribute to and benefit from social development, while the role of the family as the basic unit of society should be given full play in social development.  Family played a positive role in poverty eradication, employment promotion and social integration.

CHRISTINE KALAMWINA (Zambia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said over 700 million people lived in poverty globally, the majority of whom were in sub‑Saharan Africa and South Asia.  Her country remained committed to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which was anchored on the eradication of all forms of poverty.  In order to address the limited access to education experienced by girls, the Government of Zambia continued to undertake measures to promote gender equality and the empowerment of young women, by ensuring equitable access to quality education.  In partnership with stakeholders, it also continued to prioritize the well‑being of persons with disabilities by enhancing accessibility and participation, as well as the mainstreaming of disability issues in national policies.

KIRA CHRISTIANNE DANGANAN AZUCENA (Philippines) said her country’s people envisioned a future where no one was poor and everyone lived long, healthy lives in safe, vibrant and diverse communities.  Policies aimed at improving the overall quality of life and translating gains of good governance into direct benefits that empowered the poor and marginalized segments of society.  Providing examples of projects, she said efforts included cash transfers, engaging and empowering youth and addressing the needs of older persons and those living with disabilities.  Part of a campaign against illegal drugs included intervention services for illicit drug users and their families and communities, transforming those users into community volunteers, advocates and productive members of society.

CHULL-JOO PARK (Republic of Korea) said development gains had been uneven across countries and regions, with those remaining under the poverty line now even harder to reach.  In an effort to end poverty, the Government had addressed national challenges with efforts aimed at making improvements in various sectors by implementing measures such as an established minimum wage, protections for labourers and tailored social protection services such as childcare subsidies, expanding affordable university accommodation and pension benefits.  Among other projects, efforts targeted youth employment, which was an essential poverty eradication strategy, and policies served the needs of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  Globally, the Republic of Korea, through United Nations agencies, had funded health‑related projects in developing countries around the world.

PHAM ANH THI KIM (Viet Nam), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that to resolve the root cause of poverty, her country had instituted a national programme on sustainable poverty reduction, as well as a programme on new rural development.  Those efforts looked to raise income and ensure better access to health care, education, housing, clean water and sanitation for all of Viet Nam’s people.  New laws had also been enacted or amended to better promote social welfare for vulnerable groups, she said.  Like many developing countries, Viet Nam still faced numerous challenges in poverty eradication, including lack of resources.  As it was among the top five countries most affected by climate change, its people living in the most vulnerable areas faced the risk of returning to poverty.

HMWAY HMWAY KHYNE (Myanmar) said poverty eradication was inextricably linked to the achievement of sustainable development.  For its part, Myanmar had experienced decades of conflict and was still grappling with challenges.  Yet, the Government was focused on a development agenda that created an environment conducive to business and investments.  In social sectors, investments were being directed to provide health care, education and other programmes.  A new youth policy was enacted, a national electrification plan was being laid out and efforts were ongoing to build a prosperous, democratic nation.  Turning to the issue of Rakhine State, she said the Government had formed a committee on development and was carrying out recommendations to address concerns about the situation on the ground.

IRMA ALEJANDRINA ROSA SUAZO (Honduras) said ongoing efforts to achieve goals set out in the 2030 Agenda were tackling challenges related to eradicating extreme poverty.  A multidimensional approach must consider a range of issues, not just income.  In cases of middle‑income countries, many sectors in those populations faced similar challenges.  A national plan was addressing issues from renewable energy to infrastructure development.  Projects were improving the quality of education, reaching rural populations and addressing the needs of persons living with disabilities.  A national youth policy guided programmes aimed at improving the lives of the nation’s younger generations.

MOHAMMED SAHIB MEJID MARZOOQ (Iraq), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said poverty eradication was a development priority.  While Iraq’s national development programme aimed at reaching those goals, conflict and instability had affected results and stymied efforts.  Acts of war and terrorist attacks were forcing the displacement of persons and destroying natural resources.  Moving forward, Iraq had based its poverty reduction strategy on human rights, the provision of job training and the creation of a social safety net that included the private sector and civil society.  Iraq’s development strategy had adopted programmes aimed at boosting food production, improving health care coverage and quality and ensuring that services reached refugees and those returning home to Iraq.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the Copenhagen Declaration and the 2030 Agenda had contributed to progress in social development.  Ending poverty was crucial to achieving all other development goals, he said, expressing concern that poverty remained and had even risen in recent years.  Political instability and war had led to a new emergence of poverty, especially among women and children, as was the case in the Middle East.  “Social development must not fall prey to political pressure,” he stressed, adding that the application of sanctions hindered all progress towards development.  Iran’s national development strategies focused on poverty eradication and the empowerment of women and female‑headed households.  Among other things, the Government was obliged to support provinces where per capita income was below the poverty line.  Iran’s experience demonstrated that adopting regional development plans that were tailored to meet local needs could effectively substitute older policies based on social assistance, he said, citing the Barakat Foundation — which sought to strengthen the self‑sufficiency of local populations — as one example.

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria) said that social cohesion was the main tool to tackle poverty and social exclusion.  It required secure living conditions and the prospect of participation for all population groups, which in turn could be guaranteed through an active welfare State.  The Austrian welfare State aimed to ensure that those conditions were met, by supporting eligible beneficiaries with targeted benefits.  The Austrian social model also relied on a long‑standing tradition of involving all relevant stakeholders in policymaking processes.  Austria had implemented the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in 2012, a comprehensive national action plan on disability was enacted.  Concerning ageing, Austria had several priorities, including the active participation of older persons, which was essential to social inclusion.  On families, Austria provided an established system of parental leave regulations.  On youth policy, his country followed the Organization’s World Programme of Action for Youth.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the current session’s theme was appropriate given the past unsatisfactory progress in reducing poverty, especially in least developed countries.  “All the countries of the world must redouble their efforts,” he said, calling for a strong political commitment to eradicate poverty.  The number of people living in poverty in Nepal had dropped from 38 per cent in 2000 to about 21 per cent in 2016, he said, adding that the Government sought to further reduce it to 17 per cent in the next few years.  Work was under way to promote inclusiveness and provide special support to women, children and other vulnerable groups.  Nepal valued the importance of social protection floors, and its own scheme supported older persons and persons with disabilities in particular.  It was also committed to promoting universal education, especially among girls.  Nepal’s least developed and landlocked status — coupled with its emergence from conflict and natural disasters, its difficult topography and vulnerability to climate change — put it in a special position, he said, noting that support from the international community would be needed to address those challenges.

HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), associating herself with the Group of 77, said strategies to eradicate poverty were imperative, and emphasized that no one should be left behind.  The 2030 Agenda had reiterated those goals, which still required political will and capacity.  More work was needed to achieve social objectives, she said, calling for a better distribution of income and wealth and policies that put human beings above profits.  Implementing an integrated, ambitious and sustainable global development programme must be based on lessons learned as well as commitments undertaken — and some still pending — under the Copenhagen Declaration.  Ecuador’s development programme considered the need to bring all people together along the same path.  Its pillars were to fight poverty in all its dimensions; put the economy at the service of society; and work towards a participatory system with good governance that provided quality services.  Significant progress had already been made towards eliminating extreme poverty, she said, noting that Ecuador hoped to meet that goal by 2021, well ahead of the global 2030 deadline.

CAROLINA POPOVICI (Republic of Moldova), outlining a number of concrete social development policies in her country, said child protection and family support policies were at the top of its list of priorities.  National laws protected children from violence, abuse and other risks, while Moldova’s child birth allowance was regularly reviewed to ensure that it effectively supported childbirth, education and related costs.  Noting that the proportion of the elderly was expected to increase dramatically by 2050, she said immediate measures would be needed to address those changes.  However, “an ageing society is not necessarily an inactive one,” she said, noting that older adults could contribute to public life in Moldova in many ways.  In the context of the global wave of migration, Moldova worked through bilateral agreements with other countries and concentrated on creating conditions conducive to the return of migrants to the country and helping them effectively reintegrate into society.

Mr. CORREAL (Colombia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the 2030 Agenda recognized the need to respect all people regardless of their economic condition, age, sexual orientation or other factors.  Innovative approaches were needed in the eradication of poverty, he said, noting that “no one size fits all” and urging countries to mobilize resources to those ends.  However, international resources were also needed to help coordinate such efforts at the global level.  While the Commission should bear in mind recent achievements made under the 2030 Agenda’s implementation, it must not disregard the commitments undertaken under the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.  Calling for greater efforts towards social data collection, he said Colombia had based its family polices around such priorities as social protection and good governance; a national action plan for families was currently being developed with concrete targets, and would be put in place by 2022.

Ms. NORDLANDER (Sweden) said people’s empowerment was central to social development and her country had taken several steps toward that end.  To combat poverty, social protection mechanisms were essential and had a role to play in addressing the needs of vulnerable groups.  As people were living longer than a century ago, new challenges must be addressed.  For its part, Sweden had invested in social protection systems since the mid‑twentieth century.  But, globally, all stakeholders needed to step up efforts in building such systems.  Swedish society had undergone many changes in the past two decades, including single parent families that were facing economic challenges.  Among areas that needed attention, she said protecting children was critical, in fostering healthy societies and for achieving most development goals.  With regard to international development programmes, Sweden had adopted a new strategy, recognizing, among other things, that reproductive rights were not an option, but part of a package of services.

YOSHIAKI KATAYAMA (Japan) said that the key principle of the Sustainable Development Goals, “no one left behind”, reflected the concept of human security, of which his country had been a leading advocate.  Regarding persons with disabilities, it was imperative to ensure their full and active participation in society.  Leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Japan had made nationwide efforts to reform its infrastructural systems, making it accessible for everyone.  Concerning ageing, he noted that Japan faced a declining birth rate and an aging population, and believed it was crucial that each country shared its experiences on how to tackle that problem.  It was also important to promote quality infrastructure investment, which included such concepts as gender equality and barrier‑free access.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said strengthening development efforts to eradicate poverty was now more significant than ever before.  Emphasizing the need for a people‑centred strategy that moved beyond a one‑size‑fits‑all approach, he said national Governments were responsible for those efforts.  For its part, India’s objectives were in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.  Citing several examples, he said Government initiatives were developing the agricultural sector, building millions of toilets while improving sanitation services and educating girls.  In addition, authorities were implementing information and communications technology projects to expand the reach of a range of public services.

MADHUKA SANJAYA WICKRAMARACHCHI WICKRAMARACHCHIGE (Sri Lanka), noting that some of the most dramatic reductions in poverty over the last decades had been seen in East and South‑East Asia, said the World Bank had described Sri Lanka in particular as a “success story”.  Since its internal conflict ended in 2009, the economy had grown at an average rate of 6.2 per cent per year, reflecting a peace dividend and a commitment to reconstruction and growth.  The economy was transitioning from a predominantly rural‑based one to an urbanized one, oriented around the manufacturing and service sectors.  Its Vision 2025 programme aimed to further strengthen democracy and reconciliation, as well as inclusive and equitable growth, and to ensure good governance.  Social indicators in Sri Lanka were already among the highest in the region, and unlike other countries it had increasingly begun to support its ageing population.

INASS A. T. ELMARMURI (Libya), associating herself with the Group of 77, said combating multidimensional poverty would have a positive impact on the achievement of all other Sustainable Development Goals.  Noting that half of the 800 million extremely poor people in the world lived in Africa and that thousands were perishing while trying to migrate, she urged countries to work in line with the 2030 Agenda and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to ensure the continent’s security, stability and prosperity and lift millions out of poverty.  Education, decent work and access to technology must be core priorities, she added, calling on development actors to take lessons learned into account.  Despite her country’s conflicts, the Government was working to unify its institutions and better utilize resources, including those funds that had been sent abroad.  It had amended national laws, such as those ensuring the equality of persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  Concluding, she underscored the importance of the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, and expressed hope that United Nations agencies would return to Tripoli to once again take up their work in her country.

ALEXANDER TEMITOPE ADEYEMI AJAYI (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his Government had launched an ambitious three‑year development plan based largely on investing in infrastructure and people.  In January, the National Senior Citizens Act was signed into law, which would establish senior citizen centres to provide care and strengthen intergenerational solidarity.  The National Social Investment Office had also been created to expand broader social benefits to all segments of society.  Monthly cash transfer stipends were provided to the poor and a national register was set up to capture biometric and demographic data of the stipends’ recipients.  School feeding programmes sought to provide at least one meal to all students in 20 states throughout the country, utilizing local produce, thereby supporting the agriculture sector and creating many new jobs.  Support was also being provided to small- and medium‑sized business entrepreneurs, he said, adding that pensions were being provided in a more streamlined manner to those retiring from public service and that free treatment was provided to elderly patients in many hospitals across Nigeria.

HECTOR BROWN (United States), focusing his statement on the work of the Commission itself, said it as crucial for the voices of older persons, youth, persons with disabilities and other groups in special situations to be heard at the United Nations.  Noting that several other bodies and agendas had been created across the system in recent years, he said the Commission’s relevance should be reconsidered in that context and against the backdrop of the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts.  In that regard, he voiced support for various elements of the draft resolution presented by Mexico, including the proposal to hold shortened sessions; negotiate a single document each year on the session’s main theme, instead of various texts; and focus on a single annual theme, thereby allowing for a more relevant policy debate.  Those reforms would be consistent with the United States position in support of efforts to reduce duplication and overlap in the work of the United Nations bodies, he said, asking delegates to be bold in considering whether the Commission was still needed in the current context.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said that despite poverty reduction achievements, more than 10 per cent of the global population remained under the extreme poverty threshold.  Eliminating extreme poverty was the greatest challenge facing humanity and efforts must aim at areas from supporting agricultural sectors and creating jobs to boosting the quality of education.  Keeping children in school would also contribute to eradicating poverty, as would conflict prevention and resolution.  For its part, Azerbaijan had invested in reducing poverty and unemployment and in building more schools, hospitals and housing.  The Government had also focused efforts on developing entrepreneurship and improving transportation routes.  By 2020, Azerbaijan aimed at reaching many goals, including to further reduce poverty, promote gender equality and improve food security and the quality of health care.

TYESHA O’LISA TURNER (Jamaica) said that while some efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda objectives had borne fruit, much remained to be harvested through a collective commitment and drive for a better standard of living for current and future generations.  Great investments in human capital would lead to exponential returns for national development, and with that in mind Jamaica had established a social investment fund to mobilize and direct resources, with assistance from international partners, to finance community‑based socioeconomic infrastructure and social services projects to foster an empowered, healthy and productive society.  A national multi‑stakeholder approach aimed at implementing poverty reduction activities.  Yet, more was needed at all levels to eliminate inequalities and reach those most in need.  Citing a range of national efforts, she said strategies were addressing social protection issues, education and health, with targeted projects reaching persons with disabilities and older persons.  To ensure hard‑won gains were not reversed by limited fiscal space and high debt burdens, she called for special attention to be given to the plight of highly indebted middle‑income countries.

FRANCES ZAINOEDDIN, International Federation on Ageing, said the third review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing must be considered within the framework of the 2030 Agenda.  Poverty in old age was often acute, with discrimination in access to economic and other development opportunities growing over time.  In addition, about 80 per cent of older persons had no pension, relying instead on labour and family for income.  The human rights of older persons must be reaffirmed, she said, adding that social development efforts must combat ageism, address inequality of opportunity for older persons and employ life course approaches towards eradicating poverty.  The diversity of older persons must also be recognized, she said, calling on the Commission to focus on social justice for all ages, including older persons.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the poor were not a barrier to sustainable development, but rather one of its greatest resources.  Decent work, productive employment, education, health and social protection were essential pathways to inclusion, which was among the best ways to eradicate poverty.  He underscored the connection between impoverishment and other major challenges, including the migrant and refugee crisis.  Human traffickers were exploiting the logic of exclusion, leading to a rise in modern slavery.  Everyone must become dedicated abolitionists of forced labour and of the economies of exclusion, he said.

News

Prevention, Development Must be Central in All Efforts Tackling Emerging Complex Threats to International Peace, Secretary‑General Tells Security Council

Prevention and development must be at the centre of all efforts to address both the quantitative and qualitative changes that were emerging in threats around the world, the Secretary‑General of the United Nations told the Security Council today, as some 60 Member States participated in an all‑day debate tackling complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security.

António Guterres said the perils of nuclear weapons were once again front and centre, with tensions higher than those during the Cold War.  Climate change was a threat multiplier and technology advances had made it easier for extremists to communicate.  Conflicts were longer, with some lasting 20 years on average, and were more complex, with armed and extremist groups linked with each other and with the worldwide threat of terrorism.  Transnational drug smugglers and human traffickers were perpetuating the chaos and preying on refugees and migrants.

The changing nature of conflict meant rethinking approaches that included integrated action, he said, stressing that prevention must be at the centre of all efforts.  Development was one of the best instruments of prevention.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would help build peaceful societies.  Respect for human rights was also essential and there was a need to invest in social cohesion so that all felt they had a stake in society. 

He also emphasized that women’s participation was crucial to success, from conflict prevention to peacemaking and sustaining peace.  Where women were in power, societies flourished, he pointed out.  Sexual violence against women, therefore, must be addressed and justice pursued for perpetrators. 

Prevention also included preventive diplomacy, he said, noting that the newly established High-level Advisory Board on Mediation had met for the first time.  The concept of human security was a useful frame of reference for that work, as it was people‑centred and holistic and emphasized the need to act early and prioritize the most vulnerable.

“Let us work together to enhance the Council’s focus on emerging situations, expand the toolbox, increase resources for prevention, and be more systematic in avoiding conflict and sustaining peace,” he said, emphasizing the need for Council unity.  Without it, he said, the parties to conflict might take more inflexible and intransigent positions, and the drivers of conflict might push situations to the point of no return.

Japan’s representative, Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, noting that in the 25 years since the end of the Cold War, there had been a rise in complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security.  That included the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the expansion of terrorism, and non‑traditional challenges such as non‑State actors and inter‑State criminal organizations. 

While the Council had been tackling those challenges, in most cases through a country or region‑specific context, he stressed that a human security approach was highly relevant when addressing complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security.  Such an approach placed the individual at the centre, based on a cross‑sectoral understanding of insecurities.  It also entailed a broadened understanding of threats and challenges. 

In the ensuing debate, speakers emphasized the need to adjust to the changing challenges to international peace and security and welcomed the Secretary General’s reform of the Organization’s security pillar and other initiatives.  Many stressed the need to address root causes of instability and conflict, including climate change, non‑State armed groups, extremism and terrorism, as well as poverty and underdevelopment. 

Calling for creativity in the Council’s efforts, they underlined the importance of prevention, and stressed the responsibility of the 15‑member organ to address threats to international peace and security at an early stage.  Delegations also called for strengthen cooperation and coordination with other United Nations bodies and with regional and subregional organizations.  Ending impunity for serious international crimes was equally crucial, with some delegates stressing the importance of effective cooperation with the International Criminal Court.

Other speakers took issue with the way the Security Council was functioning, with Turkey’s representative pointing out that the Council had failed many times to show timely and adequate responses to emerging crises, often as the result of the use, or the threat, of veto, which disabled the Council’s effectiveness. 

India’s delegate said a non‑representative Council, designed long ago to maintain a balance of power between rival States, was unable to handle challenges which had changed beyond recognition over the decades.  “An instrument that is no longer considered legitimate and has lost its credibility cannot be our hope for salvation,” he said, adding that “speech acts”, such as the current open debate, would have little impact.

The Russian Federation’s representative said it would be useful for the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other organs of the United Nations to consider the links between peace and security and socioeconomic and environmental issues.  Integrating all factors should not come under the work of the Council, which did not have the capacity in those other areas and for which the basic responsibilities in peace and security must remain the focus. 

China’s representative stressed the importance of firmly upholding the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, saying that the Council must respect sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of States as well as their right to choose their own social structures.  The major organs of the United Nations should stick to their mandates while coordinating their efforts. 

Some Member States addressed specific challenges to peace and security.  The representative of Tuvalu, speaking for the Pacific small island developing States, underscored that climate change was not going away and was the most pressing contemporary security challenge.  The Secretary‑General should appoint a special representative on climate and security who could produce a report, in cooperation with scientific bodies, that identified and analysed potentially dangerous tipping points at the nexus of climate and security, he said. 

Slovenia’s delegate drew attention to water scarcity as a threat to stability, recalling the work of the Global High‑level Panel on Water and Peace chaired by the former President of her country.  Regional cooperation was vital in preventing water from becoming a cause of conflict or an amplifying risk, she stressed, citing successful practices in the Western Balkans region, as seen in the Sava River basin, which could serve as a model for water‑related cooperation.

Addressing cyber threats, Lithuania’s representative, also speaking for Latvia and Estonia, said hybrid threats and cybersecurity were priority issues for the Baltic States, noting that concerns regarding the Russian Federation’s interference in national election processes were not limited to European countries.  Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had faced a politically motivated series of cyberattacks.  To cope with the strikes, the public and private sectors, as well as civil society, must cooperate. 

The Deputy Foreign Minister for Ukraine also spoke, as did representatives of Sweden, Egypt, Bolivia, United Kingdom, France, Kazakhstan, Uruguay, Senegal, United States, Ethiopia, Italy, Colombia, Liechtenstein, Pakistan, Hungary, Switzerland, Norway (for the Nordic countries), South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Indonesia, Peru, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Viet Nam, Mexico, Slovakia, Ghana, Chile, Guatemala, Botswana, Netherlands, Greece, Armenia, Australia, Morocco, Lebanon, Nepal, Maldives, Portugal and Bangladesh, as well as the European Union delegation.

Representatives of the Russian Federation and Ukraine took the floor for a second and third time.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 4:20 p.m.

Opening Remarks

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, said there had not only been a quantitative but also a qualitative change in threats to international peace and security.  The perils of nuclear weapons were once again front and centre, with tensions higher than those during the Cold War.  Climate change was a threat multiplier.  Inequality and exclusion fed frustration and marginalization.  Threats to cybersecurity were escalating and technology advances had made it easier for extremists to communicate. 

While the number of armed conflicts had declined over the long‑term, they had surged in the Middle East and Africa, he continued, with many lasting on average more than 20 years.  Conflicts were also more complex as armed groups competed for control over State institutions, natural resources and territory.  Extremist groups left little room for diplomacy.  There was also an increased regionalization and internationalization of conflicts.  Clashes were more linked with each other and with the worldwide threat of terrorism.  Transnational drug smugglers and human traffickers perpetuated the chaos and preyed on refugees and migrants.

The changing nature of conflict meant rethinking approaches which must include integrated action, he underlined.  Such efforts must be coherent, coordinated and context‑specific, working across pillars.  Towards that aim, he had initiated three inter‑linked reform efforts focused at repositioning the United Nations development system, streamlining internal management and strengthening the Secretariat’s peace and security architecture.  He had also sought to forge closer links with regional partners. 

He stressed that prevention must be at the centre of everything, as it would avoid human suffering and even save money.  Prevention was a sound investment that brought ample and visible dividends, and development was one of the best instruments of prevention.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would help build peaceful societies.  Respect for human rights was also essential in prevention.  There was a need to invest in social cohesion so that all felt they had a stake in society. 

As well, gender equality was closely linked with resilience, he said, stressing that women’s participation was crucial to success, from conflict prevention to peacemaking and sustaining peace.  Where women were in power, societies flourished, he pointed out.  Therefore, it was critical that sexual violence against women be addressed and justice pursued for perpetrators.

Prevention also included preventive diplomacy, he said, noting that the newly established High‑level Advisory Board on Mediation had met for the first time.  The concept of human security was a useful frame of reference for that work.  Human security was people‑centred and holistic; it stressed the need to act early and prioritize the most vulnerable.

“Let us work together to enhance the Council’s focus on emerging situations, expand the toolbox, increase resources for prevention, and be more systematic in avoiding conflict and sustaining peace,” he said, emphasizing the need for unity in the 15‑member organ.  Without that unity, the parties to conflict might take more inflexible and intransigent positions, and the drivers of conflict might push situations to the point of no return.  “But with unity, we can advance security and well‑being for all,” he underscored.

Statements

KORO BESSHO (Japan), Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, noting that in the 25 years since the end of the Cold War, some parts of the world had been enjoying the benefits of improvements in science and technology, from groundbreaking medicines to new frontiers in outer space.  However, during the same period, there had been a rise in complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the expansion of terrorism.  Peace operations were also facing non‑traditional challenges such as non‑State actors and inter‑State criminal organizations.

The Security Council had been tackling those challenges, in most cases through a country or region‑specific context, he said.  It was important for the Council to discuss those complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security in a holistic and methodological manner.  However, it needed to increase its focus on effectiveness throughout the whole conflict cycle.  At the same time, close attention must be paid to the fact that peace and security, development and human rights were closely interlinked.  It was vital for the Council to enhance cooperation with other organs, both within the United Nations system and beyond.

A human security approach was highly relevant when addressing complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security, he continued, adding that such an approach placed the individual at the centre, based on a cross‑sectoral understanding of insecurities.  It also entailed a broadened understanding of threats and challenges.  Japan had consistently provided human‑centred and comprehensive assistance through cross‑sectoral efforts with a range of partners.  As for the Secretary‑General’s ongoing initiative for the reform of the United Nations, he said that the resolution on the restructuring of the Organization’s peace and security pillar was being tabled for adoption at the General Assembly.  Although the scope of that resolution did not include Security Council reform, no reform would be complete without the reform of that 15‑member organ.

SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs for Ukraine, associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that while criticism of the Council’s work was mostly justified, there was currently no alternative entity to safeguard international peace and security.  The Council had achieved some positive results in recent years, including its role in implementing an agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC‑EP).  With the adoption of resolution 2349 (2017), the Council demonstrated an openness to addressing some of the underlying causes in the complex crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region.  It had also been active in addressing the threat of terrorism, engaging in a number of discussions and taking landmark decisions.  Because threats to international peace and security could not effectively be addressed in isolation, he welcomed the expansion of the Council’s agenda to include challenges such as human rights, development and climate change, to name a few.  Nonetheless, among the Council’s shortcomings or even outright failures were unresolved challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and tragic events in the Middle East, as well as blatant violations of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction that continued with impunity.  Further, he expressed regret at the erosion of the rule of law, which was most obviously manifested in the aggressive policy of the Russian Federation towards its neighbours.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), aligning himself with the statements to be made by the European Union and the Nordic countries, said that international peace and security was increasingly hampered by the negative impacts of multidimensional poverty, climate change, transnational organized crime, food insecurity, weak governance, human rights violations and growing inequality.  The Council’s preventive role was now more important than ever before.  However, prevention was not possible without a comprehensive and holistic strategy to address the root causes and the conflict amplifiers.  While ongoing reform efforts would better position the United Nations system to enhance its joint analysis and integrated strategic planning capacities, it was also crucial to consistently integrate a gender perspective into long‑terms strategies.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said that an innovative approach, coordinated through the United Nations and focused on root causes, was needed to meet current interrelated, complex challenges to international peace and security.  In its analysis of conflicts and potential conflicts, the Secretariat must take into account the nature of each situation on a case‑by‑case basis.  The effectiveness of the Peacebuilding Commission must also be strengthened so that it could work with the Council to lay the foundation for stability in countries at risk.  Transnational challenges must be met through close coordination with regional organizations.  National ownership must be ensured in all efforts with the support of the international community, so that institutions capable of confronting all current challenges could be built.  He stressed that each organ of the United Nations must respect the mandate of the others, so that they could each adequately take on their respective responsibilities and not duplicate efforts.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said that the Council efforts were constantly endangered both by insufficient implementation of established mechanisms and the lack of coordination to prevent duplication of efforts.  Mediation, prevention and use of good offices, as well as use of Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter of the United Nations should be better used for peaceful settlement of disputes, with Chapter VII tools only used after other strategies had been well applied.  Unilateral actions were also imperilling the Council’s efforts to maintain peace and security.  Such action often resulted in negative consequences for entire regions by creating vacuums of authority, in which terrorist fighters could fill the void.  Robust actions must be taken to meet the terrorist threat.  Prohibition of nuclear weapons, in addition, was an important goal to meet to reduce the threat of devastating conflict.  As a pacifist country, his country would continue to advocate for the peaceful settlement of conflict to avoid the scourge of war and all its consequences, he said.

Matthew John Rycroft (United Kingdom) said that not only emerging threats but also conventional threats had been fuelled by developing transnational challenges, from internet incitement to enslavement of migrants.  All such factors must be confronted at home, in partnership, and multilaterally.  For example, at home, his country was tackling illicit financial flows that funded armed groups, terrorists and corruption, through new legislative acts.  The United Kingdom was also assisting 13 countries in meeting climate threats to reduce their vulnerability.  Multilaterally, it was supporting action of the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council to address the complex and diverse challenges.  For those organs to play their full role, the reforms proposed by the Secretary‑General must be supported.  That would enable the Organization to more effectively sustain peace, meet the Sustainable Development Goals and build respect for human rights.  He pointed out that, during the current open debate, millions of people were experiencing displacement, hunger and conflict as a single reality.  Those ills should all be addressed at the same time to achieve a safer world for all.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) affirmed that Council debates in 2017 had illustrated that the complex challenges facing international peace and security must, in the context of globalization, be met by a global response.  The United Nations must use all its tools to assist States in an integrated manner that addresses deep‑rooted causes.  Terrorism must be faced by addressing all factors — economic, political, cultural and social — along with multilateral security responses and regional arrangements supported by the international community such as the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) joint force.  Those responses must be accompanied by long‑term support for development.  Climate change, often exacerbating crises, must be met by technological and financial means, starting with the immediate implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  The Council should also be in close communication with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other mechanisms so that it could react quickly to grave violations.  All challenges, along with ever‑present threats such as nuclear proliferation and inter‑State tensions, must be addressed by every State collectively, along with the mechanisms of the United Nations.  Therefore, he voiced his country’s full support for the Secretary‑General’s efforts to increase the effectiveness of the Organization.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), expressing full support for the Secretary‑General’s reform proposals to make the United Nations more effective, called for a comprehensive, integrated strategy in which the priority of sustaining peace ran through all efforts.  His country had seen the importance of that approach since its independence and for that reason had been at the forefront of conflict prevention, including the establishment of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, among other efforts.  Reducing the threat of military confrontation was a priority for Kazakhstan, as shown by its hosting of conferences on Syria that had helped de‑escalate areas and promote political progress.  Peacekeeping operations had to become more viable and accountable, with adequate staff and equipment.  The Organization must comprehensively adopt a threefold strategy that addressed the peace and development nexus through a regional approach that involved the entire United Nations system working as one.  His country would continue to be fully engaged in strengthening international peace and security throughout its Council membership and beyond, he pledged.

LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay) said that the Council should consider all aspects that could worsen conflicts, such as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, legal and illegal trade in other weapons, terrorism, cyberattacks, and climate change.  The international community must show greater solidarity and global governance must be strengthened.  There was not only a need for prevention but also for creativity in which greater coordination between the organs of the United Nations was indispensable.  The nexus between security, development, human rights and the humanitarian spheres was clear, but factors such as climate change, pandemics and transnational organized crime could exacerbate crises in conflict or post‑conflict situations.  In such situations there was a need to strengthen the rule of law and promote sustainable economic growth, national reconciliation, access to justice, accountability, democracy, gender equality and protection of human rights.  The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was a violation of international law. 

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said over the last years, the international community had increased initiatives to address threats to peace, including through the reform of the Organization’s peace architecture and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, among others.  Such factors as the circulation of small arms, sexual violence, recruitment of children, and illegal exploitation of natural resources required a holistic response.  Terrorism had suffered defeats but remained a threat as illustrated in numerous attacks.  Mandates of peacekeeping missions should be better adapted to the situation on the ground, he said, noting that African countries had used their troops to combat non‑State actors.  He welcomed the initiative to reinforce the security pillar.  Senegal’s water, peace and security initiative was aiming to facilitate access to transborder sources of water.

SHEN BO (China) said that, in the desire for peace and development, it was necessary to firmly uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter.  Although new challenges kept emerging, the Charter’s principles remained valid.  Maintaining peace and security was the primary responsibility of the Council and its authority should be defended by all Member States.  The United Nations and the Council should be subjective and impartial.  The 15‑member organ must also respect sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of States and their right to choose their own social structures.  Noting that root causes of conflict such as poverty and under‑development had not been solved and that threats such as climate change were constantly expanding, he urged for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.  The major organs of the United Nations should follow the provisions of the Charter and stick to their mandates while coordinating their efforts. 

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said the Council had a responsibility to respond to crises too large for one nation to deal with.  One of the Council’s most effective tools — peacekeeping operations — was a powerful mechanism, she said, noting that the United Nations deployed over 100,000 troops and police all over the world.  The missions, however, must adapt to the reality of the situation on the ground.  The quality of troops deployed should also be analysed.  Giving examples of successful peacebuilding, including in Liberia, where the United Nations had devised a peacebuilding plan in coordination with the Government and participation of civil society, she said the Council had mostly used missions after conflict had broken out.  There was a need to look at underlying challenges, such as failure to develop or lack of protection of human rights, as those factors could directly lead to instability.  In Yemen, 22 million out of 29 million were in need of humanitarian assistance and there was a risk of famine.  Famine conditions had been caused by conflict and parties more interested in personal gain.  The United Nations had the power to develop solutions to transnational problems, she said, encouraging the Secretary‑General to raise issues early on to the Council.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said that a new way of thinking, along with innovative tools, were needed to meet emerging, complex challenges in international peace and security through a comprehensive and holistic approach.  Strengthened partnerships were needed between United Nations bodies and regional organizations for that purpose.  The Secretary‑General’s vision could allow the creation of integrated capabilities with improved planning and budgeting to support operations on the ground and longer‑term efforts.  While a cross‑pillar approach was critical to address driving factors of conflicts that did not mean that the mandates of existing operations should be changed.  The Security Council should not impinge on the responsibilities of other bodies.  The Council had many responsibilities of its own to deal with, for example, principles of international law governing inter‑State relations, which were not at this point being adequately addressed.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) stressed that a context‑specific approach must be highlighted, with all the particularities taken into account, and an over‑broad use of Chapter VII, as well as outside intervention, be avoided.  In that context, he rejected the blasphemous statement by the representative of Ukraine in relationship to international law, given that that representative’s Government had come into power illegitimately.  He called for full implementation of the Minsk agreements.  Factors, such as foreign intervention and economic compulsion, must be added to the list of drivers of current conflict that were being discussed.  In terms of an integrated strategy to international peace and security, it would be useful for the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other organs to consider the links between peace and security and socioeconomic and environmental issues.  However, each must focus on its own responsibilities.  Integrating all factors should not come under the work of the Council, which did not have the capacity in those other areas and for which the basic responsibilities in peace and security must remain the focus. 

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), aligning with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, said that during its presidency, his country had begun to address challenges in an integrated way, including a focus on migration and the nexus that phenomenon was connected to.  Protection and empowerment of people was key to building resilient societies.  The Secretary‑General should provide early‑warning information to the Council.  In order to address all problems in a comprehensive manner, United Nations effectiveness must be improved through building synergy between all actors.  In peace and security, capacity should be built to fully realize the concept of a peace continuum, as well as the building of inclusive political processes and resilient institutions.  His country would continue to fully support reform to strengthen the Organization across the three pillars.  In the Council, the interventions today showed that members had sufficient common interest to be able to reach consensus.

The representative of Ukraine, taking the floor a second time, said that it had been reconfirmed just recently that the Russian Federation was an occupying Power and a party to the conflict in the east of Ukraine.  For that reason, the country could not discuss the conflict as an impartial actor.  It must, instead, withdraw from Crimea and Donbass and make reparations for the damage it had caused in his country.

The representative of the Russian Federation, responding to his counterpart, encouraged the representative of the Ukraine to respect the Council and common sense.  The conflict in the Ukraine was a consequence of the seizure of power that was not accepted by people in the east of Ukraine, and while there was no proof of intervention on the part of his country, there was proof of malfeasance by Ukraine, including bombardment of schools and hospitals that threatened a large-scale humanitarian disaster.  He called for the implementation of the road map that was written into the Minsk agreements to resolve the situation.

The representative of Ukraine cited the Secretary‑General who voiced his concern over Russian arms flowing into eastern Ukraine, as well as actions in Crimea.  That was adequate proof of Russian aggression against his country.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which regularly visited areas not controlled by the Government, had not noted massive troop movement in the areas under discussion.  In addition, he pointed out that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had been notified that all facilities in Crimea were working in compliance with the Agency’s regulations.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia) said the maintenance of international peace and security was the fundamental mandate of the Council, which had the responsibility to ensure that decisions were coherent in light of changing needs.  An integrated approach required focus on the main causes and multipliers of conflict.  Nuclear proliferation, climate change, water scarcity and cyberspace attacks required flexible diplomacy.  Prevention and peacebuilding should be the Council’s priority in the maintenance of peace.  Expeditious and bold solutions were required to ensure that the Organization could prevent conflicts.  Reform of the peace and security pillar would make it possible to adapt the United Nations to present day crises.  The Organization’s activities in Colombia were a clear example of building peace, and the success of the peace process in his country was based on a comprehensive approach, including gender equality. 

GEORG HELMUT ERNST SPARBER (Liechtenstein) said that a comprehensive approach to peace and security included rule of law, fundamental rights and freedoms as well as sustainable development.  Implementation gaps in development commitments and disregard of human rights obligations were important early warning signals, he said, adding that contemporary security challenges tended to be complex, requiring tailor‑made, context‑specific solutions.  Stressing the importance of accountability in ensuring lasting peace, he added that transitional justice contributed to deterrence and allowed traumatized communities to come back together and move forward.  Noting the Council’s “half‑hearted engagement” with the International Criminal Court, he welcomed the Court’s announcement of investigations into various crimes in Libya.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that conflicts continued to rage around the world and the longstanding internationally recognized disputes regarding Palestine, as well as Jammu and Kashmir, continued to fester.  The Palestinian and Kashmiri people continued to suffer horrific human rights violations at the hands of occupying forces, while the world continued to watch without responding to those egregious situations.  The drivers of such challenges, including political and economic injustice and terrorism and violent extremism, must be addressed.  What was needed was a shift from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention.  There was obviously no one‑size‑fits‑all solution to conflict prevention and mitigation.  Moving a country towards durable peace began with a clear understanding of the sources and nature of conflicts, she said.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary) said that “comprehensive”, “integrated” and “holistic” were not just buzzwords, but real calls for action and anchors for the work of the United Nations.  The only way to achieve and preserve peace was through dialogue, she said, expressing appreciation for the Secretary‑General’s dedication to start a surge in diplomacy.  Preventive processes should include intercultural and interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, hand in hand with moderate religious and community leaders and faith‑based organizations.  Further, there was no sustainable peace without respecting human rights and international humanitarian law.

JÜRG LAUBER (Switzerland) said the United Nations framework for conflict prevention was in the DNA of the 2030 Agenda and in resolutions on sustaining peace adopted by the Council and the General Assembly.  It was also anchored in the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda.  Further, the implementation of the Paris Agreement was a significant preventative step as it acknowledged the strong links between climate change and peace and security.  As respect for human rights was also key to conflict prevention, his country had launched the “Appeal of June 13” to enhance systematic cooperation within the United Nations system on human rights issues.  The appeal specifically called for intensified cooperation between the Council and human rights organs of the United Nations with a view to strengthen conflict prevention.  He also highlighted that many grievances started around issues of perceived or real exclusion and injustice; they deserved greater attention.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said all pillars of the United Nations were facing tremendous challenges.   No single State possessed the capacity to take on the challenges alone.  The United Nations was in acute need of substantial reform to confront the challenges faced.  A primary objective was to increase the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations while prioritizing political solutions.  Crisis prevention was essential, as well as preventing the relapse of crises in post‑conflict situations.  The Secretary‑General’s “surge in peace diplomacy” initiative and his reform of the prevention pillar had underscored their importance, he said, noting that his country was a co‑chair of the Group of Friends of Mediation.  The Council had failed many times to show timely and adequate responses to emerging crises.  Often, inaction was the result of the use, or the threat, of veto.  That disabled the Council’s effectiveness.  He underlined the importance of more Council interaction with non‑Council members and other United Nations bodies.  More attention must be payed to tackling the root causes of the multiplier factors of conflicts, including terrorism, climate change, water, and human and drug trafficking. 

NIDA JAKUBONĖ (Lithuania), also speaking for Latvia and Estonia and associating herself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that the rise in military conflicts was outstripping the international community’s ability to cope.  Hybrid threats and cybersecurity were priority issues for the Baltic States, she emphasized, noting that concerns regarding the Russian Federation’s interference in national election processes were not limited to European countries alone.  Increased societal awareness, resilience building and media and information literacy could help tackle hybrid threats.  In 2007, Estonia had faced a series of cyberattacks, and Latvia and Lithuania had also experienced such politically motivated assaults.  To cope with the strikes, the public and private sectors, as well as civil society, must cooperate; regional and subregional cooperation was key to strengthening cybersecurity in critical infrastructure.  As hybrid and cyberthreats were here to stay, conventional security was not enough, she said, urging Member States to share best practices and lessons learned in tackling them.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said conflicts were increasingly being caused by environmental degradation due to climate change, adding that the international community must cooperate to implement major environmental agreements.  Backing the strengthened United Nations‑World Bank partnership, he added that the Nordic countries were supporters of the Green Climate Fund and initiatives focusing on African and small island developing States.  The Nordic countries promoted the women, peace and security agenda, he said, and inclusivity started with women.  The international community must make better use of the positive contributions of young people, however.  For every dollar invested in prevention, 17 dollars were saved in post‑conflict assistance, he said, urging States to place prevention at the core of the United Nations agenda.  Security Council reform should include seats for Africa; it was also crucial to ensure small States had the opportunity to serve as elected members.

STEPHEN MAHLABADISHAGO NTSOANE (South Africa) highlighted that the nature of conflict was not the one envisaged by the creators of the United Nations.  Indeed, present‑day conflicts largely centred on the internal strife of Member States and transnational threats.  Unfortunately, while the world had changed, the Council had largely remained the same.  Contemporary challenges had brought divisions within the Council to the forefront, especially among its permanent members.  At times, such paralysis had cost human lives, he said, citing the lack of meaningful action on the situation between Israel and Palestine, as well as divisions on Syria.  While incremental improvements had been made to the Council’s working methods, such advancements did not obviate the need for comprehensive reform.  A more representative Council would allow it to be more effective in dealing with complex, contemporary challenges.  He called for a Council with a stronger voice for those closest to crises, one marked by non‑discriminatory decision‑making and collective, rather than narrow, national security interests.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said that, in anticipating threats to international peace and security, the Council must have the security implications of climate change on its radar and firmly on its agenda.  In addition, it should also include a host of factors, such as the growing interconnectedness in the cyberworld.  Lasting peace in such a complex world could not be achieved through military means alone, but in combination with development policy and a strong focus on prevention.  For that purpose, resilience of societies must be strengthened; that often started with respect and promotion of human rights.  Given abhorrent violations, such as sexual violence used as a tactic of war, the Security Council must do more to integrate human rights into its deliberations.   Supporting the Secretary‑General’s reform to make the United Nations work better across institutional boundaries, he called for full use of existing arrangements, such as the advisory role of the Peacebuilding Commission.  Describing multisectoral assistance for integrated Sahel initiatives provided by his country, he stressed that in all areas, comprehensive action was needed to respond to current security challenges.  His country stood ready to assume its responsibilities in that regard, he pledged.

JEROEN STEFAN G. COOREMAN (Belgium) said that the challenges for international peace and security had to be looked at through an integrated approach.  A focus on environmental security should be an integral part of a global approach to security.  Environmental challenges had led to migratory pressures and had provoked conflicts.  For that reason, climate change and ecosystem change should be analysed within the context of security.  He voiced his support for the appointing of a special representative for environmental security.  Such a person could become part of the broader reform of the peace and security pillar.  Belgium would continue to actively participate in the discussion and would anchor the global approach in its national policies.  It had accorded priority to funding the general budget of the United Nations agencies so that they could pursue a global approach.  His country had also funded a number of humanitarian funds to help in cases of natural disasters, such as the hurricanes that recently hit the Caribbean region.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) pointed out that conflicts had increased threefold in recent years with an unprecedented number of people forcibly displaced.  In that regard, he strongly supported the Secretary‑General’s call for a surge in political diplomacy and conflict prevention.  Because an inability to tackle the root causes of disputes could cause and sustain conflict, it was encouraging that the United Nations was increasingly examining conflicts in a comprehensive manner.  It was vital that the Secretary‑General’s proposals to restructure the Organization’s peace and security pillar succeed so that its engagement with the peace continuum was more effective and nimble.  Furthermore, the Council must fully uphold the principles of international law, human rights law and humanitarian law.  It must be judicious and not dictated by any particular national perspectives.  That commitment was tested by the question of Palestine.  The Council’s inaction had had devastating consequences on the ground, making solutions more complex.  Moreover, the Council could not solve international peace and security challenges singlehandedly.  Better cooperation was needed with troop‑ and police‑contributing countries in that regard.

SYED AKBARUDDIN (India) said that a basic reordering of perspectives was needed, emphasizing the need to address sustainable development for all and reduce gross disparities.  The Council must put a greater focus on the globalization of terror networks.  Even on an issue as serious as designating terrorist individuals and entities, Council‑mandated sanctions committees had failed to make concrete progress.  A non‑representative Council, designed long ago to maintain a balance of power between rival States, was unable to handle challenges which had changed beyond recognition over the decades.  “An instrument that is no longer considered legitimate and has lost its credibility cannot be our hope for salvation,” he said, adding that “speech acts”, such as the current open debate, would have little impact on billions of people striving to live in peace, safety and security.

FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru), stressing the importance of the reform drive at the United Nations, said that the traditional threats to international peace and security had been compounded by new complex global challenges.  Foremost among the latter was the impact of climate change.  Migration, food and security could be affected by that, in turn breeding more transnational crimes and illicit trade.  Strengthening the international community’s commitment to multilateralism was key and broad consensus was necessary on sustaining peace through rule of law.  Instead of “burying our head in sand”, the international community must tackle the problems through a multidimensional and inclusive approach.  Expressing support for the reforms of the Secretary‑General, he said that those reforms would shape the United Nations into a coordinated and flexible body.

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union delegation, expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts and underscored the need to engage other stakeholders, including the private sector, in peacebuilding and sustainable development.  To break the conflict cycle, increasingly complex challenges required changing approaches.  That was not only a moral obligation, but a pragmatic imperative with huge economic advantages.  Last year, the European Union adopted a global strategy reiterating its commitment to a global order based on international law, which translated into an aspiration to address the root causes of conflict.  While addressing conflict early was necessary, staying the course was an even bigger challenge, she said, as relapsing back into conflict was common. 

Meanwhile, the Council should not shy away from examining new and emerging challenges to peace and security, including climate change, she said.  The Council must also use its unique role within the United Nations system to prevent climate change‑induced unrest.  Overall, she said its working methods must evolve.  By addressing situations earlier and in a more integrated manner, Member States could transform their approach to conflict and further empower the Council in fulfilling its core mandate.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) said that the interlinkage between security and development was complex and nuanced.  Poverty and inequality might exacerbate tensions in some scenarios, but did not necessarily endanger international peace and security.  Geopolitical rivalries, militaristic approaches and the unilateral use of force were more serious sources of regional and global insecurity.  While discussing the complex dynamics that affect contemporary conflicts, care should be taken to avoid misinterpretations and generalizations.  Successful peacekeeping operations demonstrated the potential for a constructive relationship between security and development.  The recent experience of the United Nations in Haiti was a positive example, where, for thirteen years, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) contributed to a more secure and stable environment and assisted in the implementation of hundreds of initiatives that fostered peace and development at the local level.

MANAL HASSAN RADWAN (Saudi Arabia) said that contemporary challenges were complicated and interlinked.  Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land and the violence perpetrated by the terrorist settlers were clear violations of international law and one of the main reasons for the armed conflicts in that region.  The international community must work tirelessly to help the Palestinian people regain their rights.  As well, approximately twenty‑four hours ago, the capital of her country, Riyadh, had become a victim of an attempted attack by a ballistic missile randomly fired from Yemeni territory.  What the rebel militias were doing with the backing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter.  Rivers of blood were flowing in Yemen, she said, and the Council must take deterrent measures to resolve the threat posed to peace and security by the militia and Iran.

HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), recalling that the United Nations was established to prevent the scourge of war, said that its founding document emphasized the glaringly obvious relationship between disarmament and development.  The 2030 Agenda had served to further highlight that link.  Calling on all relevant stakeholders to work together in a coordinated way, she said that there were a myriad of factors affecting peace and security, including climate change.  Also stressing the imperative need for the Council to refrain from mandate creep, she recalled that Article 99 of the Charter conferred on the Secretary‑General the role of alerting the Council to any threats to international peace and security.  The Secretary‑General must make use of the powers under that Article, she said, adding that gender‑mainstreaming had multiple benefits in peacebuilding.

MIRGUL MOLDOISAEVA (Kyrgyzstan), highlighting the Council’s important role in peacekeeping and humanitarian action, said increasing its effectiveness was only possible if members were unanimous in responding to emerging threats.  Also expressing support for the Secretary‑General’s reform initiatives, she added that those reforms would strengthen the international community’s ability to prevent and resolve conflicts.  It was necessary to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations and its bodies in order to confront the challenges to development, peace and security.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said that her country had adopted a global approach to international peace and security.  Challenges to peace and security required a positive approach, with dialogue not confrontation.  There was a need to strengthen a collective prevention of conflicts to achieve international peace and security.  Qatar had always participated in resolving conflicts peacefully, she said, welcoming the Secretary‑General’s aim to make conflict prevention into a priority.  She also welcomed regional consultations in sustaining peace in the Middle East.  The major complex challenges in that region represented a threat to international peace and security, and cooperation between countries in the Middle East and the international community was needed to eradicate those challenges.

TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said that the objective of ensuring a peaceful and prosperous world was hardly achievable if universally recognized fundamental values, norms, and principles were overtly disregarded or misinterpreted.  At a time of brutal armed conflicts and high levels of forced displacement, more concerted action was required at all levels to end conflicts and direct greater attention to preventing future conflicts.  Welcoming the General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution on restructuring the United Nations peace and security architecture, he said that States must comply with their international obligations, particularly those relating to respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and the inviolability of their borders.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) renewed his country’s deep conviction that development and human rights were linked to peace and security, and noted the vision of the Secretary‑General to work towards enhancing the main pillars of security, human rights and development.  Peace required complete harmony and a coordinated effort, and there was a need to enhance the relationships between the United Nations and regional organizations.  The problems faced were extremely complex, and the cooperation of others was needed to help solve them.  Underscoring the importance to hold regional dialogues in order to exchange expertise, he said that would lead to the continued involvement of regional organizations in the peaceful settlements of conflicts.

NGUYEN PHOUNG NGA (Viet Nam) said a human‑centred and whole‑pillar approach was urgently needed to implement a comprehensive and long‑term strategy on conflict prevention and sustaining peace.  Full use must be made of existing preventative diplomacy and mediation tools, and the United Nations should coordinate enhanced partnership with regional and subregional organizations.  Peacekeeping must be coupled with peacebuilding, she continued, emphasizing the need for Security Council unity in taking decisions and collective action.  As for the situation in the East Sea, or South China Sea, she called on all parties concerned to exercise self‑restraint and settle disputes peacefully in line with international law.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said the world was at a critical crossroad in the maintenance of peace and security.  Praising the priority the United Nations was giving to conflict prevention, he said it was necessary to find political solutions to disputes.  To do so, it was necessary to fix the fragmentation in the United Nations and enable it to wield its tools more effectively.  Supporting the Secretary‑General’s initiatives in that regard, he said the Organization must invest in peace and security “for every person in every country”.  Peacekeeping should be pursued in harmony with the other agendas of the United Nations, including the ones enshrined in “the holy triumvirate of peace and security, development and human rights”.  The threat or use of force was even more serious when it accompanied the dangers of weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons, he said, calling for a robust system of global governance.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, said the Security Council should, in a more systematic and targeted manner, deal with challenges in the areas of non‑traditional and cross‑border threats, including those concerning public health, exploitation of natural resources, climate change, poverty and forced displacement.  Both the Council and the General Assembly should take greater advantage of the work of the Peacebuilding Commission.  Preventing conflict was one of the Council’s most significant responsibilities; it should enhance its preventive and mitigating role.  Security sector reform, a priority area for Slovakia, should focus on genuine national ownership and effective partnerships, among other targets.

MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana), emphasizing the need to work across the United Nations system and noting efforts to reform the Organization’s peace and security architecture, said the Council’s capacity to play a preventative and mitigating role would be enhanced by a structured dialogue on the security implications of development‑related issues.  Much could also be gained through increased collaboration between the Council and regional and subregional organizations, such as the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  Noting that peacebuilding and sustaining peace went hand in hand with Sustainable Development Goal 16 [promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies], she said effective strategies across the United Nations system to support that objective would ultimately lead to the effective maintenance of global peace and security.

BELEN SAPAG MUÑOZ DE LA PEÑA (Chile) said a multidimensional approach was necessary to respond to threats, including non‑State and non‑military ones.  Recalling that in January 2015, her country had convened an open debate in the Council on inclusive development, she said there was widespread agreement that security and development were mutually reinforcing.  Underscoring the importance of inclusion, she noted that the design of the transition from MINUSTAH had contained a strong element of national ownership.  Further, it was important to raise awareness regarding the Arria Formula meetings and integrate subsidiary bodies and groups of experts in the work of the Council when designing missions and transitions.  The Council must also improve interaction with regional and subregional bodies.

OMAR CASTAÑEDA SOLARES (Guatemala) said that the United Nations had striven to resolve conflict since its founding through a series of measures, including the maintenance of peace and peacebuilding, as well as promoting recovery and rebuilding.  In all of the aforementioned activities, the Council had played a critical role whenever called upon to respond to various conflicts.  His country had experienced that directly through the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala.  The exit of peacekeeping or special political missions did not mean an end to the peace process.  In response to various collective appeals for an urgent change in the way in which peace instruments available to the United Nations were used, Guatemala was optimistic about the Secretary‑General’s plan to conduct an overhaul and review of those tools.  He remained convinced that prevention and mediation should be at the forefront of the Organization’s efforts on peace and security.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said the Council must deploy all the tools at its disposal to effectively deal with emerging threats, and the Organization must act as a whole, coordinated entity.  However, the burden for maintaining international peace and security could not be solely placed on the United Nations; regional bodies should play a critical role.  Because of their presence on the ground, such bodies were better placed to appreciate and address security challenges.  He welcomed the development of partnerships, including African Union‑European Union and African Union‑United Nations joint efforts.  He also highlighted the role of subregional entities, citing Botswana’s experience with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which included structures tasked with addressing peace and security challenges and played a key role in preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution and management, among others.  He also noted States’ collective accountability for effective border management, which could help to reduce crime and insecurity.

LISE HUBERTA JOHANNA GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands), stressing the importance of an integrated approach and early action, said that the challenges of the twenty‑first century transcended borders.  Her country had learned, sometimes the hard way, of the connection between root causes and ensuing conflict.  However, it was not enough to formulate an integrated response to conflict; the Council should also devote attention to preventing conflicts.  While the Council’s involvement with the situation in Gambia earlier in 2017 had proved timely and successful, a clear focal point was still lacking on the issue of climate and security.  Given the growing risk of climate change increasing tensions within and between nations, he underscored that it was important that there be an institutional home for the issue.

ONDINA BLOKAR DROBIČ (Slovenia) said the Council must better integrate peacekeeping with development and humanitarian efforts.  The United Nations and its Member States, regional organizations, non‑governmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society must all support fragile countries, especially by enhancing their societal resilience and security architecture.  Ending impunity for serious international crimes was equally crucial, she said, stressing the importance of effective cooperation with the International Criminal Court and calling upon States that had not yet done so to ratify the Rome Statute.  Turning to water scarcity, she recalled the work of the Global High‑level Panel on Water and Peace chaired by the former President of Slovenia.  Regional cooperation was also vital to avoid water becoming a cause of conflict or amplifying risk, she pointed out, citing successful practices in the Western Balkans region, for example, in the Sava River basin, which could serve as a model for water‑related cooperation.

MARIA THEOFILI (Greece) said that a priority in tackling growing global insecurity should be taking a holistic approach to address the drivers of conflict and to focus on both prevention and long‑term stability.  Greece, considering itself a pillar of stability in a region that bordered on the Middle East and North Africa, had hosted international conferences that had aimed at promoting tolerance, pluralism and dialogue among civilizations.  It also engaged in bilateral programmes that utilized country synergies and joint activities in culture and other constructive areas, such as trade and research.  Greece had also established mechanisms of cooperation with countries in the Balkans.  As it was on the front line of migration issues, it advocated for the streamlining of migration governance that made use of existing forums and promoting global partnership.  Affirming the importance of addressing climate change as well, she pledged her country’s support to the Organization’s efforts to address all factors involved with international peace and security to shape a more peaceful world for the future.

ZOHRAB MNATSAKANYAN (Armenia) said that terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality or civilization, but at the same time, called for the acknowledgement of evidence of extremists and terrorists targeting specific communities based on religion or ethnicity.  He called for addressing the suffering of Yazidis, Christians and other minorities, and the indiscriminate attacks and forced displacement of ethnic Armenians from certain Syrian cities.  Armenia had been providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian population, sheltering approximately 22,000 refugees and implementing policies to facilitate housing, education, health care and other integration measures.  Turning to regional issues, he said the OSCE Minsk group co‑chair countries had in October reiterated a commitment to mediating a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno‑Karabakh conflict.  They had also welcomed the resumption of high‑level dialogue between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Geneva on 16 October and a meeting of their foreign ministers on 6 December.  Armenia remained fully committed to negotiations in that regard.

DAVID GREGORY YARDLEY (Australia) said addressing increasingly complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security required a change of approach.  Of particular importance was conflict prevention, sustainable peace, women’s participation in peacebuilding and United Nations reform.  All staff within the Organization must show leadership in embedding prevention approaches across all operations and programmes.  Furthermore, efforts to support peaceful societies must be inclusive, he said, citing evidence that meaningful participation of women in peace processes led to more durable outcomes.  In that regard, he acknowledged the practical steps taken in 2017 by the Department of Political Affairs, Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Peacebuilding Support Office.  Expressing strong support for the Secretary‑General’s ambitious reform efforts, he called for the Organization to prioritize prevention and inclusive peacebuilding.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said the growing number of conflicts and the resulting fallout required a review of the Organization’s response.  Indeed, the international community had not made great use of mediation and conflict tools, which were needed to achieve lasting peace.  He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda, which he hoped would result in a more transparent and cooperative approach.  For its part, Morocco was active in addressing the impact of climate change on peace, and the world was already witnessing its effects, including migration and the erosion of coasts.  Concerning the threat of terrorism to international peace and security, he said peacekeepers could not react robustly to threats if they remained “shackled” in their current mandates.  In that vein, he expressed support for the G5 Sahel joint force and called for its full logistical and financial support, noting that multidimensional missions often lacked needed resources to support their mandate.  At the same time, resolving conflict required partnership, he said, calling for the United Nations to take the lead in coordinating efforts.

HASSAN ABBAS (Lebanon) said the notion that conflicts had become more complex should not distract from addressing root causes, including foreign occupation and aggression.  Lebanon faced many challenges, including almost daily Israeli violations of its sovereignty and the presence of more than 1.2 million refugees from Syria.  Such challenges had contributed to a significant decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) growth, higher unemployment and poverty levels and an overstretched infrastructure.  The pioneering United Nations strategic framework, signed by the United Nations system and the Government in October 2016, recognized Lebanon’s multidimensional challenges, he said, emphasizing that the United Nations must follow a “whole of Lebanon” approach which leveraged and integrated the Organization’s diverse expertise, capacities and resources while supporting Lebanon along the path to sustainable development, as per the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal) said that studies had established the hazardous consequences of climate change on people as well as on the existence of small islands.  The security and economic implications of climate change could not be ignored.  That and other natural disasters would increase the number of environmental migrants in the coming decades.  It was the common responsibility of the United Nations membership to ensure secure futures for island‑dwellers and environmental migrants.  In Nepal, snowcaps were increasingly receding in the Himalayas.  As well, his country was experiencing pressure on food security and witnessing the extinction of some rare flora and fauna.  The Council could play an important role in addressing climate change simply by sending a message of its collective commitment.  The Council members that were also major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions must lead others by example, he said.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) recalled that, with resolution 2349 (2017), the Council had recognized that climate change had an adverse impact on security.  Now, the Council and the General Assembly must clearly articulate practical measures the Organization could take in response to climate change and other non‑traditional security threats.  Measures could include the Secretary‑General preparing regular periodic assessment reports to serve as an early warning mechanism.  Moreover, the Council and Assembly could also consider examining the feasibility of establishing a regular coordination mechanism through which all of the Organization’s principal bodies and relevant agencies could contribute to designing conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacekeeping operations.  Small States were the most vulnerable to non‑traditional and emerging security threats and it was necessary that small island developing States in particular had a seat at the Council.  However, over 72 years, only eight such States had served in that body, he recalled, expressing hope that his country would be elected for the 2019‑2020 term in order to represent those States and contribute to shaping decisions affecting the smallest members of the international system.

SAMUELU LALONIU (Tuvalu), on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States, said that climate change was the most important security challenge facing the world today, as affirmed in a seminal report by the previous Secretary‑General.  The growing attention paid to the issue in this chamber gave hope, but dangerous impacts were already occurring, with the most vulnerable bearing the largest burdens.  On the small islands, there were record‑breaking droughts and storms and extreme heat and floods had displaced more people than many conflicts.

Climate change was not going away and the situation would continue to deteriorate even if the goals of the Paris Agreement were met, he said.  The changes could be abrupt and could severely affect many systems that were currently relied on for modern life.  For those reasons, the Secretary‑General should appoint a special representative on climate and security, who could produce a report, in cooperation with scientific bodies, that identified and analysed potentially dangerous tipping points at the nexus of climate and security and address concerns that the securitization of climate change would lead to more militarization.

JOSÉ ATAÍDE AMARAL (Portugal) said addressing both the new and old threats to global peace and security required, more than ever before, a multilateral approach that also involved tackling the root causes of conflict.  Complex contemporary challenges required continuous adaptation of mechanisms, better coordination and early action to address threats at all levels.  Affirming the importance of conflict prevention, he supported the Secretary‑General’s reform proposals in that context.  The integration of a gender‑balance perspective was also a priority, as was an ever‑strengthening relationship between the General Assembly, Security Council and the rest of the United Nations system, including through the Peacebuilding Commission.  Early Council consultations on situations of imminent risk and collective action were important to break the conflict cycle.  Portugal stood ready to fully contribute to those efforts.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said emerging challenges had the potential to further exacerbate protracted conflicts and create multiplier effects across borders.  Conflict prevention was, first and foremost, a national responsibility and the active participation of all segments of society was fundamental to mitigating the potential drivers of conflict.  Meanwhile, the United Nations had a critical role in facilitating and monitoring the implementation of internationally agreed commitments to support Member States.  However, the range of tools at its disposal needed to be deployed with sensitivity to the realities on the ground and in consultation with relevant national, civil society and humanitarian actors.  The failure to do so was evident in the “textbook case of ethnic cleansing” witnessed in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August, he said.  Furthermore, while the Council did not need to remain confined to a strict definition of its mandate, it should find ways to enhance its interface with other principal organs.

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

Despite Growing Awareness of Urgent Need to End Sexual Violence, Empower Women in Conflict Zones, Real Progress Seriously Lagging, Security Council Told

Speakers Urge More Funding for Gender Expertise in Peacebuilding, Prosecution

Normative frameworks had been established and global awareness of the urgency of ending sexual atrocities and empowering women in conflict situations was growing, but progress on the ground must be accelerated, speakers told the Security Council in an all-day debate today.

“The chorus of voices that are appalled by the persistent political marginalization of women in decision-making is speaking louder; the number of people who are determined to find new solutions to the human suffering caused by conflict is growing,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said in a briefing, ahead of over 85 speakers in the Council’s annual examination of progress and gaps in implementing resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  “But, that is just the beginning,” she declared, calling for redoubled efforts to empower and protect women throughout the United Nations system.

Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General; Michaëlle Jean, Secretary-General of the International Organisation of la Francophonie; and Charo Mina Rojas, a civil society representative from Colombia also briefed the Council.

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said that the women, peace and security agenda was now an essential pillar of global affairs.  However, all indicators showed a decline in women’s participation in peace processes around the world and in leadership positions in conflict zones, with some heartening exceptions, such as in the Colombia peace process.  Similarly, awareness and documentation of sexual violence in conflict zones had soared, while actual prevention of such violence and prosecution of perpetrators sorely lagged.  She urged greater funding for gender expertise and projects in conflict zones.

Ms. Viotti, introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on the subject (document S/2017/861), affirmed that women’s underrepresentation in the security sector increased their exposure to harm and undermined their potential in conflict prevention.  When the Council had visited the Lake Chad Basin, local leaders had emphasized the weak position of women as a root cause for the current crisis. 

She described plans of the Secretary-General to achieve gender parity in the United Nations, noting that only 3 per cent of peacekeepers were women.  Reform of the peace and security architecture would emphasize gender expertise, along with monitoring mechanisms targeting women marginalization.  Council and other Member States would also be encouraged to share best practices.

Ms. Rojas described provisions of the Colombian peace agreement that she said had become a new source of hope for women’s empowerment, inclusiveness and conflict settlement.  Ms. Jean, affirming a woefully low level of women’s participation in peacekeeping, described initiatives undertaken by la Francophonie to redress that situation and to ensure that women sat at negotiating tables in several African settings.  She called for increased support to women’s grass-roots organizations and other instruments that could increase women’s participation.

Following those briefings, Member States’ representatives at the ministerial and diplomatic levels agreed that while normative frameworks to empower and protect women in conflict situations had made steady progress since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), real progress in women’s meaningful engagement in all phases of peacebuilding and their protection from abuse and exploitation were seriously lagging.  Many speakers called for better ways to keep track of gender data to better monitor such progress.

Many countries described their national efforts to close the gap in their domestic policies, their international cooperation and their contributions to United Nations peacekeeping.  The representative of the United Kingdom stressed the importance of sharing specific actions and best practices undertaken by countries, after 17 years of slow progress.  In that vein, Senegal’s representative described regional efforts in West Africa, while Uruguay’s representative attested to the increased effectiveness of peacekeeping contingents deploying women.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noting that women in her country had been seriously affected by years of conflict, said that efforts to increase women’s participation in local levels of Government was paying out in the form of more effective peaceful conflict resolution in some provinces.  Kazakhstan’s representative said that women, along with youth, must be seen as a critical link in the security/development nexus.

Ending violence against women, ensuring accountability for perpetrators and ensuring zero tolerance for sexual exploitation by peacekeepers were seen as urgent priorities by all speakers.  In many situations, speakers said it was time to move past words and to action on the issue.  In that vein, the representative of Bangladesh said rape and sexual abuse of Rohingya women was being used as a tactic of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, and called for stronger action from the Council and the international community.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden recounted her recent trip to Afghanistan, as well as her experience as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  She said it was a mistake to view such violence as inevitable or impossible to prosecute and ensure that impunity was ended.  And to implement the full 1325 agenda, Member States must utilize the policy frameworks that have been put in place to actually empower women.  “The frameworks and tools are in place,” she said.  “It is up to us to make it happen.”

Also speaking today were the representatives of Ukraine, Bolivia, Italy, United States, Egypt, Ethiopia, Russian Federation, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Uruguay, France, Colombia, Germany, Guatemala, Panama (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Liechtenstein, Tunisia, Turkey (also on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia), Nepal, Slovenia, Canada (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security), Iran, Czech Republic, Norway, Jordan, Brazil, Mexico, Namibia, Belgium, Indonesia, Spain, Slovakia, Peru, Argentina, Morocco, Switzerland, Qatar, Lithuania, Israel, South Africa, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Albania, Hungary, Pakistan, Maldives, Netherlands, El Salvador, Chile, Jamaica, Iraq, Austria, Georgia, Botswana, India, Costa Rica, Romania, Philippines, Viet Nam, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Trinidad and Tobago, Rwanda, Portugal, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Ecuador, Nigeria, Djibouti and Azerbaijan, as well as the Holy See, State of Palestine, European Union and the African Union.

Also speaking were representatives of the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The meeting began at 10:19 a.m. and ended at 8:19 p.m.

Briefings

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary‑General, said there was a pressing need for more action to implement the women, peace and security agenda, with prevention as a core pillar.  Women were affected in negative ways by armed conflict and violence and comprised most of the victims of rape and human trafficking.  In urban warfare, they were at risk in houses and checkpoints.

She said women’s underrepresentation in the security sector increased their exposure to harm and undermined their potential in conflict prevention.  When the Council had visited the Lake Chad Basin, local leaders had emphasized the situation of women as a root cause for the current crisis.  Mentioning other examples, she said the Secretary‑General was committed to promoting gender equality and to fully integrating the voice of women in conflict prevention.  He had put forward a plan to achieve gender parity in the United Nations.

Noting that only 3 per cent of peacekeepers were women, the Secretary-General was working with troop- and police‑contributing countries to increase the number of female uniformed personnel.  The new Office of Counter‑Terrorism was integrating a gender perspective.  Reform of the peace and security architecture would emphasize gender expertise.  Monitoring mechanisms should include a focus on women marginalization.

Tackling the root causes of crises included tackling gender inequality, she said.  Gender indicators should therefore be strengthened.  Seventeen years after its adoption, implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000) was too often ad hoc.  She invited Council members and other Member States to share evidence and examples in order to examine gaps and successes.  She looked forward to working with Member States to ensure that women’s participation would strengthen the Organization’s peace efforts.

PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), welcoming the Secretary‑General’s latest report on women, peace and security, said that that report celebrated progress and development of good practices, but also brought into the spotlight several alarming trends and setbacks.  “The chorus of voices that are appalled by the persistent political marginalization of women in decision-making is speaking louder; the number of people who are determined to find new solutions to the human suffering caused by conflict is growing,” she stated.

Regarding progress, she noted the presence in the chamber of a Colombian activist who helped ensure that the peace agreement in that country mainstreamed gender equality, with more than 100 provisions for women’s participation.  Unfortunately, the Colombian situation was an exception, she said.  Indicators tracked by UN‑Women showed an overall decline in women’s participation in United Nations-led peace processes, inclusion of gender-sensitive provisions in peace agreements and consultation with women’s civil society organizations, in comparison with one year ago.  Recent peace talks on the Central African Republic did not include a single woman, she lamented.

Political marginalization, she added, was not limited to peace talks.  Only 17 countries had an elected woman head of State or Government, and the proportion of women parliamentarians in conflict and post‑conflict countries had stagnated at 16 per cent.  The use of quotas and temporary special measures would help, she stressed, pointing to Somalia and Mali, where representation of women surged when such measures were instituted.

Turning to sexual violence, she said that atrocities against women and girls in armed conflict were now the focus of attention and documentation, with extensive evidence of such crimes in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.  What was missing was consequences for perpetrators and justice, dignity and support for the survivors.  “This impunity cannot be allowed to continue,” she stated.

Noting the work of her organization and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) among many others, she said the international community was assisting hundreds of thousands of survivors of sexual crimes, but many more could not be reached due to lack of resources, access and security.  Conflict had also exacerbated extreme poverty, women’s responsibility for households, illiteracy, maternal mortality and child marriage in many areas.

Recalling testimony to the Council by one of the escaped Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria, she said there was still much to learn about the rehabilitation and reintegration of returnees and their children.  Regarding the work of the Council itself, she regretted that the participation of women in peacekeeping was still low and sexual exploitation by peacekeepers had not yet been stamped out.  It was encouraging to see, however, the reduction in allegations of such abuse in the Central African Republic, improvements in victims support and assistance and a culture of accountability taking hold. 

At the same time, she said it was dispiriting to see gender advisory expertise being lost due to budget cuts, while it was heartening to see that the Peacebuilding Fund exceeded its goals in funding targeted to women’s empowerment.  She called on donors to continue supporting that vital instrument, with its 15 per cent standard for gender funding adopted by all post-conflict actors.  With more resources, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, in addition, would be able to support women’s organizations in many more places.

She noted, in that regard, that women’s rights defenders were under attack and there was still not enough being done to protect them.  She applauded the Council for regularly inviting women from civil society organizations to brief on specific countries and called on all Member States to support that new practice.  She also welcomed the adoption of resolutions devoted solely to sexual exploitation, human trafficking and their intersection with violent extremism, as well as the work of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security.  “But this Council could do so much more to put its full political weight behind implementation of this agenda,” she stressed.

In order to build on progress, she urged the continued forming of alliances and coalitions, noting that regional rosters of women mediators had been established.  The African Women Leaders Network was an example of growing cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union on the issue. National focus points and action plans on women, peace and security had proliferated and projects aimed at preventing violent extremism had been spread over several regions.  There were also encouraging signs for gender justice in the international courts.

The women, peace and security agenda was now an essential pillar of global affairs, she said, adding “This is only the beginning.  The chorus of voices that are appalled by the persistent political marginalization of women in decision‑making is speaking louder,” along with those who are calling for an end to conflict‑related suffering, she stated.  “This agenda unites us because people from all over the world, every day, look up to the United Nations for peace, equality and inclusion”, she concluded.

CHARO MINA‑ROJAS, NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, said that Colombia had become a new source of hope thanks to the comprehensive peace agreement that had been reached.  Two provisions of that agreement were particularly progressive and could bring radical changes to future peace processes around the world.  The first was the explicit inclusion of a gender perspective as an international principle, while the second was the inclusion of the “Ethnic Chapter”, which provided important safeguards to ensure the protection and promotion of Indigenous and Afro‑descendant People’s rights from a gender, family and generational perspective.  The inclusion of those two specific principles was a historic advancement on peace and security that the United Nations and other countries experiencing violence and armed conflicts could learn from.  The peace accord was also important for civil society, and in that regard, the engagement and active participation of women, ethnic groups and their communities was anticipated.

She emphasized that Colombia risked wasting an opportunity for peace if it did not completely disarm itself and if the communities most impacted during the internal armed conflict, including women human rights leaders and activists, continued to be ignored in the implementation of the peace accord.  “I am here today to make visible their urgent calls and want to stress that for my people, it is actually a matter of life or death,” she warned.  Ensuring the ongoing participation of women, especially from diverse communities, in all areas related to the implementation of the peace accord, was of critical importance.  There was an urgent need for local women’s organizations and community leaders to be consulted and participate in the design of local protection strategies to keep communities safe.

There was also a need to guarantee women’s integral and collective security, she said, noting that the proliferation of weapons was fuelling increased fear and forced displacement among largely Indigenous and Afro‑descendent communities.  It was also negatively impacting women’s participation and mobility, and resulting in increased sexual and gender‑based violence.  Sexual and gender‑based violence and the stigmatization it caused, especially for Indigenous and Afro‑descendent women and their children, was a matter of integral and collective security.  “The silence around these crimes is as appalling as the crimes themselves,” she stressed.  It was also crucial that the framework put in place for the implementation of the peace accord include specific goals and indicators designed to measure the progress and outcomes of policies, programmes and reforms in a matter that corresponded to the needs, values and rights of Indigenous and Afro‑descendant Peoples.

MICHAELLE JEAN, Secretary‑General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, said 17 years ago it was agreed to underline the importance of women’s participation, on equal footing with men, in crisis prevention, mediation, peacebuilding, and maintenance and consolidation of peace and security.  Women had not waited for the adoption of the resolution, however.  In Liberia, for instance, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had stood up to the war lords and had mediated between the fighting parties.  In Bosnia and Herzegovina, women had always been among the first to seek reconciliation.  Turning to women’s activities in Rwanda and Mali, she said the Ouagadougou Agreement of April 2012 had been drafted by four women who initially had not been allowed to speak, but were finally allowed to sit at the negotiating table.  Women contributed to peace and security and it was a mistake to underestimate their ability.

“How many more resolutions, studies, high‑level meetings of independent groups and expert advisory groups are necessary to end this unacceptable figure of only 9 per cent women’s participation in some 30 major peace negotiations over the last 25 years?” she asked.  Participation of women had led to a 20 per cent greater chance of achieving a peace lasting two years and 35 per cent chance of a peace lasting 15 years.  More than lip service should be paid to ensuring that women were invited to participate in national dialogues.  Why wait to address the fact that only 3 per cent of women were in peacekeeping missions, she asked.  It was proven that the presence of women there would contribute to a better understanding of security forces and improve their credibility among the populations they served, she said, stressing that “Women inspire confidence”.  

She said the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie had invested in women as peacekeepers and had been active in encouraging participation of women in missions and training them.  The organisation underscored the importance of women’s participation to its member States.  The climate of impunity and the trampling of human rights also affected women.  Peace, stability and security furthermore depended on economic development.  More must be done to increase financing for women’s participation in peace and security.  Funding of grassroots women organisations should also be addressed.

More must be done to end impunity, she said.  Years and resolutions had gone by but had not been put into action in that regard.  Women were the first targets when the decision was made to annihilate a population.  The rape of women and girls had become a weapon of mass destruction.  Describing the horrors women had to undergo in several area, she underlined it was not only an African problem.  The horrors took place everywhere in the world.

Statements

IVANNA KLYANPUSH‑TSINTSADZE (Ukraine) said the meaningful inclusion of women was perhaps the greatest, but most under‑utilized tool for building peace.  Women played a prominent role in peacebuilding in Ukraine, with the President having appointed a woman to a position in charge of the peace process in the Donbas region and two women participating in Minsk working groups dealing with humanitarian and political issues.  However, so long as foreign aggression continued, peace and security for most women in occupied parts of Ukraine would remain almost unattainable.  They would continue to lack protection and live in fear, with almost no recourse to justice, remaining economically disadvantaged and living with limited freedoms.  The Security Council must give priority to the protection and participation pillars of women, peace and security agenda, she said, expressing regret that impunity for human rights violations and abuses committed in the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, not least regarding sexual violence, still prevailed.

MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, noted that she had travelled to today’s open debate directly from Afghanistan, where she met women and girls living amid conflict, struggling to make ends meet and keep their families safe whilst facing a constant risk of sexual violence.  “Oppression of women is a global disease,” she said, with the use of sexual violence as a weapon being the ultimate manifestation of that oppression.  Recalling her experience as the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, she said it was a mistake to view such violence as inevitable, unspeakable and a lesser crime.  A gender perspective must be incorporated in all aspects of peacebuilding, she said, underscoring the value of data and support for women’s organizations, but expressing concern that budget cuts and mainstreamed mandates could result in reduced gender expertise in United Nations missions.  Member States must seize the current momentum for women’s participation in peace processes and put women’s full enjoyment of their rights at the core of international peace and security.  “The frameworks and tools are in place,” she said. “It is up to us to make it happen.”

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that despite active annual discussions since 2000, year after year the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda fell short.  He encouraged all speakers to be specific, therefore, about what their countries were doing to advance it.  His country had worked in Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan to increase women’s participation in all sectors.  It had also directly addressed sexual violence and the resulting stigmas through a number of projects and was providing training on such issues for peacekeepers.  He urged a reversal in the decrease in gender expertise in the United Nations.  Women leadership had greatly expanded in the United Kingdom, but as more could be done an action plan had been launched, as well as a “gender compact” for missions.  He urged all to institute such a compact and mainstream the issues involved into all conflict‑related initiatives.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) also noted the challenges in implementing the agenda, which he said required international and regional cooperation, even though, he stressed, each country had unique challenges.  Those particularities should be studied closely so the right capacities could be built for all United Nations initiatives.  Empowerment of women must be built in both conflict countries and all societies.  His country had put in place legislation in favour of women’s empowerment, most notably requiring equal representation in elected assemblies.  The right to property and other economic empowerment of women had also been strengthened.  As severe inequality was a driver of conflict, his State was playing a strong role in distributing wealth.  He praised several countries that had also taken steps to strengthen women’s empowerment, along with reforms instituted by the Secretary-General.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) welcomed the international solidarity being exhibited on the issue.  He affirmed the necessity of empowering women in ensuring peaceful societies.  Unfortunately, inequality in all areas remained on the rise and women continued to suffer from it.  He expressed hope, however, that progress could be made both in policy and consciousness in advancing women’s empowerment.  Expertise and financing for that purpose was critical.  New international mechanisms were developing and that showed signs for hope.  In his region, there were more women officials in the African Union and the creation of a network of African women leaders.  He described several regional initiatives to empower women, including a framework within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  Adding that all international instruments had been integrated into his country’s policy frameworks, he stated that more than 100 Senegalese women were now deployed in peacekeeping operations.  Many challenges remained, however, and new kinds of gender‑based violence were emerging, particularly in the Sahel region.  Cooperation must therefore be strengthened to face them.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), noting that centrality of the women, peace and security agenda was increasingly recognized, said that nevertheless the voices of women at the grassroots level were still rarely heard and they continued to be exploited and abused in many situations.  He urged the United Nations to lead as an example and encourage Member States to share best practices.  He announced that a women’s mediation network, just founded on 26 October in Rome with Government backing, as a way for women to build regional capacity to address a host of issues that were causes of violence and inequality.  Describing other Italian projects, he encouraged further cooperation between the United Nations with regional organizations.  Women’s meaningful participation must be promoted, he stressed:  women’s participation was not just a matter of numbers.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said that as the role of women in maintaining peace and security was critical, one should move from rhetoric to action.  More women were needed in government and at the negotiating table.  Her country was fully committed to advance full implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000) she said, describing legal processes in that regard.  Noting that when women participated in peace processes, success was more sustainable, she said their full participation in the economy also bolstered prosperity for all, which was why her country supported women entrepreneurs.  She was disheartened to learn that the number of women participating in United Nations peace process had gone down.  Women were an under‑used resource in combating extremist violence, as they were a first line of defence against radicalization.  Women could play more vital roles in preventing terrorist ideologies taking root.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said the experience of the Council did prove that participation of women in peace processes made a difference in achieving peace.  He stressed the importance of women’s effective participation and providing funding for them in peace and security.  He stressed, however, that the scope of the agenda should be limited to countries in conflict and post conflict situations.  Concrete actions should be developed to increase the number of female “Blue Helmets”.  The suffering of women was exacerbated in conflict zones and areas under occupation.  He said his country had introduced an intensive training module on sexual and gender-based violence for the training of its peacekeepers.  The manual on the prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation, translated in English and French, was available to all troop‑contributing countries, he said.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) welcomed positive developments in advancing the women, peace and security agenda, particularly the focus on their participation in peace processes.  She was concerned, however, at the challenges posed by sexual and gender-based violence.  More needed to be done about sexual exploitation and abuse.  She said Africa had registered considerable progress in advancing the women, peace and security agenda, with national action plans adopted in many countries.  Gender policies adopted by the African Union and subregional organizations could provide a basis for facilitating the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda in Africa.  It was important to strengthen support for initiatives aimed at ensuring the participation of women in peace processes, mediation and election monitoring, she said, and encouraged a regional approach in advancing the agenda.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said that while progress had been achieved in advancing the role of women, their protection was lagging.  Women continued to be victim to violence, especially by terrorist groups.  It was important to focus on issues related to establishing national peace and security.  There were specialized agencies and organizations to address issues such as gender equality.  The way the topic was discussed in the Chamber strayed from the established criteria, he said, noting that it was inappropriate to use the Council to promote controversial approaches that did not have broad global support.  The primary role in defending women rested with Governments, while measures of the United Nations system and civil society should be aimed at supporting the efforts of States.  Turning to Ukraine’s statement, he noted, among other things, that responsibility of the suffering of women as described by that country’s representative lay with the authorities.  Terrible crimes against women had been committed by Ukrainian forces, he said.

SHEN BO (China) said that since adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), the international community had built a sound framework for fostering a greater role for women in peace and security, but protection of their rights in times of conflict should be strengthened.  It was therefore important to prevent conflict, he said, and the Council should encourage States to settle their disputes peacefully.  The international community should embrace the notion of peace for development and heed the voices and participation of women in all stages of peace processes.  Special intention should be paid to women as a vulnerable group and protect them from terrorists.  Protection of women in post conflict situations should be intensified by support for gender equality measures as well as by development support.  As the Council had adopted consensus resolutions, United Nations agencies and bodies should strengthen their coordination and cooperation within their competencies with other bodies and regional and subregional organizations.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that, 17 years after the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), the normative framework had still not been fully put into practice.  Some 100 countries had announced their commitment to promote the women, peace and security agenda in 2015, at which time Japan had pledged to steadily implement and monitor its related national action plan, increase its financial support to UN‑Women, as well as the Office of the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and invest in human resource development and the education of women in displacement.  Noting that his country had faithfully fulfilled those promises, he pointed out that it had recently become UN‑Women’s second‑largest contributor and was one of the top donors to the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict.  As 90 per cent of conflicts from 2000 to 2009 were relapses, women’s meaningful participation and leadership were critical, including in peace negotiations and peacekeeping missions.  Outlining Japan’s technical training efforts in those areas, he added that the United Nations system‑wide strategy on gender parity was also critical and its implementation must be ensured.

KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) said that the 1325 agenda should be seen as a valuable tool for making the entire peacekeeping architecture of the United Nations more effective.  The gap between the framework and women’s progress must be closed, with stronger collaboration between Department of Peacekeeping Operations and UN‑Women to increase women’s parity in peacekeeping and to build gender expertise for all operations.  Gender expertise in preventing violent extremism must also be utilized.  Each Member State and region must play its role, in addition.  His country had promoted strong pro‑women policies in its legislative framework and all areas of security and peacebuilding.  Prevention of gender-based violence was central.  Women, along with youth, must be seen as a critical link in the security/development nexus.  His country was working to meet the 15 per cent target in its funding for gender mainstreaming and was working internationally to promote the agenda.  He underlined, in addition, the importance of women’s civil society groups and the collection of clear data on the issue.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said that the women, peace and security agenda should be a priority of the Council on a permanent basis.  He welcomed a range of initiatives to advance that agenda, which was critical for the success of peacekeeping.  The issue was women’s ability to enjoy all their inalienable rights and hold their own futures in their own hands.  It was the responsibility of all nations to uphold those rights and the responsibility of civil society to hold States to account in that regard.  His country had been increasing women’s participation in its peacekeeping contingents, and it had accordingly seen the effectiveness of its contributions increase.  He called for strengthened efforts to end impunity for sexual violence, calling on the Council to refer cases to the courts and for augmented efforts to enforce zero tolerance for abuse by peacekeepers.  His country would work with all others to continue to advance the entire agenda.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, said conflicts could not be resolved by leaving half of humanity on the margins.  Women must not only be protected, but also fully involved in conflict prevention and resolution.  Their participation in political processes and conflict resolution and prevention remained insufficient, he said, noting that between 1992 and 2011, 4 per cent of peace agreement signatories and less than 10 per cent of peace negotiators were women.  Member States must take responsibility, elaborate national and regional plans and put them in place.  Gender‑based conflict analysis should be strengthened, including through an exchange of best practices.  He went on to review his country’s own efforts, noting that its 2015‑2018 national action plan for women, peace and security was built on five pillars:  participation, protection, fighting impunity, prevention and promotion of the women, peace and security agenda.  He also noted that women now accounted for 15 per cent of all French troops, a twofold increase since 1998.

Taking the floor for the second time, YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said it seemed like his Minister’s statement had been taken out of context.  Women made up almost one million internally displaced persons in his country, a direct consequence of Russian aggression.  If the Russian Federation wanted to help women in Ukraine, it should stop sending troops, weapons and ammunitions to Eastern Ukraine.  “Until that happens, Russia is in no position to lecture others,” he emphasized.  There were hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners in Russian captivity as well, and once out of captivity some of them carried on with life, sometimes even holding seats in Ukraine’s Parliament.

MARIA ANGELA HOLGUIN (Colombia) said her country remained committed to ensuring the full participation of women, despite facing major challenges to do so.  It had taken the necessary steps to implement resolution 1325 (2000), including by establishing a body that dealt with victims of armed conflict.  That group focused on offering women, especially those in rural communities, economic autonomy and decent working conditions.  The group was also working to break the violent cycle many women faced.  Women’s participation in peacebuilding was as critical as in achieving peace, she continued, noting women’s participation in her country’s judicial sector and other areas of Government.  She stressed the need to ensure accountability for sexual violence.  Lessons learned must be used to achieve advantage in other sectors as well.  Peace was not only about putting an end to war and violence.  Peace also required the unwavering support of States and the United Nations in working together to ensure the real participation of women.

CHANTAL SAFOU (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that her country had been afflicted with years of conflict that produced nefarious consequences, particularly for women and children.  She outlined efforts by her Government, which had adopted an action plan to collect statistic data from provinces on the living conditions of women.  The plan sought to achieve the participation of women at local levels of government.  Women were already contributing to the peaceful resolution of conflict in provinces. In addition to the action plan, her Government also signed a Joint Communiqué with the United Nations to fight sexual violence in conflict.  It had also adopted initiatives to prosecute perpetrators.  She also commended her Government’s decision to appoint women to high‑level positions in the army.

BÄRBEL KOFLER, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of Germany, associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said rhetoric about women’s participation in peace processes must be turned into action through practical initiatives.  In that regard, Germany was supporting the African Union in developing a network that would enable women leaders to exchange experiences, she said, adding that her country hoped to see more women‑led African Union‑United Nations solidarity missions.  International discussion on implementing the women, peace and security agenda must continue between the Council’s annual open debates, she added, noting the work of the Council’s informal expert group on the issue.  Better efforts could be made as well to connect implementation of the women, peace and security agenda with other initiatives, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

SANDRA ERICA JOVEL POLANCO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said a significant participation of women in peace processes strengthened protection efforts, accelerated economic recovery and led to sustainable peace.  Lasting peace could not be achieved without security for women and girls, she said, expressing particular concern over the use of sexual violence as an instrument of war.  National action plans to implement resolution 1325 (2000) were powerful tools for progress, she said, noting that her country adopted such a plan in July this year.  She went on underscore the important role of women in peacekeeping operations, adding that joint efforts must continue between Member States and the United Nations to support measures that increased women’s participation in peace processes.  “Inclusive processes should be the rule, not the exception,” she said.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, comprising of Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Thailand, South Africa, and her own country, called on Member States, the United Nations, regional and subregional organizations to support efforts to implement resolution 1325 (2000).  There was a need for greater recognition and support of women’s full and effective participation in all stages of conflict resolution and post‑conflict reconciliation processes, so that peace agreements could be more effective.  Women must play a key role in conflict prevention and resolution as well as in the construction and decision-making of sustainable peace processes.  She noted several developments since the 2016 debate on the same topic, including the Secretary‑General’s commitment to gender parity and the high‑level political forum’s review of the goal on gender equality.

She expressed concern about the impact of forced displacement on women and girls, emphasizing that addressing the matter called for the involvement of women in the design and implementation of humanitarian action and early recovery.  Greater efforts were needed to promote and respect the human rights of women and girls, as well as to strengthen all efforts to address gender‑based violence.  For too long sexual violence had been committed on a systematic and widespread scale as crimes against humanity.  “At an alarming rate women and girls are today targets of sexual and gender‑based violence,” she said, stressing the need to fight impunity and ensure accountability under national and international jurisdictions.  “We need to ensure that women’s and girl’s interests are fully respected and systematically integrated into peace processes,” she added.

Ms. OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said that despite some progress, “we are still very far from achieving the goals we have set ourselves”.  The data in the latest report of the Secretary‑General pointed to significant barriers in women’s meaningful participation in mediation processes.  “Root causes of conflicts cannot be fully addressed and societal traumas cannot be overcome when half of the population is excluded from peace processes,” she stressed.  Women often shouldered a large share of responsibility in communities during conflict and recovery, which made their participation even more important.  Their inclusion in mediation processes also contributed to their empowerment in line with the 2030 Agenda.  Noting that structural inequalities, poverty and discrimination often hindered women’s access to justice, she said that gender‑responsive legal systems were fundamental to building resilient societies.  While women and girls were particularly vulnerable to conflict‑related sexual violence, men and boys were also targeted.  A prevailing culture of silence often prevented male victims from speaking out.  “The most efficient protection against conflict‑related sexual violence is ensuring that it does not happen in the first place,” she stressed.

MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia) said the devastating impact of conflict on the most vulnerable citizens, including women and children was evident.  Despite the progress that had been achieved, women remained virtually absent in peace negotiations and institutions for peacebuilding, which hindered the process of conflict resolution.  He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s initiative to assess the quality of the participation of women in peace processes as part of the overall reform process.  He also underscored that a gender perspective was important for the implementation of measures aimed at combatting extremism and for the rehabilitation of women returning from conflict zones.  He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s efforts to achieve gender parity within the United Nations and recalled that Tunisia had adopted legislation in 1966 that served as a mechanism for the emancipation of women and the promotion of a society rooted in citizenship.  He pointed to Tunisia’s new Constitution and its provisions that guaranteed and preserved the rights of women, and acknowledged their key role in democracy‑building in the country.

FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), also speaking on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia, said that despite progress since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), daunting challenges remained, with women and girls still disproportionately affected by the impact of conflict.  Gender responsive humanitarian policies must be developed to ensure access to health, education and other basic services for women and girls.  Redoubled efforts must also be made to prevent women and girls from becoming victims of human trafficking in conflict and post‑conflict situations.  Meaningful progress on that front could only come through coordinated and consolidated measures, he said, emphasizing the importance of regional and international coordination and cooperation in a time when the causes and effects of conflicts easily spilled across borders.

SHANKER DAS BAIRAGI (Nepal) said that his country had made explicit efforts to localize its national action plan, including through the mandatory provision of 33 per cent women’s representation in “Local Peace Committees”.  Gender parity also helped ensure that peacekeeping missions were more compassionate and better at protecting the civilian population from sexual abuse.  In that context, Nepal was committed to attaining the goal of 15 per cent females in peacekeeping operations.  It had employed policies to encourage more females to join the national security forces.  In Nepal’s cases, women’s increased representation in legislative and Government bodies and State institutions since 2007 had directly contributed to fostering good governance and inclusive societies.  Nepal’s National Women’s Commission was now an independent and powerful constitutional body with a mandate to monitor and safeguard the rights and interests of women.  In recent local elections, women had secured nearly half of the leadership positions, he said.  Moreover, Nepal’s Constitution required that the President and Vice‑President must represent different sexes or communities.

DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union and the Human Security Network, said that her country’s first national action plan had demonstrated its implementation of the Council’s resolutions on women, peace and security, including through more than 20 projects carried out in collaboration with civil society.  She drew attention to several specific projects aimed at empowering women in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.  Further, Slovenia supported additional projects, including through the provision of funding.  On the national level, her country had pursued initiatives geared towards the systematic education and training of women serving in the Slovene armed forces.  She was pleased to note that Slovenia also contributed the first female Force Commander to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  The political participation of women in Slovenia was excellent, she highlighted, noting that half of the Government leadership was female, including the Minister of Defence and the Minister of the Interior.

MICHAEL GRANT (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that women’s participation had a positive impact on the credibility and durability of peace agreements.  It was essential to include gender considerations and the meaningful participation of women in early warning, mediation, and conflict-resolution effort, and a greater role for women in post‑conflict peacebuilding and economic recovery. He called for further implementation of the women, peace, and security agenda in United Nations peacekeeping, both in terms of women’s participation and gender expertise and mainstreaming into doctrine and all planning documents.  Women played an indispensable role in peacekeeping and their participation at all levels was key to the effectiveness of missions.

He expressed concern that cutting, downgrading, and under‑resourcing gender advisors and women protection advisors positions could cripple the ability of peace operations to fulfil critical tasks.  United Nations peacekeepers must not be part of the problem, he added, condemning cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations.  Despite progress much more needed to be done to tackle the scourge and ensure accountability.  To end impunity, perpetrators of sexual violence must be brought to justice, and victims and survivors must be assisted in a comprehensive manner to fully recover from those violations.  A gendered approach was essential to facing new and emerging challenges such as violent extremism.

Speaking in his national capacity, Mr. Grant said that Canada remained committed to finding opportunities to create and support gender transformative solutions to conflict.  “We will challenge narratives undermining women’s ability to contribute, lead and shape solutions,” he stressed.  Canada was taking concrete actions to advance the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.  It dedicated funds to local organizations that advanced women’s rights in both developing and fragile States.  Working to increase the proportion of Canadian women police officers deployed to peace operations, Canada had also been at the forefront of United Nations training initiatives aimed at increasing the number of female police officers deployed to peace operations.  Canada was also a strong advocate for the full implementation of the United Nations zero‑tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said that because of foreign intervention and occupation, as well the surge of violent extremism and terrorism, women and girls in many parts of the Middle East had witnessed the collapse of their hopes for a better future.  In many conflicts, women were the primary victims of large‑scale, often systematic sexual violence.  There were thousands of confirmed instances of sexual violence having been used as a tactic of terror in countries around the world, as terrorists sought to advance their military and ideological ends.  It would be foolish to assume that by physically removing Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da’esh (ISIL), their atrocities against civilians, including women and children, would cease.  The international community must redouble its fight against such a vicious ideology, and those who harboured it.  The world also could not fail to acknowledge that interventionist policies, occupation and regime‑change attempts served as a breeding ground for terrorist groups to grow and flourish.

JANA PŘIKRYLOVÁ (Czech Republic), associating herself with the European Union, expressed concern that national action plans to implement the women, peace and security agenda had only been adopted 68 Member States, and that most projects were small, short‑term and financed through limited resources.  Lack of financing was a key obstacle to implementation.  She expressed concern about the slow pace of integrating the agenda into relevant resolutions on peacekeeping activities.  Her country had adopted in January 2017 a national action plan which included concrete and measurable tasks.  In 2015, the Ministry of Defence adopted an action plan to implement Council resolution 1325 (2000) and the Czech Republic became the “lead nation” of a programme focused on training Jordanian female soldiers in explosive ordnance disposal.  Gender mainstreaming remained one of the main principles of the national transition promotion programme which supported democratic principles in transition countries.  Regarding development cooperation and aid, the Czech Republic implemented projects worth CZK 130 million in 2016 with a strong focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Despite that progress, women were underrepresented in decision-making positions and diplomatic posts.  In response, his Government adopted the Action Plan for Balanced Representation of Women and Men in Decision-making Positions for 2016 to 2018.  His country also supported several global gender activities through regular voluntary financial contributions.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, expressed concern about the decrease in women’s participation in mediation, requests for and inclusion of gender expertise and gender‑sensitivity in peace agreements.  He noted Thursday’s launch of the Global Women, Peace and Security Index, while calling for greater strategic and consistent implementation of targets.  He said women had become more influential in peace processes, including in Colombia, Syria, Yemen and the Philippines.  In that regard, he commended the efforts of UN‑Women, the Department for Political Affairs and special envoys.  He also noted the work of the Different Group of Friends, the Women Mediators Networks, the National Focal Points Initiative, national action plans of Nordic countries, as well as the NGO Working Group and the Global Solutions Exchange platform.  The international community’s approach to women, peace and security was often too generic, and lacked contextual analyses and points of action, however, the Security Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security was a step in the right direction.  On stereotyping, he stressed that men could be victims of sexual violence and that women could play a destructive role in conflict.  In terms of leadership, women were often ignored in mediation processes at the national and international level.  He welcomed the new handbook on the prevention and handling of sexual violence in conflict that was being developed for use in peace operations and the new gender parity strategy.  Noting the many best practices and positive developments currently under way in the United Nations system, he stated “our job is to ensure that best practices become mainstream practice”.

SIMA SAMI BAHOUS (Jordan), noting that her country would soon ratify its draft national plan on women, peace and security, emphasized its contribution of women police personnel to the former United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and its intention to also do so for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  She emphasized Jordan’s provision of basic services to Syrian refugees on its territory, 50 per cent of whom were female, as well as the need for the international community to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian women and girls living under the yoke of Israeli occupation, especially those in prison.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) said complex humanitarian crises shed light on the distress suffered by women and girls.  Attention must be paid to those belonging to the most vulnerable groups, he said, underscoring also the importance of raising the presence of women in peacekeeping operations.  It was unthinkable to deploy a peacekeeping mission without gender advisers or training Blue Helmets on prevention sexual exploitation and abuse.  Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s victim‑centred approach on sexual exploitation and abuse, he said Brazil hoped its national action plan would generate encouraging results and that the women, peace and security agenda would continue to prosper within the United Nations system.

Ms. JAQUEZ (Mexico), associating herself with the statement made by Turkey, said that when it came to sustainable peace, women were key to creating inclusive societies with a healthy social fabric.  Mexico supported the Secretary‑General’s findings in his report and applauded his commitment to integrating gender equality into conflict prevention, as well as his initiative to reform the United Nations.  Mexico fully supported the participation of women in all areas of public life given that gender equality and the empowerment of women were necessary for the achievement of peaceful, fair and equitable societies.  Her Government promoted the equitable representation of women in all sectors, and at all levels.  The Council’s resolution on women, peace and security had strengthened norms in that area although the resolution’s effective implementation remained a challenge.  The Secretary‑General must continue efforts to make the agenda a truly cross‑cutting one, particularly in relation to its other thematic work, she said, adding:  “Sustainable peace has a woman’s face”.

MARA MARINAKI, European Union, said promoting the women, peace and security agenda was essential in realizing the bloc’s shared ambitions of conflict prevention as well as sustainable peace and development.  The European Union had remained committed to substantially increasing women’s participation in all aspects of peace and security, including political participation and leadership.  It had progressed towards better gender balance in diplomatic services and field missions.  In external action, the European Union had continued to work for women’s full participation in conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding.  In Afghanistan, it had helped female members of the High Peace Council play an active, critical role in the peace agreement between the Government and Hizb‑e‑Islami.  The European Union had been supporting the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board of Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.  In Uganda, it had closely engaged with the Women Situation Room, a mechanism fully operated by and for women to contain elections‑related violence and enable women’s political participation.  More recently, the European Union had supported the training of Libyan women peace activists in negotiation and mediation skills.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), noting that the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) in his country fell under the national gender policy framework, said that it included the emerging issue of national disaster management — which resolution 1325 (2000) had overlooked.  Along with other measures, the national gender policy had ensured that Namibia deployed women to all peacekeeping missions.  It had, to date, one of the largest female police contingents in UNAMID, as well as another such contingent in Liberia.  The significant presence of women peacekeepers in conflict and post‑conflict areas had the added advantage of creating safer spaces for girls and women who had suffered sexual violence, he said, highlighting the ability of women peacekeepers to gain the trust of local populations.  Many challenges nevertheless remained in implementing resolution 1325 (2000), including lack of awareness, lack of political will, entrenched biases and cultural and traditional norms.  “We must encourage a culture in which both men and women believe it is vital to support the rise to positions of leadership by women,” he stressed.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said that concrete initiatives, including the promotion of the role of women within the Peacebuilding Commission and the incorporation of the gender perspective in new peacebuilding strategies was of critical importance.  The Secretary‑General’s report rightly mentioned the importance of technical capacity-building in gender equality.  That technical skill was also of great importance in peacebuilding operations, and in that context, when mandates were reviewed, contingent levels were adjusted or when a mission’s financial resources were reduced, it was essential that gender adviser posts were not affected.  The role of women in security sector reform was often underestimated, he said, emphasizing:  “Women are a force for peace”.

INA H. KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with the statement made by Turkey, said that notwithstanding resolution 1325 (2000) it would be unfortunate if the bravery and vision of women went unrealized.  The crucial role of women and family in preventing conflicts that might lead to radicalism and extremism must be acknowledged and fostered, she said, adding the enabling women’s participation in the economy supported peacebuilding.  It was important as well for the United Nations peacebuilding and peacekeeping mechanisms to be strengthened continuously.  Going forward, Indonesia aimed to increase the number of women it deployed on peacekeeping missions.  It was also sharing its best practices and experiences in empowering women in leadership through South-South and triangular cooperation.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) emphasized the need for leadership, a stronger institutional architecture and moving from the general to the specific in addressing women, peace and security.  Members of civil society should be invited to speak to the Council more often to describe the situation on the ground, and those responsible for sexual violence in conflict should be the potential subjects of Council sanctions.  He added that he would like to see a Latin American or Asian country host the 2020 meeting of capital‑level focal points on women, peace and security.  He went on to express his fear that, in the context of United Nations reform, the women, peace and security agenda would not be given the level of importance it deserved.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s vision of peacekeeping, as well as practical steps such as the convening of the Informal Experts Group and new initiatives on gender parity and conflict prevention.  Despite such efforts, critical challenges remained, from increasing the number of women at the highest levels of decision-making to ending impunity for gender-based violence.  Gender‑responsive and protective environments for women were still lacking and related efforts remained undervalued and underfunded.  The women, peace and security agenda needed accelerated attention, as did the critical areas of disarmament, creating greater space for women’s civil society organizations and stronger information and analysis on women, peace and security.  Describing a range of relevant national actions, he recalled that Slovakia was a Co‑Chair of the Group of Friends on Security Sector Reform — essential to post‑conflict peacebuilding and reconstruction — and underscored the importance of women’s equal and effective participation in all stages of those processes.

GUSTAVO MEZA‑CUADRA (Peru) said that despite some progress, there were still barriers to the effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.  Improving the access of women to significant leadership roles in peace efforts required the active participation of civil society organizations, particularly those led by women.  Peru had increased the number of women it contributed to the six peacekeeping missions it participated in and believed that the women, peace and security agenda must play a central role in the reform efforts currently underway, particularly with regard to gender equality in peacekeeping operations.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that his country shared the vision for the reform of the United Nations, with particular emphasis on prevention.  Achieving sustainable peace would be facilitated by increasing the presence of women in all stages of peace and reconciliation, not only as a question of equality, but as a question of effectiveness.  He underscored that resolution 1325 (2000) recognized the important role that women played in peace processes and that it was crucial to include gender provisions in peace and ceasefire agreements.  More equitable societies that respected women’s rights were more peaceful societies, he said.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), emphasizing that women’s participation in peace processes improved prospects for conflict resolution and sustainability, recalled that Morocco had hosted an international conference on women, peace and security in 2016 that focused on the role of women vis‑à‑vis mediation, de‑radicalization and best practices in addressing sexual violence in conflict.  Morocco was also home to a think tank dedicated to women, peace and security.  Women and girls had specific needs in post‑conflict stages in such areas as health care, land rights and employment, but they were frequently under‑represented in decision‑making, if not sidelined altogether.  Incorporating a gender approach was therefore imperative to ensure fair and sustainable development with both men and women sharing resources, opportunities and power, he said.

ALEXANDRA BAUMANN (Switzerland) said human security, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls were cornerstones of his country’s foreign policy.  The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs recently launched its first comprehensive strategy on gender equality and women’s rights.  Gender equality was key to the prevention of conflict and violence, including violent extremism.  Respecting women’s equal rights and inclusion in peace processes was “simply a must”.  In that regard, he called for States to fully promote the equality and effective participation of women in peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution, including through the engagement of civil society.  The women, peace and security agenda contributed to better results for sustainable peace.  To that end, he highlighted existing frameworks including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Universal Periodic Review and special mandates.  Switzerland supported an initiative to focus on implementing the Women’s Convention.  In closing, he stated that the engagement of men and boys in all transformative action was crucial and that women’s economic empowerment must receive greater attention in post-conflict recovery and State‑building.

ANNA FATA, Holy See, said that women were proven agents of change, although sadly, most of today’s conflicts resulted in them too often becoming targets and victims, rather than peacemakers and peacebuilders.  Women and girls disproportionately suffered the impact of violent conflicts, including being specifically targeted as objects of violence and abuse as a strategy of war.  Violent extremism and terrorism continued to use sexual violence as a terror tactic, although acts of violence against women and girls were not only perpetrated in conflict situations.  Member States had a fundamental responsibility to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including those related to sexual violence against women and girls.

AMARSANAA DARISUREN, Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE), said it was essential to include a gender perspective in all phases of conflict prevention, resolution and post‑conflict rehabilitation.  Unfortunately, formal political processes provided little access and space for women.  There was a clear need to increase the meaningful inclusion of women in all phases of the conflict cycle, particularly at the grass‑roots level.  She reviewed some examples of progress reached in the last year by OSCE, including the adoption of national action plans by 31 countries in its region and efforts to reinforce women’s leadership at national and local levels through mentoring, support networks and capacity development.  The OSCE was also working on gender‑inclusive mediation processes, while its politico-military bodies were incorporating a gender perspective in their respective agendas.  Its new “Leaders against Intolerance and Violent Extremism” project specifically included women’s community leaders and young women and men.  Emphasizing that “strong leadership is essential to achieve progress”, she said OSCE recognized that it had more to do to implement a sustained, systematic approach to improve women’s participation in peace processes.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) had recognized the significant role women in conflict prevention and post conflict mediation.  It was unfortunate that women and girls paid the highest price in conflicts because States and parties to conflict did not respect their obligations under international law.  As women needed to be empowered, there was also a need to facilitate their access to transitional justice mechanisms.  Underlining the importance of the role of females in combating against violent extremism, she said her country had taken several initiatives on the national and international level to strengthen the role of women.  The participation of women in decision making within the United Nations would allow for the further implementation of resolution 1325 2000), she said. 

AUDRA PLEPYTĖ (Lithuania), speaking also on behalf of Estonia and Latvia and aligning herself with the European Union, said empowerment of women and gender equality were fundamental to sustaining peace.  As the critical role of women in negotiations was often overlooked, she emphasized the importance of their participation in all negotiations and in peacebuilding, and urged for the gender perspective to be incorporated in all aspects of peace processes.  Implementation of the women, peace and security agenda required comprehensive measures, including recognizing the role of civil society.  Justice still faced inequalities, she said, emphasizing that the perpetrators of crimes against women and girls needed to be prosecuted and that victims received compensation.

NELLY SHILOH (Israel) said that women’s participation in peace processes was not just good for women, it was critical for the success and sustainability of resulting agreements.  She cited the experience of Colombia and Liberia in that regard.  A conducive environment to increase the number of women peacekeepers must be established, she added, pointing to the necessity for zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and harassment in peacekeeping missions.  Israel had introduced the first resolution on prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, in the Commission on the Status of Women, and was one of the first to include resolution 1325 in its national legislation.  Much still remained to be done, both nationally and internationally, and all efforts for further progress should be modelled on best practices that have already been proven successful.

JERRY MATJILA (South Africa) said the contribution of women and girls to peacebuilding processes remained undervalued and under‑resourced, leaving a vital tool for sustainable peace and transformative change underutilized.  Women in South Africa had been at the forefront of driving reform, as well as in developing and advancing legislation and policies which advanced the role of women in society.  He said his country provided training for African women mediators, while the South African Defence Force — 30 per cent of whose members were women — provided training to female peacekeepers.  He paid tribute to women’s organizations campaigning to abolish nuclear weapons, adding that South Africa continued to engage with civil society and academia to find ways to further empower women and remove obstacles to their participation in peacekeeping missions and mediation efforts.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said that her country had increased the number of women officers serving as staff officers and military observers in United Nations missions to 25 per cent.  She also commended the United Nations Department of Political Affairs for overseeing the substantial increase in gender expertise with the deployment of 25 gender advisers across 11 field missions.  Such efforts demonstrated that with dedicated funding and specific targets, it was possible to improve women’s participation.  All key actors must play a role in the implementation of the women in peace and security agenda.  That included civil society groups, which remained the greatest source of expertise on the ground.  She noted that Australia had founded the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund which supported women’s civil society organizations to contribute to conflict prevention, crisis response and peacebuilding.

CHO TAE‑YUL (Republic of Korea), associating himself with the statement made by Turkey, and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that despite progress achieved, there remained a wide gap between goals and the reality on the ground.  Civilians, particularly women and girls, continued to be caught up in armed conflicts in many parts of the world.  He stressed the need to continue in a more coordinated manner to prevent women from falling victim to violence.  “We should not tolerate any sexual exploitation or abuse committed by United Nations peacekeepers,” he stressed.  The goal of increasing women’s participation in peace efforts must be translated into concrete action.  It was important to ensure that the ongoing efforts to reform the United Nations peace and security architecture contributed to the women, peace and security agenda.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), convinced of the importance of participation of women in peace processes, said there was a need for broad‑based coherence on the international, regional and national level to implement the women, peace and security agenda.  There was also an absolute need for full partnership with civil society.  Ireland would embed the women, peace and security agenda in everything it did, in cooperation with UN‑Women.  The participation of women in peace processes had proved to be the smart way.  Her country funded non‑governmental organization who could make a difference, such as the Women at the Table in Nigeria.  Describing other support efforts, she said her country was drafting a second national action plan on the women, peace and security agenda.  She underlined the importance of synergies between the youth, peace and security agenda and the women, peace and security agenda.

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said his country’s long, drawn‑out conflict had resulted in many victims — orphans, war widows, single mothers and women‑headed households.  Addressing their immediate concerns and making them participants in all areas of peacebuilding had remained a priority in post‑conflict efforts.  Successful peacebuilding required gender equality and women’s empowerment, including economic empowerment, human security, human rights and development to mesh together.  It was also vital to engage domestic actors from the grass roots to the highest echelons of Government to ensure ownership of peacebuilding processes and guarantee long-term sustainability.  As Sri Lanka moved down the path of reconciliation and transformative justice, the Government had appointed an 11‑member task force of eminent persons to hold nationwide consultation on reconciliation measures.  The members of the task force were drawn entirely from civil society, including six women.

MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya) associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said last year his country launched its national action plan for the implementation of  Council resolution 1325 (2000).  Kenya was the top contributor of female officers to United Nations peacekeeping operations, providing 19 per cent of the total.  The national gender policy guided the integration of gender into all military operations, including for early warning and response systems to conflict.  His Government had established an international peace support training centre, launched a national campaign to address gender based violence, reviewed its national information and communications technology policy to include a gender dimension and established a toll‑free gender “helpline”.  Such efforts were complimented by various non‑state actors, including through training workshops to build gender and conflict sensitive reporting in the media.  Regarding relief and recovery, his Government had set guidelines in medical facilities, developed guidelines and standard operating procedures for psychological and forensic management, and built recovery centres.  In September 2016, Kenya also launched a national strategy to counter violent extremism which incorporated women into security and intelligence committees.  He noted several priority areas for national action, including gender issues relating to climate change, disarmament, radicalization and cybercrime, among others.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), aligning with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security , said that it was important to speak in the context of the women, peace and security agenda of what has been called ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar because rape and sexual violence had been used as a main tactic.  He cited the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to convey the horror that women were going through there.  All the right statements had already been made on the issue and it was time to move past words into action, he stressed.  The Security Council had condemned the violence, but must show its resolve through a strong and detailed resolution on what must be done next, and support for proposals submitted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the General Assembly.  His country would continue to pursue bilateral efforts with Myanmar, but the international community must accompany it in the process.

BESIANA KADARE (Albania), associating herself with the European Union, said that despite the international community’s commitments, the meaningful inclusion of women in conflict prevention and peace processes remained negligible.  Women continued to be sidelined during peace negotiations, and even when they were present, it was always the men who led and decided when and how to make peace.  Member States should strengthen their resolve in fully implementing the women, peace and security agenda.  While Albania had yet to adopt a national action plan on women, peace and security, it had mainstreamed gender across its security sector, with women making up 17 per cent of all military personnel and the State Police launching a women‑only recruitment campaign.  It also supported an Italian initiative to create a Mediterranean women mediators’ network, aimed at preventing and mitigating conflicts through the increased participation of women in peace processes, she said.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), associating herself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said that in conflict‑affected areas, women played a key role in ensuring family livelihoods and were active at the grass-roots level in peace movements.  They were also essential for countering extremist violence.  For effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, comprehensive cooperation was needed between Governments and civil society organizations.  Her country was deeply concerned about the use of violence against women human rights defenders.  Youth engagement was important as well.  Women’s increased participation in peacekeeping missions was highly important for the protection of civilians.  Her country was increasing the number of female experts and police officers in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) said conflicts and violence affecting women and girls disproportionally.  Exploitation of women and girls was an instrument employed to terrorize civilians. It was a tactic of war with mass rapes committed by parties to armed conflict.  Council resolution 1325 (2000) had institutionalized a new focus on women in conflict, moving them to the center of the political debate.  The Council should focus on root causes of conflict and the United Nations should play its role in enhancing cooperation to help secure women’s place at the negotiating table.  The international community should support countries to defend women’s rights and gender perspectives should be fully integrated into the peacebuilding paradigm.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said that women could change the world for the better, although for that to happen, Governments and international organizations such as the United Nations must provide the space for women to shape key decisions concerning national security.  The Maldives recognized women’s role in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding as part of the larger, holistic agenda for gender equality and women’s empowerment.  In that connection, he highlighted that the principles of equality and non-discrimination were at the heart of the Maldives’ Constitution and noted that his country had achieved gender parity in education and that women comprised over 60 per cent of the civil staff and 40 per cent of the judiciary.

LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) noted that, eight resolutions down the road, women were still not actively engaged in many peace processes and unrecognized as the powerful agents of peace they were.  If the United Nations truly wanted to practise what it preached, it must pressure parties to a peace process to include women and not allow it to become an afterthought.  It must integrate a women’s perspective and let the voice of women’s organizations on the ground be heard at mediation tables through their substantive participation.  If the Organization did that, there was a 35 per cent increase in probability of a peace agreement lasting more than 15 years.  To be implemented, resolution 1325 (2000) needed to be operationalized and funded.  The Netherlands was sadly one of just a handful that had financed its national action plan for implementing the resolution.  More funds should be available if the global community was serious in making gender equality a practical reality.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador) said that his country believed that women’s empowerment was important for both peace and development and had taken important steps forward in that regard.  It recently launched a national action plan on women, peace and security, accompanied by a national implementation committee.  He reiterated absolute commitment to ending violence against women and ending sexual exploitation and abuse in the context of peacekeeping.  He also highlighted the need to care for the victims of sexual violence.  Noting that El Salvador’s peacekeeping contingents included increasingly more women, he pledged his country’s continued efforts to empower and protect women, and to share lessons it had learned on the topic.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security and the Human Security Network, said his country’s current national action plan on women, peace and security put a strong emphasis on education and training of personnel.  Equal opportunities and women’s autonomy were key pillars of the President’s gender agenda, he said, adding that, at the international level, women were part of Chile’s contribution to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the United Nations Mission in Colombia.  He went on to emphasize that the presence of women in peace operations helped prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, expressed concern that the implementation of the agenda continued to fall short and therefore called for preventative measures to address the structural and root causes of gender inequality.  For its part, Jamaica had developed a national policy on gender quality, which was aligned with its development policy.  To that end, his country launched the HeForShe campaign created by UN‑Women and a national strategic action plan in 2017 to eliminate gender‑based violence by 2026.  He urged for effective mechanisms to ensure meaningful measurement of results, and said such devices should account for the cooperation and support needed to attain requisite results, including through predictable and sustainable financing.  Noting the role of young women in peacebuilding, he expressed support to the work being done pursuant to resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace and security.  He also endorsed efforts to ensure women’s economic empowerment, their promotion in governance structures and access to justice and security.  Similarly, he expressed interest in addressing gender-specific effects of armed violence and gender responsive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) said his country sought to increase the participation of women in public life.  The new Constitution upheld the rights of women, guaranteeing their right to health insurance and living in freedom.  All were equal before the law regardless of gender or religion.  Noting that the number of women in leadership positions had increased, he described measures his Government had taken to support that, including a quota that women hold 25 per cent of all seats in the Chamber of Representatives.  Iraq’s capital had a female mayor.  His Government worked with the gender unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to enhance the role of women in national reconciliation.  He said Iraq had suffered from attacks of the terrorist group ISIL, noting the crimes against Yazidi women and other women who had been sold as slaves.  The international community must double efforts to assist Iraq in freeing and rehabilitating those women.  Members of ISIL must be held accountable for their crimes in Iraq including crimes against humanity. 

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria) associated himself with the European Union, the Human Security Network and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security.  Regarding the implementation of the agenda, regional organizations had a crucial role to play in translating political commitments into concrete action on the ground, he said.  Based on findings of one such regional body, OSCE, it was clear that sustainable solutions to conflict were not possible without the participation of women.  Also, gender‑responsive journalism and the protection of female journalists could transform gender stereotypes, promote women’s empowerment and raise positive awareness.

ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, welcomed the Secretary‑General’s recent report that underlined the crucial role of women in peace and decision-making processes and said it was evident that the sustainability of peace depended directly on women’s engagement in peace processes, politics, governance, institution-building, the rule of law, the security sector and economic recovery.  As an illustration of its commitment to gender equality, Georgia had ratified the Istanbul Convention and created an Inter‑Agency Commission for Gender Equality and Ending Violence against Women and Girls.  Strengthening protection measures on violence against women and women’s empowerment was particularly concerning to her country as such measures related to the occupied regions of Georgia, where women continued to suffer from grave violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, highlighted its efforts with regard to women, peace and security, including the adoption of a 2017‑2019 national action plan that aimed to ensure protection for women and girls, both domestically and in the face of the Israeli occupation; ensuring accountability through national and international mechanisms, with a particular focus on crimes and violations committed by the occupation, and further women’s political participation.  However, much work remained to be done, he said, noting that women’s organizations had been unfairly absent from national reconciliation talks despite being among the strongest advocates of reconciliation.  Palestine was ready to do its part to advance women’s rights and their role in peace and security, he said, but enjoyment of those rights necessitated ending the Israeli occupation.

CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana) noted that the United Nations had made great strides in the promotion of the women, peace and security agenda through the establishment of UN-Women, which amplified women’s voices and created momentum for their leadership on peace and security.  Through such initiatives, thousands of women and girls had been helped in various countries around the world, although, regrettably, they continued to bear the brunt of armed conflicts, domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape and humanitarian crises.  The international community must address the social norms that perpetuated sexual violence and abuse against women, and promote respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.  He called for States to take practical steps to address obstacles in women’s access to justice, including by creating an enabling environment where women could easily report incidents of violence without fear or intimidation.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said that the world had seen extreme brutality being inflicted upon women, with sexual violence increasingly used a tool of war.  The heinous crimes against humanity perpetrated by terror networks, especially against women and girls, were a stark reminder of the serious challenges that needed to be overcome.  The increased institutionalized involvement of women in peacekeeping and conflict resolution was important to address that challenge.  He highlighted the work done by the Commission on the Status on Women in pushing ahead the gender empowerment agenda.  India, as a lead troop contributor over the past seven decades, was committed to fulfilling the pledge to have women comprise 15 per cent of military observers by the end of the year.  India was also committed to providing another all‑female formed police unit.  Prosecution was essential for prevention, he said, adding that the international community had a key role in helping build adequate resources and capacities.

VERONICA GARCIA GUTIERREZ (Costa Rica), welcoming the importance that had been acquired by the women, peace and security agenda, said that it was also essential, however, to work for parity in gender representation among the leadership of peacekeeping missions.  It was vital to broaden the gender perspective in many areas of peacebuilding.  Condemning all sexual violence, she supported initiatives to ensure zero tolerance of sexual exploitation in peacekeeping and assistance for victims.  Addressing development issues and empowering women economically were also critical, as was ensuring that women were adequately represented in forums such as those for disarmament.

ION JINGA (Romania), aligning himself with the statement made by the European Union, said that it was clear that women were key in promoting peace and he welcomed United Nations initiatives in that regard.  However, there was much more to be done.  There was a need, notably, to increase the number of women in command posts.  Enumerating the Romanian women who had attained important positions in United Nations missions, he stated that scores more had participated in several peacekeeping contingents.  He also described events promoting women’s greater participation in peace processes that were sponsored and attended by his country.  Women’s enormous potential must be utilized.  His country would continue to work for their meaningful participation in all phases of peacemaking.

LOUISE SHARENE BAILEY, African Union, said the African Union Peace and Security Council had endorsed the creation of a Network of African women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (FemWise‑Africa) on 13 March.  FemWise‑Africa would be a potent tool to strengthen the role of women in conflict prevention and mediation efforts, and would provide a platform for advocacy, capacity-building and networking to further enhance the implementation of women’s inclusion in peacemaking in Africa.  The initiative would catalyse and mainstream the engagement of women in mediation in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.  The African Union Commission and UN‑Women, with the support of Germany, had launched the African Women Leaders Network.  The recently signed “Joint United Nations-African Union Framework on enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security” provided a new window of opportunity to strengthen the women, peace and security agenda.  She welcomed the establishment of the Secretary‑General’s High‑Level Advisory Board on Mediation and the appointment of three prominent African women leaders to it.  The African Union also cooperated with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict with an emphasis on ensuring women participation and of accountability for crimes of sexual violence.  She announced that on 31 October, the African Union Peace and Security Council would hold an open session on “The role of women in preventing and countering violent extremism in Africa”.

KRISZTIAN MESZAROS, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said empowering women led to more peaceful, just and inclusive societies, was essential for conflict prevention and made peace more sustainable.  His organizations supported empowering women within the United Nations, armed forces, civilian structures and societies of allies and partners.  Within NATO, however, there had only been a small increase in female representation in armed forces of Member States — an average of 20 per cent in 2016, compared to 10.8 per cent in 2015.  Stressing that those figures needed improvement, he urged Member States to do their part.  On the leadership side, women held only 21 per cent of NATO civilian staff leadership positions, and 2 of its 3 female four‑star officers had left over the past year.  Adding that Member States should redress that imbalance, he said gender was a tool that contributed and added value to all of NATO’s objectives and core tasks.

DIOSITA T. ANDOT (Philippines) said that after the liberation of Marawi City from terrorist forces, her Government had been observing conflict‑sensitivity and peace promoting approaches with a particular focus on mainstreaming gender and observing cultural sensitivities.  In pursuit of the peace process with rebel groups, actions were taken to ensure the meaningful participation of women, especially the Moro and indigenous women.  The Philippine armed forces and police had formed an all‑female Civil Relations Company in Marawi to assist in rehabilitation of internally displaced persons.  Filipino women were included in peace panels that were negotiating and implementing peace agreements.  Women would play a pro‑active role in the rebuilding of relationships in their respective communities and eventually of Marawi as a whole.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam) said that, despite efforts and progress in implementing the women, peace and security agenda, women’s under-representation, gender inequality and discrimination persisted.  She called for the gender perspective to be mainstreamed in a consistent and comprehensive manner in all areas of peacebuilding and conflict prevention, adding that impunity must be ended to effectively combat and eliminate human rights violations, including conflict‑related sexual violence and abuse.  Together with women’s economic empowerment, education was crucial toward equipping women and girls with knowledge to better protect them from conflict‑related risks as well as to build their resilience against economic shocks, climate change and natural disasters.  Women were an essential driving force of her country’s economic and social development, making significant contributions to promoting and maintaining the environment of peace, security and stability.  As such, Viet Nam’s twelfth National Women’s Congress had set out objectives for the term 2017‑2022, including promoting women’s potential and creativity, improving their material and spiritual life and status, striving for equality and advancement and contributing to national construction and defence.

BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said that fulfilling the 1325 agenda helped attain several goals of the 2030 Agenda.  Women’s empowerment was crucial for sustaining peace and promoting development.  His country was committed to encouraging women’s participation in all national endeavours and held posts at all levels.  Calling for further efforts for women’s empowerment and inclusion in society around the world, he said that his country had enacted legislation to ensure an end to all forms of discrimination.  Women had been protected against violence both in domestic and public settings.  In order for the agenda to be comprehensively implemented, however, he pledged his country’s persistent efforts.  “Women’s participation must be at the top of our priorities,” he said.

SAOD RASHID AL MAZROUI (United Arab Emirates) said his country’s foreign assistance strategy included women’s protection and empowerment as one of its three key pillars.  In terms of global response, he said the United Arab Emirates recently announced a contribution of $15 million to support UN-Women’s critical work over the next three years, and in 2016, the Government had set up a Liaison Office in Abu Dhabi to advance gender quality and the empowerment of women and girls regionally.  His Government contributed to the Global Programme on Women, Peace and Security which furthered gender-sensitive research and data collection in relation to extremism.  Additionally, his country supported the Team of Experts in the development and implementation of an action plan on conflict-related sexual violence in Somalia, as well as the establishment of prevention and response mechanisms.

ZOHRAB MNATSAKANYAN (Armenia) said his country was committed to the reformative women, peace and security agenda.  National laws provided for equal rights for women.  The quota for women’s representation in Parliament had been raised to 25 per cent.  The number of female judges had reached 25 per cent.  Domestic procedures had been launched to combat violence against women and domestic violence.  Armenia’s national action plan for implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) would be launched in 2018.  The empowerment of women, and the women, peace and security agenda should not been seen as a separate agenda, but as a part of addressing root causes of conflict and violence.  Emphasis on protection of human rights remained a significant objective at the national and international levels.  Dialogue and confidence-building in conflict areas was an important aspect for his country, but endeavours in that regard were undermined by hate crimes and xenophobia against Armenians, instigated by a neighbouring State.

PENNELOPE BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), emphasizing that the rule of law was a fundamental safeguard in the advancement and protection of women’s rights, said the vulnerability of women and girls in situations of armed conflict — and in the case of her country, armed violence — continued to engage attention.  In that regard, the Arms Trade Treaty could contribute to reducing if not ending untold suffering, particularly among women and girls.  She recalled Trinidad and Tobago’s introduction in 2010 of the first-ever General Assembly resolution on women, disarmament, non‑proliferation and arms control, which complemented Council resolution 1325 (2000).  She added that, as a current member of the Executive Board of UN-Women, her country would continue to work with Member States towards the universal achievement of gender equality.

URUJENI BAKURAMUTSA (Rwanda) said unity and reconciliation, peacebuilding and sustainable outcomes were realized when women participated in peace and security.  Their contribution brought added value to the most critical issues, including protecting children’s rights, combating gender-based violence and promoting human rights.  When women’s rights and empowerment were impeded, collective society suffered, she said, recalling that during the genocide against the Tutsi in her country, rape and other forms of violence had been directed against women to degrade them and strip humanity from the larger community.  With armed conflicts and violent extremism continuing to prevail in many parts of the world — and with women and children bearing the brunt — the international community must empower women and promote their participation in the entire spectrum of peace processes, promotion of the rule of law, good governance and mediation, she said.

CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal), associating herself with the European Union, noted that more women were participating in peace talks nowadays, more peace agreements included provisions on their human rights, and more security sector personnel were being trained to prevent and properly respond to sexual and gender-based violence.  However, given the evolution of peace and security, and the nature of conflict since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), it was essential to build on progress already made and to demonstrate greater commitment to the women, peace and security agenda, she emphasized.  It contributed not only to peace, but also to the strengthening of protection efforts by United Nations peacekeepers, she said.  Portugal had adopted a national action plan, pledged to continue training programmes on gender equality and violence against women and girls for peacekeeping personnel, and supported the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

VIRACHI PLASAI (Thailand) said that, despite the importance of the women, peace and security agenda, the participation of women in all capacities remained quite low.  Noting the positive measures being taken to address that discrepancy, he said Thailand had adopted the National Measures and Guidelines on Women, Peace and Security in 2016.  It re-emphasized the significant role of women in addressing political and social conflicts, he said, adding that they could also play an important role in peacekeeping operations.  The Government was making efforts to increase their participation, he said, encouraging other Member States also to do more in that area.  The women, peace and security agenda must be mainstreamed across the spectrum of United Nations activities, he said, stressing that women should be regarded as agents of change.  The rhetoric used around their role in conflict situations must be more nuanced, he said, adding that women should also have an increased role in national and local politics.

MANAL HASSAN RADWAN (Saudi Arabia) affirmed that the 1325 agenda had become a major pillar of peacekeeping and development.  There was still much to be done to fully implement it, however.  Challenges to progress included occupation, particularly the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and the growing violence against civilians in conflict zones by non-State groups, as well as other actors in Syria.  Discrimination against women also played an adverse role.  In order to address such challenges, comprehensive efforts must be made to end occupation, sectarian discrimination and extreme discourse against Islam.  Her country was committed to the education and advancement of women.  Women had participated in politics and several leadership positions, and were key to development efforts.  Their achievements had been many.  That was based on women’s important role in Islam over history and addressing the root causes of women’s marginalization was a religious duty.  Based on current action plans, women would be able to participate in all walks of life in conformity with moderate Islam.

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) thanked all speakers who had noted his country’s progress in improving the lives of women.  There was still a lot of work to be done, however.  The full participation of women was not only desirable, but important for settling and preventing conflict in the country.  Terrorism and violent extremism had left the social fabric in shambles and women had borne the brunt of the damage and had been deprived of many rights.  At present, however, the Government was consolidating the gains of the past several years.  There was a firm resolve to fulfil international obligations, including those of treaties that Afghanistan was party to.  The country’s action plan on women, peace and security put women front and centre of national peacebuilding efforts across the country.   The plan committed women’s participation in civil service by significant numbers; thousands of women were serving in national security services right now.  Women were being supported to make progress in agriculture, health services and many other areas.  Describing institutional structures to ensure women’s rights, he said that the country had reached a new stage in empowering women.  The assistance of the international community was still crucial, however, and he looked forward to further collaboration in lifting Afghanistan’s women to new heights.

HELENA YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador) said women were at the same time victims of violence and builders of peace.  Reality underscored the need to work for gender equality, protection of the rights of women, and combatting all forms of sexual violence. Lasting peace could only be achieved if those issues were taken into account, she said.  Gender-based violence in conflict continued to be an unacceptable reality, which underscored the importance of ending impunity.  All efforts should be made to end sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping missions, as it undermined trust in the missions.  For changes to be become permanent, the process of inclusion must be continuous, which was a slow road.  In that regard, she underlined the importance of desegregation of statistical data to measure progress.  In conclusion, she noted that three Ecuadorian women were observers in peacekeeping operations.

EMMANUEL ADEMOLA OGUNNAIKE (Nigeria) said that filling the gaps in implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) required a multi-stakeholder approach involving actors at the global, regional, sub-regional and national levels.  Communities, civil society and individuals also had a crucial role to play, along with the United Nations.  Since national Governments had a primary responsibility to protect women’s safety and rights, the international community should support countries by providing constructive assistance, consistent with national priorities and focused on capacity-building.  Regional organizations played an important role, as well.  Consistent with subregional efforts, Nigeria launched a national action plan to fully implement resolution 1325 (2000), along with plans to combat violent extremism and improve the security sector.  It also was collaborating with countries in the region to fight the terrorist group known as Boko Haram, and had taken steps to address the humanitarian needs of the 2 million displaced persons in the north-east of the country, 80 per cent of whom were women.  The Government was working around the clock to ensure release of the remaining Chibok girls and other persons in Boko Haram captivity.

SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti) welcomed the important place that the empowerment of women occupied in the agenda of the Security Council and other bodies of the United Nations, helping to strengthen the link between peace and security, development and human rights.  Describing the harsh toll that conflict took on the lives of women, she said that much remained to be done to redress the situation, despite the progress that had been made.  Women’s participation in all areas of peacemaking was crucial in order to increase the effectiveness of all international and national efforts.  She commended the African Union for its efforts to integrate gender issues in its architecture and increase women’s participation in many areas.  Her country had carried out several national policies to empower women; the Constitution enshrined equal rights for women and women participated in many spheres.  The establishment of a gender observatory was currently under way to analyse women’s situation and to provide advice on policies for improving it.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said that, while gender gains had been made in the international framework, more must be done to address violations and crimes against women, among other things, in mass forced displacements.  Combating impunity was of critical importance in that regard.  She said it was curious that Armenia, which was responsible for the war against Azerbaijan and had carried out ethnic cleansing, had taken the floor to attack other States.  She said Armenian forces had attacked a town in Nagorno-Karabakh, killing many, including women and children, among other aggressions.  Atrocities committed by the Armenians included bayonetting pregnant women, scalping and beheadings.  The impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of those crimes aggravated the situation on the ground.  She assured the Council that her country would continue to achieve a settlement to the conflict based on international law.

News

Despite Growing Awareness of Urgent Need to End Sexual Violence, Empower Women in Conflict Zones, Real Progress Seriously Lagging, Security Council Told

Speakers Urge More Funding for Gender Expertise in Peacebuilding, Prosecution

Normative frameworks had been established and global awareness of the urgency of ending sexual atrocities and empowering women in conflict situations was growing, but progress on the ground must be accelerated, speakers told the Security Council in an all-day debate today.

“The chorus of voices that are appalled by the persistent political marginalization of women in decision-making is speaking louder; the number of people who are determined to find new solutions to the human suffering caused by conflict is growing,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said in a briefing, ahead of over 85 speakers in the Council’s annual examination of progress and gaps in implementing resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  “But, that is just the beginning,” she declared, calling for redoubled efforts to empower and protect women throughout the United Nations system.

Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General; Michaëlle Jean, Secretary-General of the International Organisation of la Francophonie; and Charo Mina Rojas, a civil society representative from Colombia also briefed the Council.

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said that the women, peace and security agenda was now an essential pillar of global affairs.  However, all indicators showed a decline in women’s participation in peace processes around the world and in leadership positions in conflict zones, with some heartening exceptions, such as in the Colombia peace process.  Similarly, awareness and documentation of sexual violence in conflict zones had soared, while actual prevention of such violence and prosecution of perpetrators sorely lagged.  She urged greater funding for gender expertise and projects in conflict zones.

Ms. Viotti, introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on the subject (document S/2017/861), affirmed that women’s underrepresentation in the security sector increased their exposure to harm and undermined their potential in conflict prevention.  When the Council had visited the Lake Chad Basin, local leaders had emphasized the weak position of women as a root cause for the current crisis. 

She described plans of the Secretary-General to achieve gender parity in the United Nations, noting that only 3 per cent of peacekeepers were women.  Reform of the peace and security architecture would emphasize gender expertise, along with monitoring mechanisms targeting women marginalization.  Council and other Member States would also be encouraged to share best practices.

Ms. Rojas described provisions of the Colombian peace agreement that she said had become a new source of hope for women’s empowerment, inclusiveness and conflict settlement.  Ms. Jean, affirming a woefully low level of women’s participation in peacekeeping, described initiatives undertaken by la Francophonie to redress that situation and to ensure that women sat at negotiating tables in several African settings.  She called for increased support to women’s grass-roots organizations and other instruments that could increase women’s participation.

Following those briefings, Member States’ representatives at the ministerial and diplomatic levels agreed that while normative frameworks to empower and protect women in conflict situations had made steady progress since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), real progress in women’s meaningful engagement in all phases of peacebuilding and their protection from abuse and exploitation were seriously lagging.  Many speakers called for better ways to keep track of gender data to better monitor such progress.

Many countries described their national efforts to close the gap in their domestic policies, their international cooperation and their contributions to United Nations peacekeeping.  The representative of the United Kingdom stressed the importance of sharing specific actions and best practices undertaken by countries, after 17 years of slow progress.  In that vein, Senegal’s representative described regional efforts in West Africa, while Uruguay’s representative attested to the increased effectiveness of peacekeeping contingents deploying women.

The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noting that women in her country had been seriously affected by years of conflict, said that efforts to increase women’s participation in local levels of Government was paying out in the form of more effective peaceful conflict resolution in some provinces.  Kazakhstan’s representative said that women, along with youth, must be seen as a critical link in the security/development nexus.

Ending violence against women, ensuring accountability for perpetrators and ensuring zero tolerance for sexual exploitation by peacekeepers were seen as urgent priorities by all speakers.  In many situations, speakers said it was time to move past words and to action on the issue.  In that vein, the representative of Bangladesh said rape and sexual abuse of Rohingya women was being used as a tactic of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, and called for stronger action from the Council and the international community.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden recounted her recent trip to Afghanistan, as well as her experience as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  She said it was a mistake to view such violence as inevitable or impossible to prosecute and ensure that impunity was ended.  And to implement the full 1325 agenda, Member States must utilize the policy frameworks that have been put in place to actually empower women.  “The frameworks and tools are in place,” she said.  “It is up to us to make it happen.”

Also speaking today were the representatives of Ukraine, Bolivia, Italy, United States, Egypt, Ethiopia, Russian Federation, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Uruguay, France, Colombia, Germany, Guatemala, Panama (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Liechtenstein, Tunisia, Turkey (also on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia), Nepal, Slovenia, Canada (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security), Iran, Czech Republic, Norway, Jordan, Brazil, Mexico, Namibia, Belgium, Indonesia, Spain, Slovakia, Peru, Argentina, Morocco, Switzerland, Qatar, Lithuania, Israel, South Africa, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Albania, Hungary, Pakistan, Maldives, Netherlands, El Salvador, Chile, Jamaica, Iraq, Austria, Georgia, Botswana, India, Costa Rica, Romania, Philippines, Viet Nam, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Trinidad and Tobago, Rwanda, Portugal, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Ecuador, Nigeria, Djibouti and Azerbaijan, as well as the Holy See, State of Palestine, European Union and the African Union.

Also speaking were representatives of the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The meeting began at 10:19 a.m. and ended at 8:19 p.m.

Briefings

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI, Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary‑General, said there was a pressing need for more action to implement the women, peace and security agenda, with prevention as a core pillar.  Women were affected in negative ways by armed conflict and violence and comprised most of the victims of rape and human trafficking.  In urban warfare, they were at risk in houses and checkpoints.

She said women’s underrepresentation in the security sector increased their exposure to harm and undermined their potential in conflict prevention.  When the Council had visited the Lake Chad Basin, local leaders had emphasized the situation of women as a root cause for the current crisis.  Mentioning other examples, she said the Secretary‑General was committed to promoting gender equality and to fully integrating the voice of women in conflict prevention.  He had put forward a plan to achieve gender parity in the United Nations.

Noting that only 3 per cent of peacekeepers were women, the Secretary-General was working with troop- and police‑contributing countries to increase the number of female uniformed personnel.  The new Office of Counter‑Terrorism was integrating a gender perspective.  Reform of the peace and security architecture would emphasize gender expertise.  Monitoring mechanisms should include a focus on women marginalization.

Tackling the root causes of crises included tackling gender inequality, she said.  Gender indicators should therefore be strengthened.  Seventeen years after its adoption, implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000) was too often ad hoc.  She invited Council members and other Member States to share evidence and examples in order to examine gaps and successes.  She looked forward to working with Member States to ensure that women’s participation would strengthen the Organization’s peace efforts.

PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women), welcoming the Secretary‑General’s latest report on women, peace and security, said that that report celebrated progress and development of good practices, but also brought into the spotlight several alarming trends and setbacks.  “The chorus of voices that are appalled by the persistent political marginalization of women in decision-making is speaking louder; the number of people who are determined to find new solutions to the human suffering caused by conflict is growing,” she stated.

Regarding progress, she noted the presence in the chamber of a Colombian activist who helped ensure that the peace agreement in that country mainstreamed gender equality, with more than 100 provisions for women’s participation.  Unfortunately, the Colombian situation was an exception, she said.  Indicators tracked by UN‑Women showed an overall decline in women’s participation in United Nations-led peace processes, inclusion of gender-sensitive provisions in peace agreements and consultation with women’s civil society organizations, in comparison with one year ago.  Recent peace talks on the Central African Republic did not include a single woman, she lamented.

Political marginalization, she added, was not limited to peace talks.  Only 17 countries had an elected woman head of State or Government, and the proportion of women parliamentarians in conflict and post‑conflict countries had stagnated at 16 per cent.  The use of quotas and temporary special measures would help, she stressed, pointing to Somalia and Mali, where representation of women surged when such measures were instituted.

Turning to sexual violence, she said that atrocities against women and girls in armed conflict were now the focus of attention and documentation, with extensive evidence of such crimes in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.  What was missing was consequences for perpetrators and justice, dignity and support for the survivors.  “This impunity cannot be allowed to continue,” she stated.

Noting the work of her organization and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) among many others, she said the international community was assisting hundreds of thousands of survivors of sexual crimes, but many more could not be reached due to lack of resources, access and security.  Conflict had also exacerbated extreme poverty, women’s responsibility for households, illiteracy, maternal mortality and child marriage in many areas.

Recalling testimony to the Council by one of the escaped Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria, she said there was still much to learn about the rehabilitation and reintegration of returnees and their children.  Regarding the work of the Council itself, she regretted that the participation of women in peacekeeping was still low and sexual exploitation by peacekeepers had not yet been stamped out.  It was encouraging to see, however, the reduction in allegations of such abuse in the Central African Republic, improvements in victims support and assistance and a culture of accountability taking hold. 

At the same time, she said it was dispiriting to see gender advisory expertise being lost due to budget cuts, while it was heartening to see that the Peacebuilding Fund exceeded its goals in funding targeted to women’s empowerment.  She called on donors to continue supporting that vital instrument, with its 15 per cent standard for gender funding adopted by all post-conflict actors.  With more resources, the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, in addition, would be able to support women’s organizations in many more places.

She noted, in that regard, that women’s rights defenders were under attack and there was still not enough being done to protect them.  She applauded the Council for regularly inviting women from civil society organizations to brief on specific countries and called on all Member States to support that new practice.  She also welcomed the adoption of resolutions devoted solely to sexual exploitation, human trafficking and their intersection with violent extremism, as well as the work of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security.  “But this Council could do so much more to put its full political weight behind implementation of this agenda,” she stressed.

In order to build on progress, she urged the continued forming of alliances and coalitions, noting that regional rosters of women mediators had been established.  The African Women Leaders Network was an example of growing cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union on the issue. National focus points and action plans on women, peace and security had proliferated and projects aimed at preventing violent extremism had been spread over several regions.  There were also encouraging signs for gender justice in the international courts.

The women, peace and security agenda was now an essential pillar of global affairs, she said, adding “This is only the beginning.  The chorus of voices that are appalled by the persistent political marginalization of women in decision‑making is speaking louder,” along with those who are calling for an end to conflict‑related suffering, she stated.  “This agenda unites us because people from all over the world, every day, look up to the United Nations for peace, equality and inclusion”, she concluded.

CHARO MINA‑ROJAS, NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, said that Colombia had become a new source of hope thanks to the comprehensive peace agreement that had been reached.  Two provisions of that agreement were particularly progressive and could bring radical changes to future peace processes around the world.  The first was the explicit inclusion of a gender perspective as an international principle, while the second was the inclusion of the “Ethnic Chapter”, which provided important safeguards to ensure the protection and promotion of Indigenous and Afro‑descendant People’s rights from a gender, family and generational perspective.  The inclusion of those two specific principles was a historic advancement on peace and security that the United Nations and other countries experiencing violence and armed conflicts could learn from.  The peace accord was also important for civil society, and in that regard, the engagement and active participation of women, ethnic groups and their communities was anticipated.

She emphasized that Colombia risked wasting an opportunity for peace if it did not completely disarm itself and if the communities most impacted during the internal armed conflict, including women human rights leaders and activists, continued to be ignored in the implementation of the peace accord.  “I am here today to make visible their urgent calls and want to stress that for my people, it is actually a matter of life or death,” she warned.  Ensuring the ongoing participation of women, especially from diverse communities, in all areas related to the implementation of the peace accord, was of critical importance.  There was an urgent need for local women’s organizations and community leaders to be consulted and participate in the design of local protection strategies to keep communities safe.

There was also a need to guarantee women’s integral and collective security, she said, noting that the proliferation of weapons was fuelling increased fear and forced displacement among largely Indigenous and Afro‑descendent communities.  It was also negatively impacting women’s participation and mobility, and resulting in increased sexual and gender‑based violence.  Sexual and gender‑based violence and the stigmatization it caused, especially for Indigenous and Afro‑descendent women and their children, was a matter of integral and collective security.  “The silence around these crimes is as appalling as the crimes themselves,” she stressed.  It was also crucial that the framework put in place for the implementation of the peace accord include specific goals and indicators designed to measure the progress and outcomes of policies, programmes and reforms in a matter that corresponded to the needs, values and rights of Indigenous and Afro‑descendant Peoples.

MICHAELLE JEAN, Secretary‑General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, said 17 years ago it was agreed to underline the importance of women’s participation, on equal footing with men, in crisis prevention, mediation, peacebuilding, and maintenance and consolidation of peace and security.  Women had not waited for the adoption of the resolution, however.  In Liberia, for instance, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had stood up to the war lords and had mediated between the fighting parties.  In Bosnia and Herzegovina, women had always been among the first to seek reconciliation.  Turning to women’s activities in Rwanda and Mali, she said the Ouagadougou Agreement of April 2012 had been drafted by four women who initially had not been allowed to speak, but were finally allowed to sit at the negotiating table.  Women contributed to peace and security and it was a mistake to underestimate their ability.

“How many more resolutions, studies, high‑level meetings of independent groups and expert advisory groups are necessary to end this unacceptable figure of only 9 per cent women’s participation in some 30 major peace negotiations over the last 25 years?” she asked.  Participation of women had led to a 20 per cent greater chance of achieving a peace lasting two years and 35 per cent chance of a peace lasting 15 years.  More than lip service should be paid to ensuring that women were invited to participate in national dialogues.  Why wait to address the fact that only 3 per cent of women were in peacekeeping missions, she asked.  It was proven that the presence of women there would contribute to a better understanding of security forces and improve their credibility among the populations they served, she said, stressing that “Women inspire confidence”.  

She said the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie had invested in women as peacekeepers and had been active in encouraging participation of women in missions and training them.  The organisation underscored the importance of women’s participation to its member States.  The climate of impunity and the trampling of human rights also affected women.  Peace, stability and security furthermore depended on economic development.  More must be done to increase financing for women’s participation in peace and security.  Funding of grassroots women organisations should also be addressed.

More must be done to end impunity, she said.  Years and resolutions had gone by but had not been put into action in that regard.  Women were the first targets when the decision was made to annihilate a population.  The rape of women and girls had become a weapon of mass destruction.  Describing the horrors women had to undergo in several area, she underlined it was not only an African problem.  The horrors took place everywhere in the world.

Statements

IVANNA KLYANPUSH‑TSINTSADZE (Ukraine) said the meaningful inclusion of women was perhaps the greatest, but most under‑utilized tool for building peace.  Women played a prominent role in peacebuilding in Ukraine, with the President having appointed a woman to a position in charge of the peace process in the Donbas region and two women participating in Minsk working groups dealing with humanitarian and political issues.  However, so long as foreign aggression continued, peace and security for most women in occupied parts of Ukraine would remain almost unattainable.  They would continue to lack protection and live in fear, with almost no recourse to justice, remaining economically disadvantaged and living with limited freedoms.  The Security Council must give priority to the protection and participation pillars of women, peace and security agenda, she said, expressing regret that impunity for human rights violations and abuses committed in the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, not least regarding sexual violence, still prevailed.

MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, noted that she had travelled to today’s open debate directly from Afghanistan, where she met women and girls living amid conflict, struggling to make ends meet and keep their families safe whilst facing a constant risk of sexual violence.  “Oppression of women is a global disease,” she said, with the use of sexual violence as a weapon being the ultimate manifestation of that oppression.  Recalling her experience as the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, she said it was a mistake to view such violence as inevitable, unspeakable and a lesser crime.  A gender perspective must be incorporated in all aspects of peacebuilding, she said, underscoring the value of data and support for women’s organizations, but expressing concern that budget cuts and mainstreamed mandates could result in reduced gender expertise in United Nations missions.  Member States must seize the current momentum for women’s participation in peace processes and put women’s full enjoyment of their rights at the core of international peace and security.  “The frameworks and tools are in place,” she said. “It is up to us to make it happen.”

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said that despite active annual discussions since 2000, year after year the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda fell short.  He encouraged all speakers to be specific, therefore, about what their countries were doing to advance it.  His country had worked in Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan to increase women’s participation in all sectors.  It had also directly addressed sexual violence and the resulting stigmas through a number of projects and was providing training on such issues for peacekeepers.  He urged a reversal in the decrease in gender expertise in the United Nations.  Women leadership had greatly expanded in the United Kingdom, but as more could be done an action plan had been launched, as well as a “gender compact” for missions.  He urged all to institute such a compact and mainstream the issues involved into all conflict‑related initiatives.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) also noted the challenges in implementing the agenda, which he said required international and regional cooperation, even though, he stressed, each country had unique challenges.  Those particularities should be studied closely so the right capacities could be built for all United Nations initiatives.  Empowerment of women must be built in both conflict countries and all societies.  His country had put in place legislation in favour of women’s empowerment, most notably requiring equal representation in elected assemblies.  The right to property and other economic empowerment of women had also been strengthened.  As severe inequality was a driver of conflict, his State was playing a strong role in distributing wealth.  He praised several countries that had also taken steps to strengthen women’s empowerment, along with reforms instituted by the Secretary-General.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) welcomed the international solidarity being exhibited on the issue.  He affirmed the necessity of empowering women in ensuring peaceful societies.  Unfortunately, inequality in all areas remained on the rise and women continued to suffer from it.  He expressed hope, however, that progress could be made both in policy and consciousness in advancing women’s empowerment.  Expertise and financing for that purpose was critical.  New international mechanisms were developing and that showed signs for hope.  In his region, there were more women officials in the African Union and the creation of a network of African women leaders.  He described several regional initiatives to empower women, including a framework within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  Adding that all international instruments had been integrated into his country’s policy frameworks, he stated that more than 100 Senegalese women were now deployed in peacekeeping operations.  Many challenges remained, however, and new kinds of gender‑based violence were emerging, particularly in the Sahel region.  Cooperation must therefore be strengthened to face them.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), noting that centrality of the women, peace and security agenda was increasingly recognized, said that nevertheless the voices of women at the grassroots level were still rarely heard and they continued to be exploited and abused in many situations.  He urged the United Nations to lead as an example and encourage Member States to share best practices.  He announced that a women’s mediation network, just founded on 26 October in Rome with Government backing, as a way for women to build regional capacity to address a host of issues that were causes of violence and inequality.  Describing other Italian projects, he encouraged further cooperation between the United Nations with regional organizations.  Women’s meaningful participation must be promoted, he stressed:  women’s participation was not just a matter of numbers.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said that as the role of women in maintaining peace and security was critical, one should move from rhetoric to action.  More women were needed in government and at the negotiating table.  Her country was fully committed to advance full implementation of Council resolution 1325 (2000) she said, describing legal processes in that regard.  Noting that when women participated in peace processes, success was more sustainable, she said their full participation in the economy also bolstered prosperity for all, which was why her country supported women entrepreneurs.  She was disheartened to learn that the number of women participating in United Nations peace process had gone down.  Women were an under‑used resource in combating extremist violence, as they were a first line of defence against radicalization.  Women could play more vital roles in preventing terrorist ideologies taking root.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said the experience of the Council did prove that participation of women in peace processes made a difference in achieving peace.  He stressed the importance of women’s effective participation and providing funding for them in peace and security.  He stressed, however, that the scope of the agenda should be limited to countries in conflict and post conflict situations.  Concrete actions should be developed to increase the number of female “Blue Helmets”.  The suffering of women was exacerbated in conflict zones and areas under occupation.  He said his country had introduced an intensive training module on sexual and gender-based violence for the training of its peacekeepers.  The manual on the prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation, translated in English and French, was available to all troop‑contributing countries, he said.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) welcomed positive developments in advancing the women, peace and security agenda, particularly the focus on their participation in peace processes.  She was concerned, however, at the challenges posed by sexual and gender-based violence.  More needed to be done about sexual exploitation and abuse.  She said Africa had registered considerable progress in advancing the women, peace and security agenda, with national action plans adopted in many countries.  Gender policies adopted by the African Union and subregional organizations could provide a basis for facilitating the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda in Africa.  It was important to strengthen support for initiatives aimed at ensuring the participation of women in peace processes, mediation and election monitoring, she said, and encouraged a regional approach in advancing the agenda.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said that while progress had been achieved in advancing the role of women, their protection was lagging.  Women continued to be victim to violence, especially by terrorist groups.  It was important to focus on issues related to establishing national peace and security.  There were specialized agencies and organizations to address issues such as gender equality.  The way the topic was discussed in the Chamber strayed from the established criteria, he said, noting that it was inappropriate to use the Council to promote controversial approaches that did not have broad global support.  The primary role in defending women rested with Governments, while measures of the United Nations system and civil society should be aimed at supporting the efforts of States.  Turning to Ukraine’s statement, he noted, among other things, that responsibility of the suffering of women as described by that country’s representative lay with the authorities.  Terrible crimes against women had been committed by Ukrainian forces, he said.

SHEN BO (China) said that since adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), the international community had built a sound framework for fostering a greater role for women in peace and security, but protection of their rights in times of conflict should be strengthened.  It was therefore important to prevent conflict, he said, and the Council should encourage States to settle their disputes peacefully.  The international community should embrace the notion of peace for development and heed the voices and participation of women in all stages of peace processes.  Special intention should be paid to women as a vulnerable group and protect them from terrorists.  Protection of women in post conflict situations should be intensified by support for gender equality measures as well as by development support.  As the Council had adopted consensus resolutions, United Nations agencies and bodies should strengthen their coordination and cooperation within their competencies with other bodies and regional and subregional organizations.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that, 17 years after the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), the normative framework had still not been fully put into practice.  Some 100 countries had announced their commitment to promote the women, peace and security agenda in 2015, at which time Japan had pledged to steadily implement and monitor its related national action plan, increase its financial support to UN‑Women, as well as the Office of the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and invest in human resource development and the education of women in displacement.  Noting that his country had faithfully fulfilled those promises, he pointed out that it had recently become UN‑Women’s second‑largest contributor and was one of the top donors to the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict.  As 90 per cent of conflicts from 2000 to 2009 were relapses, women’s meaningful participation and leadership were critical, including in peace negotiations and peacekeeping missions.  Outlining Japan’s technical training efforts in those areas, he added that the United Nations system‑wide strategy on gender parity was also critical and its implementation must be ensured.

KANAT TUMYSH (Kazakhstan) said that the 1325 agenda should be seen as a valuable tool for making the entire peacekeeping architecture of the United Nations more effective.  The gap between the framework and women’s progress must be closed, with stronger collaboration between Department of Peacekeeping Operations and UN‑Women to increase women’s parity in peacekeeping and to build gender expertise for all operations.  Gender expertise in preventing violent extremism must also be utilized.  Each Member State and region must play its role, in addition.  His country had promoted strong pro‑women policies in its legislative framework and all areas of security and peacebuilding.  Prevention of gender-based violence was central.  Women, along with youth, must be seen as a critical link in the security/development nexus.  His country was working to meet the 15 per cent target in its funding for gender mainstreaming and was working internationally to promote the agenda.  He underlined, in addition, the importance of women’s civil society groups and the collection of clear data on the issue.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said that the women, peace and security agenda should be a priority of the Council on a permanent basis.  He welcomed a range of initiatives to advance that agenda, which was critical for the success of peacekeeping.  The issue was women’s ability to enjoy all their inalienable rights and hold their own futures in their own hands.  It was the responsibility of all nations to uphold those rights and the responsibility of civil society to hold States to account in that regard.  His country had been increasing women’s participation in its peacekeeping contingents, and it had accordingly seen the effectiveness of its contributions increase.  He called for strengthened efforts to end impunity for sexual violence, calling on the Council to refer cases to the courts and for augmented efforts to enforce zero tolerance for abuse by peacekeepers.  His country would work with all others to continue to advance the entire agenda.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, said conflicts could not be resolved by leaving half of humanity on the margins.  Women must not only be protected, but also fully involved in conflict prevention and resolution.  Their participation in political processes and conflict resolution and prevention remained insufficient, he said, noting that between 1992 and 2011, 4 per cent of peace agreement signatories and less than 10 per cent of peace negotiators were women.  Member States must take responsibility, elaborate national and regional plans and put them in place.  Gender‑based conflict analysis should be strengthened, including through an exchange of best practices.  He went on to review his country’s own efforts, noting that its 2015‑2018 national action plan for women, peace and security was built on five pillars:  participation, protection, fighting impunity, prevention and promotion of the women, peace and security agenda.  He also noted that women now accounted for 15 per cent of all French troops, a twofold increase since 1998.

Taking the floor for the second time, YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said it seemed like his Minister’s statement had been taken out of context.  Women made up almost one million internally displaced persons in his country, a direct consequence of Russian aggression.  If the Russian Federation wanted to help women in Ukraine, it should stop sending troops, weapons and ammunitions to Eastern Ukraine.  “Until that happens, Russia is in no position to lecture others,” he emphasized.  There were hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners in Russian captivity as well, and once out of captivity some of them carried on with life, sometimes even holding seats in Ukraine’s Parliament.

MARIA ANGELA HOLGUIN (Colombia) said her country remained committed to ensuring the full participation of women, despite facing major challenges to do so.  It had taken the necessary steps to implement resolution 1325 (2000), including by establishing a body that dealt with victims of armed conflict.  That group focused on offering women, especially those in rural communities, economic autonomy and decent working conditions.  The group was also working to break the violent cycle many women faced.  Women’s participation in peacebuilding was as critical as in achieving peace, she continued, noting women’s participation in her country’s judicial sector and other areas of Government.  She stressed the need to ensure accountability for sexual violence.  Lessons learned must be used to achieve advantage in other sectors as well.  Peace was not only about putting an end to war and violence.  Peace also required the unwavering support of States and the United Nations in working together to ensure the real participation of women.

CHANTAL SAFOU (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that her country had been afflicted with years of conflict that produced nefarious consequences, particularly for women and children.  She outlined efforts by her Government, which had adopted an action plan to collect statistic data from provinces on the living conditions of women.  The plan sought to achieve the participation of women at local levels of government.  Women were already contributing to the peaceful resolution of conflict in provinces. In addition to the action plan, her Government also signed a Joint Communiqué with the United Nations to fight sexual violence in conflict.  It had also adopted initiatives to prosecute perpetrators.  She also commended her Government’s decision to appoint women to high‑level positions in the army.

BÄRBEL KOFLER, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of Germany, associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said rhetoric about women’s participation in peace processes must be turned into action through practical initiatives.  In that regard, Germany was supporting the African Union in developing a network that would enable women leaders to exchange experiences, she said, adding that her country hoped to see more women‑led African Union‑United Nations solidarity missions.  International discussion on implementing the women, peace and security agenda must continue between the Council’s annual open debates, she added, noting the work of the Council’s informal expert group on the issue.  Better efforts could be made as well to connect implementation of the women, peace and security agenda with other initiatives, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

SANDRA ERICA JOVEL POLANCO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said a significant participation of women in peace processes strengthened protection efforts, accelerated economic recovery and led to sustainable peace.  Lasting peace could not be achieved without security for women and girls, she said, expressing particular concern over the use of sexual violence as an instrument of war.  National action plans to implement resolution 1325 (2000) were powerful tools for progress, she said, noting that her country adopted such a plan in July this year.  She went on underscore the important role of women in peacekeeping operations, adding that joint efforts must continue between Member States and the United Nations to support measures that increased women’s participation in peace processes.  “Inclusive processes should be the rule, not the exception,” she said.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, comprising of Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Thailand, South Africa, and her own country, called on Member States, the United Nations, regional and subregional organizations to support efforts to implement resolution 1325 (2000).  There was a need for greater recognition and support of women’s full and effective participation in all stages of conflict resolution and post‑conflict reconciliation processes, so that peace agreements could be more effective.  Women must play a key role in conflict prevention and resolution as well as in the construction and decision-making of sustainable peace processes.  She noted several developments since the 2016 debate on the same topic, including the Secretary‑General’s commitment to gender parity and the high‑level political forum’s review of the goal on gender equality.

She expressed concern about the impact of forced displacement on women and girls, emphasizing that addressing the matter called for the involvement of women in the design and implementation of humanitarian action and early recovery.  Greater efforts were needed to promote and respect the human rights of women and girls, as well as to strengthen all efforts to address gender‑based violence.  For too long sexual violence had been committed on a systematic and widespread scale as crimes against humanity.  “At an alarming rate women and girls are today targets of sexual and gender‑based violence,” she said, stressing the need to fight impunity and ensure accountability under national and international jurisdictions.  “We need to ensure that women’s and girl’s interests are fully respected and systematically integrated into peace processes,” she added.

Ms. OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said that despite some progress, “we are still very far from achieving the goals we have set ourselves”.  The data in the latest report of the Secretary‑General pointed to significant barriers in women’s meaningful participation in mediation processes.  “Root causes of conflicts cannot be fully addressed and societal traumas cannot be overcome when half of the population is excluded from peace processes,” she stressed.  Women often shouldered a large share of responsibility in communities during conflict and recovery, which made their participation even more important.  Their inclusion in mediation processes also contributed to their empowerment in line with the 2030 Agenda.  Noting that structural inequalities, poverty and discrimination often hindered women’s access to justice, she said that gender‑responsive legal systems were fundamental to building resilient societies.  While women and girls were particularly vulnerable to conflict‑related sexual violence, men and boys were also targeted.  A prevailing culture of silence often prevented male victims from speaking out.  “The most efficient protection against conflict‑related sexual violence is ensuring that it does not happen in the first place,” she stressed.

MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia) said the devastating impact of conflict on the most vulnerable citizens, including women and children was evident.  Despite the progress that had been achieved, women remained virtually absent in peace negotiations and institutions for peacebuilding, which hindered the process of conflict resolution.  He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s initiative to assess the quality of the participation of women in peace processes as part of the overall reform process.  He also underscored that a gender perspective was important for the implementation of measures aimed at combatting extremism and for the rehabilitation of women returning from conflict zones.  He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s efforts to achieve gender parity within the United Nations and recalled that Tunisia had adopted legislation in 1966 that served as a mechanism for the emancipation of women and the promotion of a society rooted in citizenship.  He pointed to Tunisia’s new Constitution and its provisions that guaranteed and preserved the rights of women, and acknowledged their key role in democracy‑building in the country.

FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey), also speaking on behalf of Mexico, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Australia, said that despite progress since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), daunting challenges remained, with women and girls still disproportionately affected by the impact of conflict.  Gender responsive humanitarian policies must be developed to ensure access to health, education and other basic services for women and girls.  Redoubled efforts must also be made to prevent women and girls from becoming victims of human trafficking in conflict and post‑conflict situations.  Meaningful progress on that front could only come through coordinated and consolidated measures, he said, emphasizing the importance of regional and international coordination and cooperation in a time when the causes and effects of conflicts easily spilled across borders.

SHANKER DAS BAIRAGI (Nepal) said that his country had made explicit efforts to localize its national action plan, including through the mandatory provision of 33 per cent women’s representation in “Local Peace Committees”.  Gender parity also helped ensure that peacekeeping missions were more compassionate and better at protecting the civilian population from sexual abuse.  In that context, Nepal was committed to attaining the goal of 15 per cent females in peacekeeping operations.  It had employed policies to encourage more females to join the national security forces.  In Nepal’s cases, women’s increased representation in legislative and Government bodies and State institutions since 2007 had directly contributed to fostering good governance and inclusive societies.  Nepal’s National Women’s Commission was now an independent and powerful constitutional body with a mandate to monitor and safeguard the rights and interests of women.  In recent local elections, women had secured nearly half of the leadership positions, he said.  Moreover, Nepal’s Constitution required that the President and Vice‑President must represent different sexes or communities.

DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union and the Human Security Network, said that her country’s first national action plan had demonstrated its implementation of the Council’s resolutions on women, peace and security, including through more than 20 projects carried out in collaboration with civil society.  She drew attention to several specific projects aimed at empowering women in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.  Further, Slovenia supported additional projects, including through the provision of funding.  On the national level, her country had pursued initiatives geared towards the systematic education and training of women serving in the Slovene armed forces.  She was pleased to note that Slovenia also contributed the first female Force Commander to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  The political participation of women in Slovenia was excellent, she highlighted, noting that half of the Government leadership was female, including the Minister of Defence and the Minister of the Interior.

MICHAEL GRANT (Canada), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that women’s participation had a positive impact on the credibility and durability of peace agreements.  It was essential to include gender considerations and the meaningful participation of women in early warning, mediation, and conflict-resolution effort, and a greater role for women in post‑conflict peacebuilding and economic recovery. He called for further implementation of the women, peace, and security agenda in United Nations peacekeeping, both in terms of women’s participation and gender expertise and mainstreaming into doctrine and all planning documents.  Women played an indispensable role in peacekeeping and their participation at all levels was key to the effectiveness of missions.

He expressed concern that cutting, downgrading, and under‑resourcing gender advisors and women protection advisors positions could cripple the ability of peace operations to fulfil critical tasks.  United Nations peacekeepers must not be part of the problem, he added, condemning cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations.  Despite progress much more needed to be done to tackle the scourge and ensure accountability.  To end impunity, perpetrators of sexual violence must be brought to justice, and victims and survivors must be assisted in a comprehensive manner to fully recover from those violations.  A gendered approach was essential to facing new and emerging challenges such as violent extremism.

Speaking in his national capacity, Mr. Grant said that Canada remained committed to finding opportunities to create and support gender transformative solutions to conflict.  “We will challenge narratives undermining women’s ability to contribute, lead and shape solutions,” he stressed.  Canada was taking concrete actions to advance the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.  It dedicated funds to local organizations that advanced women’s rights in both developing and fragile States.  Working to increase the proportion of Canadian women police officers deployed to peace operations, Canada had also been at the forefront of United Nations training initiatives aimed at increasing the number of female police officers deployed to peace operations.  Canada was also a strong advocate for the full implementation of the United Nations zero‑tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said that because of foreign intervention and occupation, as well the surge of violent extremism and terrorism, women and girls in many parts of the Middle East had witnessed the collapse of their hopes for a better future.  In many conflicts, women were the primary victims of large‑scale, often systematic sexual violence.  There were thousands of confirmed instances of sexual violence having been used as a tactic of terror in countries around the world, as terrorists sought to advance their military and ideological ends.  It would be foolish to assume that by physically removing Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da’esh (ISIL), their atrocities against civilians, including women and children, would cease.  The international community must redouble its fight against such a vicious ideology, and those who harboured it.  The world also could not fail to acknowledge that interventionist policies, occupation and regime‑change attempts served as a breeding ground for terrorist groups to grow and flourish.

JANA PŘIKRYLOVÁ (Czech Republic), associating herself with the European Union, expressed concern that national action plans to implement the women, peace and security agenda had only been adopted 68 Member States, and that most projects were small, short‑term and financed through limited resources.  Lack of financing was a key obstacle to implementation.  She expressed concern about the slow pace of integrating the agenda into relevant resolutions on peacekeeping activities.  Her country had adopted in January 2017 a national action plan which included concrete and measurable tasks.  In 2015, the Ministry of Defence adopted an action plan to implement Council resolution 1325 (2000) and the Czech Republic became the “lead nation” of a programme focused on training Jordanian female soldiers in explosive ordnance disposal.  Gender mainstreaming remained one of the main principles of the national transition promotion programme which supported democratic principles in transition countries.  Regarding development cooperation and aid, the Czech Republic implemented projects worth CZK 130 million in 2016 with a strong focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Despite that progress, women were underrepresented in decision-making positions and diplomatic posts.  In response, his Government adopted the Action Plan for Balanced Representation of Women and Men in Decision-making Positions for 2016 to 2018.  His country also supported several global gender activities through regular voluntary financial contributions.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, expressed concern about the decrease in women’s participation in mediation, requests for and inclusion of gender expertise and gender‑sensitivity in peace agreements.  He noted Thursday’s launch of the Global Women, Peace and Security Index, while calling for greater strategic and consistent implementation of targets.  He said women had become more influential in peace processes, including in Colombia, Syria, Yemen and the Philippines.  In that regard, he commended the efforts of UN‑Women, the Department for Political Affairs and special envoys.  He also noted the work of the Different Group of Friends, the Women Mediators Networks, the National Focal Points Initiative, national action plans of Nordic countries, as well as the NGO Working Group and the Global Solutions Exchange platform.  The international community’s approach to women, peace and security was often too generic, and lacked contextual analyses and points of action, however, the Security Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security was a step in the right direction.  On stereotyping, he stressed that men could be victims of sexual violence and that women could play a destructive role in conflict.  In terms of leadership, women were often ignored in mediation processes at the national and international level.  He welcomed the new handbook on the prevention and handling of sexual violence in conflict that was being developed for use in peace operations and the new gender parity strategy.  Noting the many best practices and positive developments currently under way in the United Nations system, he stated “our job is to ensure that best practices become mainstream practice”.

SIMA SAMI BAHOUS (Jordan), noting that her country would soon ratify its draft national plan on women, peace and security, emphasized its contribution of women police personnel to the former United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and its intention to also do so for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  She emphasized Jordan’s provision of basic services to Syrian refugees on its territory, 50 per cent of whom were female, as well as the need for the international community to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian women and girls living under the yoke of Israeli occupation, especially those in prison.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) said complex humanitarian crises shed light on the distress suffered by women and girls.  Attention must be paid to those belonging to the most vulnerable groups, he said, underscoring also the importance of raising the presence of women in peacekeeping operations.  It was unthinkable to deploy a peacekeeping mission without gender advisers or training Blue Helmets on prevention sexual exploitation and abuse.  Welcoming the Secretary‑General’s victim‑centred approach on sexual exploitation and abuse, he said Brazil hoped its national action plan would generate encouraging results and that the women, peace and security agenda would continue to prosper within the United Nations system.

Ms. JAQUEZ (Mexico), associating herself with the statement made by Turkey, said that when it came to sustainable peace, women were key to creating inclusive societies with a healthy social fabric.  Mexico supported the Secretary‑General’s findings in his report and applauded his commitment to integrating gender equality into conflict prevention, as well as his initiative to reform the United Nations.  Mexico fully supported the participation of women in all areas of public life given that gender equality and the empowerment of women were necessary for the achievement of peaceful, fair and equitable societies.  Her Government promoted the equitable representation of women in all sectors, and at all levels.  The Council’s resolution on women, peace and security had strengthened norms in that area although the resolution’s effective implementation remained a challenge.  The Secretary‑General must continue efforts to make the agenda a truly cross‑cutting one, particularly in relation to its other thematic work, she said, adding:  “Sustainable peace has a woman’s face”.

MARA MARINAKI, European Union, said promoting the women, peace and security agenda was essential in realizing the bloc’s shared ambitions of conflict prevention as well as sustainable peace and development.  The European Union had remained committed to substantially increasing women’s participation in all aspects of peace and security, including political participation and leadership.  It had progressed towards better gender balance in diplomatic services and field missions.  In external action, the European Union had continued to work for women’s full participation in conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding.  In Afghanistan, it had helped female members of the High Peace Council play an active, critical role in the peace agreement between the Government and Hizb‑e‑Islami.  The European Union had been supporting the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board of Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.  In Uganda, it had closely engaged with the Women Situation Room, a mechanism fully operated by and for women to contain elections‑related violence and enable women’s political participation.  More recently, the European Union had supported the training of Libyan women peace activists in negotiation and mediation skills.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), noting that the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) in his country fell under the national gender policy framework, said that it included the emerging issue of national disaster management — which resolution 1325 (2000) had overlooked.  Along with other measures, the national gender policy had ensured that Namibia deployed women to all peacekeeping missions.  It had, to date, one of the largest female police contingents in UNAMID, as well as another such contingent in Liberia.  The significant presence of women peacekeepers in conflict and post‑conflict areas had the added advantage of creating safer spaces for girls and women who had suffered sexual violence, he said, highlighting the ability of women peacekeepers to gain the trust of local populations.  Many challenges nevertheless remained in implementing resolution 1325 (2000), including lack of awareness, lack of political will, entrenched biases and cultural and traditional norms.  “We must encourage a culture in which both men and women believe it is vital to support the rise to positions of leadership by women,” he stressed.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said that concrete initiatives, including the promotion of the role of women within the Peacebuilding Commission and the incorporation of the gender perspective in new peacebuilding strategies was of critical importance.  The Secretary‑General’s report rightly mentioned the importance of technical capacity-building in gender equality.  That technical skill was also of great importance in peacebuilding operations, and in that context, when mandates were reviewed, contingent levels were adjusted or when a mission’s financial resources were reduced, it was essential that gender adviser posts were not affected.  The role of women in security sector reform was often underestimated, he said, emphasizing:  “Women are a force for peace”.

INA H. KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with the statement made by Turkey, said that notwithstanding resolution 1325 (2000) it would be unfortunate if the bravery and vision of women went unrealized.  The crucial role of women and family in preventing conflicts that might lead to radicalism and extremism must be acknowledged and fostered, she said, adding the enabling women’s participation in the economy supported peacebuilding.  It was important as well for the United Nations peacebuilding and peacekeeping mechanisms to be strengthened continuously.  Going forward, Indonesia aimed to increase the number of women it deployed on peacekeeping missions.  It was also sharing its best practices and experiences in empowering women in leadership through South-South and triangular cooperation.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) emphasized the need for leadership, a stronger institutional architecture and moving from the general to the specific in addressing women, peace and security.  Members of civil society should be invited to speak to the Council more often to describe the situation on the ground, and those responsible for sexual violence in conflict should be the potential subjects of Council sanctions.  He added that he would like to see a Latin American or Asian country host the 2020 meeting of capital‑level focal points on women, peace and security.  He went on to express his fear that, in the context of United Nations reform, the women, peace and security agenda would not be given the level of importance it deserved.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s vision of peacekeeping, as well as practical steps such as the convening of the Informal Experts Group and new initiatives on gender parity and conflict prevention.  Despite such efforts, critical challenges remained, from increasing the number of women at the highest levels of decision-making to ending impunity for gender-based violence.  Gender‑responsive and protective environments for women were still lacking and related efforts remained undervalued and underfunded.  The women, peace and security agenda needed accelerated attention, as did the critical areas of disarmament, creating greater space for women’s civil society organizations and stronger information and analysis on women, peace and security.  Describing a range of relevant national actions, he recalled that Slovakia was a Co‑Chair of the Group of Friends on Security Sector Reform — essential to post‑conflict peacebuilding and reconstruction — and underscored the importance of women’s equal and effective participation in all stages of those processes.

GUSTAVO MEZA‑CUADRA (Peru) said that despite some progress, there were still barriers to the effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda.  Improving the access of women to significant leadership roles in peace efforts required the active participation of civil society organizations, particularly those led by women.  Peru had increased the number of women it contributed to the six peacekeeping missions it participated in and believed that the women, peace and security agenda must play a central role in the reform efforts currently underway, particularly with regard to gender equality in peacekeeping operations.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that his country shared the vision for the reform of the United Nations, with particular emphasis on prevention.  Achieving sustainable peace would be facilitated by increasing the presence of women in all stages of peace and reconciliation, not only as a question of equality, but as a question of effectiveness.  He underscored that resolution 1325 (2000) recognized the important role that women played in peace processes and that it was crucial to include gender provisions in peace and ceasefire agreements.  More equitable societies that respected women’s rights were more peaceful societies, he said.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), emphasizing that women’s participation in peace processes improved prospects for conflict resolution and sustainability, recalled that Morocco had hosted an international conference on women, peace and security in 2016 that focused on the role of women vis‑à‑vis mediation, de‑radicalization and best practices in addressing sexual violence in conflict.  Morocco was also home to a think tank dedicated to women, peace and security.  Women and girls had specific needs in post‑conflict stages in such areas as health care, land rights and employment, but they were frequently under‑represented in decision‑making, if not sidelined altogether.  Incorporating a gender approach was therefore imperative to ensure fair and sustainable development with both men and women sharing resources, opportunities and power, he said.

ALEXANDRA BAUMANN (Switzerland) said human security, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls were cornerstones of his country’s foreign policy.  The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs recently launched its first comprehensive strategy on gender equality and women’s rights.  Gender equality was key to the prevention of conflict and violence, including violent extremism.  Respecting women’s equal rights and inclusion in peace processes was “simply a must”.  In that regard, he called for States to fully promote the equality and effective participation of women in peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution, including through the engagement of civil society.  The women, peace and security agenda contributed to better results for sustainable peace.  To that end, he highlighted existing frameworks including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Universal Periodic Review and special mandates.  Switzerland supported an initiative to focus on implementing the Women’s Convention.  In closing, he stated that the engagement of men and boys in all transformative action was crucial and that women’s economic empowerment must receive greater attention in post-conflict recovery and State‑building.

ANNA FATA, Holy See, said that women were proven agents of change, although sadly, most of today’s conflicts resulted in them too often becoming targets and victims, rather than peacemakers and peacebuilders.  Women and girls disproportionately suffered the impact of violent conflicts, including being specifically targeted as objects of violence and abuse as a strategy of war.  Violent extremism and terrorism continued to use sexual violence as a terror tactic, although acts of violence against women and girls were not only perpetrated in conflict situations.  Member States had a fundamental responsibility to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including those related to sexual violence against women and girls.

AMARSANAA DARISUREN, Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE), said it was essential to include a gender perspective in all phases of conflict prevention, resolution and post‑conflict rehabilitation.  Unfortunately, formal political processes provided little access and space for women.  There was a clear need to increase the meaningful inclusion of women in all phases of the conflict cycle, particularly at the grass‑roots level.  She reviewed some examples of progress reached in the last year by OSCE, including the adoption of national action plans by 31 countries in its region and efforts to reinforce women’s leadership at national and local levels through mentoring, support networks and capacity development.  The OSCE was also working on gender‑inclusive mediation processes, while its politico-military bodies were incorporating a gender perspective in their respective agendas.  Its new “Leaders against Intolerance and Violent Extremism” project specifically included women’s community leaders and young women and men.  Emphasizing that “strong leadership is essential to achieve progress”, she said OSCE recognized that it had more to do to implement a sustained, systematic approach to improve women’s participation in peace processes.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) had recognized the significant role women in conflict prevention and post conflict mediation.  It was unfortunate that women and girls paid the highest price in conflicts because States and parties to conflict did not respect their obligations under international law.  As women needed to be empowered, there was also a need to facilitate their access to transitional justice mechanisms.  Underlining the importance of the role of females in combating against violent extremism, she said her country had taken several initiatives on the national and international level to strengthen the role of women.  The participation of women in decision making within the United Nations would allow for the further implementation of resolution 1325 2000), she said. 

AUDRA PLEPYTĖ (Lithuania), speaking also on behalf of Estonia and Latvia and aligning herself with the European Union, said empowerment of women and gender equality were fundamental to sustaining peace.  As the critical role of women in negotiations was often overlooked, she emphasized the importance of their participation in all negotiations and in peacebuilding, and urged for the gender perspective to be incorporated in all aspects of peace processes.  Implementation of the women, peace and security agenda required comprehensive measures, including recognizing the role of civil society.  Justice still faced inequalities, she said, emphasizing that the perpetrators of crimes against women and girls needed to be prosecuted and that victims received compensation.

NELLY SHILOH (Israel) said that women’s participation in peace processes was not just good for women, it was critical for the success and sustainability of resulting agreements.  She cited the experience of Colombia and Liberia in that regard.  A conducive environment to increase the number of women peacekeepers must be established, she added, pointing to the necessity for zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and harassment in peacekeeping missions.  Israel had introduced the first resolution on prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, in the Commission on the Status of Women, and was one of the first to include resolution 1325 in its national legislation.  Much still remained to be done, both nationally and internationally, and all efforts for further progress should be modelled on best practices that have already been proven successful.

JERRY MATJILA (South Africa) said the contribution of women and girls to peacebuilding processes remained undervalued and under‑resourced, leaving a vital tool for sustainable peace and transformative change underutilized.  Women in South Africa had been at the forefront of driving reform, as well as in developing and advancing legislation and policies which advanced the role of women in society.  He said his country provided training for African women mediators, while the South African Defence Force — 30 per cent of whose members were women — provided training to female peacekeepers.  He paid tribute to women’s organizations campaigning to abolish nuclear weapons, adding that South Africa continued to engage with civil society and academia to find ways to further empower women and remove obstacles to their participation in peacekeeping missions and mediation efforts.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said that her country had increased the number of women officers serving as staff officers and military observers in United Nations missions to 25 per cent.  She also commended the United Nations Department of Political Affairs for overseeing the substantial increase in gender expertise with the deployment of 25 gender advisers across 11 field missions.  Such efforts demonstrated that with dedicated funding and specific targets, it was possible to improve women’s participation.  All key actors must play a role in the implementation of the women in peace and security agenda.  That included civil society groups, which remained the greatest source of expertise on the ground.  She noted that Australia had founded the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund which supported women’s civil society organizations to contribute to conflict prevention, crisis response and peacebuilding.

CHO TAE‑YUL (Republic of Korea), associating himself with the statement made by Turkey, and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said that despite progress achieved, there remained a wide gap between goals and the reality on the ground.  Civilians, particularly women and girls, continued to be caught up in armed conflicts in many parts of the world.  He stressed the need to continue in a more coordinated manner to prevent women from falling victim to violence.  “We should not tolerate any sexual exploitation or abuse committed by United Nations peacekeepers,” he stressed.  The goal of increasing women’s participation in peace efforts must be translated into concrete action.  It was important to ensure that the ongoing efforts to reform the United Nations peace and security architecture contributed to the women, peace and security agenda.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), convinced of the importance of participation of women in peace processes, said there was a need for broad‑based coherence on the international, regional and national level to implement the women, peace and security agenda.  There was also an absolute need for full partnership with civil society.  Ireland would embed the women, peace and security agenda in everything it did, in cooperation with UN‑Women.  The participation of women in peace processes had proved to be the smart way.  Her country funded non‑governmental organization who could make a difference, such as the Women at the Table in Nigeria.  Describing other support efforts, she said her country was drafting a second national action plan on the women, peace and security agenda.  She underlined the importance of synergies between the youth, peace and security agenda and the women, peace and security agenda.

AMRITH ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka) said his country’s long, drawn‑out conflict had resulted in many victims — orphans, war widows, single mothers and women‑headed households.  Addressing their immediate concerns and making them participants in all areas of peacebuilding had remained a priority in post‑conflict efforts.  Successful peacebuilding required gender equality and women’s empowerment, including economic empowerment, human security, human rights and development to mesh together.  It was also vital to engage domestic actors from the grass roots to the highest echelons of Government to ensure ownership of peacebuilding processes and guarantee long-term sustainability.  As Sri Lanka moved down the path of reconciliation and transformative justice, the Government had appointed an 11‑member task force of eminent persons to hold nationwide consultation on reconciliation measures.  The members of the task force were drawn entirely from civil society, including six women.

MACHARIA KAMAU (Kenya) associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, said last year his country launched its national action plan for the implementation of  Council resolution 1325 (2000).  Kenya was the top contributor of female officers to United Nations peacekeeping operations, providing 19 per cent of the total.  The national gender policy guided the integration of gender into all military operations, including for early warning and response systems to conflict.  His Government had established an international peace support training centre, launched a national campaign to address gender based violence, reviewed its national information and communications technology policy to include a gender dimension and established a toll‑free gender “helpline”.  Such efforts were complimented by various non‑state actors, including through training workshops to build gender and conflict sensitive reporting in the media.  Regarding relief and recovery, his Government had set guidelines in medical facilities, developed guidelines and standard operating procedures for psychological and forensic management, and built recovery centres.  In September 2016, Kenya also launched a national strategy to counter violent extremism which incorporated women into security and intelligence committees.  He noted several priority areas for national action, including gender issues relating to climate change, disarmament, radicalization and cybercrime, among others.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), aligning with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security , said that it was important to speak in the context of the women, peace and security agenda of what has been called ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar because rape and sexual violence had been used as a main tactic.  He cited the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to convey the horror that women were going through there.  All the right statements had already been made on the issue and it was time to move past words into action, he stressed.  The Security Council had condemned the violence, but must show its resolve through a strong and detailed resolution on what must be done next, and support for proposals submitted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the General Assembly.  His country would continue to pursue bilateral efforts with Myanmar, but the international community must accompany it in the process.

BESIANA KADARE (Albania), associating herself with the European Union, said that despite the international community’s commitments, the meaningful inclusion of women in conflict prevention and peace processes remained negligible.  Women continued to be sidelined during peace negotiations, and even when they were present, it was always the men who led and decided when and how to make peace.  Member States should strengthen their resolve in fully implementing the women, peace and security agenda.  While Albania had yet to adopt a national action plan on women, peace and security, it had mainstreamed gender across its security sector, with women making up 17 per cent of all military personnel and the State Police launching a women‑only recruitment campaign.  It also supported an Italian initiative to create a Mediterranean women mediators’ network, aimed at preventing and mitigating conflicts through the increased participation of women in peace processes, she said.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), associating herself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said that in conflict‑affected areas, women played a key role in ensuring family livelihoods and were active at the grass-roots level in peace movements.  They were also essential for countering extremist violence.  For effective implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, comprehensive cooperation was needed between Governments and civil society organizations.  Her country was deeply concerned about the use of violence against women human rights defenders.  Youth engagement was important as well.  Women’s increased participation in peacekeeping missions was highly important for the protection of civilians.  Her country was increasing the number of female experts and police officers in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

NABEEL MUNIR (Pakistan) said conflicts and violence affecting women and girls disproportionally.  Exploitation of women and girls was an instrument employed to terrorize civilians. It was a tactic of war with mass rapes committed by parties to armed conflict.  Council resolution 1325 (2000) had institutionalized a new focus on women in conflict, moving them to the center of the political debate.  The Council should focus on root causes of conflict and the United Nations should play its role in enhancing cooperation to help secure women’s place at the negotiating table.  The international community should support countries to defend women’s rights and gender perspectives should be fully integrated into the peacebuilding paradigm.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said that women could change the world for the better, although for that to happen, Governments and international organizations such as the United Nations must provide the space for women to shape key decisions concerning national security.  The Maldives recognized women’s role in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding as part of the larger, holistic agenda for gender equality and women’s empowerment.  In that connection, he highlighted that the principles of equality and non-discrimination were at the heart of the Maldives’ Constitution and noted that his country had achieved gender parity in education and that women comprised over 60 per cent of the civil staff and 40 per cent of the judiciary.

LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands) noted that, eight resolutions down the road, women were still not actively engaged in many peace processes and unrecognized as the powerful agents of peace they were.  If the United Nations truly wanted to practise what it preached, it must pressure parties to a peace process to include women and not allow it to become an afterthought.  It must integrate a women’s perspective and let the voice of women’s organizations on the ground be heard at mediation tables through their substantive participation.  If the Organization did that, there was a 35 per cent increase in probability of a peace agreement lasting more than 15 years.  To be implemented, resolution 1325 (2000) needed to be operationalized and funded.  The Netherlands was sadly one of just a handful that had financed its national action plan for implementing the resolution.  More funds should be available if the global community was serious in making gender equality a practical reality.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador) said that his country believed that women’s empowerment was important for both peace and development and had taken important steps forward in that regard.  It recently launched a national action plan on women, peace and security, accompanied by a national implementation committee.  He reiterated absolute commitment to ending violence against women and ending sexual exploitation and abuse in the context of peacekeeping.  He also highlighted the need to care for the victims of sexual violence.  Noting that El Salvador’s peacekeeping contingents included increasingly more women, he pledged his country’s continued efforts to empower and protect women, and to share lessons it had learned on the topic.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security and the Human Security Network, said his country’s current national action plan on women, peace and security put a strong emphasis on education and training of personnel.  Equal opportunities and women’s autonomy were key pillars of the President’s gender agenda, he said, adding that, at the international level, women were part of Chile’s contribution to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and the United Nations Mission in Colombia.  He went on to emphasize that the presence of women in peace operations helped prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security, expressed concern that the implementation of the agenda continued to fall short and therefore called for preventative measures to address the structural and root causes of gender inequality.  For its part, Jamaica had developed a national policy on gender quality, which was aligned with its development policy.  To that end, his country launched the HeForShe campaign created by UN‑Women and a national strategic action plan in 2017 to eliminate gender‑based violence by 2026.  He urged for effective mechanisms to ensure meaningful measurement of results, and said such devices should account for the cooperation and support needed to attain requisite results, including through predictable and sustainable financing.  Noting the role of young women in peacebuilding, he expressed support to the work being done pursuant to resolution 2250 (2015) on youth, peace and security.  He also endorsed efforts to ensure women’s economic empowerment, their promotion in governance structures and access to justice and security.  Similarly, he expressed interest in addressing gender-specific effects of armed violence and gender responsive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) said his country sought to increase the participation of women in public life.  The new Constitution upheld the rights of women, guaranteeing their right to health insurance and living in freedom.  All were equal before the law regardless of gender or religion.  Noting that the number of women in leadership positions had increased, he described measures his Government had taken to support that, including a quota that women hold 25 per cent of all seats in the Chamber of Representatives.  Iraq’s capital had a female mayor.  His Government worked with the gender unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to enhance the role of women in national reconciliation.  He said Iraq had suffered from attacks of the terrorist group ISIL, noting the crimes against Yazidi women and other women who had been sold as slaves.  The international community must double efforts to assist Iraq in freeing and rehabilitating those women.  Members of ISIL must be held accountable for their crimes in Iraq including crimes against humanity. 

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria) associated himself with the European Union, the Human Security Network and the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security.  Regarding the implementation of the agenda, regional organizations had a crucial role to play in translating political commitments into concrete action on the ground, he said.  Based on findings of one such regional body, OSCE, it was clear that sustainable solutions to conflict were not possible without the participation of women.  Also, gender‑responsive journalism and the protection of female journalists could transform gender stereotypes, promote women’s empowerment and raise positive awareness.

ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia), associating herself with the European Union, welcomed the Secretary‑General’s recent report that underlined the crucial role of women in peace and decision-making processes and said it was evident that the sustainability of peace depended directly on women’s engagement in peace processes, politics, governance, institution-building, the rule of law, the security sector and economic recovery.  As an illustration of its commitment to gender equality, Georgia had ratified the Istanbul Convention and created an Inter‑Agency Commission for Gender Equality and Ending Violence against Women and Girls.  Strengthening protection measures on violence against women and women’s empowerment was particularly concerning to her country as such measures related to the occupied regions of Georgia, where women continued to suffer from grave violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, highlighted its efforts with regard to women, peace and security, including the adoption of a 2017‑2019 national action plan that aimed to ensure protection for women and girls, both domestically and in the face of the Israeli occupation; ensuring accountability through national and international mechanisms, with a particular focus on crimes and violations committed by the occupation, and further women’s political participation.  However, much work remained to be done, he said, noting that women’s organizations had been unfairly absent from national reconciliation talks despite being among the strongest advocates of reconciliation.  Palestine was ready to do its part to advance women’s rights and their role in peace and security, he said, but enjoyment of those rights necessitated ending the Israeli occupation.

CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana) noted that the United Nations had made great strides in the promotion of the women, peace and security agenda through the establishment of UN-Women, which amplified women’s voices and created momentum for their leadership on peace and security.  Through such initiatives, thousands of women and girls had been helped in various countries around the world, although, regrettably, they continued to bear the brunt of armed conflicts, domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape and humanitarian crises.  The international community must address the social norms that perpetuated sexual violence and abuse against women, and promote respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.  He called for States to take practical steps to address obstacles in women’s access to justice, including by creating an enabling environment where women could easily report incidents of violence without fear or intimidation.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said that the world had seen extreme brutality being inflicted upon women, with sexual violence increasingly used a tool of war.  The heinous crimes against humanity perpetrated by terror networks, especially against women and girls, were a stark reminder of the serious challenges that needed to be overcome.  The increased institutionalized involvement of women in peacekeeping and conflict resolution was important to address that challenge.  He highlighted the work done by the Commission on the Status on Women in pushing ahead the gender empowerment agenda.  India, as a lead troop contributor over the past seven decades, was committed to fulfilling the pledge to have women comprise 15 per cent of military observers by the end of the year.  India was also committed to providing another all‑female formed police unit.  Prosecution was essential for prevention, he said, adding that the international community had a key role in helping build adequate resources and capacities.

VERONICA GARCIA GUTIERREZ (Costa Rica), welcoming the importance that had been acquired by the women, peace and security agenda, said that it was also essential, however, to work for parity in gender representation among the leadership of peacekeeping missions.  It was vital to broaden the gender perspective in many areas of peacebuilding.  Condemning all sexual violence, she supported initiatives to ensure zero tolerance of sexual exploitation in peacekeeping and assistance for victims.  Addressing development issues and empowering women economically were also critical, as was ensuring that women were adequately represented in forums such as those for disarmament.

ION JINGA (Romania), aligning himself with the statement made by the European Union, said that it was clear that women were key in promoting peace and he welcomed United Nations initiatives in that regard.  However, there was much more to be done.  There was a need, notably, to increase the number of women in command posts.  Enumerating the Romanian women who had attained important positions in United Nations missions, he stated that scores more had participated in several peacekeeping contingents.  He also described events promoting women’s greater participation in peace processes that were sponsored and attended by his country.  Women’s enormous potential must be utilized.  His country would continue to work for their meaningful participation in all phases of peacemaking.

LOUISE SHARENE BAILEY, African Union, said the African Union Peace and Security Council had endorsed the creation of a Network of African women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (FemWise‑Africa) on 13 March.  FemWise‑Africa would be a potent tool to strengthen the role of women in conflict prevention and mediation efforts, and would provide a platform for advocacy, capacity-building and networking to further enhance the implementation of women’s inclusion in peacemaking in Africa.  The initiative would catalyse and mainstream the engagement of women in mediation in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.  The African Union Commission and UN‑Women, with the support of Germany, had launched the African Women Leaders Network.  The recently signed “Joint United Nations-African Union Framework on enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security” provided a new window of opportunity to strengthen the women, peace and security agenda.  She welcomed the establishment of the Secretary‑General’s High‑Level Advisory Board on Mediation and the appointment of three prominent African women leaders to it.  The African Union also cooperated with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict with an emphasis on ensuring women participation and of accountability for crimes of sexual violence.  She announced that on 31 October, the African Union Peace and Security Council would hold an open session on “The role of women in preventing and countering violent extremism in Africa”.

KRISZTIAN MESZAROS, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said empowering women led to more peaceful, just and inclusive societies, was essential for conflict prevention and made peace more sustainable.  His organizations supported empowering women within the United Nations, armed forces, civilian structures and societies of allies and partners.  Within NATO, however, there had only been a small increase in female representation in armed forces of Member States — an average of 20 per cent in 2016, compared to 10.8 per cent in 2015.  Stressing that those figures needed improvement, he urged Member States to do their part.  On the leadership side, women held only 21 per cent of NATO civilian staff leadership positions, and 2 of its 3 female four‑star officers had left over the past year.  Adding that Member States should redress that imbalance, he said gender was a tool that contributed and added value to all of NATO’s objectives and core tasks.

DIOSITA T. ANDOT (Philippines) said that after the liberation of Marawi City from terrorist forces, her Government had been observing conflict‑sensitivity and peace promoting approaches with a particular focus on mainstreaming gender and observing cultural sensitivities.  In pursuit of the peace process with rebel groups, actions were taken to ensure the meaningful participation of women, especially the Moro and indigenous women.  The Philippine armed forces and police had formed an all‑female Civil Relations Company in Marawi to assist in rehabilitation of internally displaced persons.  Filipino women were included in peace panels that were negotiating and implementing peace agreements.  Women would play a pro‑active role in the rebuilding of relationships in their respective communities and eventually of Marawi as a whole.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam) said that, despite efforts and progress in implementing the women, peace and security agenda, women’s under-representation, gender inequality and discrimination persisted.  She called for the gender perspective to be mainstreamed in a consistent and comprehensive manner in all areas of peacebuilding and conflict prevention, adding that impunity must be ended to effectively combat and eliminate human rights violations, including conflict‑related sexual violence and abuse.  Together with women’s economic empowerment, education was crucial toward equipping women and girls with knowledge to better protect them from conflict‑related risks as well as to build their resilience against economic shocks, climate change and natural disasters.  Women were an essential driving force of her country’s economic and social development, making significant contributions to promoting and maintaining the environment of peace, security and stability.  As such, Viet Nam’s twelfth National Women’s Congress had set out objectives for the term 2017‑2022, including promoting women’s potential and creativity, improving their material and spiritual life and status, striving for equality and advancement and contributing to national construction and defence.

BADER ABDULLAH N. M. ALMUNAYEKH (Kuwait) said that fulfilling the 1325 agenda helped attain several goals of the 2030 Agenda.  Women’s empowerment was crucial for sustaining peace and promoting development.  His country was committed to encouraging women’s participation in all national endeavours and held posts at all levels.  Calling for further efforts for women’s empowerment and inclusion in society around the world, he said that his country had enacted legislation to ensure an end to all forms of discrimination.  Women had been protected against violence both in domestic and public settings.  In order for the agenda to be comprehensively implemented, however, he pledged his country’s persistent efforts.  “Women’s participation must be at the top of our priorities,” he said.

SAOD RASHID AL MAZROUI (United Arab Emirates) said his country’s foreign assistance strategy included women’s protection and empowerment as one of its three key pillars.  In terms of global response, he said the United Arab Emirates recently announced a contribution of $15 million to support UN-Women’s critical work over the next three years, and in 2016, the Government had set up a Liaison Office in Abu Dhabi to advance gender quality and the empowerment of women and girls regionally.  His Government contributed to the Global Programme on Women, Peace and Security which furthered gender-sensitive research and data collection in relation to extremism.  Additionally, his country supported the Team of Experts in the development and implementation of an action plan on conflict-related sexual violence in Somalia, as well as the establishment of prevention and response mechanisms.

ZOHRAB MNATSAKANYAN (Armenia) said his country was committed to the reformative women, peace and security agenda.  National laws provided for equal rights for women.  The quota for women’s representation in Parliament had been raised to 25 per cent.  The number of female judges had reached 25 per cent.  Domestic procedures had been launched to combat violence against women and domestic violence.  Armenia’s national action plan for implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) would be launched in 2018.  The empowerment of women, and the women, peace and security agenda should not been seen as a separate agenda, but as a part of addressing root causes of conflict and violence.  Emphasis on protection of human rights remained a significant objective at the national and international levels.  Dialogue and confidence-building in conflict areas was an important aspect for his country, but endeavours in that regard were undermined by hate crimes and xenophobia against Armenians, instigated by a neighbouring State.

PENNELOPE BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), emphasizing that the rule of law was a fundamental safeguard in the advancement and protection of women’s rights, said the vulnerability of women and girls in situations of armed conflict — and in the case of her country, armed violence — continued to engage attention.  In that regard, the Arms Trade Treaty could contribute to reducing if not ending untold suffering, particularly among women and girls.  She recalled Trinidad and Tobago’s introduction in 2010 of the first-ever General Assembly resolution on women, disarmament, non‑proliferation and arms control, which complemented Council resolution 1325 (2000).  She added that, as a current member of the Executive Board of UN-Women, her country would continue to work with Member States towards the universal achievement of gender equality.

URUJENI BAKURAMUTSA (Rwanda) said unity and reconciliation, peacebuilding and sustainable outcomes were realized when women participated in peace and security.  Their contribution brought added value to the most critical issues, including protecting children’s rights, combating gender-based violence and promoting human rights.  When women’s rights and empowerment were impeded, collective society suffered, she said, recalling that during the genocide against the Tutsi in her country, rape and other forms of violence had been directed against women to degrade them and strip humanity from the larger community.  With armed conflicts and violent extremism continuing to prevail in many parts of the world — and with women and children bearing the brunt — the international community must empower women and promote their participation in the entire spectrum of peace processes, promotion of the rule of law, good governance and mediation, she said.

CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal), associating herself with the European Union, noted that more women were participating in peace talks nowadays, more peace agreements included provisions on their human rights, and more security sector personnel were being trained to prevent and properly respond to sexual and gender-based violence.  However, given the evolution of peace and security, and the nature of conflict since the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), it was essential to build on progress already made and to demonstrate greater commitment to the women, peace and security agenda, she emphasized.  It contributed not only to peace, but also to the strengthening of protection efforts by United Nations peacekeepers, she said.  Portugal had adopted a national action plan, pledged to continue training programmes on gender equality and violence against women and girls for peacekeeping personnel, and supported the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

VIRACHI PLASAI (Thailand) said that, despite the importance of the women, peace and security agenda, the participation of women in all capacities remained quite low.  Noting the positive measures being taken to address that discrepancy, he said Thailand had adopted the National Measures and Guidelines on Women, Peace and Security in 2016.  It re-emphasized the significant role of women in addressing political and social conflicts, he said, adding that they could also play an important role in peacekeeping operations.  The Government was making efforts to increase their participation, he said, encouraging other Member States also to do more in that area.  The women, peace and security agenda must be mainstreamed across the spectrum of United Nations activities, he said, stressing that women should be regarded as agents of change.  The rhetoric used around their role in conflict situations must be more nuanced, he said, adding that women should also have an increased role in national and local politics.

MANAL HASSAN RADWAN (Saudi Arabia) affirmed that the 1325 agenda had become a major pillar of peacekeeping and development.  There was still much to be done to fully implement it, however.  Challenges to progress included occupation, particularly the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and the growing violence against civilians in conflict zones by non-State groups, as well as other actors in Syria.  Discrimination against women also played an adverse role.  In order to address such challenges, comprehensive efforts must be made to end occupation, sectarian discrimination and extreme discourse against Islam.  Her country was committed to the education and advancement of women.  Women had participated in politics and several leadership positions, and were key to development efforts.  Their achievements had been many.  That was based on women’s important role in Islam over history and addressing the root causes of women’s marginalization was a religious duty.  Based on current action plans, women would be able to participate in all walks of life in conformity with moderate Islam.

MAHMOUD SAIKAL (Afghanistan) thanked all speakers who had noted his country’s progress in improving the lives of women.  There was still a lot of work to be done, however.  The full participation of women was not only desirable, but important for settling and preventing conflict in the country.  Terrorism and violent extremism had left the social fabric in shambles and women had borne the brunt of the damage and had been deprived of many rights.  At present, however, the Government was consolidating the gains of the past several years.  There was a firm resolve to fulfil international obligations, including those of treaties that Afghanistan was party to.  The country’s action plan on women, peace and security put women front and centre of national peacebuilding efforts across the country.   The plan committed women’s participation in civil service by significant numbers; thousands of women were serving in national security services right now.  Women were being supported to make progress in agriculture, health services and many other areas.  Describing institutional structures to ensure women’s rights, he said that the country had reached a new stage in empowering women.  The assistance of the international community was still crucial, however, and he looked forward to further collaboration in lifting Afghanistan’s women to new heights.

HELENA YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador) said women were at the same time victims of violence and builders of peace.  Reality underscored the need to work for gender equality, protection of the rights of women, and combatting all forms of sexual violence. Lasting peace could only be achieved if those issues were taken into account, she said.  Gender-based violence in conflict continued to be an unacceptable reality, which underscored the importance of ending impunity.  All efforts should be made to end sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping missions, as it undermined trust in the missions.  For changes to be become permanent, the process of inclusion must be continuous, which was a slow road.  In that regard, she underlined the importance of desegregation of statistical data to measure progress.  In conclusion, she noted that three Ecuadorian women were observers in peacekeeping operations.

EMMANUEL ADEMOLA OGUNNAIKE (Nigeria) said that filling the gaps in implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) required a multi-stakeholder approach involving actors at the global, regional, sub-regional and national levels.  Communities, civil society and individuals also had a crucial role to play, along with the United Nations.  Since national Governments had a primary responsibility to protect women’s safety and rights, the international community should support countries by providing constructive assistance, consistent with national priorities and focused on capacity-building.  Regional organizations played an important role, as well.  Consistent with subregional efforts, Nigeria launched a national action plan to fully implement resolution 1325 (2000), along with plans to combat violent extremism and improve the security sector.  It also was collaborating with countries in the region to fight the terrorist group known as Boko Haram, and had taken steps to address the humanitarian needs of the 2 million displaced persons in the north-east of the country, 80 per cent of whom were women.  The Government was working around the clock to ensure release of the remaining Chibok girls and other persons in Boko Haram captivity.

SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti) welcomed the important place that the empowerment of women occupied in the agenda of the Security Council and other bodies of the United Nations, helping to strengthen the link between peace and security, development and human rights.  Describing the harsh toll that conflict took on the lives of women, she said that much remained to be done to redress the situation, despite the progress that had been made.  Women’s participation in all areas of peacemaking was crucial in order to increase the effectiveness of all international and national efforts.  She commended the African Union for its efforts to integrate gender issues in its architecture and increase women’s participation in many areas.  Her country had carried out several national policies to empower women; the Constitution enshrined equal rights for women and women participated in many spheres.  The establishment of a gender observatory was currently under way to analyse women’s situation and to provide advice on policies for improving it.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said that, while gender gains had been made in the international framework, more must be done to address violations and crimes against women, among other things, in mass forced displacements.  Combating impunity was of critical importance in that regard.  She said it was curious that Armenia, which was responsible for the war against Azerbaijan and had carried out ethnic cleansing, had taken the floor to attack other States.  She said Armenian forces had attacked a town in Nagorno-Karabakh, killing many, including women and children, among other aggressions.  Atrocities committed by the Armenians included bayonetting pregnant women, scalping and beheadings.  The impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of those crimes aggravated the situation on the ground.  She assured the Council that her country would continue to achieve a settlement to the conflict based on international law.