Speakers Urge More Systemic Risk, Vulnerability Assessments of Potential Violence, as Security Council Charts Progress in Protecting Children during Armed Conflict
Trends in Killing, Maiming, Recruitment of Child Soldiers Remain at ‘Shockingly High Level’ Warns Special Representative
With cycles of conflict becoming more intense, frequent and complex, the global community must prioritize risk assessments that raise red flags about potential violence against children, senior officials told the Security Council today, as members took stock of progress made in implementing their “children in armed conflict” agenda.
Two Special Representatives of the Secretary-General, along with a young woman representing civil society, also briefed the 15-member Council about the importance of early conflict prevention and including the voices of children themselves in designing the interventions intended to protect them.
Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict, said 25 situations — including one region — are currently being monitored by the United Nations children and armed conflict agenda. Noting that trends in violations again remain “at a shockingly high level” for 2022, the year for which her office is now compiling data, she cited ongoing instances of killing, maiming, recruitment to armed conflict, abduction and the denial of humanitarian access to children around the globe. Children most at risk are those who lacked education or livelihood opportunities, or were in situations of poverty and displacement, before conflict even arrived.
Calling for more systematic risk and vulnerability assessments — including through an intersectional gender lens — she said such factors as gender stereotyping could be warnings that conflict-related sexual violence is possible. She urged investments that tackle the root causes of conflict, noting that the children and armed conflict agenda already has many robust tools to protect children from violations. Its strength has been dialogue with parties to conflict, she said, noting that since the mandate’s inception, it has seen hundreds of commitments — including 41 action plans — put in place by warring parties to better protect children. Meanwhile, 172 States parties have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, while other agreements such as the Safe Schools Declaration have been endorsed by more than 100 countries.
Najat Maalla M’jid, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, agreed that crises and conflict amplify pre-existing social inequalities — especially for children living in poor and remote areas, those in detention or in institutional care, on streets or from minority communities, as well as migrants, refugees, stateless children and others. When children’s educational, developmental, mental health and psychosocial needs are neglected, the consequences can last a lifetime. Stressing that such trauma is not inevitable, she called for more efforts to prevent the six grave violations against children — killing and maiming, recruitment and use of children by armed groups, sexual violence, attacks against schools or hospitals, abduction and denial of humanitarian access — and their risk factors, before conflict erupts.
Underscoring that all actions to address child protection must be informed and shaped by children’s own experiences, she said children affected by conflict around the world are already taking actions that provide peer support, promote peace and prevent radicalization. In Syria and Ukraine, for example, girls have shared their stories with the world to promote peace, while in Africa and Latin America young leaders have been actively engaged in peacebuilding. Enhancing the participation of children — both boys and girls — in decision-making, as well as in developing long-term policies to address their aspirations, is fundamental to sustainable peace, she stressed.
Also briefing was Divina Maloum, a civil society representative from Cameroon, who observed that thousands of children in Africa have been forced by armed groups to serve as combatants, mine testers, messengers and cooks, with some even used as human shields. Girls and women are targeted as sex slaves for military or armed-group leaders. In response, in 2015 she created “Children for Peace”, a movement led by children working across Cameroon and other African countries. Among other things, it seeks to promote inclusive governance, greater political and economic expression for children and an increased number of children in peacebuilding. One of the movement’s projects, “Silence the Guns”, reached 5.5 million people and facilitated support for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of 5,000 children formerly associated with armed groups, she said.
As Council members took the floor, Ecuador’s representative was among those speakers noting that, despite strides made by the international community since the inception of the children in armed conflict agenda, the situation today remains disheartening. It is critical to pinpoint the roots of conflict — such as inequality, social injustice, gender injustice and lack of opportunities — which lay the groundwork for violations against children, he said, calling for lasting solutions. Meanwhile, he agreed that children’s participation in political transitions and peace negotiations is critical — as is the case for young girls and women in Afghanistan, whose access to education and public life has once again been severely curtailed.
Albania’s representative cited troubling situations for children in Burkina Faso, Mali, Sudan, Yemen and Myanmar, among others, as well as disturbing reports of violations against children emerging from the conflict in Ukraine. His own Government has repatriated children who are nationals of Albania from hellish refugee camps in Syria and Iraq. More concrete, timebound action plans aimed at ending abuses against children should be agreed between Governments and the United Nations, he said, joining several other speakers in voicing his delegation’s support for the inclusion of violations against children as a standalone criteria for the imposition of Security Council sanctions.
The representative of Mozambique declared that “the adoption of resolution 1261 (1999) was a historic milestone” for the Council, as it formally placed the issue of children and armed conflict on the Council’s agenda. Despite the progress achieved since that time, he said much more remains to be done. While Mozambique has enshrined the rights of children in its Constitution and acceded to many relevant regional and international legal instruments, he warned that terrorist attacks in the country’s Cabo Delgado region are today the greatest challenge facing children.
The representative of the Russian Federation, noting that the issue of children is also addressed by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, underlined the need to uphold a clear division of labour between the United Nations different entities. On the situation in Ukraine, he said that hundreds of children have been killed in the Donbas region — with many more injured — while Ukrainian armed forces continue to destroy educational infrastructure. He also voiced concern over the situation faced by children in parts of Syria located outside Government control and urged countries to take measures to repatriate their child nationals from conflict zones.
The United States’ delegate, also addressing the situation of children in Ukraine, said the Russian Federation’s brutal full-scale invasion is having a devastating impact. Among other violations, he cited the issuance of Russian Federation passports to unaccompanied children, noting that Moscow is engaged in the relocation and deportation of Ukrainian children and, in some cases, their placement with Russian families. Turning to other specific situations, he drew attention to sexual violence suffered by children in Ethiopia during the recent conflict there, and to the plight of women and girls — many of whom endure the practice of early or forced marriage — under Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
Also speaking were the representatives of Malta, France, China, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Gabon, Brazil, Ghana, United Arab Emirates and Japan.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:13 p.m.
VIRGINIA GAMBA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict, said 25 situations — including one region — are currently being monitored by the United Nations’ Children and Armed Conflict agenda. Addressing the General Assembly last week, the Secretary-General expressed the need for a holistic view of the peace continuum that identifies root causes of conflict, invests in prevention, focuses on mediation, advances peacebuilding and includes much broader participation of women and young people. Noting that she presents his annual report on children and armed conflict to the Council each year, she said trends in violations consistently remain “at a shockingly high level”.
In 2021, the last reporting year, she said the United Nations verified nearly 24,000 grave violations committed against children. Violations with highest verified numbers were killing, maiming and recruitment and use, followed by the denial of humanitarian access and abduction. “As we currently prepare our forthcoming report for 2022, data gathered shows that these trends continue,” she said. In the face of continuous cycles of violence and conflict that are only becoming more intense, frequent and complex, understanding and identifying the pre-existing risks and vulnerabilities to children will be critical. Children who are most vulnerable to grave violations once the conflict or emergency arrives are those who lack education or livelihood opportunities, are in situations of poverty and displacement, or are children with disabilities, among other risk factors.
Turning to some best practices, she said assessing risks and vulnerabilities should include systematically applying an intersectional gender lens to better understand factors that could lead to conflict-related sexual violence, including gender stereotyping and sociocultural norms. Other circumstances such as age, disability and displacement should also be considered as factors that could expose children to a higher risk of grave violations by parties to conflict. “Every person under 18 years must be recognized as a child, as children are entitled to special protection under international human rights law, particularly under the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” she said, also calling for investments in a long-term response that tackles the root causes of conflict.
Going forward, she said the children and armed conflict agenda possesses many robust tools to protect children from grave violations in situations it monitors. Its strength has been dialogue with parties to conflict, she said, noting that since the mandate’s inception, it has seen hundreds of commitments — including 41 action plans — put in place by warring parties to better protect children. More recently, the mandate has also taken on the concept of prevention, reinforced by the Council’s adoption of resolution 2427 (2018). It has developed joint prevention plans with Governments, in addition to action plans and other concrete, timebound agreements.
Listing some of those strides, she said a prevention plan was developed in the Philippines, and her Office is now engaging with the Central African Republic, Colombia, Mali and Sudan to develop more prevention commitments. Meanwhile, existing action plans in South Sudan and Yemen contain prevention elements. Highlighting the work done with regional organizations such as the African Union and the League of Arab States — with whom her Office enjoys extensive cooperation — she added that 172 States parties ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Other treaties, such as the Paris Principles, the Vancouver Principles and the Safe Schools Declaration have each been endorsed by more than 100 States.
“But more needs to be done,” she stressed, citing the opportunity to develop national-level strategies or common approaches to prevention, with sufficient resources. Some examples would include sharing best practices, capacity-building and more efforts to follow up on existing protection and prevention commitments — including Council resolutions. The United Nations own capacity and expertise on child protection should be deployed to support such efforts, she said, noting that her office has strengthened its partnership with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children to better address the continuum of violence and anticipate risks before, during and after conflict. “The humanitarian-peace-development nexus straddles prevention, protection, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction, and should be better understood,” she said.
NAJAT MAALLA M’JID, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, noting that millions of children live in conflict zones around the world, said that conflicts often overlap with other crises, such as the climate and financial crises. They also amplify pre-existing social inequalities, she said, highlighting the “continuum of violence” faced by children living in poor and remote areas, those deprived of family care, children in detention or in institutional care, on streets, from minorities, those with disabilities, girls, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and stateless children. This can encompass multiple forms that are often interlinked such as abduction, sexual abuse and exploitation, gender-based violence, forced labour, trafficking, smuggling, child marriage, enrolment in armed and criminal groups and deprivation of liberty.
When children’s educational, developmental, mental health and psychosocial needs are neglected, she added, the consequences can last a lifetime. But it is not inevitable that children suffer the most, she underscored, adding that prevention of the six grave violations and their interlinked forms of violence is possible across the conflict continuum if pre-existing risks and vulnerabilities are identified and addressed before conflict erupts. Further, all parties during conflict must adhere to the highest standards of protection, including access to humanitarian aid and support for children. Also stressing the importance of support and investment in rebuilding children’s lives after conflicts, she said the international community must invest in integrated national children protection systems. Solid cooperation and close coordination with United Nations agencies and programmes is key.
Turning to concrete preventive measures, she said “it is critical to understand and identify who these children are and where they live”. Underscoring the need for early detection of the most vulnerable children and caregivers through centralized in-country information management systems and rapid emergency child alert systems, she said it is necessary to provide information — in language children understand — on available support services, such as helplines and family reunification. Equally, it is crucial to ensure provision of easy access to humanitarian aid and support for all children with particular attention to the most vulnerable. Forced displacement due to conflicts heightens the risk of abduction, trafficking and children going missing. To prevent these crimes strengthening cross-border cooperation is critical, she stressed, pointing to the need for child-friendly border management, rapid exchange of information and proper registration. Such cooperation will allow better accountability for the perpetrators and traffickers through improved capabilities for criminal investigations and mutual legal assistance, she added.
Underscoring that all actions to address child protection must be informed and shaped by children’s experiences, she said: “they know best where the systems have failed them the most”. Children affected by conflict are already taking actions providing peer support, promoting peace and reconciliation, and preventing radicalization, she said, drawing attention to how children in Yemen requested peace through a peace resolution. In Syria and Ukraine, girls have shared their stories with the world to promote peace, while in Africa and Latin America young leaders have been actively engaged in peacebuilding. Noting her engagement with more than 80 Member States to end violence against children in all settings, including conflicted areas, she said her Office has also been providing guidance to the United Nations system. Enhancing the participation of children, boys and girls in decision-making, as well as long-term policies to address their aspirations, is fundamental to a sustainable peace, she stressed.
DIVINA MALOUM, a representative of civil society from Cameroon, observed that, in Africa, thousands of children have been forced to serve as combatants, mine testers, messengers and cooks, with some of them even being used as human shields. Further, girls and women are targeted as sex slaves for military or armed-group leaders. She said that, to respond to the needs of such children, in 2015 she created Children for Peace, which is a movement led by children and girls working across Cameroon and other African countries. The movement operates in complex cultural systems and areas affected by war to democratize the public sphere. It seeks to promote, among other things, inclusive governance, greater political and economic expression for children and an increased number of children in peacebuilding. She noted that, to achieve these goals, “Children for Peace” relies on art, capacity-building, gender peace clubs, mentoring, advocacy, documentaries, psychosocial assistance and software design.
Detailing a specific project, she spotlighted “Silence the Guns”, which was launched in 2019. This flagship initiative is an integrated citizen engagement project, led by girls, aiming to realize a conflict-free Africa by engaging children and girls to mobilize stakeholders to prioritize efforts concerning peace, the rights of children and girls, and effective socioeconomic development. She emphasized that, through the project, children are taking positive action towards finding better solutions to issues related to peacebuilding, violent extremism and human rights. Noting that her work with Children for Peace has been “acknowledged and recognized because it gives results”, she said that the “Silence the Guns” project contributed to reaching at least 5.5 million people and facilitated support for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of 5,000 children formerly associated with armed groups.
She went on to suggest that States, to better integrate children’s perspectives on peace and develop sustainable solutions, should encourage the involvement of children and youth of diverse identities in the co-creation process from the start. This will facilitate a better understanding of their context and realities and, ultimately, the designing of more relevant, effective and inclusive programmes. She pointed out, for example, that before implementing projects, Children for Peace conducts field trips to administer questionnaires to children to understand their points of view on a specific issue, along with the solution they would propose to mitigate or end the problem. In this way, the organization ensures that beneficiaries are represented in the conceptualization, implementation and follow-up of a project to promote ownership and the replicability and durability of obtained results. Adding that facilitating children’s involvement in decision-making also requires removing the technical and financial barriers that stand in the way of youth participation, she recalled the saying: “If you want to see change in your community or in the world, be that change”.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), Council President for February, speaking in her national capacity, said resolution 2427 (2018) emphasized that children accused of having committed crimes during conflicts should be treated primarily as victims. It also called for special attention to children associated with terrorist groups, she said, urging a sustained and effective response across the United Nations system. “We should leverage existing mechanisms to strengthen cross-border monitoring and reporting, and for repatriating and reintegrating children captured or released in countries other than those of origin,” she said, also calling for more systematic reporting on early warning indicators of grave violations against children in armed conflict — and their implications for regional peace and stability — by the Secretary-General. She also called for survivor-centred approaches to inform prevention and early warning schemes and said military training and standard operating procedures should address the gender specific needs of girls and boys. In addition, children themselves should be engaged in identifying pre-existing risks and vulnerabilities, as their perspectives are crucial to understand the context in which violations occur.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), noting his country’s commitment to the protection of children in armed conflict, underscored the importance of the existing normative framework in that regard. Highlighting the blacklist of violators of children’s rights, as identified in the Secretary-General’s report, he said the perpetrators of such violations must be held accountable. Welcoming the role of the International Criminal Court in ensuring accountability and justice, he said all relevant mandates must contain robust provisions with capacity and resources for monitoring and implementation. While welcoming the national actions plans which have already led to the release of thousands of children, he said that despite tangible results, children continue to suffer. Recruiting child soldiers cuts off children from education and post-conflict reconciliation, he noted, adding France will play its full role to ensure the safety of children.
ZHANG JUN (China) underscored that children need more than crisis response or humanitarian relief; rather, they need durable peace. To achieve such peace, the international community must seek political solutions, instead of resorting to sanctions or other enforcement measures as a reflex. Further, States must respect others’ sovereignty and territorial integrity, refrain from interfering in internal affairs and oppose both manoeuvres aimed at Government change and the practice of creating chaos and exporting unrest in the name of counter-terrorism or democracy. He also stressed that prevention must always be guided by the spirit of the rule of law, calling on “the last country in the world that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child” to act without delay so this vital instrument can truly achieve universal coverage. He went on to emphasize the importance of supporting children’s development, noting that preventing violations against children is a “reactive goal”. A proactive one, however, centres on development, as a person’s childhood often shapes their destiny. Underscoring that “changing the childhood of a generation may also change the future of a nation”, he said that the United Nations should coordinate development resources to prioritize eradicating poverty and hunger, providing universal education and promoting physical and mental health in its work to protect children.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), noting that nearly five years have passed since the adoption of Council resolution 2427 (2018), said the situation of children in armed conflict today remains disheartening. It is necessary to pinpoint the roots of conflict — including inequality, social injustice, gender injustice, lack of opportunities and risk factors — which lay the groundwork for violations against children and put civilians in the path of danger. Noting that countries with acceptable levels of stability and democratic governance have less chance of falling into conflict, he echoed the Secretary-General’s appeal to States to use existing mechanisms aimed at protecting the right to education. Synergies should also be strengthened between the Council, the Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict — which Ecuador chairs — and the Office of the Special Representative. Meanwhile, more countries should accede to the Safe Schools Declaration and other relevant international agreements. Calling for lasting solutions, he said children’s participation in political transitions and peace negotiations is also critical, as is the case for young girls and women in Afghanistan, whose access to education and public life has once again been severely curtailed.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), stressing that “every child has the right to a childhood”, added that 30 years ago, the General Assembly enshrined that in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is “nearly universally applicable”. Yet, grave violations continue to be committed against girls and boys — be it in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar or Ukraine, she added. Highlighting the relevant resolutions of the Council as well as the Convention and its Optional Protocol and international humanitarian law, she added that for these tools to maintain their deterrent effect, their independence and credibility must be preserved, including in the annexes of the Council’s annual report on the matter. Noting that resolution 1379 (2001) requests the Secretary-General to bring to the Council’s attention situations of concern which are not yet on its agenda, she added that their timely inclusion in the annual report further promotes prevention. Underscoring the importance of the right to education, she added that attacks on schools continue to increase in many conflict zones. Reintegrating children associated with armed groups or forces is critical, she added, noting that such programmes must therefore be sensitive to gender, age and specific vulnerabilities, and “children must be more involved in their design”.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), underlining the need to ensure that existing United Nations mechanisms can work effectively, said that the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict are critical pillars of the Council’s architecture for addressing violations against children. He therefore urged all Member States to engage constructively and collaboratively with both. Expressing concern over the rise of conflict-related sexual violence, he spotlighted his country’s launch of a platform to promote the rights and well-being of children born of such violence. The United Kingdom is committed to acting in this area, including through the deployment of expertise to support the Democratic Republic of the Congo in conducting a national review of laws, policies and practices. Adding that the United Kingdom is exploring all levers — including sanctions — to deter perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence, he reported that his country has announced a sanctions package that includes six targets in Mali, Myanmar and South Sudan, all designated for their involvement in sexual and gender-based violence.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) cited major progress in strengthening the United Nations children in armed conflict agenda over the last 25 years. While over 170,000 children have been released from armed forces, the rights of young people continue to be violated systematically. Many will carry those scars for the rest of their lives. Citing the situations in Burkina Faso, Mali, Sudan, Yemen and Myanmar, among others, he said reports of violations against children emerging from Ukraine are also disturbing, with hundreds reported killed and many others forcibly deported and put up for adoption. Highlighting several key areas for further action, he called for intensified efforts to create concrete, timebound action plans between Governments and the United Nations. Accountability also serves an important deterrent function, he said, noting that Albania supports the inclusion of violations against children in armed conflict as a standalone criteria for the imposition of sanctions. Violations against children should also be included an all mandate authorizations and renewals of United Nations peace operations. In addition, he noted that his Government has repatriated children who are nationals of Albania from hellish refugee camps in Syria and Iraq.
MICHAEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) drawing attention to how child trafficking is fuelled by international criminal networks who aim to seize control of natural resources, which are then exchanged for instruments and weapons of war, said such trafficking has pulled children deeper into conflict. Highlighting the extent of psychosocial damage this causes, he said “these are life sentences” for the majority of children. Noting that almost 25 million children are displaced every decade by conflict, he said this also increases the risks of sexual exploitation and abuse as well as domestic servitude. One of the worst forms of child labour is the recruitment of children into war, he said, adding that assistance to child soldiers must be as broad as possible to protect them during reintegration. Beyond resolutions and annual reports, the international community must ensure more robust protections, he said, adding that officers, leaders and commanders involved in the exploitation of children must be brought to justice. Hailing the International Criminal Court’s decision in the case pertaining to Thomas Lubanga, he highlighted the Convention as the most comprehensive framework on the responsibilities of States parties and drew attention to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation), underlining the important role played by the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, said that this mechanism facilitates both more-effective protection for children in armed conflict and the prevention of future violence. However, over the past two years, the Working Group has become less effective. Instead of holding in-depth discussions on the protection of children, attempts have been made to force the Working Group to consider human rights aspects, which are within the ambit of other bodies. Further, as the issue of children is also addressed by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, he stressed the need to uphold a clear division of labour between the Organization’s different entities in line with the Charter of the United Nations. He went on to urge focus on respect for universal norms of international humanitarian law, which do not include things — such as the Safe Schools Declaration — that do not enjoy universal support. On the situation in Ukraine, he said that hundreds of children have been killed in the Donbas — with many more injured — and recounted acts of the Ukrainian armed forces that threatened the lives of children or destroyed educational infrastructure. He also expressed concern over the situation faced by children in Syria located in areas outside of Damascus’ control, urging countries to take measures to repatriate their child nationals from conflict zones.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) voiced his country’s deep concern over the trends in violations of children´s rights. “The adoption of resolution 1261 (1999) was a historic milestone for the Security Council,” he said, as it formally placed the issue of children and armed conflict on the Council’s agenda. He recalled that former First Lady of Mozambique Graça Machel published a landmark report on that topic — reflecting not just her country’s own horrific experience with violence against children during the war waged against it by South Africa until 1992, but also synthesizing the experience of children of war-ravaged countries around the world. Despite the strides achieved since that time, he said much more remains to be done. Mozambique has enshrined the rights of children in its Constitution and acceded to many relevant regional and international legal instruments, including the 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol. It has also endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and is in the process of endorsing the Paris and Vancouver Principles and Commitments. However, terrorist attacks in the Cabo Delgado region of Mozambique are today the greatest challenge facing children in the country, he said, outlining national efforts to combat that threat and underscoring the importance of prevention.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), noting the potential of children to bring the United Nations together, said that while there have been deep divisions between Council members recently, they can find common ethical and political grounds when it comes to protecting children from war. Stressing the crucial need for ensuring accountability, he called for the adoption of national accountability measures and stressed that domestic and international jurisdiction must be complementary. Drawing attention to children who have been forcibly displaced, he said that regardless of their legal status, stateless refugees, migrants and internally displaced children are at higher risk of grave violations, including recruitment into conflict, sexual exploitation and detention. Education must be at the forefront of peacebuilding, he said, adding that schools must be protected from attacks. Further, there can be no dignity for children without socioeconomic development, he said, calling on the Council to prioritize a comprehensive approach that involves mutually reinforcing political, social, economic and human rights elements.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) said that the United Nations early warning and violence-monitoring efforts should employ relevant child-sensitive indicators, stressing that prevention can be successful if the risk factors that lead to grave violations against children are identified, understood and addressed before conflict erupts. For example, he spotlighted the need to address poverty and the lack of educational opportunities, which increase children’s susceptibility to recruitment by armed groups. He went on to point out that, given the cross-border nature of some violations against children in armed conflict, the United Nations, regional organizations and Member States should develop and implement joint strategies and coordination mechanisms that enhance information exchange and cooperation to prevent cross-border recruitment, use and trafficking. Observing that an indicator of the importance Council members attach to the children-and-armed-conflict agenda is the resources they devote to its implementation, he urged the allocation of targeted, practical and rapid resources to facilitate responses to threats against children or avert potential dangers they may face. Further, targeted resources are urgently needed to identify, fence off and, eventually, destroy explosive ordinance that could endanger the lives of children. He added a call for continued support for schools as “hubs of peace”, including through sustained support for school feeding programmes.
RICHARD M. MILLS, JR. (United States), calling for the children in armed conflict agenda to be fully integrated into all the Council’s work, said accountability is crucial. Today, the Russian Federation’s delegation tried to spin the war in Ukraine as somehow being a positive thing for children. In truth, that brutal full-scale invasion is having a devastating impact on young people in that country. Commending the Secretary-General for including Ukraine in his latest report, he spotlighted the issuance of Russian Federation passports to unaccompanied children in Ukraine during wartime, adding that Moscow is also engaged in the relocation of Ukrainian children for the purpose of “Russification” and, in some cases, placement with families in the Russian Federation. He praised the work of the United Nations Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting, as well as other United Nations specialists working around the world, cautioning: “When we leave these positions vacant or understaffed, we leave children at risk.” Turning to specific situations, he said children in Ethiopia were exposed to sexual violence and other crimes during the recent conflict there and expressed hope that the Government and the Tigrayan authorities can build on the recent détente. Meanwhile, patterns of early and forced marriage and the recruitment of children are crippling Afghanistan, he said, condemning the Taliban for the practice of “bacha bāzī” and for recent edicts barring women from working for non-governmental organizations.
GHASAQ YOUSIF ABDALLA SHAHEEN (United Arab Emirates) noted that in the Middle East and North Africa region alone, 580 children were killed in conflict or violence in 2022, while some 50 million children need humanitarian assistance and more than 13 million children are displaced. The international community must invest in education as a prevention tool, she stressed, adding that in Yemen, the Houthis continue to use summer schools to indoctrinate and recruit children. Schools should never be instrumentalized to promote radicalization or exclusion; they should always be “sanctuaries of learning, nurturing and opportunity”, she said, adding also that States should exchange best practices on the rehabilitation and repatriation of children. Further, reintegration programmes should be sensitive to age, gender, levels of ability and other needs, she said, pointing to how in Iraq, authorities and the broader community continue to grapple with the traumatic legacy of crimes perpetrated by Da’esh against girls, with an alarming increased trend in suicide among members of the Yazidi community. Also stressing the importance of coordinated mine action, she said her country is participating in mine and explosive remnants of wars clearance projects, including in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Yemen.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) urged all parties to armed conflict to fully comply with their obligations under international humanitarian and human-rights law, and to implement all relevant Council resolutions. Recalling that resolution 2427 (2018) — adopted unanimously — strongly condemned attacks against schools, he urged all Member States to investigate and duly prosecute those responsible for such attacks. Access to quality education is a fundamental human right and a powerful tool to prevent and mitigate conflict, he stressed. It also helps stop the recruitment of child soldiers and provides necessary skills for the reintegration and rehabilitation of children affected by conflict. Therefore, Japan has supported a number of education programmes in conflict-affected countries and stands ready to accelerate its efforts to ensure inclusive, equitable educational opportunities for all children and youth, including those affected by conflict. Adding that no effort should be spared in improving learning environments and ensuring access to safe, quality education, he said that Japan will continue working closely with other Member States, the United Nations system, international humanitarian organizations and civil society in this endeavour.