8305th Security Council Meeting: Children and Armed Conflict Part 1

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09-Jul-2018 03:33:25
Security Council seeks to strengthen protections for children in armed conflict, unanimously adopting Resolution 2427 (2018) at 8305th meeting.

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The Security Council, acting unanimously at the outset of a far-ranging open debate today, adopted a resolution aimed at further crystalizing the protection of children in armed conflicts, including by combating their recruitment by non-State armed groups and treating formerly recruited children primarily as victims.

By the terms of resolution 2427 (2018), the 15‑member Council committed to taking concrete action in response to serious abuses and violations of human rights — including those of children — which could constitute early indications of descent into conflict. Expressing particular concern over the regional and cross‑border nature of such violations and the high number of children killed or maimed by indiscriminate attacks against civilians, aerial bombardments, excessive use of force, explosive devices and the use of children as human shields, it urged all conflict parties to uphold their obligations under international law.

The Council strongly condemned attacks against schools and hospitals, which impede children’s access to education and health care, as well as violations involving the recruitment and use of children, rape, sexual violence and abductions, among other crimes. Stressing the importance of the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict — which includes securing concrete child protection commitments from warring parties — it further called upon her to compile a comprehensive set of best practices for the protection of children in conflict situations.

By other terms of the text, the Council stressed the need to pay particular attention to the treatment of children associated or allegedly associated with non-State armed groups, emphasizing that such children, or those accused of committing crimes during conflicts, should be treated primarily as victims. Urging Member States to consider non-judicial measures as an alternative to the prosecution and detention of children, it welcomed the launch of a process to compile practical guidance on the integration of child protection issues in peace processes, and reaffirmed its intention to continue monitoring and reporting on parties that commit grave violations affecting children in situations of armed conflict, in a list annexed to the Secretary-General’s annual report on the issue.

Many of the more than 90 speakers throughout the debate welcomed the resolution’s focus on concrete guidance and its links to Secretary-General António Guterres’ conflict prevention agenda. Citing his recent report on children in armed conflict (document S/2018/465), covering 2017, delegates voiced grave concern over the 21,000 documented violations against children — a large increase compared with 2016. Some spotlighted trends outlined in the report, including substantial increases in child casualties in Iraq and Myanmar; high overall child casualties in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen; attacks on schools and hospitals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kasaï region; the continued abduction of children by Al Shabaab in Somalia; and the forced commission of suicide attacks by children recruited by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Briefing the Council, Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), warned that, as conflicts increase in number and ferocity, thousands of children are slipping through safety nets around the world. Calling for the increased political will and resources needed to protect them, she recounted her 2017 visit to Yemen, where there are not enough respirators or medicine to go around, and where mothers hold their frail, acutely malnourished children. The international community must demand zero tolerance for all violations against children, which fuel grievances that inflame and perpetuate conflicts across generations, she stressed. “When faced with the escalating consequences of conflict to a generation of children who have never known peace, we have a duty to act.”

Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict, emphasized that rehabilitation and reintegration — not retribution — must be the centrepiece of all efforts to engage with children formerly recruited by or associated with armed groups. Stressing the importance of child protection plans adopted with various Governments and armed groups – including, recently, in the Central African Republic, Mali, Nigeria and Sudan – she also described the role of a similar plan in Colombia’s evolving peace process, declaring: “We must build on these advances to move to an era of prevention.”

Jenny Londoño, a consultant at Grupo de Jóvenes Consultores — Colombia, said she was speaking on behalf of the many boys and girls recruited by armed groups around the world. Recalling that she ended up in the ranks of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People's Army (FARC-EP) at just 13, she said preventing violations against children must be a top international priority. Protecting children should be an integral part of any peace process, she stressed, emphasizing that recruited children — themselves victims of crimes — should never be treated as criminals. Noting that recruited children around the globe often end up in detention centres, she described Colombia’s Victim’s Law and its potential as a best practice model to share with other countries.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, hailing Colombia’s successful implementation of child protection plans, also welcomed the recent signing of similar agreements with armed groups across Africa. Following the start of Côte d’Ivoire’s civil war in 2002, the country was annexed to the Secretary-General’s report on children in armed conflict, but later pioneered the signing of child protection plans, becoming the first country to be delisted from the Secretary-General’s report, he said. Those efforts made possible the release of thousands of children, as well as their social reintegration, he said, describing specific national strategies to combat stigma against former child combatants.

Throughout the debate, several speakers spotlighted other situations of concern for children around the world. Ukraine’s representative, citing the Russian Federation’s illegal occupation of parts of its neighbours’ territories, recounted reports that children as young as 15 are recruited into armed groups and take part in combat operations as fully fledged members of militant Russian and Russian Federation-supported groups. Noting that some 200,000 children living along the contact line face daily shelling, booby traps and landmines, he said the Russian Federation could easily help resolve conflicts by abandoning its aggressive policies, withdrawing its troops from neighbouring States and ceasing to flood the region with heavy weapons.

The representative of Bangladesh said children constitute 58 per cent of the more than 700,000 Rohingya who entered his country from Myanmar’s Rakhine State since August 2017. Pointing to reports that non-State actors in Rakhine are involved in violence against children, he said Bangladesh is in “a race against time” to provide hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children the protection and assistance they need. Without a solution, their vulnerabilities will exact a price on the region’s peace and security, he warned, urging the Council to hold Myanmar responsible for the protection of those children, starting with their right to return home.

Guatemala’s delegate emphasized that the protection of children is more fundamental than ever to achieve peace, tolerance, coexistence and the prevention of future conflicts. Calling upon States, the United Nations system and all citizens to ensure that children can enjoy their childhood without risks, exclusion or violence of any kind, he spotlighted “inhuman policies” which separated children from their families, causing trauma and violating their human rights. Such practices — which constituted crimes against humanity — must end, he stressed.

Describing her country’s path forward after the tragedy of genocide, Rwanda’s delegate said the annual National Children Summit offers a platform for children to express their views and make recommendations about what is needed to build the nation. Children’s rights must be respected and protected, regardless of context, she insisted.

Also speaking were Heads of Government and other senior representatives from Sweden, Netherlands, United States, France, Ethiopia, Peru, Kuwait, Poland, Russian Federation, Bolivia, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, China, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Ireland, Germany, Chile, Colombia, Estonia, Spain, Slovenia, Pakistan, Italy, Argentina (on behalf of countries endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration), Canada (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children in Armed Conflict), Japan, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico, Austria, Norway (on behalf of the Nordic States), Turkey, South Africa, Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Algeria, Myanmar, Israel, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Liechtenstein, Malta, Slovakia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Jordan, Sudan, Malaysia, Switzerland, Australia, Andorra, Portugal, San Marino, Ecuador, Iran, Belgium, Panama, Romania, Montenegro, United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Georgia, United Republic of Tanzania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Djibouti, Venezuela, Philippines, Kenya, Qatar, Yemen, Armenia, Morocco, Greece, Egypt, Dominican Republic, Liberia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Haiti, India and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the European Union delegation. The Permanent Observers for the State of Palestine and the Holy See also participated.

The meeting began at 10:13 a.m. and ended at 7:30 p.m.
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