8591st Security Council Meeting: Children and Armed Conflict Part 2

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02-Aug-2019 03:59:58
Much more must be done to ensure full protection for abducted, detained youngsters, delegates tell Security Council, in day-long debate on children and armed conflict at 8591st meeting.

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Calling attention to the plight of tens of thousands of children detained in war-torn countries and 420 million others growing up in conflict-affected places, delegates told the Security Council that much more must be done to ensure they fully enjoy their right to be protected.

During a day-long open debate on children and armed conflict, more than 80 delegates voiced concerns about the effects on children of the ongoing conflict in Yemen and the dire conditions in Myanmar. They also heard briefings from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), both of whom outlined the current landscape and highlighted challenges ahead.

The Council also heard from two survivors, who described the horrors of war from a child’s perspective. “We need you people to stand up and do more,” Mariatu Kamara, UNICEF Canada Ambassador, told the Council after recounting her own harrowing story of abduction, mutilation and survival following a 1999 rebel attack on her village in Sierra Leone. Recalling that she was only 11 years old at the time, she said that she and other children became targets during the conflict, which lasted from 1991 until 2002. She went on to warn Council members that doing nothing to address the needs of children emerging from conflict situations will only generate more conflict. She went on to say that now, as a UNICEF special representative for children in armed conflict, she works to promote children’s rights. She underlined the importance of helping children with disabilities during and after conflict, as well as the need to deploy child-protection experts.

Majok Peter Awan, a child protection professional, recalled that he was recruited at age 7, in 1979, by a local rebel group fighting the Khartoum Government in what is now South Sudan, as well as the six months of intensive military training he was forced to endure. He said that although that trauma had an impact on his life, he managed to escape and reach a refugee camp, where he eventually recovered — something not all children are able to do. “Not enough has been done so far, which is a shame since there is no excuse for not knowing the harsh situation of these children,” he said, appealing to the Council to ensure they get the support they need to heal, both physically and psychologically. “Child protection programming, including individualized psychosocial support, education and livelihoods opportunities, are key in the recovery of children and their families affected by conflict.”

Virginia Gamba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, presented the latest report of the Secretary-General (document S/2019/509). Citing recent gains, including the signing of action plans with non-State actors and agreements with Governments and key stakeholders to galvanize protection efforts, she said the report contains country-level updates and assesses progress on eliminating the six grave violations against children: killing and maiming children; recruiting or using them as soldiers; sexual violence against them; abduction; attacks against schools or hospitals; and denying humanitarian access to children. Unfortunately, the situation is not improving, and in some areas, it is worsening, she said, pointing out that the 24,000 violations against conflict-affected children documented in 2018 is up from 21,000 in 2017.

“We need to prioritize action on the ground and also protect the staff who do it,” she said, emphasizing: “We need to strain every sinew at the highest level to prevent violations, but we also need to be able to respond quickly to violations when they occur.” Rape and other forms of sexual violence are often underreported and greater accountability mechanisms could significantly advance progress in this area, she said. Moreover, too many children continue to be detained as a result of conflict, exposed to alarming levels of violence when they should be considered as victims, particularly those currently or allegedly associated with foreign fighters.

Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, also expressed concern about the tens of thousands of children associated with armed groups and currently languishing in camps, detention centres and orphanages in Iraq, Syria and other countries. They are shunned by their communities because of perceived or actual links with groups designated as terrorists, she said, adding: “When children leave these groups, they should receive urgently needed protection and humanitarian assistance…instead of being ostracized, rejected and locked up.” Highlighting UNICEF projects that address these and other needs, she said that a decade after the Council adopted resolution 1882 (2009), the facts demonstrate that “we have miles to go” to end grave violations against children in armed conflict. “Protecting the lives and futures of children affected by armed conflict is not just the right thing to do, it is in our collective self-interest,” she emphasized.

Council members shared the sense of urgent need for immediate action, with Equatorial Guinea’s representative saying that the survivors who briefed the Council demonstrated that violations continue. What became of the progress that humankind claims to have achieved, he asked, reminding Council members that most of them are mothers and fathers. As long as children keep dying on the front lines, humankind has most certainly not made progress, he stressed.

Representatives of conflict-affected States also shared their perspectives, with Yemen’s delegate saying the Houthi militia fighting his country’s Governments have recruited more than 30,000 children in a conflict that has ruined the lives of 4 million youngsters. While the Government has adopted several protection measures, the armed Houthi militia have established summer camps to attract children into their ranks, in violation of all international laws and norms.

Côte d’Ivoire’s representative, pointing out that his country was the first to be removed from the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict, recalled that the action plan was established in collaboration with the United Nations to effect the release and reintegration of thousands of children and to incorporate protection and children’s rights into military training modules.

Also speaking today was the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, as well as representatives of Belgium China, United States, France, Germany, Peru, Dominican Republic, South Africa, Kuwait, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Morocco, Norway (also on behalf of the Nordic countries), Liechtenstein, Canada (also on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict), Portugal, Ecuador, Andorra, Japan, Egypt, Mexico, Philippines, Switzerland, El Salvador, Italy, Ukraine, Estonia (also on behalf of Latvia and Lithuania), Brazil, Fiji, Pakistan, Slovenia, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, Thailand, Israel, Argentina, Uruguay, Spain, Ireland, Republic of Korea, India, San Marino, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Sudan, Luxembourg, Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Iraq, Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Georgia, Maldives, Colombia, Liberia, Bulgaria, Jordan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Qatar, Malaysia, Sierra Leone, Montenegro, Armenia, Venezuela, Iran, Angola, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Bahrain, Bangladesh and Syria.

Others delivering statements were representatives of the European Union delegation and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Observers for the Holy See and the State of Palestine also delivered statements.

The meeting began at 10:14 a.m. and ended at 6:58 p.m.

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