UN / CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT

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05-Jul-2023 00:03:56
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, said, “We should never forget that behind each verified violation is the life of a child, with its own individual story. 18,890 children were affected last year, and yet their stories are not told.” UNIFEED

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STORY: UN / CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT
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DATELINE: 5 JULY 2023, NEW YORK CITY / FILE

SHOTLIST:

FILE - NEW YORK CITY

1. Wide shot, exterior, UN Headquarters

5 JULY 2023, NEW YORK CITY

2. Med shot, Gamba taking seat, Security Council
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, United Nations:
“We should never forget that behind each verified violation is the life of a child, with its own individual story. 18,890 children were affected last year, and yet their stories are not told.”
4. Med shot, Gamba, delegates
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, United Nations:
“27,180 grave violations against 18,890 children were verified by the United Nations last year. These include 2,880 violations that were late verified. 8,630 children were either killed or maimed, 7,622 children were recruited and used, and 3,985 children were abducted.”
6. Med shot, delegates
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, United Nations:
“Rape and sexual violence against children, although chronically underreported, was also verified at high levels. 1,165 children, almost all of them girls, were raped, gang-raped, forced into marriage or sexual slavery, or sexually assaulted. Some cases were so severe that they resulted in the death of the victims. The crimes committed against these children are horrifying.”
8. Med shot, delegates
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, United Nations:
“In situations of conflict, when protection, education, healthcare, food production systems, water facilities, and essential services are weakened or broken down, the only hope left for children and communities often comes in the form of humanitarian assistance. But this, too, is increasingly under threat. In 2022, the United Nations verified 3,931 incidents of the denial of humanitarian access to children.”
10. Pan right, delegates
11. SOUNDBITE (English) Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, United Nations:
“While acknowledging that armed groups, including those designated as terrorists by the United Nations, were responsible for 50 percent of grave violations, I would like to underscore that the main perpetrators of the killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access in 2022 were the armed and security forces of Governments. And these are the governments whose primary responsibility is to ensure the protection of civilians, including children.
12. Med shot, Abdi, delegates
13. SOUNDBITE (English) Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF):
“UNICEF is gravely concerned by the plight of children in the situations most recently added to the report, including Haiti and Niger this year, and Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Ukraine in 2022. However, we should bear in mind that the highest numbers of grave violations against children were verified in longstanding protracted conflicts, including those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Israel, and the State of Palestine, and Somalia.”
14. Med shot, Abdi, delegates
15. SOUNDBITE (English) Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF):
“With over 27,000 violations verified this year, up from 24,000 last year, existing commitments are clearly not enough. UNICEF calls on parties to take meaningful and unambiguous action for children.”
16. Pan right, delegates
17. SOUNDBITE (Spanish) Violeta, Representative, Child Civil Society:
“A country that does not allow its children, teenagers, and youth to work towards building peace is a country that is condemned to a future at war.”
16. Wide shot, Security Council

STORYLINE:
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, said, “We should never forget that behind each verified violation is the life of a child, with its own individual story. 18,890 children were affected last year, and yet their stories are not told."


Addressing the Security Council today (05 Jul), Gamba noted that, in 2017 — when she took office —the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict covered 20 situations across 4 geographical regions and documented 21,000 violations.

The current mandate spans five geographical regions and covers 26 situations, including the unfolding security situations in Haiti and Niger and the related situations in Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Ukraine, which were added in 2022 and in the report for the first time.

In 2022, there were 27,800 verified violations against 18,890 children, including 8,630 children killed or maimed, 7,622 children recruited and used, and 3,985 children abducted.

Rape and sexual violence against children, including gang rape, forced marriage, and sexual slavery — although unreported — has also been verified, while children were also killed or injured in air strikes.

Some cases were so severe that they resulted in the death of the victims.

Gamba commented, “The crimes committed against these children are horrifying.”

There were verified attacks in 1,163 schools and 647 hospitals — half of which were perpetrated by Government forces — representing a 112 percent increase compared to 2022, she continued, also spotlighting a 60 percent increase in the use of schools and hospitals for military purposes by armed forces and groups.

More so, incidents denying humanitarian access to children were verified — where humanitarian workers were killed, assaulted, or abducted, and the humanitarian supplies were looted — while bureaucratic impediments and restrictions on movement further complicated the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

She said, “In situations of conflict, when protection, education, healthcare, food production systems, water facilities, and essential services are weakened or broken down, the only hope left for children and communities often comes in the form of humanitarian assistance. But this, too, is increasingly under threat. In 2022, the United Nations verified 3,931 incidents of the denial of humanitarian access to children.”

In 2022, 2,496 children were deprived of liberty for their actual or alleged association with parties to conflicts.

While acknowledging that armed groups, including those designated as terrorists by the United Nations, were responsible for 50 percent of grave violations, Gamba underscored that the main perpetrators of the killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access in 2022 were the armed and security forces of Governments.

“And these are the governments whose primary responsibility is to ensure the protection of civilians, including children,” she stressed.

Spotlighting some positive achievements, she reported that, in Yemen, the United Nations signed an action plan with the Houthis to end and prevent violence.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mai-Mai Machine signed unilateral commitments to protect children.

In Iraq, the Government signed an action plan to prevent the recruitment of children by the Popular Mobilization Forces and repatriated 1,448 Iraqi children from north-east Syria.

The United Nations is also engaging with parties to the conflicts in Ethiopia, Mozambique, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation.

In other situations, progress was achieved by adopting handover protocols and developing child protection policies, she said, adding that 12,460 children formerly associated with the armed forces were released and provided with reintegration support.

Going forward, she called for the definition of a child as everyone under 18 and urged those present to boost financing of protection and reintegration programmes, including demining action and mine education initiatives.

Underlining the importance of supporting the monitoring and reporting mechanism in budgetary decisions, she said that United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) country offices’ resources dedicated to the mechanism need to be preserved and sustained.

Also addressing the Council today, Omar Abdi, UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director, said that this year’s report from the Secretary-General includes the highest number — over 27,000 — of grave violations ever verified by the United Nations.

He said that the plight of children in the situations most recently added to the report, including Haiti and Niger this year and Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Ukraine in 2022, was particularly concerning.

He also said, “UNICEF is gravely concerned by the plight of children in the situations most recently added to the report, including Haiti and Niger this year, and Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Ukraine in 2022. However, we should bear in mind that the highest numbers of grave violations against children were verified in longstanding protracted conflicts, including those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Israel, and the State of Palestine, and Somalia.”

According to Abdi, children in these contexts have faced unrelenting violations for years, and in some cases, like the children in the State of Palestine, for decades. “

He also expressed concern about the impact of the ongoing conflict in Sudan’s 21 million children.

More than 1 million children have now been displaced by the fighting, and the United Nations has received credible reports, under verification, that hundreds of children have been killed and injured.

He further highlighted how some countries have succeeded in preventing and ending grave violations against children through proactive measures.

For instance, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the implementation of the 2012 action plan led to a significant reduction in the number of children recruited and used by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), including the screening and separation of over 1,100 children.

This led to the delisting of FARDC for that violation.

He continued by saying that the United Nations monitoring and reporting mechanism for grave violations serves as the evidence base for this report.

This data helps UNICEF target prevention actions and responses to tragic incidents like the one that killed 27 children and injured 53 others last month in southern Somalia after an ordnance exploded at a playing field, he said.

“With over 27,000 violations verified this year, up from 24,000 last year, existing commitments are clearly not enough. UNICEF calls on parties to take meaningful and unambiguous action for children.”

He also expressed disappointment in the lack of progress by the Security Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict toward adopting the conclusions from the Secretary-General’s country reports.

He noted that non-State armed groups were responsible for over 50 percent of grave violations last year, urging States to enable and support the United Nations engagement with armed groups, including armed groups that may be designated as terrorists.

Sharing with the Council her recommendations on involving children in peacebuilding processes, Violeta, a child civil society representative, stated, “A country that does not allow its children, teenagers, and youth to work towards building peace is a country that is condemned to a future at war.”
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