25 July 2006
Security Council Reiterates Commitment to Address Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, Determination to Implement Landmark 2005 Resolution 1612
Presidential Statement Welcomes Progress in Monitoring, Reporting Mechanism; Special Representative, UNICEF Head, 38 Others Address Issue in Day-Long Debate
NEW YORK, 24 July (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council reiterated today its commitment to address the widespread impact of armed conflict on children, as it held an open debate on issue.
In a statement read out by Jean-Marc de La Sablière (France), its President for July, the Council also reiterated its determination to ensure respect for its resolution 1612 (2005) and all previous texts on children and armed conflict, which provided a comprehensive framework within which to address the protection of conflict-affected children.
The Council underscored the importance of a sustained investment in development, especially in health, education and skills training, to secure the successful reintegration of children into their communities and prevent re-recruitment. The specific situation of girls exploited by armed forces and groups must be recognized and adequately addressed.
Also by that statement, the Council welcomed the appointment of Radhika Coomaraswamy as the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. It also welcomed the fact that its working group on children and armed conflict had achieved commendable progress in its implementation phase, and was now discussing specific reports on parties in situations of armed conflict.
The Council welcomed the ongoing implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict, and looked forward to receiving the forthcoming independent review of that mechanism. Acknowledging that the application of the mechanism had already produced results in the field, the Council welcomed the efforts by national governments, relevant United Nations actors and civil society partners to make it operational.
Speaking in his national capacity, Mr. de La Sablière, said it was impossible not to think of the children in Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, innocent victims in a conflict that had noting to do with them. He was also thinking beyond the Middle East, concerned for the well-being of the more than 300,000 children actually taking part in armed conflicts around the world. Nearly half the children trapped in armed conflict were girls, often single mothers, who even when conflicts ended and children were "liberated", often lived on the margins of society. Without effective reintegration, they were potential factors in the resurgence of crises.
Noting the arrest of Thomas Lubanga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his transfer to the International Criminal Court, he said that impunity was shrinking for those who perpetrated crimes against children. The Council was following the matter in detail in its working group set up under resolution 1612. At its most recent meeting, that group, headed by France, had examined in detail the situation of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and would examine other situations and submit its assessments and recommendations to the Council, which must be ready to use the full arsenal of available measures to punish those who defied its authority by refusing to comply with relevant resolutions. The international community must work more on the link between security and development, since the absence of a future for children undermined prevention and demobilization efforts.
Addressing the Council earlier, Ms. Coomaraswamy said resolution 1612 demonstrated that the Council was committed to going beyond words to specific actions in endorsing a monitoring and reporting mechanism. Through the resolution, the Council also expressed its intention to combat impunity through possible targeted measures against repeat violations of children's rights. However, despite the groundswell of support for the resolution and the monitoring reporting exercise, and the fact that the situation of children in Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo had improved markedly, children continued to suffer. More than 250,000 of them continuing to be exploited as child soldiers by armed forces and groups around the world. Tens of thousands of girls were subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence. Abduction of children was becoming more systematic and widespread. Since 2003, more than 14 million had been forcibly displaced within and outside their home countries, and between 8,000 and 10,000 had been killed or maimed each year by landmines.
Recounting the story of "Abou" from Sierra Leone, she said he had been abducted by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) from his school at the age of 11. Four years later, he had become a killer and a feared RUF commander, one of its youngest. Demobilized by the United Nations at 15, he had received amnesty for atrocities and, although his community had accepted him back, many were still afraid of him and he was quite isolated. Abou had disappeared six months after being reunited with his family. Haunted by "bad spirits" in his community, he had been among children disarmed and demobilized three years later in Côte d'Ivoire, where he had been recruited to fight for the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD). He had told United Nations staff in an interview that he had left because fighting was the only thing he could do well, but Sierra Leone was now at peace.
She said the story illustrated a terrible tragedy: the trauma of children and the communities that they had been forced to brutalize; the tremendous challenges to successful healing and reintegration of children in the aftermath of conflict; and the recycling of children into conflicts that shifted across borders.
Also addressing the Council, Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that, despite the Security Council's active involvement in the issue over the years, particularly its establishment of an effective monitoring and reporting system that would help understand the extent and severity of violations against children, there was still much work to be done. Indeed, the killing and maiming of children, abductions, attacks on schools and hospitals, sexual violence, child recruitment and denial of humanitarian access -- the six categories of children's rights violations covered by Council resolution 1612 -- continued to be characteristic of many present-day conflicts. UNICEF, with its partners, had begun to implement the monitoring and reporting mechanism. Baseline situational assessments were being finalized to help refine monitoring and reporting systems at the national level. Technical support and guidance had been provided through country visits to Nepal, Burundi, Somalia and Côte d'Ivoire.
Another devastating consequence of today's wars was sexual violence, which represented a significant threat to children, particularly girls, she said. More than 40 per cent of reported sexual assaults were perpetrated against girls under the age of 15. Violence against women could often be used as a war strategy and, overall, sexual violence was often associated with an increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS. On the spread of small arms and light weapons, the Council should encourage respect for arms embargoes, including the criminalization and punishment of violators. The safety and security of those entrusted with implementing the Council's relevant mechanisms must be ensured and under no circumstances should United Nations staff and the Organization's humanitarian partners be targeted while carrying out their roles in monitoring and response.
Marie-Madeleine Kalala, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said her country's Government had implemented national legislation, as well as several international legal instruments with respect to protecting children. The Democratic Republic of the Congo ranked third among African countries in the establishment of a national action plan in accordance with the provisions of the Declaration adopted by the 1993 Vienna World Conference.
She said her Government had spared no effort with regard to protecting children. In 1999, despite the prevailing state of war, it had organized, together with non-governmental organizations, a vast forum in Kinshasa on the demobilization of child soldiers, which had drawn experts from many African, European, Asian and American countries. That campaign had provided new impetus to the perception of the phenomenon of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
However, the country faced a number of constraints, particularly those involving the location of the children's families, she said. There were also continuing tensions in some parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A solution must be found urgently. UNDP's overall financing for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration was $200 million, of which only $5 million was committed to children associated with armed forces and armed groups. Today, 14,000 children were still to be demobilized, while the funds for that task had been totally exhausted.
Others who addressed the Council included Ad Melkert, Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, and Ian Bannon, Acting Director of the World Bank's Sustainable Development Network.
Also taking part in the debate were the Secretary of State in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (on behalf of the European Union), and the Director-General, International Law and Consular Affairs Section, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia.
Also speaking were the representatives of United Republic of Tanzania, United Kingdom, Argentina, Peru, Ghana, Japan, China, United States, Greece, Qatar, Russian Federation, Denmark, Congo, Canada, Sri Lanka, Uganda, San Marino, Slovenia (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Venezuela, Guatemala, Brazil, Myanmar, Liberia, Egypt, Colombia, Benin and Israel.
The Observer for Palestine also participated in the debate, as did a representative of the non-governmental organization Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict.
Beginning at 10:12 a.m., the meeting was suspended at 1:15 p.m. It resumed at 2:40 p.m. and adjourned at 4:20 p.m.
The full text of presidential statement S/PRST/2006/33 reads as follows:
"The Security Council reiterates its commitment to address the widespread impact of armed conflict on children and its determination to ensure respect for and implementation of its resolution 1612 (2005) and all its previous resolutions on children and armed conflict, which provide a comprehensive framework for addressing the protection of children affected by armed conflict.
"As part of this comprehensive framework, the Security Council welcomes the progress made since the adoption of resolution 1612, in particular in the three following areas:
-- the Security Council welcomes the appointment of a new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy. The Security Council also welcomes her field activities in situations of armed conflict and her intention to carry out new visits in such situations. The Security Council urges parties to armed conflict to cooperate with the Special Representative, as well as with UNICEF and other relevant United Nations entities, with a view to ending recruitment and use of child soldiers in violation of applicable international law and all other violations and abuses committed against children by parties to armed conflict.
-- the Security Council welcomes the ongoing implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict, invites the Secretary-General to accelerate it in accordance with resolution 1612 and looks forward to receiving the forthcoming independent review on the implementation of this mechanism. The Security Council acknowledges that the application of the mechanism has already produced results in the field and welcomes the efforts by national Governments, relevant United Nations actors and civil society partners to make the mechanism operational. The Security Council therefore invites relevant States affected by armed conflict that are not yet involved in the implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism to join it on a voluntary basis, in cooperation with the Special Representative and UNICEF.
-- the Security Council welcomes the activities of its working group on children and armed conflict, as outlined in the report by its chair (S/2006/497). The Security Council welcomes the fact that the Working Group has achieved commendable progress in its implementation phase and is now discussing specific reports of the Secretary General on parties in situations of armed conflict. The Security Council invites the Working Group to propose effective recommendations for consideration by the Council.
"The Security Council underscores the importance of a sustained investment in development, especially in health, education and skills training, to secure the successful reintegration of children in their communities and prevent re-recruitment. The specific situation of girls exploited by armed forces and groups must be recognised and adequately addressed.
"The Security Council calls for a reinvigorated effort by the international community to enhance the protection of children affected by armed conflict. In this regard, it invites all parties concerned, including Member States, regional organisations, relevant United Nations entities acting within their mandates including UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, OHCHR, ILO and UNESCO, international financial institutions including the World Bank, as well as civil society, to build partnerships to that effect. In particular, the Security Council invites donors to provide additional resources to fund the development of the monitoring and reporting mechanism and the reintegration of children. The Security Council also looks forward to the contribution of the newly established Peace-building Commission and Human Rights Council to this effort.
"The Security Council looks forward to the next report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 1612 (2005) and its previous resolutions on children affected by armed conflict, to be submitted by the Secretary-General by November 2006, and expresses its determination to address this important issue."
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