|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/SC/1248|
|Release Date: 27 July 2000|
|Security Council Holds Debate on Children and Armed Conflict|
NEW YORK, 26 July (UN Headquarters) -- Child soldiering must be curbed by mobilizing political pressure, addressing the economic, social and political factors behind the phenomenon, and enhancing capacities on the ground for receiving and rehabilitating child soldiers, Olara Otunnu, the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, told the Security Council today.
Speaking during the Council's day-long open debate on children and armed conflict, he said the international community must do a lot more to provide education to war-affected children and to meet the special needs of the girl child and adolescents in the midst and aftermath of conflict. Over the past two years, a number of concrete commitments had been made concerning the protection of children. The challenge now was to ensure adherence.
He said the Security Council should continue to investigate linkages between illicit trade and the ability of parties to armed conflict to conduct war. It should consider limited bans on exports of natural resources that benefited those parties, and indicate its willingness to consider targeted sanctions against parties in violation of those standards. The international community must work closely with local communities to strengthen deeply rooted local values that had traditionally provided for the protection of children in times of war.
Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said many of the values, principles and concrete commitments enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child remained unfulfilled, as did those of Security Council resolution 1261 (1999), reflecting the Convention’s obligations and principles.
Fulfilling those obligations involved the daily advocating of child rights with government officials, insurgents, commanders, civil society representatives, and children and youth themselves, she said. It also meant Council members must actively turn words into deeds. Those who violated children’s rights or colluded in such violations must be made to feel the repugnance of civilized people everywhere.
Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said that though the Council's adoption of resolution 1261 (1999) had strengthened the work of the United Nations, both through its various bodies and in the field, the task ahead was still enormous. Children in many parts of the world, including Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Sri Lanka and East Timor, continued to be killed, maimed, sexually abused, recruited into armed forces and deprived of life-saving humanitarian assistance.
Council President M. Patricia Durrant (Jamaica), speaking in her national capacity, said the Secretary-General's proposed exclusion of genocide and other egregious crimes against children from amnesty provisions contemplated during peace negotiations was worth considering. However, since conflicts could not always be prevented, the development of clear, appropriate strategies to protect children during conflicts must be addressed through comprehensive approaches involving the participation of a wide range of actors. That was essential, particularly in combating illicit arms trading and the illegal exploitation of and trade in natural resources.
The representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the picture was grim. Thirteen million children had been displaced by war situations; between 8,000 and 10,000 had fallen victim to landmines; 2 million had been killed by armed conflict; 6 million had been wounded and some 10 million traumatized -– without mentioning sexual violence, hardships, mutilations, and forcible recruitment into military service. The fate of those children was inseparable from the root causes of the conflicts of which they were the first victims. The best way to prevent conflict was to attack its underlying causes.
That sentiment was shared by the representatives of the United Republic of Tanzania, Lesotho and Mozambique, who stressed that poverty was one of the root causes of most armed conflicts. Children and armed conflict was a cross-cutting issue, and no discussion of ending armed conflicts could ignore the poverty dimension, said the United Republic of Tanzania’s representative.
Lesotho's representative said the issue of women and girl soldiers did not seem to attract as much attention as it deserved. Their role was not limited to combat and, in many cases, they were primarily recruited as sex slaves or concubines. Mozambique's representative said that children in his country were threatened by 2 million anti-personnel landmines planted during the civil war, but were unaware of the danger. Awareness campaigns were, therefore, as important for those children as demining itself.
India's representative said it did not help to discuss the problems of conflict-affected children in isolation. Malaria killed more children than did conflicts, and AIDS would kill even more and leave millions of other children orphaned and destitute. Moreover, there was no report on children and sanctions, another phenomenon affecting children. While conflicts ensuing from the breakdown of peace and security had a tragic effect on children, there was no evidence that their plight affected international peace and security.
The representative of Iraq, commending Mr. Otunnu’s vigorous campaign to have regional sanctions against Burundi lifted, expressed the hope that the Special Representative would undertake similar action to end sanctions against Iraq, thus alleviating the plight of Iraqi children. The best way to achieve long-term protection of children would be through prevention and by addressing the root causes. Foremost among those causes was the unstable and unbalanced international political and economic order.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Argentina, United Kingdom, Canada, Russian Federation, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Namibia, China, Netherlands, Ukraine, Tunisia, Austria, Colombia, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand, Barbados, Senegal, Nepal, Indonesia, Ecuador, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Norway and the Sudan.
Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference also spoke.
Today’s meeting, which began at 10:30 a.m., was suspended at 1:05 p.m. It resumed at 3:20 p.m. and adjourned at 7:25 p.m.
Council Work Programme
When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it the Secretary-General's report on children in armed conflict (document A/55/163-S/2000/712), submitted pursuant to the landmark Council resolution 1261 (1999), the adoption of which has given full legitimacy to the protection of children exposed to conflict as an issue that properly belongs on the Council's agenda.
On addressing impunity, the Secretary-General recommends that genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other egregious crimes perpetrated against children be excluded from amnesty provisions contemplated during peace negotiations. Another recommendation says the Security Council should urge Member States to take concrete steps to investigate, prosecute and sanction individuals and corporations involved in illegal trafficking of currency, arms, natural resources, or other resources that exacerbate armed conflicts where there is gross abuse and brutalization of children.
Noting that amnesty offers may bring recalcitrant parties to the negotiating table, and are sometimes awarded to help ensure the transformation of fighting factions into peaceful political participants, the report says war-fatigued citizens sometimes prefer peace at almost any cost, as in Sierra Leone. In other cases, such as Rwanda, the perpetrators may be brought to trial, but the devastation of the domestic judicial system and the dearth of trained personnel may exclude the possibility of fair criminal trials. The state of the national justice system is of particular concern when children are to be prosecuted for serious wartime offences
Regarding child soldiers, the Secretary-General stresses that it is critical to address the social, economic and ideological factors, as well as other root causes of children's recruitment and participation in conflict. Member States, multilateral donors and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should be encouraged to commit the resources necessary to ensure the long-term reintegration and rehabilitation of child soldiers.
The report notes that children make obedient and cheap soldiers, capable of instilling terror in civilians and opposing forces alike. Those forced to fight are generally poor, illiterate and from rural zones, while volunteers are usually motivated by a desire to escape poverty or lured by appeals to ethnic, religious or political ideologies.
Effective prevention must be directed at the root causes of their recruitment and participation in conflict, at particularly vulnerable groups of children and at the recruiters themselves, the report says. On the basis of consensus reached on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the international community should now speak with one voice in insisting on 18 years as the minimum age for participation in conflict, whether in armed forces or armed groups.
Regarding the rights and special needs of girls, the Secretary-General recommends that particular attention be paid to providing opportunities and resources for children abducted for sexual purposes, so that they may restart their lives independently of their abductors. The Security Council should urge all parties to conflict to promote the participation of women in peace negotiations.
According to the report, several United Nations agencies and departments are collaborating on issues of gender and disarmament and will pay particular attention to the plight of female child soldiers. More fundamentally, the façade of impunity for the perpetrators of sexual violence against children in wartime is crumbling, with several convictions for sexual violence and rape having been obtained by the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
In the context of the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, to be held in 2001, the Secretary-General calls on Member States to commit themselves to measures that will curtail that trade. Those measures include developing global codes of conduct that take fully into account the protection of children, including a reliable system for marking arms and ammunition at the time of manufacture.
The report stresses the strong correlation between the easy availability of small arms and the dramatic rise in the victimization of women and children. As weapons become smaller, lighter and easier to handle, the number of child casualties of armed conflict mounts and children become increasingly attractive as soldiers and arms runners. Subregional organizations and arrangements are well placed to address the illicit cross-border movement of arms, natural resources and children. In 1998, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) declared a three-year moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of small arms in the subregion.
Another recommendation urges the Security Council, when imposing sanctions under Article 41 of the United Nations Charter, to develop a coordinated and integrated approach in order to minimize unintended consequences on civilian populations, especially children. The Council should reaffirm the responsibility of targeted States and armed groups to ensure the humanitarian protection of all those under their control, particularly children.
Hundreds of thousands of children suffer the unintended consequences of blunt sanctions, the report notes. The potential long-term benefits of sanctions should be weighed against the immediate and long-term costs to children, including the collapse of health and education infrastructures, reduced economic opportunities, increased child labour in informal sectors and increased infant morbidity and mortality. The suffering of children in Iraq and the Balkans are troubling cases in point.
Recommending that the Security Council ensure the inclusion of monitoring and reporting on child protection in all United Nations peacekeeping mandates, the Secretary-General stresses the critical role of peacekeeping missions in protecting children. A senior child protection adviser and two child rights officers are working within the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). Similarly, there are child protection staff within the structure of the United Nations Observer Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).
According to the report, children have often been overlooked in peacemaking processes. In the past year, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict has received commitments from governments and insurgent groups in Burundi, Colombia, Sierra Leone and the Sudan to place the rights and protection of children on the agendas of ongoing peace processes. To date, children have been explicitly mentioned only in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement for Northern Ireland and the July 1999 Lomé Peace Agreement for Sierra Leone.
The report outlines regional initiatives by the European Commission, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the G-8 industrialized countries. The G-8 Foreign Ministers, meeting recently in Okinawa, Japan, identified the plight of conflict-affected children as one of the world's most disturbing human security issues, and promised to suppress armed conflict by removing the illicit arms and money that fuel it around the world. The United Nations is also building partnerships with the Council of Europe, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Non-governmental organizations and civil society have a critical role, the report emphasizes, in building national and international advocacy networks; developing operational programmes to respond more effectively to the needs of victimized children; and generating information, ideas and new proposals on particular situations and issues. It notes that the advocacy campaign of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers was instrumental in building worldwide momentum for an agreement on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding children's involvement in conflict.
The report states in conclusion that perpetrators must be convinced that the costs of their behaviour outweigh any perceived benefits. Public scrutiny has started to raise the political and material costs to those who would violate the rights of children in armed conflict. More of the world's research, analytical and intellectual talent must be harnessed to the development of fresh ideas for protecting children and to deterring those who would exploit them in times of conflict. Ultimately, reducing harm done to children is best achieved by preventing armed conflict in the first place. This will entail narrowing structural inequities and addressing the extreme poverty, practices of exclusion and manipulation of diversity that are at the root of modern conflicts. Development strategies should aim at reducing the systematic imbalances in resource distribution within and among countries.
LOUISE FRÉCHETTE, Deputy Secretary-General, said that the adoption of resolution 1261 had strengthened the work of the United Nations, both through its various bodies and in the field, on the situation of children in armed conflict. The Optional Protocol had been adopted and was now open for signature and ratification by Member States, and child protection advisers were deployed in Sierra Leone and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, in spite of those positive developments, the task ahead was still enormous.
She stressed that the abuse of children in armed conflict was unacceptable. Children in many parts of the world, including in Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Sri Lanka and East Timor, continued to be killed, maimed, sexually abused, recruited into armed forces and deprived of life-saving humanitarian assistance. She hoped the current debate in the Council would be fruitful, and that Council members would show the necessary political leadership in the fight against those who exploited children.
OLARA OTUNNU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, said today marked a milestone in the Security Council's systematic engagement with the issue of children in armed conflict. Significant progress had been achieved in the last two years: public awareness had risen significantly; after six years of difficult negotiations, a consensus agreement had been reached last January raising the minimum age for compulsory recruitment from 15 to 18 years; several regional organizations had come to adopt the agenda as their own, the most recent examples being the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the G-8 industrialized countries.
He noted, in addition, that child protection concerns were being systematically incorporated by the Security Council into peace-operation mandates; reports to the Council on specific situations now contained distinct sections on the protection and well-being of children; the placing of children's concerns on peace agendas; the engagement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in advocacy and programme activities on the ground; increasing focus and resource allocation for children in conflict situations like East Timor, Sierra Leone and Kosovo; and innovative national initiatives such as the National Commission for War-affected Children in Sierra Leone and Rwanda's enactment, opening the way for girls' to inherit property in the aftermath of a very tragic conflict.
Over the past two years, a number of concrete commitments had been made concerning the protection of children, he said. The challenge now was to ensure adherence. The international community should make any political, diplomatic, financial, material and military assistance for all parties to armed conflict contingent on observing standards for protection of children. Member States should consider measures to discourage corporate actors within their jurisdiction from engaging in illicit trade with parties to armed conflict who were in systematic violation of those standards.
The international community must work closely with local communities to strengthen deeply rooted local values that had traditionally provided for the protection of children in times of war, he said. Regional and subregional organizations should be encouraged to undertake "neighbourhood initiatives" to curb the cross-border activities deleterious to children, in particular, the illicit movement of small arms, the illicit trade in gold, diamonds and timber, and cross-border abduction of women and children.
He said young people must be involved in the activities for the protection of conflict-affected children, including programmes for reconciliation, peace consolidation, peace-building and children-to-children networks. Beyond the rapid ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, curbing child soldiering on the ground must be achieved by mobilizing political pressure, addressing the economic, social and political factors underlying the phenomenon and enhancing the capacities on the ground for receiving and rehabilitating child soldiers. The international community must do a lot more to provide education to war-affected children and to meet the special needs of the girl child and adolescents in the midst and aftermath of conflict.
The advocacy and activities on the ground of NGOs were not only crucial, but indispensable, he said. It was hoped that the Security Council would engage in constructive dialogue and collaboration with them for the benefit of children. The ground-breaking report of Graça Machel of Mozambique and South Africa, and her deep commitment to the protection of children, continued to provide the foundation for and to inspire the activities of the present mandate.
CAROL BELLAMY, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said many of the values, principles and concrete commitments enshrined by the Convention on the Rights of the Child remained unfulfilled, as did those in Security Council resolution 1261 (1999), which reflected the obligations and principles contained in the Convention. Fulfilling those obligations involved advocating the cause of child rights on a daily basis with government officials, insurgents, commanders, civil society representatives, children’s workers and with children and youth themselves. It also meant that Council members must actively turn words into deeds.
Those who violated children’s rights or colluded in such violations must be made to feel the repugnance of civilized people everywhere, she continued. Even as conflicts raged, education programmes must be restarted because the future lost hope for people without education. Children must also be protected; they must have their own demobilization programmes. The particular vulnerabilities of girl children must be addressed.
All those actions required sustained and consistent funding for UNICEF and its partners in the field, she said. They also needed support for children’s longer-term needs, including rehabilitation, reintegration and return to normality and childhood. A resolution on the matter should be strong and unambiguous. Follow-up should be determined and intensive. Ensuring respect for the rights of children should be part of the mandate of any peacekeeping mission. It could take the form of providing for the imposition of sanctions in cases of violation, facilitating ceasefires in conflicts affecting children, or in finding mechanisms to prevent such conflict.
JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that in examining the plight of war-affected children, it was important to look not only at the symptoms of their plight, but to take aim at the causes, as well. The Council must continue to do all it could to help maintain and, when necessary, restore international peace and security, so that fewer children and other civilians would suffer from the horrors of war.
It was time to step up pressure to implement the many existing norms for preventing further abuse and brutalization of children, and focus on where the real abuses were: with children even younger than 15 whose lives were totally distorted by their impressment into armed conflict and brutality, becoming both perpetrators and victims. His country continued to work with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF on programmes designed to rehabilitate children.
He was particularly concerned about the plight of uprooted children. Over half of the internally displaced persons today were children, he said. The proportion of refugee children was equally high. In recent years, his country had contributed substantially to activities for refugee children, including support for UNHCR's Children-at-Risk programme, which highlighted those children affected by armed conflict. Thousands of children had received assistance from programmes funded by the United States in Angola, Liberia, northern Uganda, and Sierra Leone.
ARNOLDO M. LISTRE (Argentina) said the phenomenon of the involvement of children in armed conflict would definitely have consequences on the global future. Resolution 1261 was a major landmark in which the Council committed itself to tackling the agonizing plight of those children. The Council had also devoted other instruments to the protection of children in situations in armed conflict. However, the victimization of children continued, and girls were particularly vulnerable. The issue was further compounded by the social stigma that often followed such victimization.
He suggested that there was a need to build a culture of prevention -– a major challenge to the Organization in the future. Also, education could be considered another solution to the involvement of children in armed conflict. The Secretary-General had mentioned in his report that children attending school were protected from becoming involved in conflict. However, it would seem as if the propagators of conflict militated against schooling and education. The Secretary-General had recommended that basic education must be provided, and that formal schooling must be complemented by specific awareness programmes.
Another solution was justice, he continued. The Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court should be signed as soon as possible. Children were the most vulnerable sector of society, and the Security Council should focus its efforts on fostering international awareness of the issue under discussion among world leaders.
Sir JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said the international community had a moral responsibility to prevent the suffering of children. Conflict prevention was the important wider context for the protection of children from violence. Last week’s Council debate had set a foundation that needed translation into action. A mechanism to protect children before conflict broke out must be established. Their easy recruitment as soldiers could be curtailed if they were made less vulnerable by access to education. Similarly, national birth registration systems could help prevent underage children from being recruited. The media could play an important role through their reportage of the phenomenon, both before and during conflicts.
For such practical measures to work, he said improved coordination was vital, both within the United Nations and outside it. For that reason, the views of non-Council members were critical to the Council’s own debate in order to build on work already done, rather than duplicate it. At the same time, care must be taken not to stray into sensitive areas being comprehensively addressed elsewhere, as in the Working Group on sanctions.
ROBERT FOWLER (Canada) said while the tragedy of war-affected children continued to challenge the international community, there had been progress in several areas. Resolutions 1265 and 1296 on the protection of civilians in armed conflict had triggered diligent efforts to incorporate the rights and well-being of war-affected children into the work of the United Nations. In addition, the Special Representative had worked with government and other parties to include the rights and protection of children in the agendas of ongoing peace negotiations. The Security Council had also specifically incorporated the needs of children into the mandates of peace-support operations in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A second area of progress was achievements in international standards. The important achievement of the agreement on the text of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the involvement of children in armed conflict, was an effective preventive tool because it addressed issues of recruitment and deployment. There was also increasingly strong support for addressing the needs of children in situations of conflict in other international organization and groupings, particularly ECOWAS. Other organizations, such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the OSCE, had recently adopted decisions that would require concerted follow-up. The Foreign Ministers and leaders of the
The work of civil society on the issue also deserved special tribute, he continued. At a recent meeting with NGOs, one of the most troubling issues raised was that of children abducted by non-State actors to serve as soldiers, sexual slaves and spies -- some as young as seven years old. On that issue, continued collaboration between the Council, other bodies of the United Nations, civil society and governments should be encouraged.
He said his delegation was prepared to work on many of the recommendations of the Secretary-General to build on and refine elements in resolution 1261. For example, attention must be paid to the experience of girls in armed conflict and the importance of gender-awareness training for peace support personnel, as well as ensuring that rehabilitation activities focus on assistance programmes to help children and their families to recover from armed conflict. He encouraged participation in the International Conference on War-Affected Children to be held in Winnipeg in September.
GENNADI M. GATILOV (Russian Federation) said the rights of the child had become a priority over the last few years. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was the first universal bill of rights for children. They had the right to count on particular attention from the adult world, the foremost one being the right to life.
Noting that children accounted for more than half of refugees and internally displaced persons, he said that, as a result of war, some 20 millions of them had been subjected to displacement in their own countries and to other countries. They were subjected to slavery, sexual and other abuse. Many were forced to take up weapons in armed conflicts.
He said his country supported the draft optional protocol on the participation of children in armed conflict, and favoured its speedy approval at the upcoming session of the General Assembly so that it could be opened for signature and ratification. At the same time, the Russsian Federation regretted that the working group of the Committee on Human Rights had failed to achieve a universal minimum age for both the recruitment and deployment of children. If some countries had held more responsible positions on that issue, a universal age limit could have been achieved, thus avoiding a double standard.
HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) stated that in situations of armed conflict, children should be assured of their physical security and be provided with legal protection under international law. However, while there were a number of international instruments and conventions that provided a legal basis for that protection, they had not stopped children from being attacked, targeted and abused with impunity. The perpetrators of those crimes must be held accountable for committing them. As a practical measure to ensure children's protection in armed conflict, it was important for United Nations personnel involved in peacekeeping missions to be appropriately sensitized and trained to handle actual situations on the ground.
Currently, the physical protection of children in armed conflict was more urgent because millions of refugees and internally displaced persons included many children, some of whom were orphaned, he said. Child soldiers should also be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into society. In that light, he welcomed the appointment of Child Protection Advisers who were currently working with a number of peacekeeping operations and with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kinshasa. He also expressed concern about the debilitating effects of sanctions on children, and agreed with the Secretary-General's recommendation that there should be a coordinated and integrated approach when sanctions were imposed, to minimize unintended consequences on civilian populations, particularly children.
ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said that one obstacle which prevented international standards from being respected was non-compliance by non-State armed groups. Those groups violated human rights standards, disregarded international norms, perpetrated violence, including mutilation, rape, and abductions, and international instruments seldom covered them adequately. Moreover, while attempts were being made to hold the leaders of those groups accountable, caution must be exercised in ensuring that impunity was not granted to the rank and file. Therefore, the Security Council must make it clear that individuals committing atrocities would be held accountable.
Referring to recommendations by the Secretary-General concerning corporate sector activities and initiatives, he said that useful approaches had been suggested that merited further consideration. The Council had a leading role in ensuring that legitimate business interests were not affected and blanket commercial bans were not applied on countries, while keeping the focus on the plight of children. Mechanisms must be in place to monitor and assess the impact of initiatives that were taken on behalf of children. Children were also suffering under sanctions regimes, and the Council was duty-bound to design such regimes so do not to affect the innocent.
He stated that regional and subregional organizations in Africa, Central America and the Asia/Pacific region were working to promote the cause of children affected by armed conflicts, and he welcomed the initiative to declare child-soldier-free zones in affected regions in the world. On the regeneration of traditional values and norms which were eroded in a conflict situation, he said that local institutions and organizations would have a leading role in that regard. Governments should nurture the sustainability of their efforts by providing legal and administrative frameworks to facilitate their work. The Council had already called for a culture of prevention and that should stem from traditional values, norms and institutions and was nurtured by a culture of peace.
MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said that Security Council resolution 1261 (1999), which contained a number of provisions on the subject now before the Council, was a significant milestone. But the international community must now go beyond rhetoric and lip-service and take practical measures to prevent victimization, torture, abuse, maiming and killing of children. An aggressive, pro-active approach was required forthwith.
He welcomed steps taken so far to implement resolution 1261, in particular, regional initiatives on behalf of children affected by armed conflict, as well as the role played by non-governmental organizations. Indeed, joint efforts by all parts of the international community were required. The rights and special needs of girls could not be emphasized enough, and those concerns were compounded by the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS.
While such ongoing efforts to address the plight of children in armed conflict were encouraging, he said, a commitment to address the root causes of conflict should be central to those efforts. Without it, enormous resources would be spent addressing the symptoms, while the problem persisted. He, therefore, stressed the need to concentrate on social and economic development aspects, while addressing the issue of children and armed conflict.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) stated that the Secretary-General’s report merited detailed study by United Nations agencies and bodies, who should translate his recommendations into action as soon as possible. The protection of children in situations of armed conflict required a good international environment and legal framework. In that light, the adoption of the Optional Protocol was a major step. An approach now needed to be developed to prevent, check and eliminate armed conflicts, and the Security Council should concentrate its efforts on achieving that goal. When conflicts were prevented on time, then children would be protected against its tragic effects.
He noted that, while collective efforts of the United Nations agencies and bodies were ongoing and necessary, more needed to be done. The international community also needed to become more involved, and the recent meeting between the Council and NGOs was a good step which should encourage strengthened cooperation between the Organizations and civil society.
ALPHONS HAMER (Netherlands) told the Council he would not address them in his national capacity, as the Netherlands fully endorsed the comments and recommendations the representative of France would shortly be delivering.
VOLODYMYR KROKHMAL (Ukraine) said it was not the first time the current issue had been considered by the Council. Considerable experience in addressing humanitarian aspects of the maintenance of international peace and security had been gained, and it was time to take stock of what had been achieved in the domain of children’s protection and what remained to be done. The presentation of the new report of the Secretary-General was a good opportunity to do this.
That women and children had become the direct target of atrocities was a sad reality, he said. It was encouraging though that those challenges were increasingly a focus of the Council’s attention. By addressing the issues, the Council not only promoted the protection of children from the impact of war, but also contributed to the goal of conflict resolution, thus advancing the maintenance of peace and security.
His delegation fully subscribed to the recommendations of the Secretary-General relating to the legal aspects of enhancing the protection of children, he said. He concurred with the Secretary-General that the issues of protection and the needs of children in armed conflict should be entrenched in the mandate of every peacekeeping operation. Such missions played critical roles in providing protection to children.
OTHMAN JERANDI (Tunisia) said that given the gravity of the situation of children affected by armed conflict, Security Council members could not permit themselves to engage in a discussion whose sole purpose would be to express their frustration and indignation. The Council must aim at results. On the level of principle, there was a need to ensure compliance by parties to armed conflict with commitments not to target children and to respect international humanitarian law.
He said the effects of sanctions resulting from armed conflict seriously affected children. While studying the need or otherwise to impose sanctions, the Security Council must bear in mind the impact they would have on children in targeted countries, as well as in neighbouring countries. Only common coordinated action would improve the situation of conflict-affected children. That action must be supported by adequate resources.
YVES DOUTRIAUX (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and the associated States of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta, said he regretted that the European Union had not had time for the close study warranted by the 55 important recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report. Those recommendations would be attentively weighed, he said. He went on to say that of all the momentous issues that came before the Council, protecting children from becoming the first targets of conflict or war was a question deserving of great effort, will and perseverance.
The picture was grim, he said. Thirteen million children had been displaced by war situations; between 8,000 and 10,000 had fallen victim to landmines; 2 million had been killed by armed conflict; 6 million had been wounded and some 10 million traumatized –- without mentioning sexual violence, hardships, mutilations, and impressment into military service.
The fate of those children, he said, was inseparable from the root causes for the conflicts of which they were the first victims. For that reason, today’s debate was a natural extension of last week’s Council meeting on the prevention of armed conflict. The best way to prevent conflict was to attack its underlying causes. In the case of children, the promotion of their rights must be stressed. Education, protection, social inclusion, access to knowledge, and social and civil guarantees must be the principles guiding all efforts to protect children.
Luckily, he went on, through its unanimous adoption of resolution 1261, the Council had already sealed a pact of commitment and responsibility towards children suffering the violence caused by war. That commitment was reaffirmed, positively and formally, in the resolution before the Council this morning. Furthermore -– beyond the general recommendations proposed for the protection of children in armed conflict –- the European Union believed it was essential to systematically follow up and verify commitments made by States or by armed groups for the protection of children. In that regard, he recalled that the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child stressed that the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into armed forces be raised from 15 to 18 years. He added that one factor that contributed to the involvement of children in armed conflict was easy access to small arms and light weapons. The European Union had adopted a code of conduct on arms exports, as well as a common strategy for small arms. The Union was actively supporting the preparation and holding next year of a United Nations conference on all aspects of the trade in small arms and small-calibre weapons.
M. PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica), Security Council President, stated that effective consideration of the plight of children required that attention be given to preventing armed conflict and addressing the root causes. The latter must be a priority for the international community if the suffering of children was to be significantly reduced. There was no real, effective substitute for addressing the economic, social and humanitarian circumstances that fuelled children’s recruitment and participation in armed conflicts, and the international community must ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and encourage specially designed post-conflict peace-building and rehabilitation programmes.
A culture of adherence to humanitarian norms and standards should also be promoted, particularly in light of increased violation of international humanitarian law in conflict situations, she proposed. In that regard, States should make clear efforts to end current levels of impunity by prosecuting those who deliberately violated the rights of children. Innovative approaches must be identified, and it was worth considering the recommendation of the Secretary-General that genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and other egregious crimes perpetrated against children should be excluded from amnesty provisions contemplated during peace negotiations.
However, conflicts could not always be prevented. Therefore, the development of clear, appropriate strategies to protect children during conflicts must be addressed through comprehensive approaches involving the participation of a wide rage of actors. That was essential, particularly in combating illicit trade in arms and the illegal exploitation and trade in natural resources. Protection of the rights and interests of internally displaced children was also important. The international community must provide additional resources for nutrition, health care, family reunification and education of internally displaced children. It was also important that appropriate monitoring and reporting mechanisms be established to ensure compliance by armed group, State and non-State actors.
She stated that the post-conflict phase remained crucial in the protection of children. Attention must be given to education, as well as the psycho-social, health and economic needs of children, in those situations. Most children being prepared for reintegration into society lacked basic education, and ex-child soldiers remaining idle in disarmament and demobilization camps without appropriate training and education were likely to be induced to return to armed conflict. The special vulnerabilities of girls must also be taken into account.
The meeting was suspended at 1:05 p.m.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT (Austria) took the floor when the meeting was resumed at 3:20 p.m. Speaking as Chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), he said a charter for European Security had been signed by heads of State or government at an OSCE seminar in Istanbul last November. It expressed the will to develop and implement measures to promote the rights and interests of children in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, including refugees and internally displaced children. Ways would be sought to prevent compulsory recruitment for use in conflict of children under the age of 18 years.
He said that among the recommendations emanating from a human dimension seminar in Warsaw last May was the designation of focal points on conflict-affected children, including in relevant field operations. Also recommended was the inclusion of the rights of the child in training programmes for members of OSCE field operations. Another recommendation was for continued efforts by the Forum for Security Cooperation to develop concrete measures to stem the illegal flow of small arms and light weapons in the OSCE area, and to include children’s issues in the planned OSCE document on those matters.
The OSCE was pursuing two major initiatives to follow up on those recommendations, he said. OSCE field operations and secretariat units had already been asked to pay more systematic attention to the protection of children affected by armed conflict and to integrate the issue into their work. That included providing field human rights officers with checklists on children's issues to stimulate awareness, action and reporting, and the inclusion of the rights of the child in induction courses for mission members.
A broad consensus had emerged at the Human Dimension Seminar on the need for a comprehensive OSCE document, he said. It would outline the organization's policies and actions for the protection of children, with special emphasis on those affected by armed conflict. A first orientation discussion had been held recently, and negotiations would continue with a view to the formal adoption of such a document at the Vienna meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in November.
ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said that, thanks to intensive discussions in the open-ended working group, it had become plain that the Aria formula had caused the emergence of differences in opinion between Member States. Following yesterday’s discussions, it had become even more evident that those differences would become more accentuated. The new Aria formula was a further example of the way in which non-Council members were excluded from discussions.
Turning to the debate on children and armed conflict, he said the Security Council might be a more appropriate forum than the General Assembly in achieving results in that field. At the same time, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNICEF were also doing outstanding work.
But how effective had the Council been in handling the issue? he asked. Many events were taking place on the ground that were within the Council’s purview. In one African country whose situation was before the Council, a child had just been killed, four wounded and several abducted in a small town.
He stressed that the time had come for the Security Council to become peace-builders. Whenever the subject of children was being discussed, they were regarded as objects. Member States must start thinking of children as builders of peace. Colombia would be stressing that approach.
HIDEAKI KOBAYASHI (Japan) stated that, as had been made clear at the recently held G-8 summit, the plight of war-affected children was one of the most disturbing human security issues facing the world today. Conflict prevention was important to the protection of those children, and he had earlier stressed the importance of a comprehensive approach to preventing conflicts which combined political, economic, social and humanitarian measures. In that light, Japan had engaged in a number of activities to advance the culture of prevention, such as hosting a series of international conferences on development in Africa and on the issue of small arms and light weapons, both of which had an impact on children. Raising public awareness on the specific problems that children encountered in the course of armed conflicts was also crucial to encouraging the international pressure necessary to halt their suffering.
He said the scourge of war affected the physical and emotional status of children, especially deeply in post-conflict situations. Therefore, as was pointed out in the report, the rehabilitation and education of children recruited as soldiers, as well as of those who were sexually abused and displaced or separated from their parents, needed to be viewed as a priority in the peace-building process. The impact of armed conflict on children varied according to the circumstances, yet, the consequences were the same. Therefore, strong political will, collective international pressure and concrete action were essential to end the most horrendous acts against children in armed conflicts. Pointing out that sexual exploitation of children caused serious health hazards, such as unwanted pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, and trapped children in long-term psychological traumas, he said that the Government of Japan had decided to host the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Yokohama, from 17 to 20 December 2001.
LESLIE GUMBI (South Africa) said his country strongly supported the "straight 18" position regarding the age limit, for both voluntary and compulsory recruitment, set by the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. South Africa also supported the provisions of the Statute of the International Court and the International Labour Organization Convention, because they offered internationally recognized recourse to ensure the protection of children in armed conflict.
He said that soon after his country's transition to democracy in 1994, the South African Government had taken its first steps to address the demobilization, reintegration and resocialization of children. It had created the National Youth Commission and the National Programme of Action for Children, while former President Nelson Mandela had established a children's fund bearing his name, to which he contributed a large portion of his financial earnings.
South Africa had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 16 July 1995, he said. To ensure its implementation, the Government had announced on 7 June 1999 its decision to amend the South African National Defence Force Strategy, raising the age of enlistment in the armed forces from 17 to 18 years. However, national initiatives alone could not solve the problem, hence, the need for enhanced international cooperation in dealing with the predicament of conflict-affected children.
SYLVIE JUNOD, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that today’s discussion was hopeful because it represented a growing universal awareness of the urgency for concerted action to pay attention to the consequences of war on children. The ICRC had already been dealing with the plight of children in situations of conflict. Among other initiatives, the organization had an expert in humanitarian law who examined all relevant international instruments and their requirements, including the Optional Protocol. The most important objective of that instrument was not to recruit children under 18 years to participate in war. However, its wording left a loophole for abuse. On that issue, the additional protocol went much further as it clearly prohibited that recruitment. While legal protections had been developed, much remained to be done in terms of ratification and implementation. The ICRC was taking appropriate action. Among other measures, for example, it was attempting to ensure that children were detained in places where they were separated from adults.
CARLOS DOS SANTOS (Mozambique) said his country had lived the horrors of a prolonged war in which children had not been spared. Though peace prevailed today, great challenges still lay ahead as a consequence of that conflict. The sustainability of peace and reconciliation required an integrated effort by all actors in Mozambican society, with the international community's support.
He said that while considerable progress had been achieved in the rehabilitation and integration into society of traumatized children used as combatants during the war, the existence of 2 million landmines planted during that conflict continued to impede the smooth resettlement of the population and the development of productive activities. Children remained in greater danger because they were unaware of threat posed by anti-personnel landmines. Therefore, awareness campaigns were as important for children as demining itself.
Recalling last week's open meeting on prevention of armed conflict, he reiterated that a comprehensive conflict prevention strategy was ultimately the best way to protect children from the horrors of war. Peace was not merely the absence of war, but required the demonstration of tolerance, reconciliation and constant dialogue, as well as a total rejection of violence. Promoting a culture of peace would be a valuable heritage for future generations.
He stressed that the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, as well as the illicit exploitation of and trade in natural resources, were among the major reasons for the escalation of conflicts. Mozambique commended the Security Council's initiatives and those taken by regional and subregional organizations to curb both the illicit small arms and diamond trades as a preventive measure. It was also crucial to address the root causes of conflict worldwide. That daunting task demanded continued commitment and concerted action from all governments, the United Nations system, international organizations, NGOs and civil society.
MICHAEL POWLES (New Zealand) said he believed that once the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force, it would be a significant addition to the protection of children’s human rights. He hoped that the age limit of 18 years for participation in armed conflict would become the new international standard. For the Protocol to be effective, it would need to be widely ratified. He urged States to accord the child soldiers issue priority and to work towards signature and ratification of the Protocol.
Another significant step had been the conclusion of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, he said. New Zealand was currently processing domestic legislation that would enable it to ratify the Statute in the near future. The development of new legal standards must be supported by effective efforts in the field to ensure their implementation. In that respect, he once again paid tribute to the work of the Special Representative and to UNICEF. The United Nations, its agencies and institutions, could and did contribute significantly to protecting children from the effects of armed conflict, and to addressing the needs of children in the aftermath of war.
His delegation supported the appointment of Child Protection Advisers in United Nations peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said. That initiative was a concrete example of the creative and practical means which could be employed by the Organization to address the impact of armed conflict on children.
JUNE CLARKE (Barbados) noted that her country had successfully managed to escape the ravages of war and civil strife, and its children had the opportunity to grow up in an environment of peace, political stability and relative prosperity. The question of children and armed conflict extended beyond guaranteeing the physical safety and human rights of the future citizens of the world. It also concerned the irreparable damage to their psyche in that they might repeat atrocities similar to those to which they had been subjected. She was determined that children around the world, like Barbadian children, should enjoy the simplicity of childhood without the terror that so many were familiar with. Therefore, the Government was supporting the establishment of the International Criminal Court as a mechanism through which children could be protected from armed conflict.
She said that the United Nations should fulfil its mandate to prevent conflicts and not seek to mitigate them after they emerged. It was a grave concern that, increasingly, resources must be diverted from economic, social and infrastructural development to deal with conflicts and other humanitarian crises. It was also unfortunate that the report of the April 2000 World Education Forum found that the number and extent of conflicts in the last decade had constituted major obstacles to the goal of providing education for all by 2000. However, it was satisfactory that the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict was adopted earlier this year.
She expressed support for the call in the Secretary-General’s report for the international community to speak with one voice in insisting that 18 be the minimum age for participation in armed conflict. She also supported the decision to thoroughly investigate and prosecute violations by United Nations personnel of international humanitarian and human rights law, and associated herself with the proposal of the Secretary-General to integrate the protection of children into United Nations peacekeeping operations.
SAEED HASAN (Iraq) commended the vigorous campaign by Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, to have regional sanctions against Burundi lifted in order to end the suffering of that country’s children. It was hoped that he would undertake similar action regarding the plight of Iraqi children.
He said that though the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council were the appropriate forums for in-depth consideration of such issues as children and armed conflict, there was a pressing need for a comprehensive approach to the long-term protection of children. The best way to protect them would be through conflict prevention and by addressing the root causes of conflict.
Foremost among those causes, he said, was the unstable and unbalanced international political and economic order, in which the hegemony of the developed nations kept the world’s wealth and resources in the North, while the countries of the South were left with poverty, bac