CONSIDERATION OF SECRETARY-GENERAL’S PLAN OF ACTION
Reaffirming its strong condemnation of the continued recruitment and use of child soldiers by parties to armed conflicts, the Security Council today indicated it had begun consideration of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal for an action plan for a monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism.
In a statement read out by Foreign Minister Rogatien Biaou of Benin, which holds the Presidency for the month of February, the Council reiterated the crucial need for a systematic monitoring and reporting mechanism, and its determination to ensure compliance and to put an end to impunity. It further reiterated its intention to complete expeditiously the process of the establishment of the mechanism.
Olara Otunnu, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, opened today’s meeting by briefing the Council on the latest Secretary-General’s report, which contains the proposed action plan for the systematic monitoring and reporting of child abuse in situations of armed conflict, or in “situations of concern”, with a view to triggering a strong international crackdown on offenders, and outlining measures to be taken to protect children.
The report, he said, was about instituting a serious, formal and structured compliance and enforcement regime, to ensure the protection of children who were presently being brutalized in many situations of conflict. The report brought together all the necessary components for the establishment of such a regime. “This marks a turning point in our collective campaign for the ‘era of application’, for transforming protective standards into compliance, and condemnation into accountability.”
Three particular features, which together comprised the key components of the regime, were the review of the conduct of parties to conflict, resulting in the systematic naming and listing of offending parties; ensuring accountability for offending parties, particularly through the imposition of concrete and targeted measures; and the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism. He added that a monitoring and reporting mechanism was of limited value unless it led to action, unless the information compiled could serve as a “trigger for action”.
The Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Rima Salah, said that, despite the best efforts of UNICEF and others, children and women continued to face ongoing violations of their rights. The Council had the ability to protect children in situations of armed conflict by translating the commitments of international legal and other standards into action. Recommended actions mentioned in the report -- close monitoring of States’ compliance with international standards, holding perpetrators accountable, and a strong focus on the rights of all children not only during conflict but also after it ended -- would be helpful for the realization of that objective.
Among the high-level ministers addressing the Council today was Asha-Rose Mtengeti Migiro, Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania, who said that the establishment of a comprehensive monitoring and reporting system had to take certain constraints into account. Among them were difficulties in the collection of information for monitoring and reporting purposes. While some governments might be willing to provide such information, the information might not be kept in a systematic manner or was simply not recorded.
Similarly, she added, in developing such a system, it should be noted that, whereas a generic system might be desirable, there was a need to tailor it to be country specific, as situations from one country to another might differ. To ensure availability of monitoring and reporting information, countries that were not willing to provide such information should be helped to develop needed capacity and encouraged to meet compliance requirements.
Noting a dichotomy between the existence of strict international standards and the continuation of atrocities and impunity for violators of children’s rights, several speakers supported the recommendation of the Secretary-General to the Council that it take measures such as imposing travel restrictions on leaders, arms embargoes, bans on military assistance and restrictions on the flow of financial resources to the parties, to address widespread and unacceptable patterns of violations.
On a related issue, a number of delegations voiced their deep concern with the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping personnel, and stressed the need for a zero tolerance policy. The Secretary-General was called on to ensure that such accusations were thoroughly investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted in accordance with domestic law and international standards of human rights. In addition, Canada’s representative strongly urged the Secretary-General to include on peacekeeping missions an ombudsperson to whom civilians could turn to raise concerns about conduct by peacekeeping troops.
Also speaking in today’s debate were the Special Adviser to the Executive Secretary for Child Protection of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the High Representative for Security and Conflict Prevention of France, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan, as well as the representatives of Romania, Philippines, United Kingdom, Greece, United States, China, Denmark, Russian Federation, Brazil, Argentina and Algeria.
The representatives of the following countries also addressed the Council: Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union), Nigeria, Myanmar, Iceland, Liechtenstein, India, Sri Lanka, Senegal, Norway, Uganda, Guinea, Gabon, Iraq, Indonesia, Niger and Mali.
The meeting began at 10:37 a.m. and suspended at 1:37 p.m. It then resumed at 3:35 p.m. and adjourned at 5:55 p.m.
The full text of the presidential statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/2005/8, is as follows:
“The Security Council has considered the matter of children and armed conflict and took note with deep concern of the continued recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict in violation of international obligations applicable to them, as reported by the Secretary-General in his fifth report (S/2005/72). It reiterates its commitment to address in all its forms the impact of armed conflict on children.
“The Council reaffirms its strong condemnation of the recruitment and use of child soldiers by parties to armed conflict in violation of international obligations applicable to them and of all other violations and abuses committed against children in situations of armed conflict. It urges all parties to armed conflict to halt immediately such intolerable practices.
“The Council recalls all its previous resolutions, which provide a comprehensive framework for addressing the protection of children affected by armed conflict. It reiterates its determination to ensure respect for its resolutions and other international norms and standards for the protection of children affected by armed conflict.
“The Council recalls particularly paragraph 2 of its resolution 1539 (2004), dated 22 April 2004, requesting the Secretary General, taking into account the proposals contained in his report as well as any other relevant elements, to devise urgently an action plan for a systematic and comprehensive monitoring and reporting mechanism, which utilizes expertise from the United Nations system and the contributions of national governments, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations in their advisory capacity and various civil society actors, in order to provide timely, objective, accurate and reliable information on the recruitment and use of child soldiers in violation of applicable international law and on other violations and abuses committed against children affected by armed conflict, for consideration in taking appropriate action.
“The Council takes note of the Secretary General’s proposal for an Action Plan for the establishment of a monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism, in accordance with this request and with paragraph 15 (b) of resolution 1539 (2004) and has started consideration of the Secretary General’s proposal.
“The Council reiterates the crucial need for a systematic and comprehensive monitoring and reporting mechanism, and its determination to ensure compliance and to put an end to impunity. The Council further reiterates its intention to complete expeditiously the process of the establishment of the mechanism.
“In this regard, it has started work on a new resolution with the aim of its early adoption and with due consideration of views expressed by the United Nations Member States during the open debate held on 23 February 2005, in order to take forward the implementation of its previous resolutions with a view to ending the recruitment or use of child soldiers in violation of applicable international law and other violations and abuses committed against children affected by armed conflict situations, and promoting their reintegration and rehabilitation.”
The Security Council met today to hold an open debate on children and armed conflict, for which it had before it the report of the Secretary-General (document S/2005/72). The report contains an action plan for the systematic monitoring and reporting of child abuse in situations of armed conflict, or in “situations of concern”, with a view to triggering a strong international crackdown on offenders. It notes improvements in protecting children from war recruitment and abuse, as important organizations have adopted many of the standards advocated and the estimated number of child soldiers has declined in the past 18 months to 300,000 from 380,000.
An international compliance regime would list all offending parties, whether from the government or rebel side, in all situations of concern, whether or not those situations are on the agenda of the Council, the report says. The major violations would be recruiting children as soldiers, abducting, maiming, or killing them, subjecting them to rape and other sexual violence and attacking schools and hospitals.
The situation for children has notably improved in Afghanistan, Angola, the Balkans, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, it says. On the other hand, it names 54 offending parties and says situations of concern remain in Burundi, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Uganda.
For widespread and unacceptable patterns of violation, the Council should take such measures as imposing travel restrictions on leaders, excluding them from future governance structures or amnesties, arms embargoes and military assistance bans and restrictions on the flow of financial resources, the report says. Other “destinations for action” would be the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights, the International Criminal Court, regional organizations and, as the first line of response, the national governments within whose borders the children are endangered.
OLARA OTUNNU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said that the report before the Council was about instituting a serious, formal and structured compliance and enforcement regime, to ensure the protection of children who were presently being brutalized in many situations of conflict. The report brought together all the necessary components for the establishment of such a regime. “This marks a turning point in our collective campaign for the ‘era of application’, for transforming protective standards into compliance, and condemnation into accountability.”
Noting that specific, concrete and practical features of the compliance and enforcement regime had been laid out in the report, he drew attention to three particular features, which together comprised the key components of the regime. They were the review of the conduct of parties to conflict, resulting in the systematic naming and listing of offending parties; ensuring accountability for offending parties, particularly through the imposition of concrete and targeted measures; and the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism.
The efforts deployed over the last several years had yielded significant advances and created a strong momentum for the protection of conflict-affected children, he said. Those gains included greatly increased global awareness of and advocacy for child protection, and an impressive and comprehensive international body of protection instruments and norms. He was pleased to report that the overall situation for children had improved considerably in several situations, including Afghanistan, Angola, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste.
At the same time, he noted, much more needed to be done because far too many children continued to be brutalized in situations of conflict. For example, although the overall figure had decreased in the last few years, over 250,000 children continued to be exploited as “child soldiers”, used variously as combatants, porters, spies and sex slaves. Also, tens of thousands of girls were being subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence, including as a deliberate tool of warfare.
The Secretary-General’s report reviewed developments in 17 situations of concern, recording systematically the following five grave violations: killing or maiming of children; recruiting or using child soldiers; attacks against schools or hospitals; rape and other grave sexual violence against children; and the abduction of children. Altogether, 54 offending parties had been specifically named and listed, drawn from 11 situations of concern. All 54 were responsible for the recruitment and use of child soldiers. In addition, many of them were also responsible for committing other grave abuses, as recorded in the lists. Compared with the lists in the last report, eight parties had been dropped from the lists because of change of conduct; six offending parties had been added to the lists this year, mainly because of improved information-gathering; and a few parties were dropped from the lists for lack of verifiable information.
This was the third report the Council had received, which systematically documented grave abuses and listed offending parties, he said. The Council had already, on previous occasions, expressed its intention to take concrete and targeted measures against those parties. It was most important that the Council make good on its promise on this occasion. The targeted measures should include the imposition of travel restrictions on leaders and their exclusion from any governance structures and amnesty provisions, the imposition of arms embargoes, a ban on military assistance, and restriction on the flow of financial resources to the parties concerned.
In light of the facts, he urged the Council to undertake a four-pronged response to end the impunity. The Council should decide to impose concrete and targeted sanctions measures against the offending parties named in the monitoring lists; constitute a committee of the Council to review and oversee the imposition of specific sanctions measures for the protection of children exposed to conflict; demand that the parties on the monitoring lists prepare, within six months, working in collaboration with United Nations field representatives, time-bound action plans to end the grave violations for which they have been named; and endorse the monitoring and reporting mechanism, with a view to put it in operation expeditiously.
It was very sad, he noted, that one of the most disturbing developments in the reporting period had been the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping personnel, both civilian and military, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In order to mount a truly comprehensive and effective response, it was necessary to receive solid answers from an across-the-board review. That must necessarily involve the Secretariat working hand in hand with countries that contribute military and police peacekeepers. It was important to move, without any compromise or complacency, to punish the offenders, and to root out this practice from all United Nations field presence.
The report set out a concrete plan of action for establishing a comprehensive monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism to provide for the gathering of objective, specific, reliable and time information -- “the whom, where and what” -- on grave violations being committed against children in armed conflict. In turn, that information must lead to action and accountability. The plan identified six grave violations that should be particularly monitored: killing or maiming of children; recruiting or using child soldiers; attacks against schools or hospitals; rape and other grave sexual violence against children; abduction of children; and denial of humanitarian access for children.
The mechanism would rely particularly on the Task Force on Children in Armed Conflict at Headquarters-level and the Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting at the country level. The plan identified key bodies that constituted “destinations for action”, responsible for taking concrete measures in response to those grave violations against children. Those destinations included the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights, the International Criminal Court, regional organizations and national governments.
Underscoring a few points, he said it was crucial to engage in a protection dialogue with all parties whose actions had a significant impact on children, without any implications as to their political or juridical status. The only purpose for such dialogue was to ensure protection for and access to vulnerable children. Also, the accountability lists did not name States or countries as such. The purpose of the lists was to identify particular parties to conflict, whether governments or rebels, which were responsible for specific grave violations against children. In that respect, the names of countries were referred to only in order to indicate the locations or situations where offending parties were committing the grave violations in question.
Further, a monitoring and reporting mechanism was of limited value unless it led to action, unless the information compiled could serve as a “trigger for action”, he added. In that, the Council had to lead the way as the most important “destination for action”, because of its primary responsibility for peace and security.
RIMA SALAH, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said armed conflict exacted a terrible toll upon children. They fell victim to disease and malnutrition and were subjected to forcible displacement and brutal violence. They were drawn in as fighters, deliberately targeted as civilians or forced to become perpetrators of atrocities themselves. Violence had uprooted more than 20 million children. Sexual abuse and exploitation inflicted lasting psychological wounds and contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Yet children remained the greatest hope and the most precious resource in the struggle to rebuild war-affected communities and promote peace and security over the long term.
The UNICEF provided assistance before, during and after a conflict, working to protect and support children, families, communities and governments. It worked closely with many partners, and often at great risk to its dedicated staff. Mentioning some examples, she said in Liberia, the Back to School Campaign had enabled more than 600,000 students to return to school. In Somalia, UNICEF had helped establish 10 regional child-protection networks, among other things. It had immunized more than 6 million children against polio in Afghanistan. More than 4,100 former child soldiers had been demobilized, with reintegration programmes established.
Yet, despite the best efforts of UNICEF and others, children and women continued to face ongoing violations of their rights, she said. The Council had the ability to protect children in situations of armed conflict by translating the commitments of international legal and other standards into action. Recommended actions mentioned in the report -- close monitoring of States’ compliance with international standards, holding perpetrators accountable, and a strong focus on the rights of all children not only during conflict but also after it ended -- would be helpful for the realization of that objective. The UNICEF was committed to ending impunity and addressing accountability. The international community must not relent in seeking to strengthen national judicial systems that could arbitrate war crimes against children and bar the perpetrators of those crimes from holding office in post-conflict government.
She said another way to protect children’s rights in conflict areas was a systematic monitoring and reporting mechanism of rights violations, linked to response. The UNICEF already had in place sophisticated monitoring and reporting tools for such sectors as health, education, water and sanitation, and in some countries on conflict-related child rights abuses. In order to apply that expertise globally, it would require sufficient resources and the full cooperation from governments.
There was also a need to pay specific attention to the “hideous” crime of sexual violence, which had often been regarded as a routine part of conflict. The crime of sexual violence must be responded to as a matter of urgency, she stressed. There was also a need for clear standards of behaviour for all peacekeepers, pre-deployment training on sexual exploitation and abuse and prosecution of perpetrators. She urged the Council to take action to ensure that peacekeeping forces adhere to the rules, monitor and report on sexual violence, and were held accountable for their crimes.
Children could also be protected by stemming the flow of small arms and light weapons and by advocating against the use of such weapons as landmines and cluster munitions. Children could further be protected by preventing the recruitment of children in armed forces and by working to secure their release, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration. Those programmes merited special attention and application of valuable lessons learned from previous disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. Long-term funding de-linked from adult processes was essential. Special efforts must be made to include girls associated with fighting forces, she said.
UNICEF’s experience had confirmed that, in many conflicts, the protection of children had made significant progress, but that a lot remained to be done, she said. The Council must ensure justice for those children whose rights had been violated. In Darfur, the crimes against children should be referred to the International Criminal Court. The Council must guarantee that all aspects of the protection of children in armed conflict were included in all peacekeeping missions. It should also be included in the upcoming peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
IBRAHIMA DIOUF, Special Adviser to the Executive Secretary for Child Protection to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), shared the experience of ECOWAS with respect to protecting children. He thanked the Government of Canada, which had supported ECOWAS in establishing a child protection programme (2002-2004), and UNICEF, which since 2004 had ensured the development and operation of that programme. The situation of children in West Africa was not excellent, he said, noting that West Africa would appear to be a region where progress in that area had not been significant. In his region, it was realized that children were victims of wars, directly involved in conflicts as combatants. They were often separated from their parents, and there were a considerable number of them in refugee camps. All of which challenged normal development or made it nearly impossible. The end of hostilities, he added, often forced them into criminal activities.
The ECOWAS had realized the need to establish a protecting environment, he said. A lack of such an environment jeopardized any rehabilitation activities. The ECOWAS had been among the first groups to put child protection on its agenda, and had a number of instruments to monitor the situation of children, including the Declaration of Accra, the Declaration for the Decade for Children’s Rights in West Africa, as well as a peer review mechanism within ECOWAS. All member States of ECOWAS had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and most of them had ratified the Protocol on Children and Armed Conflict. In addition, ECOWAS had established a child protection unit directly tied to the Executive Secretary, which served as a focal point to monitor the situation of children affected by war and participated in efforts to ensure the rehabilitation of such children.
In terms of monitoring, ECOWAS was undertaking a number of activities with UNICEF, he said. He also highlighted the training undertaken by ECOWAS of West African forces in ensuring the rights of the children. So far, 6,000 soldiers had undergone such training. In addition, ECOWAS had monitored the situation of children, including site visits, and had taken note of the demobilized children in Liberia. It had been able to take part in UNICEF’s back-to-school programme there. The programme carried out by ECOWAS continued to be focused on children in armed conflict and did not address those involved in trafficking. Also, there was a lack of resources, which meant that many projects had not been implemented. The Executive Secretary intended to expand child protection to cover other categories of children. Among other things, ECOWAS had decided to establish a week of solidarity with children affected by war.
ASHA-ROSE MTENGETI MIGIRO, Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that the proposals and methodologies for monitoring, reporting and compliance were professionally well thought out tools. However, she foresaw some difficulties, which could be encountered in the collection of information for monitoring and reporting purposes. There was a need for United Nations country teams and, in particular, for a focal point for children, to have a dialogue and sensitisation of concerned governments on the need for providing such information. It should also be noted that some governments might be willing to provide such information, but the information might not be kept in a systematic manner or was simply not recorded.
The establishment of a comprehensive monitoring and reporting system had to take those constraints into account, she said. Similarly, in developing such a system, it should be noted that whereas a generic system might be desirable, there was a need to tailor it to be country specific, as situations from one country to another might differ. To ensure availability of monitoring and reporting information, countries that were not willing to provide such information should be helped to develop needed capacity and encouraged to meet compliance requirements.
She said a long-term solution to the problem of children in armed conflict lay in conflict prevention, by way of building solid foundations of good governance, democracy and development. The challenge was to develop appropriate laws and policies and enact relevant laws. The enforcement required political will and commitment at the highest political levels for the protection of children, which translated into programmes that led to poverty eradication and improved opportunities for the education and development of children.
She added that her country supported the zero-tolerance policy of the Secretary-General to stop sexual abuses against girls and women in some peacekeeping missions. They should be stopped. She urged troop-contributing countries to take stern disciplinary measures against the culprits and to work with the Secretary-General in that endeavour.
PIERRE-ANDRE WILTZER, High Representative for Security and Conflict Prevention of France, said today’s debate must be directed to action. The international community was confronted with a cruel dichotomy; on the one hand, clear and rigorous standards had been adopted at the international level, but, on the other hand, atrocities continued on the ground. The failure to implement the standards must be a matter of concern to the international community. The Council had adopted five resolutions demanding an immediate end to child recruitment and progressively stepping up pressure on the armed groups responsible. However, several resolutions had not been implemented in their main provisions.
He subscribed to the Secretary-General’s recommendation to agree on specific and targeted measures in the absence of progress on the ground. “We must now move from consideration to action” he said. The decision to impose targeted sanctions raised many questions. The groups identified in the blacklists were engaged in conflicts largely beyond the scope of situations on the Council’s agenda, for instance, and some of those groups were already subject to a sanctions regime. At the same time, one should avoid concentrating exclusively on the issue of sanctions. The measures must be part of a comprehensive mechanism for monitoring and reporting. The Council must approve the proposed plan. The role of non-governmental organizations within the system should be clearly identified.
Another key element was the reintegration of child soldiers, he continued. Disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation programmes must take into account the specific needs of children, in particular girls. The “reintegration” segments were often the poor relation of those programmes, for want of the necessary financing. He was particularly concerned about the proven link between mall arms trafficking and child recruitment. It was intolerable that the parties identified in the blacklists of child recruiters continued to be supplied with light arms easily handled by children.
MIHNEA MOTOC (Romania) said that it was imperative that the international community act without delay in adopting the necessary measures so that the legal framework which already existed could be implemented. First of all, it was necessary to activate the instruments contained in the resolutions adopted by the Council, such as blacklists and sanctions. Regarding such instruments, the Secretary-General’s recommendation related to the adoption of targeted and concrete measures when other measures had been insufficient. Romania would provide strong support to any initiative leading to the adoption of the measures suggested by the Secretary-General. That was how it would be possible to move towards an era of application and end the era of impunity.
He hoped to see the action plan proposed by the Secretary-General put into place as soon as possible. It was necessary to work with UNICEF to ensure that that system worked with expected efficiency. He drew attention to the possibility of including in the scope of the mandate of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict the children victimized by violence in so-called “no rights areas”, where self-proclaimed actors had seized power by force and violated human rights, including the rights of children. That should not escape the attention of the international community in its efforts to bring protection to children in armed conflicts.
In his report, the Secretary-General had discussed the problem related to sexual abuse by peacekeepers. Romania noted with satisfaction the conclusion that the approach to the issue would be revised. As a troop-contributing country, Romania was prepared to be part of the consultations to find joint solutions to apply to peacekeeping operations. He was convinced that the text of the resolution on children and armed conflict would be rapidly agreed and adopted soon.
LAURO L. BAJA (Philippines), welcoming the report, said it could have given a more comprehensive account of all conflict situations. A thorough and non-selective coverage of conflict situations in future reporting was necessary in order not to leave behind affected children whose situation might never be addressed. He endorsed the proposal for a monitoring and reporting mechanism. In that regard, local protection networks were at the forefront of conflict. Those networks must be strengthened and supported.
He was concerned about the report’s suggestion to apply, in a general manner, the practice of initiating direct contact by United Nations actors with non-State actors as part of the mechanism at the country level. It might be a precarious procedure to use, he said. There were countries, including his own, that had established channels of communication with non-State parties to conflict, which constituted a vital peace process. Any engagement involving United Nations actors must fall within the context of that established peace process. The disclaimer that United Nations engagement with non-State actors would not confer any political or legal status to those groups did not meet the dynamics and differences of each conflict situation.
He said the ”era of application” could be realistic if implementation was based on cooperation among governments, the United Nations system, international humanitarian agents and local civil society actors. It should address root causes and counter the incentives for recruitment of children by armed groups. Efforts to protect children in armed conflict should be carried out as part of the general strategy to rebuild peace and order and promote reconciliation in conflict areas. Appalled by incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation by United Nations peacekeepers, he said it was necessary to put in place accountability mechanisms for offenders and enhance education. He also urged inclusion of child protection advisers in peacekeeping missions.
EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) recalled that Council resolution 1539 (2004) had laid out three key elements: the production of action plans; monitoring and review of the implementation of those action plans and of violations more generally; and what should be done when plans were not made, or action was not taken. The first, the need for time-bound action plans and the nomination of country-level focal points, had seen some progress, but more needed to be done to ensure full implementation. The second concerned the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism. The proposed mechanism must be practical and realistic, clear about what would be monitored, protect those involved and adapted in the light of experience. In the spirit of moving to the era of application, it was necessary to ensure that monitoring and review could and did lead to action when progress was inadequate, and that that action was effective.
He highlighted the clear need of effective disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all children associated with fighting forces, both combatants and those in ancillary roles, especially girls. That must not be dependent on formal peace processes, since recruitment and use of children was illegal under international law, and should be a priority separate from the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of adult soldiers. His country was deeply concerned by the allegations of sexual misconduct by civilian and peacekeeping personnel, and urged the United Nations to investigate fully all allegations and report the outcomes to the Council.
Turning to the plight of child soldiers in Myanmar, he welcomed the establishment of the “Committee for the Prevention of Military Recruitment of Under-age Children” and its recently adopted Plan of Action. He called on the Myanmar authorities to implement that Plan of Action. Likewise, he urged both sides in the conflict in northern Uganda to engage in dialogue, to sign a cessation of hostilities agreement and to follow the path to peace. On Nepal, he was deeply concerned about the abduction, use and recruitment of child soldiers by the CPN-Maoists, as well as violence reportedly carried out against children by both Maoists and government security forces. He urged both parties to halt such practices and to find a peaceful solution to the conflict through dialogue.
ITSUNORI ONODERA, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said it was encouraging that the international community was paying greater attention to the suffering of children caught in armed conflict. Yet, in numerous cases, children were still facing dire conditions. In order to take effective action, there was a need to have a clearer grasp of what the reality was. Limited access for aid workers and other factors made the gathering of information in conflict situations extremely difficult. He welcomed, in that regard, the recommendation for establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism.
He said a collaborative and coordinated approach was needed for such a mechanism to function effectively. Such a mechanism must also ensure that the voices on the ground were adequately reflected, as well as the United Nations country team’s assessment. The mechanism, once established, should be improved on a continuous basis and should be subjected to a full review after its first report was submitted. Objective viewpoints and reliable information in specific situations would prepare the basis for appropriate actions. All relevant actors should be encouraged to consider appropriate action. However, in most cases, the most important actor would be the national government.
Referring to recent reported incidents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where some United Nations peacekeeping personnel actually became abusers of children, he said such misconduct was unacceptable. His Government strongly supported the United Nations’ zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse. He mentioned that last March his Government had contributed $3.64 million to UNICEF for implementation of its disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration project for child soldiers in Liberia. In conclusion, he underlined the importance of strengthening international cooperation towards the shared goal of helping children in armed conflicts. “The time for advocacy is over and the time is on us now for concrete action”, he said.
ADAMANTION TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece), associating himself with the statement to be made on behalf of the European Union, said children continued to be recruited, killed, maimed, abducted, sexually abused and exploited in armed conflicts. The information concerning acts of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, committed by United Nations peacekeeping personnel, demonstrated how widespread and serious the situation was. The response of the United Nations must be unequivocally a zero-tolerance policy.
He said the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child provided that no one under the age of 18 should be recruited by any army. All States must become parties to that Protocol and implement its provisions. The international community must not allow impunity to prevail in cases of serious crimes against children in armed conflict. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court provided a clear legal basis, stipulating that the use of children under the age of 15 as soldiers in armed conflict was a war crime. Having a complete set of the necessary legal and judicial tools, what remained to be done was to take action.
His country fully supported the Secretary-General’s plan for establishment of a monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism, he said, expressing the hope that the Council should soon be able to agree on a relevant resolution. In post-conflict situations, special attention should be given to ensure that all children were included in all disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration processes. The vulnerable situation of girls deserved special care. His country was committed to contributing funds to the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for children through the European Union’s Plan of Action and Children and Armed Conflict.
STUART HOLLIDAY (United States) emphasized that sexual misconduct by United Nations peacekeeping personnel, both military and civilian, was an issue that required immediate and sustained attention. That abuse of power not only affected victims from the most vulnerable sectors of society, but it also undermined the trust and legitimacy that peacekeepers around the world deserved and which they required to carry out their mandates.
His delegation supported the Secretary-General’s commitment to stop continued violations against children. In that regard, he welcomed effective monitoring and reporting of all such violations. However, he did have some concerns about certain aspects of the proposed action plan. Those included possible unanticipated policy and resource implications of creating a new “thematic” sanctions committee in the Security Council, and the call for an expansion of the duties of voluntarily funded programmes, such as UNICEF and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), without assurance that sufficient additional resources would be available.
Although he agreed that a broad partnership among national governments, civil society and the United Nations was needed to address the issue of children affected by armed conflict, greater clarity and selectivity was needed before it would be possible to move forward in an effective and efficient manner. Several non-governmental organizations had expressed related concerns at last week’s Arria-style meeting. He looked forward to addressing those concerns as negotiations continued on the resolution.
WANG GUANGYA (China) said children were the hope for the future. However, as the most vulnerable group, they were often negatively affected by armed conflicts. All parties to a conflict had the obligation to protect the children. The United Nations had adopted a series of measures in that regard. The Council had adopted five resolutions, providing an important and legal framework for child protection during armed conflict. Some United Nations peacekeeping operations had included child protection as important work, among other things, through appointing child-protection advisers. Some of the peace agreements promoted by the United Nations also contained provisions of child protection. All that had eased the harm of armed conflict to children to a certain extent.
Although progress had been achieved, there were still countless children suffering from armed conflict, he said. The situation of children’s rights in armed conflict had not really improved. That situation must be changed. The Council should continue to intensify its efforts to prevent conflicts and deal with the root causes. The United Nations should include child protection in its peacekeeping operations as a special task. All parties to armed conflict should comply with obligations of relevant international law.
Post-conflict reconstruction should include efforts to solve the problem of returning children to their families, schools and communities and sufficient resources should be provided towards that end. United Nations agencies were playing an active role in child protection in armed conflict. Cooperation between them and with regional and subregional organizations should be strengthened, he said.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark) said the Council could act in three areas to address the present deplorable situation regarding children in armed conflict. First, noting that impunity was widespread, she said the credibility of the Council rested on its ability to follow up on its previous decisions and effectively address the widespread impact of armed conflicts on children. The time had come for the Council to take action. In that respect, she noted the recommendation of the Secretary-General that the Council should move to take targeted and concrete measures where insufficient or no progress had been made by parties named in the lists annexed to the report. What the exact nature of those measures should be and how they could most effectively be implemented were some of the issues which she looked forward to discussing in more detail during the forthcoming deliberations of the Council on the resolution to follow the debate.
Second, in moving to consider targeted measures against the worst offenders, it was necessary to ensure the continued receipt of systematic, reliable and accurate information on the situation on the ground. It was vital for the Council to endorse a mechanism to monitor and report on the use of child soldiers and on other violations committed against children affected by armed conflict. The Secretary-General had provided the Council with an action plan for setting up that urgently needed mechanism. Parallel to the action plan, the Council’s earlier decisions on the issue must be effectively implemented. More needed to be done in that field, including the designation of specific focal points in situations of armed conflict; enhanced dialogue with governments and armed groups using child soldiers; and the development of concrete action plans on the national level to halt recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Finally, she pointed out that, while striving to find ways to effectively address the atrocities committed against children by parties to armed conflicts, the international community must not lose sight of the shortcomings in its own efforts to protect children in war-torn societies. Firm measures and a policy of zero tolerance were needed to prevent and put an end to all sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping personnel. Those who had perpetuated such conduct must face disciplinary and criminal prosecution. She was confident that the Secretary-General would continue to take the appropriate steps needed to address the problem.
ANDREY DENISOV (Russian Federation) said the use of child soldiers by various non-State actors should be condemned and perpetrators should be brought to justice. Rehabilitation of child soldiers was important in order to prevent them from being re-recruited. There were fears that a child traumatized by war might not be able to live in a society of peace and legality. He supported the efforts of the Secretary-General to identify those who continued the practice of using child soldiers. He stressed, however, that the mandate of his Special Representative should be clearly defined.
He emphasized that all efforts of the international community in protecting children in armed conflict would be in vain without the active involvement of national governments. They bore the primary responsibility in that regard, he said. He further supported, among other things, the appointment of child-protection advisers in peacekeeping operations and separating civilians from combatants and maintaining the civilian character of refugee facilities. General policy support should be provided by the Council, in coordination with the Special Representative, who played a key role in issues such as issues of monitoring, targeting of outreach activities and in-country work.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said that the situation of children affected by armed conflict had grave consequences for international peace and security, and seriously compromised the prospects for war-torn countries. In Africa, in particular, the situation was a serious challenge, which should be met. Since the Machel Report of 1996, the need to take action had been receiving growing recognition. Given the prominence of the issue, the next step was to take effective measures to ensure “the era of application”. Positive developments were currently under way, such as the development of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes that took into account the specific needs of children. The response of the United Nations to the situation would need significant improvement to ensure that the era of application would be come a reality.
Brazil supported enhancing the efficiency of the United Nations system for compiling information on violations, in partnership with national governments and civil society. It was necessary to ensure homogeneous application of any measures to be adopted by the Council, as well as to obtain accurate information. The Council must continue to demonstrate its political will and also recognize the roles of other “destinations of action”, such as the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. The International Criminal Court could also play a decisive role in deterring violations against children in armed conflict. His country was fully committed to the cause of promoting and protecting the rights of the child and furthering the agenda of child protection in the Council. It was unacceptable that violations of the rights of children continued to undermine the future of nations.
CESAR MAYORAL (Argentina) said, despite of all progress made in the protection of children in armed conflict, the situation of children on the ground remained grave and unacceptable. The Council must attach priority to the full and effective implementation of its five resolutions adopted in that regard. He condemned the reported incidents of child abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and called for a zero-tolerance policy. The action plan proposed by the Secretary-General for the establishment of a systematic monitoring and reporting mechanism constituted a step forward towards the era of application. He welcomed the fact that the action plan emphasized reinforcing national institutions and the creation and strengthening of civil society networks to promote, protect, monitor and rehabilitate children in conflict.
The action plan’s scope should be carefully defined, he said. The categorization of “violations that should be monitored” might vary according to each particular situation. The process of gathering, examining and compiling information must be as accurate and reliable as possible in order to achieve accountability. He supported the establishment of a rigorous analysis of information gathered, which should include adequate protection of the information sources.
He said the Council held a special responsibility in the protection of children in armed conflict. There should, however, be better coordination in addressing the subject among the Council, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. The establishment of the International Criminal Court raised the possibility that those who committed war crimes against children could be brought to justice.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) said that the Secretary-General’s report was a new stage in the common quest to establish standards of protection for children in armed conflict. It augured well for a new era for following up on the behaviour of parties to armed conflict. The action plan presented by the Secretary-General had touched on the problem in clear terms and had proposed bold solutions. The plan had all chances of meeting with broad endorsement. The draft resolution being worked on by the Council should enable the international community to move beyond statements of intent to action. The problem of children in armed conflict continued in the world, particularly in Africa. It was imperative that all parties to conflict honoured their obligations and ended the recruitment of children.
He noted that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes for children had been set up in conflict and post-conflict situations. He also found relevant the measures proposed by the Secretary-General to fight illicit cross-border activities that harmed children. He congratulated the increasing role played by peace-building and peacekeeping missions in protecting children. He was glad to see the swift measures taken by the Secretary-General and troop-contributing countries in light of the recent allegations of sexual misconduct by United Nations peacekeeping personnel. Africa had taken the problem of children and armed conflict in hand and remained open to any initiatives to bring to an end the phenomenon of child soldiers, which was a complex problem, the causes of which needed to be addressed by the international community. His delegation would continue to provide support to any steps aimed at putting to an end the use of children in armed conflict.
The Council President, ROGATIEN BIAOU, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integrated African Affairs of Benin, speaking in his national capacity, said placing the issue of children and armed conflict on the Council’s agenda in 1998 had demonstrated the determination of the international community to place children and their security at the centre of the maintenance of international peace and security. The latest report demonstrated, however, that despite all efforts of the Council, the United Nations system and the international community, the problem continued. There was a dichotomy between the existence of strict international standards and the continuation of atrocities and impunity for violators of children’s rights. That was why his country had proposed today’s debate. He fully endorsed the recommendations of the Secretary-General and his plan of action, including establishing an effective monitoring and reporting mechanism.
He said beyond establishing the mechanism -- a top priority -- there were three pillars of action to be taken. There was a need to identify and rectify weaknesses in international law regarding children in armed conflict. He proposed an open-ended working group of the Assembly to reclassify the crime of the use of child soldiers from war crime to crime against humanity. He called on the entire international community to make the standard of international law more effective as a deterrence, and called on States that had not done so to become party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol.
A second pillar of action would be to craft a comprehensive and integrated trans-boundary strategy to ensure the rehabilitation and reintegration of children affected by and involved in war, he said, including those who had passed the age of 18. The monitoring and reporting mechanism to be created could be put to use by the United Nations to initiate a survey to assess the resources necessary to rehabilitate children. International actors must cooperate with local networks. The appointment of national advisers on children’s rights should be expanded to all countries affected by the phenomenon of child soldiers.
The third pillar of action would consist of crafting, at the regional and, in particular, at the African level, a determined policy that would mainstream programmes to address the problems of development that the phenomenon of child soldiers brought. If nothing was done, child soldiers would remain a destabilizing factor in African countries. His country advocated regional seminars to address the linkage between the phenomenon of child soldiers and socio-economic problems of the continent, such as poverty and unemployment. Bilateral and multilateral assistance programmes should be adapted to the specific needs of child soldiers. The specific needs of girl soldiers should be given adequate attention. Specialized educational and training programmes for children affected by conflict situations should be established with international assistance.
He announced that his country would host the Conference of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of ECOWAS to consider the situation of children affected by war from 13 to 17 June. In that regard, he appealed to Council members, the United Nations system, bilateral and multilateral partners and non-governmental organizations to participate in the efforts to organize and provide follow-up to the conference. Today’s debate was a departure point for renewed momentum in mobilizing the international community to ensure better protection for children in armed conflicts and realizing significant progress in the fight against the atrocities of which they were victims.
JEAN-MARC HOSCHEIT (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that while the Union welcomed the adoption of resolution 1539 (2004), it also noted that the goals set by the United Nations had not yet been adequately fulfilled. It was indeed important and urgent to establish a systematic and comprehensive monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism. The Union encouraged all relevant actors of the United Nations, as well as non-governmental organizations, to persist in their coordinated effort to ensure both for systematic monitoring and reporting of violations and for preventive and rehabilitating actions for child victims of armed conflict. Particular emphasis must be placed on the situation of girls, on gender-based violence and on humanitarian access to children.
He said the Union supported the mainstreaming of child-specific best practices in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration at every stage of the United Nations’ work and called for more effective rehabilitation and reintegration of children associated with armed groups back into their communities. The Union was concerned about the negative side-effects of illicit cross-border activities, such as abduction and recruitment of children, trafficking of small arms and light weapons, and the illicit exploitation of natural resources. The Secretary-General should take appropriate measures against those parties listed in the annexes of the report. The Union urged States and other parties to armed conflict listed to immediately stop the recruitment and use of girls and boys in situations of armed conflict and to end the violation of their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law it entailed.
The Union fully subscribed to the views and recommendations of the Secretary-General with respect to the role of the International Criminal Court and stressed the importance of putting an immediate end to impunity, he said, and urged States to accelerate the process of ratification or accession to the Rome Statute. He also urged those States that had not done so to accede to the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a matter of priority and to sign and ratify its Optional Protocol.
In December 2003, the Union had adopted its Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict and had carried out a range of political, diplomatic and financial initiatives, he said. It had instituted a system of reporting by Union heads of mission in affected countries. Reporting and analysis had been accompanied by recommendations for actions. In cooperation with UNICEF, the Union had launched a children’s rights training programme for Union officials. Children, as a particularly vulnerable group in humanitarian crises, had been a priority of the Union’s humanitarian aid policy for several years. The plan of action, recently adopted by the Union, intended to match technical assistance with political action. Three countries had been identified for pilot projects: Uganda, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka.
SIMEAON A. ADEKANYE (Nigeria) said, despite international conventions and protocols that guaranteed the safety and protection of children, innocent children were daily being dragged into the quagmire of armed conflict, with its terrible consequences. A fundamental requirement for ending the involvement of children in situations of armed conflict was the prevention of conflict. Conflicts did not occur in a vacuum. They were often the product of an inability to redress by dialogue, real or perceived injustices, including economic, social and political exclusion, marginalization or discrimination based on racial, ethnic, religious or political affiliations. It was, therefore, important to identify and tackle head on the root causes of conflict.
He said his country had initiated action at bilateral and multilateral levels to address conflict situations in the West African subregion, and Africa in general. Conflict resolution was one of the cardinal foreign policy objectives of the Government. What was required was international cooperation, including close coordination with the African Union in resolving the diverse conflict in Africa, as well as effective assistance to those countries emerging from conflict. It was also essential that the efforts of the international community should be geared towards strengthening the rule of law at international, regional and national levels, and within that the protection of children through appropriate mechanisms for monitoring, reporting and enforcing compliance.
It was important to strengthen the protective environment by encouraging countries to ratify and apply treaties that aimed to protect children from the trauma of war. Urgent action should also be taken to totally eradicate the culture of impunity and to bring to justice perpetrators of violence against children. It was further necessary to improve the monitoring and reporting of child rights violations and to pay greater attention to demobilization and reintegration programmes, including those aimed at children. There should be a continued effort to mainstream child protection into United Nations, regional and national peacekeeping operations.
KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar) said he was deeply concerned by accounts of sexual abuse by United Nations peacekeepers and was concerned about the report’s suggestion of initiating direct contact by United Nations actors with non-State actors. While useful in some situations, the general application of that in all situations would be counter-productive. He also regretted that the Special Representative had not had real consultations with the Member States that were not in the Council and was dismayed that the report continued to retain a high degree of selectivity and double standards.
He said it was widely known that insurgent groups in Myanmar extensively recruited and used child soldiers. The Government had been taking measures not only to prevent children from being recruited into the insurgent groups, but also to ensure that no under-aged children were recruited into Tatmadaw Kyi, the Myanmar Armed Forces, which was an all-volunteer army with the minimum age requirement of 18 years. A high-level Committee for the Prevention of Military Recruitment for Under-age Children had been established. To ensure transparency, the Government had arranged the visit of the Resident Coordinator and the UNICEF representative to the two main recruitment centres. The report had not only retained Tatmadaw Kyi in Annex II, but had lumped the government armed forces together with insurgent groups as recruiting and using children, citing reports from embassies and non-governmental organizations.
He said any resolution being contemplated should focus on situations that affected peace and security. Resolutions should encourage and take a cooperative approach towards the parties that had taken effective measures to address the issues in cooperation with the United Nations. He hoped that the resolution being contemplated would avoid redundancies. He said Myanmar had now managed to put an end to armed conflict and bring about peace and stability to the country, which had enabled it to better provide promotion and protection of children’s rights.
HJALMAR W. HANNESSON (Iceland) said that, despite the advances made, the Secretary-General’s report clearly outlines the failures of the international community. The proposed action plan provided a basis for concerted action by the Security Council, the International Criminal Court, the Commission on Human Rights and regional organizations, triggered by monitoring reports. The Council should be a leader in that process. Iceland supported the recommendation of the Secretary-General to the Council to take such measures as imposing travel restrictions on leaders, imposition of arms embargoes, a ban on military assistance and restrictions on the flow of financial resources to the parties. In addition, concrete steps should be taken to ensure prosecution of persons responsible for war crimes against children.
The high and increasing number of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of local women and children by United Nations peacekeeping personnel demonstrated an urgent need to review current methods in addressing that problem across all peacekeeping operations, he said. It was vital that United Nations peacekeeping personnel did not become part of the problem. The ramifications of such sexual misconduct both for the victims and in the international community at large would be extensive, long term and require appropriate efforts to counteract.
ALLAN ROCK (Canada) said that his delegation remained deeply preoccupied by the continued evidence of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping personnel, aid workers and other international actors. Zero tolerance must be advanced not only in word, but in deed. He called on the Secretary-General to ensure that accusations of sexual exploitation and abuse were thoroughly investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted in accordance with domestic law and international standards of human rights. He also strongly urged the Secretary-General to include on peacekeeping missions an ombudsperson to whom civilians could turn to raise concerns about conduct by peacekeeping troops.
The reporting mechanism being proposed was wide-ranging and covered a number of issues, some of which overlapped with the protection of civilians and the women, peace and security agenda. It should be ensured that that was taken into account, and that consideration was given by the Secretary-General to encouraging consolidated reporting and assessment requirements where overlap was apparent. It must also be ensured that sufficient attention was devoted to the fostering and development of local capacity of States and civil society organizations, so as to prevent violations and abuses of children within the country. Also, the Council must be responsive to the monitoring and reporting process. That began with the inclusion of child protection advisers in the mandates of peacekeeping operations.
He also supported the recommendation that targeted measures against non-compliant parties, or where insufficient progress had been made by parties identified in the report. However, that must be coupled with the establishment of base indicators and standards. In addition, the Council would need to commit to ensuring that an adequate monitoring and enforcement mechanism was put in place for such targeted sanctions.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said more pressure had to be exerted on parties to conflict in order to make them realize that the costs of using child soldiers outweighed the benefits. The reporting, monitoring and compliance mechanism, combined with effective follow-up, was a step into the right direction. While recommended sanctions such as travel bans, freezing of assets and exclusion from amnesty provisions and governance structures, as well as imposing arms embargoes, might be effective in some situations, they did not necessarily have the intended impact in others. They should, therefore, be tailored to their respective targets. As Council sanctions tended to take effect over the long term, one should give thought about how to achieve immediate improvements on the ground.
He welcomed the listing of armed groups who recruited child soldiers or committed war crimes against children, and stressed that the inclusion of actors in situations not on the Council agenda was also necessary. Ending impunity and prosecuting the perpetrators were among the most important measures to be taken. Where national judiciaries were not in a position to hold offenders accountable, they should be held accountable at the international level. The International Criminal Court was now investigating war crimes in northern Uganda. He hoped that that investigation would create a precedent for holding perpetrators responsible for war crimes against children accountable, and that it would serve as an effective deterrent for future violations.
He highlighted the urgent need to include the conduct of international peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel in the monitoring process. Allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse appeared to be more serious and widespread than previously known, he said. Perpetrators of such crimes must be brought to justice. The indirect impact of conflict on children should not be forgotten. That included the breakdown of economies, loss of livelihoods and an end to education and health services. All that deprived children of their childhood and the lost years of nutrition, education and socialization reduced their prospects for the future. It should be kept in mind that experts had argued for continued development assistance in times of conflict, in order to maintain livelihoods and public services.
A. GOPINATHAN (India) wondered how useful it was to have “thematic debates” in the Council on subjects such as the present one. It was true that a large number of children were victims of armed conflicts. It was equally true that malaria and AIDS killed more children than conflicts did. But the Council did not deal separately with children and malaria, or children and AIDS, or request reports from the Secretary-General on them. A sense of balance should be retained to make sure that too narrow a focus did not blot out the larger picture of what had sometimes been called the “soft” threats to international peace and security.
Of the four key components that encompassed the Secretary-General’s concept of an “era of application”, establishing a monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism was the least practical. The nature of the situations of conflict, particularly in Africa, was such that the models of monitoring, reporting and compliance provided by the Secretary-General made them impractical and ineffective. A body of standards for monitoring, including instruments which did not command universal acceptance, could not be imposed on Member States. The use of children in armed conflict, he added, had been aggravated by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. He was disappointed that the report did not call for the adoption of more legally binding commitments by Member States, such as those on the marking and tracing of such weapons and preventing the sale of arms to non-State groups.
BERNARD GOONETILLEKE (Sri Lanka) said the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had been listed in Annex II of the report as having been engaged for many years in recruiting children for armed combat. The report notes that the LTTE had also been responsible for the abduction of children during the reporting period, a fact that had been corroborated by other organizations. That was being denied by the LTTE. Following the signing of an action plan for children affected by war, the LTTE had agreed to halt recruitment of children and release all children within its ranks. However, the LTTE had engaged in re-recruiting those who had been released and in recruiting thousands of other children, some of them as young as 11 years. Sixty children orphaned or affected by the tsunami had been recruited from transit camps to be used as combatants. As of 31 January, the total number of cases of under-age recruitment by the LTTE stood at 4,811, with 1,425 outstanding cases.
He said, despite increased global awareness of the phenomenon of child soldiers, there had been no commensurate improvement in the ground situation. The practice of naming and shaming offenders did not seem to have yielded the desired results. That situation could not be allowed to continue. His country, therefore, supported the recommendations of the Secretary-General that the Council should take measures against those who failed to halt the practice of recruiting child combatants. In that regard, the International Criminal Court and ad hoc tribunals had been mentioned to bring the perpetrators of crimes against vulnerable children to justice. Enforcement of those measures on a gradual scale would have a persuasive impact on all those who were willingly and deliberately violating the rights of children affected by armed conflict.
His country also supported the establishment of a monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism to support the “era of application”, focusing on six broad areas of grave violations, he said. Whenever possible, the Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting should draw from the child protective networks on the ground and, where possible, cooperate with the relevant government institutions. He welcomed the fact that the report had recognized the central role of national governments, and that the United Nations entities and international non-governmental organizations at the country level should always support and complement the protection and rehabilitation roles of national authorities.
CHIEKH NIANG (Senegal) said more than 300,000 children under the age of 18 participated actively in conflicts. Those children must carry out all types of tasks. While some of them were involved in combat, others were used for sexual purposes. Often enlisted by force, equipped with sophisticated weapons and supplied with intoxicating substances, child soldiers were becoming human bombs. That bleak picture showed how much the scourge of child soldiers constituted a permanent threat to societies and a grave violation of children’s rights. International norms and principles for the protection of children affected by armed conflicts did exist. Moreover, those responsible for recruitment of children were known as were their theatres of operation. Yet, the international community, despite continued efforts, encounters enormous obstacles in tackling the problem.
The scourge of child soldiers remained a topic of great concern for the United Nations, he said. There were several actions the international community could take to eradicate the evil. First of all, there should be a general ratification and stringent implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There was a need for political will in all States, which must agree to strict monitoring of the Protocol. Moreover, there was a need for applications of sanctions permitted under international law regarding recruitment and participation of children in armed conflict. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court qualified recruitment of children under the age of 15 in armed groups and armed forces as a war crime. Nevertheless, law could only have an impact if was effectively applied and violations were followed by sanctions.
He said the international community must also enhance its actions in the areas of awareness-raising and prevention. In that regard, it was important that programmes be established in conflict areas that offered other prospects to children and their families. In that respect, fighting poverty and illiteracy was a key area. Also of utmost importance was the strengthening of disarmament and reintegration programmes for child soldiers. Apart from those actions, his country unequivocally supported the rapid implementation of the measures and recommendations in the report of the Secretary-General.
JOHAN L. LØVALD (Norway) said he was deeply dismayed to learn about the significant increase in allegations of sexual misconduct against United Nations peacekeeping personnel. All such allegations must be thoroughly investigated and followed up, and preventive measures must be put in place. He welcomed the report published by the Office of Internal Oversight Services in early January, and the other investigations that were being carried out. However, he would like to see a comprehensive report setting out recommendations on the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel. It was essential to introduce rigorous pre-deployment training programmes for military and civilian personnel in human rights, including the issue of sexual abuse.
He supported the consideration of targeted measures to end atrocities against children and impunity for violators. For measures to be effective, it was important that they be tailored to the individual situation in order not to unnecessarily impede efforts to end an armed conflict, which was the single most important measure to protect the rights of the child. He acknowledged the crucial work done by non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations with regard to advocacy, protection, rehabilitation and developing and strengthening the monitoring and reporting regime. He agreed that particular priority should be given to supporting and strengthening national and civil society institutions that protect and rehabilitate children in conflict and post-conflict situations. In that regard, it was important that community reintegration activities for children were supported. The reintegration process took time and required long-term support.
CHARLES W.G. WAGABA (Uganda) said he was concerned about the mischaracterization contained in paragraphs 52 and 53 and Annex II of the Secretary-General’s report. He emphasized that it was not the policy of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and the Local Defence Units (LDUs) to recruit anyone under the age of 18. They worked openly with UNICEF and other relevant organizations to ensure that anyone below the age of 18 was not mistakenly recruited. The UPDF was primarily involved in rescuing children who had been abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The battalion quoted in the report was not being used for the re-recruitment of LRA members, but as the first point of security for those rescued by the UPDF.
He said it was crucial for the Special Representative to undertake a comprehensive visit to northern Uganda. He agreed that the LRA should be named and sanctioned to the furthest extent possible. However, the Secretary-General’s report in Annex II had erred in lumping together the UPDF and LDUs with the LRA, which was a terrorist organization. That showed a lack of understanding of the situation in northern Uganda, largely created by the refusal of the Special Representative to visit the region.
Regarding the proposed establishment for a monitoring and reporting mechanism, he welcomed the fact that the six grave abuses over which international action was urgently required were clearly identified. The suggested efforts towards gathering and vetting of information to enhance coordination and effectiveness of the international community needed further refining, he said. It was important for the Special Representative to clearly indicate at what point in the preparation and submission of reports he would consult Member States. Rigorous and transparent consultations were crucial at all stages. A formula should be devised to limit the institutional spread for “destination for action” centres to avoid contradictory outcomes.
The Special Representative might also wish to elaborate on the criteria used to arrive at the selection of regional groupings proposed to undertake joint demarches with the United Nations while leaving out others, he continued. The allocation of roles should also be clearly explained, including the mandate proposed for some regional organizations to take on an international role over areas that fell outside their regional mandate. He hoped that the recent findings of the Secretary-General regarding the shortcoming of the Special Representative in addressing issues relating to children and armed conflict would be addressed expeditiously and efficiently, so as to ensure that there was transparency, objectiveness, accuracy and professionalism.
ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea) said that his country, at the heart of a subregion wrenched by conflict, attached great importance to the issue of children and armed conflict, which the Council had taken up since 1999. It was important to ensure full implementation of the relevant recommendations and enhance measures at all levels to ensure that the scourge of children and armed conflict was eradicated. The ongoing difficulties regarding access to information on the issue must be taken into consideration. In looking at the shocking allegations of sexual exploitation by United Nations peacekeeping staff, his delegation supported the efforts now under way to address the issue and emphasized the need for instruction to prevent such actions.
The development of an action plan for the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism was something he supported. Important measures and specific initiatives had been developed to protect children in armed conflict, which could contribute to rectifying the situation and prosecuting violators. But, even if he approved of the plan, its relevance would depend on the commitment and will to act of the relevant actors. He supported the establishment by the Commission on Human Rights of a standing working group on children and armed conflict. Complexity and difficulties related to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes required the will of actors and the support of donors and civil society. The measures in the report to promote cooperation to prevent and combat illicit cross-border acts that were harmful to children deserved attention. A regular updating of the lists to the Council was also crucial. He reiterated his belief that the peoples and children of the world could only have a shared destiny if peace was achieved, and peace was only possible if development could be ensured.
ALFRED M. MOUSSOTSI (Gabon) said today’s debate logically followed the debate of 17 February on light arms. Numerous armed conflicts, especially in developing countries and particularly in Africa, were exacerbated by light weapons, which gave rise to recruitment of children as armed combatants. But was it enough to condemn the harm inflicted by recruitment? he asked. A more energetic and sustained action was necessary.
The prevention of armed conflict was a crucial element in that regard, he said. Vigorous action in the fight against the illicit traffic in small weapons was also important. There was a need for the international community to ensure strict compliance by parties to the conflict with the Conventions of Geneva and additional Protocols. Impunity for those responsible for crimes against children must end and perpetrators must be prosecuted. It was alarming that United Nations peacekeepers often contributed to the problem. The United Nations and the countries of origin of peacekeeping personnel must take responsibility to end such practices.
Within the framework of peacekeeping operations and post-conflict programmes, it was crucial that the problems of children were taken into account. He urged the donor community to provide financial support to programmes of disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration.
Ms. TAWFIQ (Iraq) said that her Government had admitted to facing problems in establishing stability and security, due to the terrorist attacks carried out by some groups, which used women, children and the elderly as human shields, leading to heavy losses among those groups. The Government had officially declared the start of reconstruction and rehabilitation in the areas that were the theatre of military actions. She pointed out that the information presented in the report on her country had come from the UNICEF office in Amman, Jordan, and not from inside Iraq. The Government had requested the reopening of United Nations agencies in the northern and southern areas of Iraq, which enjoyed security. She also saw no mention of the compliance and progress made in Iraq’s Kurdistan region and other areas of Iraq. In addition, she reaffirmed Iraq’s interest in cooperating with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and translating that cooperation into reality to protect the children of Iraq.
REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) said that the international community was now faced with a cruel dichotomy. On the one hand, clear and strong protection standards for children involved in armed conflict and important concrete initiatives had been developed. On the other hand, atrocities against children continued largely unabated on the ground. That gloomy picture was further exacerbated by the significant increase in the number of allegations of sexual misconduct against United Nations peacekeeping personnel. It was imperative that peacekeepers uphold the trust that the local populations and the international community had placed in them. In that regard, he appreciated current initiatives to undertake informal consultations with troop- and police-contributing countries to identify solutions to the problem.
Turning to the action plan to establish a monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism, he said that national authorities played a central and immediate role in providing effective protection and relief to children in danger. Therefore, it was necessary that all actions undertaken by the United Nations entities and international non-governmental organizations at the country level should always be designed to support and complement the protection and rehabilitation roles of national authorities, and not supplant them. A concerted and comprehensive approach, rather than a partial and selective one, should be promoted in addressing the root causes of the problem.
OUSAME MUTARI (Niger) said the adoption of several legal instruments, the most important of which was the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol, had not prevented children from walling victim to armed conflict. In many areas of conflict, the proportion of civilian victims was largely composed of children. During the past decade, approximately 20 million children had had to flee their homes. Over 2 million victims were children and there were some 6 million disabled children as a result of armed conflict. Added to those problems was the revolting phenomenon of child soldiers, of which there were approximately 300,000. The increase of violent conflicts, especially in Africa, had resulted in rape, displacement and ethnic cleansing, with women and children the main victims.
The phenomenon of child soldiers could be seen, in particular, in African countries that suffered from armed conflict. The ECOWAS, addressing the issue, had organized a ministerial conference on children affected by war in April 2000 in Accra, Ghana. That meeting had resulted in adoption of the Accra Declaration on War-Affected Children and a plan of action. One of the actions was the annual organization of a West African truth week for children affected by war.
He said his country was not involved in conflict, but felt solidarity with its fellow African countries that had to deal with the phenomenon of child soldiers. However, its borders were porous and conflicts in other countries could have implications for the Niger. His country had ratified all instruments regarding the rights of the child and also adopted legislative texts at the national level in that area, such as a decree to create a national commission on legislative reform in penal and civil law. It had created 40 jurisdictions for children and trained judges in the special needs of minors.
CHEICK SIDI DIARRA (Mali) said that, despite progress in some areas, the report showed that armed groups had continued with the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. He was pleased that the Secretary-General had proposed an action plan for the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism. That plan transformed the programme of work concerning children and armed conflict into concrete measures and initiatives. He hoped it would open the highly anticipated implementation phase. The four parts of implementation should be complemented by a fifth part concerning the imposition of sanctions for non-compliance with established standards. In addition, the list of grave violations that needed to be monitored should also include the worst forms of child labour.
He agreed with the Secretary-General that, to ensure credibility, the mechanism should be based on: precise and clear standards; national and international legal commitments; and best practices observed in the field. The parties whose actions must be monitored were governments and armed groups. If there were no conclusive results, pressure must be considered. The use of targeted measures would also ensure that parties respected their international commitments. The structures for gathering information at the country level, particularly civil society and non-governmental organizations, should be strengthened. Bodies which had decision-making power should show more firmness and determination, such as the Council, the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunals. Law without coercion would only have a limited effect. The best protection of children included the establishment of an environment conducive to the development of human beings.
Addressing questions and comments of speakers, Mr. OTUNNU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said the criticisms, insights and observations of Council members and other delegates had been noted. Concerning the role of governments, he said that the primary responsibility for protecting children rested with the national authorities. The role of United Nations agencies and other international organizations should supplement those efforts, and not supplant them. In situations where national institutions had been weakened because of war, the rejuvenation of those institutions should be a priority.
Dialogue with non-State parties to conflict was solely for ensuring protection and access to children. Interactions should take place in complete transparency and should not compromise the framework of peace processes and negotiations.
Regarding the kind of measures to be taken, he emphasized that there was a wide range of measures that could be brought to bear on parties to conflict, including publicity, legal measures, international pressure and, as an extreme measure, targeted sanctions. Together, they formed a comprehensive approach that should lead to modification of the conduct of parties. Civil society and non-governmental organizations had a crucial role to play in the exercise, as had been described in detail in the report.
He stressed that the
mechanism proposed for monitoring did not envisage the creation of a new
entity in the United Nations, but rather called for the streamlining of
existing actors and structures. In conclusion, he said that he would
address other issues raised bilaterally.
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