I have the honor of delivering this statement on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, consisting of 55 Member States and the European Union, and this year co-chaired by Botswana, Costa Rica and Croatia.
The Group would like to thank Brazil for organizing today’s important Open Debate. I also would like to extend our gratitude to the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms. Catherine Russell, as well as youth activist Patrick Kumi, for their highly informative briefings.
As highlighted by the latest Secretary-General’s report on the Responsibility to Protect, children and young people are uniquely – and often disproportionately – affected by conflict and atrocities. Today, millions of children around the world are facing the risk of mass atrocities, and their safety, protection, dignity and welfare are fundamental to the objectives of R2P. Depending on the circumstances, the six grave violations against children during situations of armed conflict, as identified by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, may amount to either atrocity crimes themselves or an indication that an atrocity crime may be committed. Over the past 16 years, the UN has verified 266,000 cases of grave violations against children in more than 30 conflict situations. While these cases were verified through the 2005 UN-led Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, the actual figures are most likely much higher, according to UNICEF.
Among the six grave violations, the abduction of children is one of the most difficult to document. Where it constitutes an atrocity crime, abduction may be punishable under the Rome Statute. Moreover, we are especially concerned by the drastic increase in child abductions, and the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers, including girls. We encourage the UN to further investigate also allegations of cross-border abduction and child trafficking with the purpose of adoption. We firmly condemn such illegal acts – wherever they occur – and welcome the recently presented Guidance note on abduction made by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and hope it will contribute to prevent the abduction of children.
The Group of Friends of R2P would like to stress the following points:
Firstly, children and young people face distinct atrocity risks. The international community should ensure therefore that every aspect of atrocity prevention – from planning to implementation to monitoring and evaluation – is guided by the general principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Furthermore, children and young people can and should play critical roles in informing early warning, capacity building and developing more cohesive, inclusive and resilient societies. These roles would contribute to the prevention and resolution of conflict and peacebuilding. Ensuring children and young people’s meaningful participation in conflict resolution and atrocity prevention, including those who have experienced atrocities in the past, means recognizing the role that they can play not just as beneficiaries of interventions, but as partners in peace.
Secondly, all perpetrators of the six grave violations against children must be held accountable. The UN Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, the Secretary-General’s annual report, and its annex are essential for ensuring accountability and for preventing further violations against children. These tools will only remain powerful if they maintain their credibility. A single, complete evidence-based list of all those found responsible for such violations and abuses that accurately reflects the data collected and verified by the MRM should be published in the annexes every year.
Thirdly, it is important that all existing mechanisms to monitor, report and respond to violations against children are strengthened, including child protection capacities in UN peace operations and political missions as well as the Office of the Special Representative of Children and Armed Conflict. We would like to encourage the Secretary-General to alert the Security Council wherever there is credible information that parties are committing any of the six grave violations against children by including such “situations of concern” in his annual Children and Armed Conflict report.
Fourthly, appropriate legislative and institutional arrangements are essential for comprehensively addressing violations of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law against children and young people. We encourage States that have not yet done so to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. We also acknowledge the efforts of Member States that have endorsed the Paris Principles and Commitments, the Vancouver Principles, and the Safe Schools Declaration.
Lastly, Member States should bring to justice all those responsible for crimes involving violations against children, including any atrocity crimes, through prompt investigations and, where appropriate, prosecution. In this context, we encourage Member States to support accountability measures for perpetrators listed in the annex of the Secretary-General’s report and based on the findings of the MRM.
Thank you, Mr. President