Joint statement by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Najat Maalla M’jid
(New York, 31 August 2021) With alarming reports of human rights violations against civilians in Afghanistan, the two UN Officials call on the Taliban and other parties to respect and protect human rights for all. As at least 45% of the Afghan population is below the age of 15, the international community must not abandon the children of Afghanistan.
The UN Officials strongly condemn the horrific and deadly attacks against Kabul's airport in which children have reportedly been killed and maimed and expressed their deepest condolences to the families of all victims and to the Afghan people.
"The current political and security contexts must not erase progress for human rights, including those of children and women. We call on the Taliban and other parties to respect the dignity and human rights of all Afghans, including boys and girls. Ensuring the protection of children from harm and including their voices and needs is critical to sustainable peace and development in Afghanistan," said the UN Officials.
The two UN Officials remind the Taliban and all relevant parties that they are bound by all international standards to which Afghanistan has already committed for the protection of children. This includes the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which defines a child as any human being under the age of 18 and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) which states that States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities.
The two UN Officials are particularly concerned regarding the rights of girls, including sexual and gender-based violence as well as their right to education. "The rights of all Afghan girls who have been studying in the past two decades, dreaming of becoming doctors, engineers or teachers, must continue to be respected and their right to education protected from threats and attacks. We call on the Taliban and all parties to uphold the rights of children, including the rights of girls to education and protection from violence," they said.
The two UN Officials further urge the Taliban to ensure the respect and protection of humanitarian aid and personnel, as 10 million children across Afghanistan are in need of humanitarian assistance to survive according to the United Nations on the ground.
The first half of 2021 already witnessed an alarming number of grave violations committed against children, amplifying the urgent need to end violations and ensure children's rights and to abide by international commitments.
"The children of Afghanistan have suffered enough. The Taliban and other parties as well as those who can influence must take a strong step to prevent violence and harm against children and include the protection and the rights of all girls and boys below 18 into any peace processes, governance discussions and peace efforts, in line with international standards. Protecting the rights of all Afghans, including the rights of children is the only sustainable solution for peace," they added.
Note to editors:
The six grave violations against children identified by the UN Security Council are: recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming of children, rape or other forms of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, abduction, and denial of humanitarian access for children.
The Security Council Resolution 1539 (2004) mandated the United Nations through the Children and Armed Conflict Office to engage with all listed parties in the annexes of the UN Secretary-General report on Children and Armed Conflict to work at ending and preventing violations against children. In the Annexes of his 2020 Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, the Secretary-General listed the following parties in Afghanistan: Taliban forces and affiliated groups, Haqqani Network, Hizb-i Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan Province, under list A; and the Afghan National Army under list B.
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