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Joint Statement by AU Department for Political Affairs, Peace & Security & Office of SRSG CAAC on the Day of the African Child

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New York/Addis Ababa, 16 June 2021 – There is pressing need to protect all children, especially those living amidst hostilities, end violations of their rights and foster their well-being and development, highlight the African Union Commission’s Department for Political Affairs, Peace and Security and the Office of the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict as they jointly commemorate the Day of the African Child (DAC).

This year’s DAC is of particular significance as it commemorates one of the most important tools for advancing children’s rights: the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), which was adopted 30 years ago. Held under the theme “30 years after the adoption of the Charter: accelerate implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children”, DAC reminds us of our collective commitments, progress made and of remaining challenges to reach those left farthest behind: boys and girls affected by armed conflict.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the mandate of the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict – a mandate born out of Graça Machel’s landmark report ‘The impact of armed conflict on children’ and thus strongly connected to African advocacy for children. It is a mandate that lives on engagement and partnership and demands collective action.

“The burdens that lie on the shoulders of this generation of children and young people are staggeringly heavy – from the scourge of armed conflict and violent extremism to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year we witnessed increases in the abduction of children and in sexual violence against them. We also saw prevalent attacks on and military use of schools and hospitals, which is unacceptable, especially during the current global health emergency. It is our collective responsibility to put an end to these crimes and create the conditions for this generation to enjoy a childhood and youth in dignity and a future in prosperity. It is a responsibility that cannot be met in isolation, but requires dedicated and concerted efforts, political will and strong partnerships”, stress the AU Commissioner Bankole Adeoye and UN Special Representative Virginia Gamba.

The AU Commissioner and UN Special Representative strongly condemn that thousands of African children continue to be recruited and used, killed or maimed, raped and abducted in situations of armed conflict. They further express concern over ongoing attacks on schools and hospitals and prevalent denials of humanitarian access to children in conflict situations across the continent. The Commissioner and Special Representative highlight the distinct vulnerability of girls and boys in times of conflict, and stress that displaced and detained children as well as children with disabilities are particularly at risk. They further express concern over the impact of COVID-19 on children in Africa and underline the need to prioritize the rights and needs of children in pandemic response and recovery measures.

Further, they call on all parties to conflict to immediately cease all grave violations against children and abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. They encourage Member States to take measures to better protect children, including by criminalising grave violations against them in national legislation and holding perpetrators accountable. They remind partners at global, regional and national levels of the need to accelerate efforts and increase resources for the protection of conflict-affected children, including to enable the provision of reintegration and assistance programmes benefiting all children.

Achieving lasting peace is the most effective and only sustainable way to protect children from grave violations, and child protection must be a central element of prevention, early warning, mediation and conflict resolution efforts. The Commissioner and Special Representative highlight that the prevention of grave violations against children is a shared goal and should be at the centre of national, regional and international peace efforts.

Commissioner Bankole Adeoye and Special Representative Virginia Gamba underline their commitment to a strong UN-AU partnership in peace, security, development and human rights and look forward to enhancing their engagement on child protection, particularly with a view to ending and preventing grave violations against children, based on the long-standing collaboration between their Offices.

Note to editors

June 16th is the Day of the African Child. It was first established by the Organization of the African Unity in 1991. The day aims at raising awareness for the situation of children in Africa, and on the need for continuing improvement in education.

The UN Children and Armed Conflict mandate covers eleven situations in Africa: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Lake Chad Basin Region, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.

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For additional information, please contact:

Fabienne Vinet, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
+1-212-963-5986 (office) / +1-917-288-5791 (mobile) / vinet@un.org

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