World

Recounting harrowing experience with armed group, briefer urges Security Council to enforce resolutions protecting children impacted by armed conflict

9096TH MEETING (AM & PM)
SC/14975
19 JULY 2022

In a harrowing account of his own abduction in South Sudan, where an armed group had tortured him and had killed his father in front of his eyes, the founder of the Similar Ground organization called on the Security Council today to enforce the myriad resolutions it has passed to secure the safety of children around the world who are at the mercy of wars and conflicts they did not start nor should ever be forced to endure.

Patrick Kumi’s briefing, along with those of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, commenced the Security Council’s annual open debate covering the six grave violations against children in situations on the Council’s agenda. Over 70 speakers took the floor to outline actions desperately needed to end child recruitment and use, killing and maiming, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access — crimes laid bare in the Secretary-General’s latest report (document A/76/871-S/2022/493).

“This is just one story,” Mr. Kumi said of his experience. Describing Similar Ground as a community-based organization helping children recover from their trauma, he emphasized: “There are thousands of children currently going through what I did.” He pressed the Council to include “people like me” in the decisions it makes, acknowledging that, while he was grateful for the opportunity to speak today, “one young person, once a year, is not enough”. Young people affected by conflict need more open doors at the United Nations to help design and lead responses.

Against that backdrop, Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, introducing the report, said the United Nations verified 23,982 grave violations in the 21 country situations and 1 regional monitoring arrangement covered by her mandate. Of them, 19,165 were child victims.

“This represents an average of 65 grave violations committed against children every single day, of every week, of every month in the year,” she stressed. In addition, 8,000 children were either killed or maimed, making this the most prevalent of all grave violations.

While she did point to signs of hope — with 17 joint action plans being implemented by parties, including three signed in 2021 — she said it was vital that United Nations operations are adequately mandated, staffed and funded to carry out the life-saving interventions of monitoring and reporting, engaging with parties and securing the release of children from conflict.

Catherine Russell, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), paused to reflect on the appalling nature of the information presented in the Secretary-General’s report. “Children — and childhood — are under attack,” she said, remarking that the cases represent only those that the United Nations could verify. Many others could not be reached. Reflecting on just how appalling the information in the Secretary‑General’s report was, she said: “The world has failed all of them.”

She called on Member States to insist on compliance with international humanitarian law and go beyond the requirements of the law. “You have the power to issue military orders with zero-tolerance policies on grave violations against children,” she said. “Please use that power.”

In the ensuing debate, delegates forcefully denounced the cycles of violence that keep children trapped in a constant state of terror and trauma, with New Zealand’s delegate expressing the view of many in acknowledging: “We are all horrified at the way children are used, abused and manipulated, their lives upended, their futures destroyed”.

Several delegates — including from Gabon, Liechtenstein and Ecuador — called for a much greater focus on protecting girls. Those from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Iran specifically pressed the Taliban to enable the return of all Afghan girls to the classroom, while the United States representative said the Council has been clear that if the Taliban want normalized relations with the global community, schools must be open to all female students, without delay. “We, as the international community, did not do enough to make [the] Taliban abide by their obligations,” Poland’s representative added.

With that in mind, Lebanon’s delegate brought the Council to a moment of reckoning. “We have to admit that we failed to protect children around the world,” but not because any of the international conventions, legislation or action plans lacked the seriousness or strength needed. “We failed because there is no will to implement them.”

As such, many delegates focused on solutions. Botswana’s representative, speaking for the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, encouraged the United Nations to investigate allegations of cross-border abduction and child trafficking with the purpose of adoption.

The representatives of Italy, Portugal and Yemen focused on adherence to the Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups (Paris Principles), and the 17 Vancouver Principles on child protection in peacekeeping. A number of delegates — notably from Switzerland, Spain and Denmark, also speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden — similarly called for the full implementation of resolution 2601 (2021) on the protection of education in armed conflict.

Ukraine’s delegate, meanwhile, welcomed the Secretary-General’s decision to list his country as a situation of concern in the next annual report, triggering the daily monitoring of gross violations against children on its territory by the entire United Nations. Since the February invasion by Russian forces, almost 2 of every 3 children in Ukraine have been displaced by unabated shelling.

The Russian Federation’s delegate countered by reciting statistics of child casualties inflicted by Kyiv in the Donbass since 2014 and rejecting unfounded claims that Russian authorities are abducting children.

Taking a holistic view, Albania’s delegate stressed the need for accountability, dedicated child-protection capacity in United Nations peacekeeping and special political missions, and protection of humanitarian personnel in the field. More so, he stressed it was “our moral duty and our legal responsibility” to do whatever is needed to ensure that children are raised with care, love and protection, away from violence and conflict.

Also speaking today were the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary and the Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Brazil.

The representatives of Norway, Ghana, France, India, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Mexico, China, Canada (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict), Malta, Luxembourg, Uruguay, Slovenia, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Czech Republic, Belgium, Slovakia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Guatemala, Australia, Republic of Korea, Sudan, Israel, Japan, Andorra, Syria, Malaysia, Georgia, Romania, Ethiopia, Chile, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Yemen, Türkiye, Philippines, Iraq, Egypt, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Lithuania, Myanmar, Morocco, Argentina, Algeria and Armenia also spoke, as did observers for the European Union and the State of Palestine.

The representatives of India and Pakistan took the floor a second time.

The meeting began at 10:04 a.m., suspended at 1:11 p.m., resumed at 3:04 p.m. and ended at 7:06 p.m.

Briefings

VIRGINIA GAMBA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, introducing the report of the Secretary-General (document A/76/871-S/2022/493), said the abuses children were subjected to over the last year were as grievous as they were many. She recounted events surrounding the death of three children in South Sudan who were killed when an unexploded ordnance detonated. In the Philippines, an 11-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl were recruited and used by the New People’s Army. Four children in Somalia were abducted by Al-Shabaab, accused of associating with Government forces, while in Afghanistan 3 boys and 42 girls were killed after a vehicle-borne device detonated outside their high school in Kabul. In Burkina Faso, two girls were abducted, each raped by two armed men. “The examples are endless,” she remarked.

She said that, in 2021, in the 21 country situations and 1 regional monitoring arrangement covered by her mandate, the United Nations verified 23,982 grave violations, with more than 19,165 child victims; of that, 1,600 children were victims of two or more violations, illustrating how these abuses are often interlinked. “This represents an average of 65 grave violations committed against children every single day, of every week, of every month in the year,” she noted.

In addition, 8,000 children were either killed or maimed, making this the most prevalent of all grave violations, she continued, noting that the use of explosive remnants of war, improvised explosive devices and landmines caused a quarter of these casualties. The recruitment and use of children for, in and by parties to armed conflict — with over 6,300 children verified recruited and used — was the second most prevalent violation, followed by the denial of humanitarian access to children, at over 3,900 incidents. Worryingly, both abductions and rape and other forms of sexual violence increased by 20 per cent last year. Of particular concern is the steady increase in violations against girls, such as killing and maiming, sexual violence and abduction. There were 2,864 children detained or deprived of their liberty, as well as a verified rise in the military use of schools.

She said a range of challenges — from violent extremism in the Central Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions and dire security conditions in the Horn of Africa, to the disregard for international humanitarian and human rights law, coups and COVID-19 — continue to place children at risk. The severity of the armed violence in places like Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ukraine has led the Secretary-General to include these situations in the children and armed conflict agenda, prompting the immediate start of monitoring to report on these situations by 2023.

Hand in hand with tragedy, there were also signs of hope and recovery in 2021, she said, pointing to 17 joint action plans with parties to conflict under implementation, including three that were signed in 2021 — two in Mali with Platform groups and one in Yemen with the Houthis. Together, her office and child protection teams on the ground are also successfully engaging with other listed parties to adopt action plans in Iraq and Syria. Altogether, 40 new commitments and agreed measures were put in place by parties to conflict last year alone, she said, citing gains made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Philippines and South Sudan in that context.

Describing recommendations outlined in her report, she said it is vital that United Nations operations are adequately mandated, staffed and funded to carry out monitoring and reporting, engaging with parties, developing joint action plans, providing technical assistance to signatories for implementation purposes, and the undertaking of other life-saving interventions, including securing the release of children from conflict. Humanitarian spaces must always be safeguarded, while parties to conflict must allow safe, timely and unimpeded humanitarian access to all children. Sustainable financial support and technical assistance for gender-, age- and disability-sensitive, survivor-centred child reintegration programmes is also needed, including for survivors of sexual violence, which is critical. Best practices must be promoted, and tools developed to consistently evolve the work at hand.

“Children affected by conflict need our support — and they need it now,” she stressed, underscoring the critical importance for the international community to increase support for mine action, including to increase child-sensitive data‑collection and assistance programmes. Parties to conflict must respect their international law obligations, while Member States can support prevention by signing, ratifying and implementing relevant international instruments. “The best way to protect children and to prevent violations against them in situations of armed conflict is to promote and champion peace,” she said.

CATHERINE RUSSELL, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), spotlighted the Secretary-General’s report, stressing that, as conflicts proliferate around the world, grave violations against children continue. “Children — and childhood — are under attack. I want to pause and take a moment to reflect on just how appalling the information in the Secretary‑General’s report really is,” she said. The report lays out evidence of more than 23,000 violations against 19,165 children in 2021. The children were killed, some were grievously injured, some were raped and some suffered multiple violations. However, these violations were against children that the United Nations could verify; many others could not be reached. “The world has failed all of them,” she said. In 2021 alone, at least 12,214 children were released from armed forces and armed groups — bringing the total number of children documented as released since 2000 to more than 186,000 girls and boys.

She called on Member States to use their enormous power to drive progress to protect children and urged them to do more, including insisting on compliance with international humanitarian law and going beyond the requirements of the law. “You have the power to issue military orders with zero-tolerance policies on grave violations against children,” she said. “Please use that power.” She also urged Member States to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration to protect children and schools from attack and misuse by parties to conflict and to endorse and implement the Paris Principles to demobilize and reintegrate children who have been used by armed forces and groups.

Council members should push States and non-State armed groups to prevent and end grave violations against children — and to protect children who have survived grave violations from stigma and revictimization, she continued. This includes ending the detention of children who have been forced to serve in armed groups or deny them the right to citizenship, no matter which groups they have been associated with. Finally, she called on Member States to support the United Nation efforts to implement the children and armed conflict agenda on the ground — both through resource allocation and through commitment to work with UNICEF to protect, strengthen and stand behind this agenda.

PATRICK KUMI, Founder and Executive Director of Similar Ground, said that, in 2016 at the age of 15, war broke out in the Eastern Equatoria region of South Sudan. He and his father were abducted by an armed group, tortured, beaten and kept in a pit filled with water up to their necks. His father was eventually killed in front of him. Told to join the group or die, he cried and could not eat for days. He was put barracks with over 2,000 people — half of them children, many carrying guns. “I was shocked and speechless,” he said, noting some had joined for money, out of peer pressure or for revenge after their families had been killed. A 10-year-old joined because his parents were mistreating him, and many younger children had girls they called “wives”; the adults were also married to children of 14 or 15. In each attack he was forced to participate in, at least five children were killed or injured. There were harmful drugs and no medical care. “We drank water together with the animals,” he said.

When an attack was launched in the barracks by Government forces, he narrowly escaped death, fleeing to Uganda, where he was registered in the Bidi‑Bidi refugee settlement and then eventually reunited with his family, he continued. After joining a War Child programme called VoiceMore, he and friends set up Similar Ground, a community-based organization, helping hundreds of children recover from their trauma. “I wasted three years of my life trying to recover,” he said, adding that many children never recover at all. With thousands of children currently going through what he did, he spent years considering their needs. He called for better quality reintegration, as “children leaving armed groups need our full support to heal” — including medical care, family reunification and education.

In addition, children leaving armed groups are seen as a threat, he pointed out. Therefore, communities need support in understanding their needs and experiences. He further called for greater funding sustainability billions of dollars are given annually in humanitarian aid, projects are implemented and then are ended. International organizations must collaborate better locally so that when projects conclude, community and Government can take over. International non-governmental organization play an important role, but, eventually, leave, “whereas we know our issues well”, he said.

Calling for more participation in decision-making for “people like me”, he stressed: “It is great I can speak here today, and I am grateful for this opportunity, but one young person, once a year, is not enough.” Young people affected by conflict need more opportunity to participate in policy and programming that concerns them — including in the United Nations system by designing and leading responses. He also highlighted the need for greater accountability. Despite the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Geneva Conventions and Security Council resolutions — and despite most countries agreeing to them — those accords are neither respected nor adequately enforced. Militaries, armed groups and local government departments must understand the laws and be held to account when they break them. Citing his recent visit with friends and colleagues in the Bidi-Bidi settlement, he noted they all asked him to tell the Council that if policy and programming concerns children, “then let it be for them”.

Statements

FERNANDO SIMAS MAGALHÃES, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Brazil and Council President for July, spoke in his national capacity to highlight that, despite progress over the past 25 years in protecting children from the scourge of war, they remain subject to violations due to the failure of parties in armed conflict to comply with international law. Some of these children are disproportionately vulnerable — such as refugee, internally displaced and Stateless children — and neighbouring, transit and host countries must ensure that children arriving in their territories are immediately identified and provided access to all public services and social benefits, including education. For its part, Brazil has been providing access to education and health, among other services and benefits, for children fleeing countries such as Afghanistan, Haiti, Syria and Venezuela.

He went on to stress that reintegration must be seen as a third pillar of the children and armed conflict agenda, complementing the efforts of prevention and protection and understood as a long-term process requiring long‑term commitment. He also emphasized that accountability is essential in ending grave violations, that counter-terrorism efforts should treat children primarily as victims, that the Council must ensure sanctions do not have adverse humanitarian consequences for civilian populations and that child-protection provisions and capacity should be included in all relevant mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions.

MONA JUUL (Norway) said the report presents “a highly uncomfortable, but unquestionable truth: that children pay the highest price of war”, adding that the international community needs facts and data in order to respond adequately. United Nations country teams and partners have proven to be adaptable — monitoring and reporting on violations in challenging environments. The addition of four new situations of concern in this year’s report, including Palestine, is an important step towards advancing country‑level progress to protect children. More must be done to secure the necessary funding, including follow-up in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary, she said. Prevention is better than cure and she called on all parties to conflict to sign and implement action plans with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and for Member States to endorse and implement the Paris and Vancouver Principles, and the Safe School Declaration. All children must be treated as children, including those associated with armed groups and those designated as terrorist groups. She urged all Member States to treat all children involved primarily as victims of violations of international law, stressing the need for accountability, and to bring to justice those responsible for violations of international law, including through cooperation with the International Criminal Court.

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), aligning himself with the upcoming statement of the Friends of the Responsibility to Protect and the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, said his delegation joined the commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate earlier this year. While encouraged by the many outcomes that inspire hope in existing capabilities to ensure child safety, he expressed concern that many more children in conflict environments are subject to all six grave violations against children. To enhance the protection of children in conflict, he called for the Council’s full support to allocate targeted, practical and rapid resources to provide responses to threats against children or avert potential dangers. Such resources provide safe accommodation and enhanced protection of displaced, refugee and stateless children from the six grave violations. There is also an urgent need to ensure that children associated with armed or terrorist groups are not treated as criminals but as victims. Member States have the responsibility to establish and strictly enforce laws which criminalize attacks against schools, as well as to ensure the continuation, re-establishment and preservation of education during armed conflict, in line with the Safe Schools Declaration.

JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States) said his delegation is encouraged by the humanitarian truce in Ethiopia and expressed hope that parties will use the momentum to start talks. He similarly welcomed the truce in Yemen, expressing support for United Nations engagement with the parties. The situation in Myanmar meanwhile is of particular concern, as on a single day in Kayah state, the military massacred 35 people, including from the organization Save the Children. A doctor who analysed the area noted that almost every victim’s skull was fractured. It is “beyond comprehension” that some continue to provide lethal tools to the military, enabling it to perpetrate such brutal repression. These sales must end. The Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine, meanwhile, has added another “dark chapter to the assault on children”. Its forces forcibly deported more than 1 million Ukrainian civilians to the Russian Federation through a filtration process, including 260,000 children.

Commending the Secretary-General for listing Ukraine, Mozambique and Ethiopia as situations of concern in the annual report, he went on to stress that violent attacks on schools in Afghanistan continue to hinder children’s access to education and girls have been barred from enrolling in secondary schools. The Security Council has been clear that if the Taliban want normalized relations with the international community, schools must be open to all female students without delay. “We have not done enough to protect children from the impact of conflict,” he said, underscoring the United States desire to see the agenda elevated and integrated into all Council work. He called on all States to adopt national accountability measures, stressing that the Council must ensure all that peacekeeping and political missions have adequate child protection capacity. He also called on the Special Representative to develop a guidance note on the denial of humanitarian access for children, demanding that all parties give them unimpeded access.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) pointed to the release of more than 150,000 children since 2005 as a positive result of the international community’s work to help children in armed conflict. Adding that more must be done to address the increasing conflicts and violations, he also condemned the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. Further, there should be more regular reports in cases of urgency, he said, underscoring that the credibility of the United Nations is at stake. Combating serious violations must not stop with the liberation of children, who must be reintegrated into civilian life. Stressing that efforts must be redoubled to protect child refugees and displaced children, he said that education for those children is a priority. He welcomed efforts to help stateless children, including the repealing of laws that prevent women from passing on their nationality to their children. In addition, the fight against impunity must be continued and make greater use of sanctions tools, alongside with investigations.

RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) quoted Mahatma Gandhi: “If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” The scale and severity of violations perpetrated against children in armed conflict continues rising, and the international community has the obligation to do its utmost to support those affected, without discrimination. He cited the engagement of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, resulting in the release of 12,214 children over the last year alone. National Governments have the primary responsibility for prosecuting and deterring crimes in conflict situations on their territories, he stressed — even if these are alleged to have been committed by non-State actors. Citing the dangerous trend in global terrorism, with rising numbers of children recruited, he called for Member States to demonstrate greater political will to hold the perpetrators and their sponsors to account. Noting the report cites over 25 per cent of child casualties — or 2,257 children — were caused by mines, improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war, he expressed support for the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other agencies. He expressed concern that, despite the Council’s clear mandate, the report includes situations that are not armed conflict or threats to the maintenance of international peace and security. “We must be cautious as attempts to selectively expand the mandate will only politicize its agenda,” he stated.

AMEIRAH ALHEIFEITI (United Arab Emirates) emphasized the need to support multi-stakeholder mechanisms dedicated to the protection and reintegration of children affected by armed conflict, along with the need to continue addressing the abduction of children in conflict settings. Towards this end, age- and sex‑disaggregated data collection must be accelerated to advance understanding of how conflicts impact girls and boys differently throughout the conflict continuum. Noting that forced displacements are reaching record levels, she urged the Council to focus on the particular needs of displaced children, including by ensuring that their protection is integrated into the mandates of peace operations and that they can access essential services. She added that children displaced by armed conflict have a fundamental right to education — as does every child — which should be inclusive, sensitive to their needs and tailored to their well-being, cultural sensibilities and language preferences.

MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) urged the Council to incorporate child protection provisions and capability into all mandates of peacekeeping operations and special political missions, notably for early warning, protection of civilians, transitional justice and disarmament, among others. Noting that harm to children by terrorist groups should receive the Council’s urgent attention, he expressed concern over the “extraordinarily” high incidence of crimes against children by Al-Shabaab, Da’esh and the Houthis, terrorist groups that carry out mass abductions as part of their recruitment. Children are kidnapped from their homes and schools, trafficked or forcibly married to terrorists. The process of radicalization is itself a grave harm to children, he added, and the psychological dimensions of such abuse must receive attention from clinical psychology experts. The ability of Al-Shabaab, Da’esh and the Houthis to control territory — and the populations within it — are key to their harming of children, and as such, the Council should agree that military and police pressure on these groups is integral to the protection of children. Children born to terrorists or who have recruited by terrorist and militant groups need assistance when they surrender or are captured, he stressed, noting that States should be supported with the capacity to suppress the use of explosive ordinances by terrorist and armed groups.

LILLY STELLA NGYEMA NDONG (Gabon), highlighting progress made in freeing and reintegrating child soldiers, noted that some Governments of States in conflict have adopted national plans on the issue. However, the international community must generate a greater sense of responsibility to advocate for all children caught in the chronic spiral of poverty and fragility. In Yemen, Myanmar and Afghanistan, millions of children are recruited as soldiers, and in the Sahel and other regions, the combined effects of insecurity and climate change pose a permanent threat to children. Member States must unambiguously affirm that children should be with their parents and at school and not on the battlefield. In that regard, provisional mobile classrooms can be a crucial part of the United Nations humanitarian response. It is also critical to must address root causes including hunger, poverty and non-existent basic infrastructure, which push children to join armed and terrorist groups. The most vulnerable States require support, including through rapid early warning systems, surveillance of mafia networks, and cooperation among States and collaboration between the United Nations and regional organizations. Noting the uneven ratio between liberated child soldiers and those reintegrated into society, she called for greater action and support, including specifically for girls and the disabled.

JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) highlighted the importance of the children and armed conflict agenda, which is linked to preventative diplomacy, the protection of civilians during armed conflict and achieving sustainable peace. Recalling that Mexico was the first elected member to chair the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and is now Vice-Chair, he called on the Council to continue working on the Group’s design and mandate, and to increase coordination between the Group and the Council’s other subsidiary bodies, including Sanctions Committees. While preventing serious violations is the Group’s main mandate, it also must ensure that reintegration programmes are fully implemented and that assistance programmes are designed with gender and age in mind. Further, it is increasingly clear that providing psychosocial assistance is a crucial pillar of the Group’s mandate, as it should be for all humanitarian aid programmes. He added that, to achieve full reintegration, national child‑protection services are required, including the provision of education and social security for all.

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that there is “already ample evidence” that the Russian Federation is committing at least four of the six grave violations against children in Ukraine. There is only one solution to ending the suffering of those children, and that is an end to the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion. She also expressed concern over increasing attacks on schools, including targeted attacks on girls’ schools, urging Member States to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and calling on the Taliban to enable the immediate return of all Afghan girls to the classroom. Pointing out that the increased cases of sexual violence against children documented in the Secretary-General’s report “no doubt represent only the tip of the iceberg”, she said that tackling sexual violence in conflict and ensuring support for survivors remains a top priority for her country. To that end, the United Kingdom will convene an international conference in London in November on this issue. Ahead of that conference, the United Kingdom is committed to rolling out the Murad Code, and she urged all Member States to join in this effort.

BRIAN PATRICK FLYNN (Ireland) expressed concern over the high numbers of children killed and maimed globally last year, notably in Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan, as well as during the escalation of violence in May 2021 in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Citing the appalling impact on children by violations of international humanitarian law, including those arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, he called on all States to support the Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, which was recently concluded following a process led by Ireland in Geneva. Amid stark increases in abductions and rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, he urged all parties to release abducted children and end further violations of their rights — further calling for the Taliban to allow girls in Afghanistan to return to school. He also commended the decision of the Secretary-General to add Ethiopia, Mozambique and Ukraine to the list of situations of concern with immediate effect, and his call for more monitoring in the Central Sahel region. Since the onset of the Russian Federation’s illegal war against Ukraine, he noted grave violations have destroyed the lives of many children, calling on that State to end the senseless attacks. He further cited the importance of objective, impartial and transparent listing of perpetrators in the annex of the annual report to promote accountability.

DIMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said the war started by Kyiv in 2014 in the Donbass has hit children in cruel ways. The youngest killed was only 27 days old. Children are dying by sniper fire and being blown up by mines laid by Ukraine’s military in forests. For eight years, children have lived under constant shelling by Kyiv, including at nurseries, schools and medical institutions. Children are being killed by arms supplied by the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia and other countries that are becoming complicit in Ukraine’s crimes against children. He went on to cite child casualties in Donetsk on 8 and 13 July, including at a hospital shelled by Ukraine’s forces, and on 13 July in Horlivka, before citing statistics which represented casualties over the last month. Russian non-governmental organizations, meanwhile, have found the personal data of 327 minors on a certain website. His delegation will send relevant information today to the Secretary-General.

Stressing that his country aims to protect children in Donbass from shelling by Ukrainian authorities, he rejected unfounded claims that Russian authorities are abducting children. Rather, field offices are working with evacuees, ensuring all refugees receive individual support, food, accommodation and social benefits. A presidential commission on children’s rights focuses on minors and orphans, all with the goal of helping children forget the horrors they have experienced over the last eight years. The Russian Human Rights Commission is even locating relatives of minors whose parents died in attacks by Ukrainian forces. Noting the Secretary-General’s decision to include Ukraine as a situation of concern in his next report, he said the Russian Federation stands ready to provide the Special Representative with information. In Syria, he cited the complex humanitarian situation as an obstacle to the protection of children, as well as the “suffocating” sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. Children are being exposed to radical ideology, including in camps in areas where fighters of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Daesh, are present. In Afghanistan, he denounced the cynical actions of the United States and United Kingdom, and more broadly agreed with the proposal to focus on refugee children.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania) expressed concern over the increase in abductions and cases of sexual violence involving children, along with attacks on civilian infrastructure and the ever-growing number of children forced to flee in search of protection. Spotlighting the grim situation children face in several countries, he said that “children in Ukraine do not go to sleep with bedtime stories”; rather, they are “denied dreams and left with nightmares”. Against that backdrop, he stressed the need for increased focus on prevention and accountability, for dedicated child-protection capacity in United Nations peacekeeping and special political missions, for the protection of humanitarian personnel in the field and for stronger efforts to address the challenges linked to the integration and rehabilitation of children, who represent over half of refugees worldwide. Underscoring the international community’s obligation to prevent and respond to the abuse, neglect and exploitation of children, he added that it is “our moral duty and our legal responsibility” to do whatever is needed to ensure that children are raised with care, love and protection, away from violence and conflict.

ZHANG JUN (China) said that children should not be forced into the wars of adults, adding that the best way to protect children is to put an end to conflict. Therefore, the Council should stop hostilities and work for political solutions so children can see the end of conflicts. Further, the international community should stop all violations against children, as defined in Council resolutions, he said. There should be no gaps in child protection; all States that have not ratified the Rights of the Child Convention should do so. Accountability is very important. All violators should be held accountable and all perpetrators should be severely punished. In addition, all children should be helped without discrimination, including refugees and child gang members. Opportunities should be provided for children for comprehensive development, including education and skills, to minimize their participation in armed groups. In Afghanistan, children have become victims. The freezing of the Afghan Government’s overseas assets is depriving those children. These reckless unilateral coercive measures make children pay a heavy price. Such practices should be changed, he said.

RICHARD ARBEITER (Canada) speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, expressed deep concern over the figures and trends in the Secretary-General’s annual report. Along with UNICEF’s recent analysis, which shows grave violations have increased year over year for the past 16 years, the international community has a dire picture of the plight facing conflict-affected children. Against this troubling backdrop, he outlined the Group’s many recommendations and said it is committed to collective follow-up. The Group urges all parties to armed conflict to fully comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law, and to act to prevent and end grave violations against children, he said, strongly encouraging them to sign and implement action plans and other concrete and time-bound measures to enhance the protection of children in armed conflict.

In addition, he called for full accountability for grave violations through national and international justice mechanisms, such as the International Criminal Court. True justice also involves reparations and access to gender- and age‑sensitive comprehensive specialized services, including medical, mental health and psychosocial support, and sexual and reproductive health-care services. He encouraged all Member States to accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and to consider endorsing and implementing practical child protection instruments, such as the Safe Schools Declaration, the Paris Principles and Commitments and the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers. Further, he called for adequate resourcing for child‑protection specialists and activities, including within United Nations peace operations, United Nations Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting, and in international fact-finding and investigative mechanisms, as well as international judicial bodies. He also urged the Council, Member States, the Secretariat and host countries to support the full implementation of child protection mandates through United Nations peace operations, including in situations of transition.

SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine), aligning himself with the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict and the statement to be made by the European Union, commended efforts by the children and armed conflict team to engage with parties in Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, which resulted in the release of 12,214 children from armed groups and armed forces. However, the current report does not cover the horrible consequences of Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine — “so the real scope is even worse”. He welcomed the decision to add Ukraine as a situation of concern, meaning that gross violations against children in Ukraine will be a subject of daily monitoring by the entire United Nations. Since February, 7 million children in Ukraine have been affected by the invasion; almost 2 of every 3 children have been displaced.

He went on to say that unabated shelling by Russian armed forces has damaged 2,116 educational institutions and destroyed 216, while 50 children's health‑care facilities and 130 orphanages have been damaged or destroyed. Two days ago, residents in the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsya said good‑bye to Liza Dmitrieva, age four, who died in a Russian missile strike. To date, 317 children have been reported missing during hostilities. The Office of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General has conducted 28 criminal proceedings on abductions and the forced deportation of more than 5,000 Ukrainian children to the Russian Federation, Belarus and the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. He pressed the United Nations to monitor the situation and assist Ukraine to ensure the rapid and safe return of all children who have been forcibly deported. “Ensuring accountability for all grave violations against children, as well as other war crimes and crimes against humanity, is paramount,” he stressed.

VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) expressed concern over the uptick in the killing and maiming of children, as well as the recruitment and denial of humanitarian access to them. The rise in abductions, reports of rape and other conflict-related sexual violence makes it more imperative to strengthen the monitoring and reporting of such violence. “We condemn these violations in the strongest possible terms,” she said, underscoring the need to provide gender-inclusive justice and to consider the needs of children with disabilities, who are disproportionality impacted by armed conflict, when implementing the children and armed conflict mandate. She went on to call for prioritizing the reintegration of children, highlighting the key role of Member States, United Nations, civil society, financial institutions and the private sector in that regard. She encouraged Member States to commit to the Safe Schools Declaration, Paris Principles and Vancouver Principles, and to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.

PÉTER SZIJJÁRTÓ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said the meeting is unfortunately timely, as his country is a neighbour to Ukraine, which has been at war for 146 days. His generation — born at the end of 1970s — had hoped never to experience war so nearby, he noted. The conflict has spread suffering to the entire region and the European continent, with critical inflation, energy and food uncertainty. Children lose the most, with their childhood and future at risk. Hungary has welcomed 840,000 Ukrainian refugees, mostly mothers, children and grandparents, leaving fathers at home with the possibility of being reunited threatened. Hosting these refugees is his country’s largest-ever humanitarian aid action. Some 2,000 Ukrainian children are enrolled in 897 schools, and are being assisted with learning Hungarian, which may be the most complicated language on Earth. Hospital treatment is provided and 1,000 students have been granted scholarships. However, the crucial question is: What is the solution? “It is one word: peace,” he stressed, urging the international community to spare no effort to that end. Instead of measures that might prolong the war, he called for an immediate ceasefire and peace talks.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) expressed concern over the significant rise of sexual-violence cases against boys and girls, the increasing use of educational institutions for military purposes and the heightened risk of abduction in or on the way to school faced by young girls. In response to the surge of violence reported by the Secretary-General, criminal investigations and prosecutions should adopt child-sensitive approaches, as well as dedicated resources to enable the safe, meaningful participation of victims and survivors in legal processes. Noting that the Rome Statute mandates the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor to investigate the conscription, enlistment and use of child soldiers, he stressed that those who recruit children or use them to take active part in hostilities are committing serious international crimes and must be held to account. To safeguard children from the physical and mental trauma inflicted by conflict, he called on the international community to promote strict adherence relevant international instruments, and on the Council to take targeted measures against parties that persistently violate the rights of children in armed conflict pursuant to resolution 2068 (2012).

MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) recalled that international humanitarian law requires parties to armed conflict to protect civilians, particularly children. “This is an obligation that must be fully honoured by all parties,” he stressed. He cited the killing and maiming, as well as the denial of humanitarian access as among the many violations experienced by children. In Afghanistan, he urged the Taliban to allow all children, including girls, to attend school, noting that Iran provides education and health care to Afghan children living in Iran. Regarding Yemen, he expressed support for the truce in efforts to end the suffering of children. Noting that Israel commits the most systematic violations of children's rights in the Middle East, he said that, in 2021, the United Nations documented 2,934 grave violations against Palestinian children in occupied Palestine and the Gaza Strip, a clear manifestation of war crimes. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. Ending conflict, preventing its re-emergence and complying with international humanitarian law are all required to protect children in armed conflict. However, children are often recruited into conflict to support their families financially, while the lack of education and employment, compounded by sanctions, play a significant role in their vulnerability. He called for assessing the main drivers of conflict, notably the detrimental impact of sanctions on children.

OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg), associating himself with the Group of Friends on Children and Armed Conflict and the statement to be made by the European Union, condemned the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine. That unprovoked and unjustified military aggression flagrantly violates international law and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, with relentless shelling of civilian targets, including schools and hospitals. Such attacks continue to claim many civilian casualties and children are not spared. On 21 March, he noted that the Group of Friends on Children and the Sustainable Development Goals, chaired by Bulgaria, Jamaica and Luxembourg, issued a joint statement deploring the death of at least 75 children due to the war in Ukraine. As of 17 July, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 346 children have died in the conflict — a figure that is likely too low. He called for Moscow to immediately cease its indiscriminate attacks on densely populated areas. He also expressed concern about reports of the forcible deportation of Ukrainian children to the Russian Federation. It is essential that these children are protected so that they do not become victims of war a second time. However, it is regrettable, despite the terrible suffering of the civilian populations, and in particular the children, that the Council is unable to condemn the war in Ukraine and to adopt a resolution which could contribute to ending it. This does not exonerate perpetrators of war crimes, who will be held accountable for their actions.

PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) noted that internally or externally displaced children are particularly vulnerable and exposed to grave violations, calling for the implementation of Council resolution 2601 (2021) on the protection of education in armed conflict and for the adoption of the Safe Schools Declaration by all States. Children associated with armed groups must be treated as victims, she said, in line with resolution 2427 (2018), and all Member States must prioritize non‑judicial measures focusing on rehabilitation and reintegration and to use detention only as a last resort — as successful reintegration contributes in turn to sustainable peace. The Peacebuilding Commission should further treat reintegration as a priority, with mental health and psychosocial support, and keep the Council informed of its deliberations. Protecting children in conflict requires preserving the independence, impartiality and credibility of the instruments at the Council’s disposal. She emphasized that the criteria for listing or delisting parties responsible for grave violations in the annexes to the annual report must be clear, consistent and objective. Noting that the Secretary‑General added Mozambique, Ethiopia and — following the Russian Federation’s military aggression — Ukraine to the list of situations of concern, she also called for strengthened monitoring capacities in the Central Sahel region. The situation of children in these new contexts and all countries mentioned in the report must receive the necessary attention from the Council.

GABRIELA GONZÁLEZ (Uruguay), aligning herself with the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict and the statement to be delivered for the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, emphasized the need to bolster capacities to protect children as a central part of all peace efforts, including mediation and conflict prevention. Further, as the current prevailing impunity is unacceptable, States must adopt laws to criminalize serious violations against children at the national level. For Uruguay, the importance it attaches to the children and armed conflict agenda is linked to its long-standing commitment to respecting and promoting the rights of the child and participation in United Nations peace operations. She pointed out that, in 2020, her country approved a child-protection policy for personnel deployed in such operations, becoming the first country in the peacekeeping system to implement a specific strategy for protecting children in conflict situations. She added that Uruguay has also become a centre for regional training and capacity‑building in this area.

ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, called for maximizing efforts to protect children in all contexts. Recalling that the Secretary-General’s reports (documents S/2022/319 and S/2022/46) noted that displaced girls living in confinement are more vulnerable to sexual violence, he pressed the Council to pay more attention to the specificities. As a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its three Protocols, Ecuador promotes the robust architecture for the protection of children, including in armed conflict, regardless of their gender or other factors and those who have fled their homes. Given the difficulties of crossing borders, many children fleeing conflict are exposed to criminal smuggling and trafficking networks. He underscored the increasing educational needs of child refugees and internally displaced children, calling for efforts to ensure that schools are safe, in line with international humanitarian law. This requires a coordinated response by the United Nations, with the Council monitoring implementation of its 13 resolutions on children and armed conflict.

BOŠTJAN MALOVRH (Slovenia) said he remains deeply concerned and appalled by the continued high numbers and trends of grave violations against children, particularly the increase in abductions. During these times of high global insecurity, the international community is witnessing the devastating consequences that armed conflicts, including the current Russian aggression against Ukraine, have on children around the world. Child protection has been a long-term priority of his country, including humanitarian aid and post-conflict assistance. The Government has continuously supported projects implemented by the Slovenian organization International Transport Forum Enhancing Human Security in the Republic of Moldova, Jordan, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, Armenia, Madagascar and Egypt. Since 2017, Government efforts have also helped provide education for more than 41,000 Syrian refugee children in Jordan and responded to the needs of Ukrainian refugee children in Poland and Slovenia. He joined the call to make the protection of children in armed conflict a priority and ensure that the United Nations mechanisms are adequately financed and monitored in this respect.

KRISTEL LOUK (Estonia) said the children and armed conflict mandate, including its monitoring and reporting mechanism, is a unique and essential part of the Council’s work to ensure peace and security and it needs to be used accordingly. The significant and devastating impact of conflicts on children is clear, she said, noting that the number of verified grave violations last year reached nearly 24,000. These violations destroy lives and communities, and fuel conflict that impact international peace and security for years to come. Actions by the Council, the United Nations system and national actors must include promoting compliance with international law and ensuring accountability for violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. This includes the use of international mechanisms, such as the International Criminal Court and the exercise of universal jurisdiction, as well as the incorporation and use of children and armed conflict-related criteria in the sanctions regimes and political, financial and operational resources for United Nations child protection activities.

MARTIN BILLE HERMANN (Denmark), speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, strongly condemned all grave violations presented in the Secretary-General’s report, notably the “dramatic” increases in sexual violence, abductions and school attacks. He pressed parties to conflict to fully comply with their obligations under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, stressing that nearly 37 million children are displaced worldwide, the highest number ever recorded, not including those displaced in 2022 by the Russian Federation’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. He called on the Council to play a more effective role in preventing displacement, and on Governments to strengthen the protection of and access to services for refugee, migrant and displaced children. He called on all States to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration and resolution 2601 (2021), and to realize all children’s right to education.

In addition, he called for greater funding for the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence, especially in conflict settings, pressing the Council to also consider incorporating this violation as a designation criterion for targeted sanctions. Member States working on counter-terrorism, peace and security must develop immediate and effective mitigation strategies to prevent and respond to the six grave violations against children. “True justice involves reparations and access to gender- and age-responsive specialised services,” he insisted, including those for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, and the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, pointed to unlawful indiscriminate attacks by Russian armed forces against homes, schools and hospitals in Ukraine, which have made children front-line targets for widespread killing, trafficking and sexual violence. Welcoming the inclusion of Ukraine as a situation of concern in the Secretary-General’s report, he called for a systematic approach to break the cycle of violations affecting children. First, he urged support for the Safe Schools Declaration, noting that Italy also endorses the Paris Principles on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, and the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers. All perpetrators of grave violations against children must be held accountable, whether they are State forces or non-State armed groups. He affirmed strong support for the International Criminal Court, noting that Italy organized, with other stakeholders, a high-level event on the margins of today’s debate on “Strengthening Monitoring, Reporting and Response to the Abduction of Children”.

ANTJE LEENDERTSE (Germany), aligning herself with the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict and the statement to be made by the European Union, said she is deeply concerned by the shocking number of nearly 24,000 grave violations committed against children in 2021, as stated in the Secretary‑General’s annual report. This number of documented cases is even more worrisome as many more violations go unreported. She also voiced her concern about the situations in Syria, Afghanistan, Mali and the broader Sahel region, Myanmar, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and welcomed the decision to include Ukraine, Ethiopia, Mozambique and the Central Sahel region as new situations of concern. Among crucial areas of concern were the increasing number of abductions and cases of sexual violence against children, up 20 per cent compared to 2020. Germany will keep pushing for sufficient levels of gender‑sensitive financing for child protection capacities in United Nations peace operations, she said. The reports about abductions of Ukrainian children by and to the Russian Federation was also of great concern. She called on United Nations agencies to scrutinize these reports and include results in next year’s report on this issue. The reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces needs to be prioritized and it is crucial to ensure that children are not deprived of their freedom solely because of their association with armed groups.

MARIA THEOFILI (Greece), aligning herself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that, unfortunately, the situation of children in armed conflict remains of grave concern. The international community must work in a coordinated manner and share responsibility among all relevant stakeholders. It is necessary to accelerate asylum for children seeking this status. Unaccompanied minors require extra attention to guarantee their protection. All children should be registered at birth to protect their human rights and prevents statelessness. Host countries should integrate children on the move and their families. Countries should use national legislation and relevant protocols of conventions to protect children. Greece, for example, has a national plan to protect children from sexual abuse, she said.

COLLEN VIXEN KELAPILE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, said that, over the past 16 years, the United Nations has verified 266,000 cases of grave violations against children in more than 30 conflict situations. While these cases were verified through the 2005 United Nations-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, he said, pointing out that, when constituting an atrocity crime, abduction may be punishable under the Rome Statute. Especially concerned by the drastic increase in child abductions, and the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers, including girls, the Group encourages the United Nations to further investigate allegations of cross-border abduction and child trafficking with the purpose of adoption.

The international community should ensure 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, he said. Children and young people can and should play critical roles in informing early warning, capacity-building and developing more cohesive, inclusive and resilient societies. All perpetrators of the six grave violations against children must be held accountable. The United Nations Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, the Secretary-General’s annual report, and its annex are essential to ensure accountability and preventing further violations against children. Appropriate legislative and institutional arrangements are essential to comprehensively address violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law against children and young people, he stressed.

THIBAULT CAMELLI, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, expressed horror over the Russian Federation’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine and its impact on children. Children in that conflict have been killed and maimed and are at particular risk of denial of humanitarian access, abduction, trafficking, forced deportations and illegal adoption, sexual exploitation and separation from their families. Noting schools across Ukraine have been hit by heavy artillery and air strikes or used for military purposes, he welcomed the decision to add Ukraine as a situation of concern with immediate effect and called on the Russian Federation to end its grave violations against children. He also voiced concern over the situation in the Tigray region and Cabo Delgado, welcomed the addition of Ethiopia and Mozambique as situations of concern with immediate effect and spotlighted the situation of children in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions, and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Turning to Myanmar, he called on those security and armed forces to end the practice of arresting the children, parents or close relatives of opponents. In view of the persistent cases of denial of humanitarian access, he encouraged the Special Representative to develop a guidance note on monitoring, reporting and accountability on denial of humanitarian access for children. He also reiterated his condemnation of the Taliban’s continuing and unacceptable denial of second‑level education to Afghan girls. Armed conflicts expose children to unspeakable physical and psychological suffering, and he underlined the importance of preventing violations, engaging with all parties to conflict and ensuring access to quality education. Strengthening long-term recovery and the reintegration of children enrolled by armed groups also remain crucial to peace and security for all.

JAKUB KULHÁNEK (Czech Republic), associating himself with the European Union, the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, and the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, noted war is increasingly fought in urban areas. Such actions blur the line between the battlefield and homes, schools and hospitals. When such violations against children occur, the international community must act, ensuring increased compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and strengthening accountability. He condemned the Russian Federation’s illegal actions against children in Ukraine — a gross violation of the rules of international law — as well as the illegal and forced displacement of Ukrainian children. Citing the displacement of the orphans of parents who died as result of the flagrant and cynical war, he noted 180,000 children have been moved to the Russian Federation, with abundant reports of inhuman acts perpetrated by Russian troops. The international community must hold Moscow accountable for all such deliberate and unconscionable actions.

KARL LAGATIE (Belgium) said that conflicts are becoming increasingly prolonged and fought in urban areas, which blurs the line between battlefield and critical civilian infrastructure. Such infrastructure is often deliberately targeted, which has long-term impacts on children’s well-being. Against that backdrop, he supported the children and armed conflict mandate, including the integrity and impartiality of its listing mechanism. He also said that the Secretary-General’s annual children and armed conflict report’s accurate reflection of the worsening situation for children, especially in Ukraine, is a timely, important signal, also pointing out that the report reflects the dramatic impact of hostilities on children in Ethiopia, Mozambique and the Central Sahel region. Stressing that holding perpetrators accountable increases the cost of noncompliance with international law and deters future violations, he said that the listing and delisting of perpetrators in the Secretary-General’s annual report remains a unique, powerful tool for promoting adherence to international law. However, he expressed concern that, for 15 per cent of violations, perpetrators were not identified.

KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) said the report by the General Prosecutor's Office of Ukraine found that almost 1,000 children have suffered as a result of massive Russian military strikes, including last week when a Russian missile strike in Vinnitsa killed three children. Welcoming the decision to include Ukraine as a situation of concern in the Secretary-General’s next report, he called for additional reporting and monitoring. Thousands of Ukrainian children have been transferred to the Russian Federation against their will, in violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The perpetrators must be held accountable and protect Ukrainian children’s right to identity, including their nationality. As well, the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan was deeply concerning, as the Taliban have blocked girls’ access to second-level education and are stating that they have shut schools indefinitely. “We as the international community, did not do enough to make [the] Taliban abide by their obligations,” he stressed. The best way to ensure that young people are not radicalized is to invest in education, he said, strongly condemning attacks against students, teachers and schools, as well as the use of schools for military purposes. Poland is a member of the Steering Committee for the Global Coalition for Reintegration and of the Group of Friends of Reintegration, he added.

MATÚŠ KOŠUTH (Slovakia), aligning himself with the European Union and the Groups of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict and of the Responsibility to Protect, called for the adoption of clear, effective and urgent measures to address the grave violations verified in the Secretary-General’s latest report. The figures therein are “by far not comprehensive” given the absence of data from Ethiopia, Mozambique or Ukraine, he noted. Welcoming the designation of the situation in Ukraine as one of immediate concern and its inclusion in the next report, he stressed that the Russian Federation bears full responsibility for this child crisis. For its part, Slovakia works to ensure the well-being and protect the rights of the almost 173,000 child refugees who have crossed its borders so far. He urged States that have not adopted certain germane international instruments to do so as a matter of priority. Stressing the importance of domestic criminalization for grave violations, he also called for effective national frameworks aiming at reintegration and assistance to child victims and for proper cooperation with international and regional accountability mechanisms.

JUSTIN FEPULEAI’I (New Zealand) noted the latest United Nations report verified 116 attacks on schools and hospitals. At the initiative of New Zealand and four other elected members, the Council adopted resolution 2286 (2016) on health care in armed conflict, which unequivocally condemned attacks on health‑care workers and health‑care facilities. And yet, attacks on hospitals have continued, with children frequently among the casualties. The Russian Federation’s illegal and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has seen further egregious examples, “attacks that are an affront to our common humanity”, he said. “They must stop.” He noted that, in 2021, almost 1 in 3 child victims of grave violations were girls — a sharp increase from 2020 — with 98 per cent of sexual violence and 30 per cent of abductions perpetrated against them. Sadly, these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. In the Pacific region, climate change is the most pressing issue, he said, voicing concern over the crisis’ impact on children. Adding conflict to this mix is not a welcome development, and he commended the Special Representative and the Secretary-General for committing to further investigate the links between climate change, conflict and their effects on children.

MOHAMMED ABDULAZIZ ALATEEK (Saudi Arabia) pressed the international community to carefully grapple with the issue of children and armed conflict, in order to break the cycle of violence and “lay waste” to the harmful effects of conflict on children and the climate that fosters violence and extremism. Protecting is a shared responsibility that falls upon all partners. “Upholding it requires a collective fight,” he said, and concerted efforts to tackle the causes of violence. While welcoming the Secretary-General’s report, including the reference to cooperation between the coalition and the Special Representative, he expressed his delegation’s misgivings about the number of incidents attributed to the coalition. The report underscores the importance the coalition attaches to legitimacy in Yemen and to child protection. “The coalition is a model when it comes to child protection in armed conflict,” he said, expressing hope that cooperation between the Special Representative and the coalition will help to hone the protection mechanisms for protecting children in Yemen, where militia groups are perpetrating “the most atrocious crimes” against children. They herd children into stadiums to brainwash them, incite them to terrorism and prepare them for war fronts. All positive references to what these militia are said to have done in Yemen must be followed up with real monitoring. Evidence shows that “they are not serious”, he said, pointing to their flagrant violation of conventions. He urged the international community to do its utmost to “get children back into classrooms, where they should really be”.

SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand) voiced his support for the Secretary-General’s call for all parties to conflicts to adhere to international law and principles to protect children and ensure their rights. These efforts should cover access to education, health care, social services and safe spaces, he said, adding that they were especially important during a global pandemic that aggravated the vulnerabilities of children, including those in armed conflict situations. Child protection should be integrated across the peace continuum, including peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts to achieve a sustainable peace. Their security is an important part of human security. To mainstream child protection, he called for greater consultations among the Council, host countries, troop- and police-contributing countries and other stakeholders. Stakeholders should have a clear mandate on child protection in all relevant United Nation peacekeeping operations. Further, this mandate must be accompanied by adequate and timely resources, as well as enhanced capabilities at Headquarters and missions.

LUIS ANTONIO LAM PADILLA (Guatemala) expressed great concern regarding the killing, maiming and recruitment of children as soldiers. Millions of children have been affected. In addition, many children have become stateless, refugees and migrants, increasing their risk of being recruited as soldiers in armed conflicts. Full humanitarian access is necessary to help these children, he said. The proliferation of small arms is detrimental as they are light and children can operate them without training. This encourages children’s recruitment by armed groups to use these weapons, and in turn, the children become victims. Calling for States to ratify the relevant conventions, if they have not done so, he also said he highly valued the work of the Peacebuilding Commission and its capacity to disarm groups. It is vital to support the work of the Commission, which provides a unique platform to create peace, he added.

MITCH FIFIELD (Australia) said that, in the past 25 years, over 170,000 children have been freed from armed forces and groups and reintegrated into society, with the help of child protection advisers, joint and national action plans, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration — all guided by the United Nations children and armed conflict efforts. Despite this success, the Secretary-General’s report detailed 23,982 grave violations against children last year, especially killing and maiming, recruitment and use, and denial of humanitarian access. He noted that the well-being of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Syria and Yemen continues to be of great concern; he also highlighted the plight of children in Myanmar — where an accurate picture of the extent of violations is difficult to obtain — and welcomed the inclusion of Ukraine, Ethiopia and Mozambique as new situations of concern for the next report. Expressing particular concern over the increase in grave violations against girls, he noted that, in addition to becoming casualties of conflict, they are disproportionately subjected to abduction and sexual violence. “We know that such incidents are vastly underreported,” he stressed. All parties to conflict must comply with international obligations and commitments to protect children, including international humanitarian and human rights law.

JONGIN BAE (Republic of Korea) called on all parties to conflict to fully comply with their obligations under international law and, spotlighting the importance of ensuring accountability for violations against children, urged Member States to accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. He also stressed the need to ensure safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access, as the lives of children depend on such measures. Further, schools, hospitals and their personnel must be protected. Attacking these facilities aggravates the difficult situation faced by children impacted by COVID-19 and conflict. Supporting United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions in facilitating a protective environment for children affected by armed conflict, he pointed out that the Government has been working with UNICEF on education, reintegration and assistance programmes for girls and boys in many fragile regions of the world, including Afghanistan. He added that his country is willing to continue such cooperation.

AL-HARITH IDRISS AL-HARITH MOHAMED (Sudan) said his Government continues efforts to reintegrate armed movements and armed groups that are signatories of the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement in the road map on protecting children from violations. It has established several structures to prevent such violations, including the reconfiguration of the High-Level Supreme Committee presided over by a number of Government ministries, as well as the Partners of Peace signatories of the Juba Peace Agreement. The Government has also established technical committees providing capacity-building for children protection units and mechanisms affiliated with the armed forces. The law also provides mechanisms to protect children survivors of sexual violence. Citing the segment on Sudan in the report, he reiterated that the Government is fully committed to promoting and protecting child rights in conflict affected areas. Such efforts led to the delisting of Sudan from the 2018 list of child violations. There should more meticulousness and objectivity in such reports rather than generalizations and unspecific information. Rather, they should also focus on supporting efforts to prevent communal conflicts that could generate such violations against children.

MARÍA BASSOLS DELGADO (Spain), aligning herself with the European Union, said that it has become more difficult over the last 10 years to access children in order to protect them, and called on the international community to urgently work to guarantee safe, rapid and unfettered humanitarian access to children. The COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected the ability of millions of children around the world to access safe education, health and nutrition services. Expressing particular concern that 50 per cent of refugee girls displaced during the pandemic and due to conflict were obliged to leave schools to which they will never return, she said that many will face forced marriage, early pregnancy and sexual and gender-based violence. Access to education is the best way to guarantee protection and future opportunity for the children caught in complex emergencies and situations of armed conflict around the world. For its part, Spain has adopted the Safe Schools Declaration, and she invited all States that have not yet signed that instrument to do so, particularly those States that co-sponsored resolution 2601 (2021) but have not yet signed the Declaration.

GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel) said child protection and prevention policies are integral to soldier training, which is translated on the ground, at times, when Israel is forced to defend its citizens, including children, against those who seek their destruction. Whether Iran’s terror proxies to the north, Hizbullah or others, these groups share a desire to violently murder Israelis. Israeli children are attacked with car bombs, maimed by rockets and hit by machine gun fire while walking down the street. They are not simply “legitimate” targets of Palestinian terror; they are primary targets. Israel uses missile defence systems to protect children, yet those seeking Israel’s destruction use their children to protect their missiles, and as human shields. Beyond purposely using Palestinian and Lebanese civilians as shields, they recruit and train minors to commit terrorist attacks. Palestinian leaders meanwhile espouse hate in textbooks and across social media. These are not one-off events; they are central to Palestinian terror and radical Islam’s modus operandi.

“Children are simply another tool to be disposed of in their mission to annihilate Israel,” he emphasized. He took issue with the report’s counting of civilian casualties in a manner almost completely divorced from context. Israel does its utmost to protect all civilians, yet terrorist groups purposely drive up casualty rates, including among their own children, pointing the blame at Israel. Any comparison between terrorist groups and a democratic State committed to the rule of law has no place in the Council or anywhere else. He cautioned against drawing conclusions based on numbers alone. Those fully responsible for civilian casualties must be held fully accountable, he said, pointing to Hamas, Hizbullah and radical Islam.

ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) noted that, while the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict to the Convention on the Rights of the Child serves as a guide for Member States in ensuring the rights of children to education, the number of attacks on schools is rising. Refugees, internally displaced and stateless children affected by violent conflicts are often denied their rights, even to go to school. Voicing special concern over the situation faced by the children in Ukraine since the Russian Federation’s invasion, he cited Japan’s contribution of $14.2 million to UNICEF to ensure protection and education to children affected by the war. Lost educational opportunities will have lasting negative impacts on future generations in every nation, and it must be remembered that schooling needs to be maintained at all costs even during conflict and other dire situations — as education can be a life-saving intervention. In this regard, he cited a note his Government signed with UNICEF last week to provide approximately $9 million to support quality education and access in Burkina Faso.

ELISENDA VIVES BALMANA (Andorra), aligning herself with the Group of Friends on Armed Conflict and the European Union, voiced concerned regarding the grave situation outlined in the Secretary-General’s report. She called on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and the relevant conventions and safeguard mechanisms to protect children from grave violations. Girls and children with disabilities need particular support. Education is the lynchpin to development and children should not be left behind. Their right to education needs to be upheld, especially in emergency situations. Further, children need to be placed at the heart of discussions and policies. They should be seen as victims and not treated as adults. Abuses cannot be left unpunished, she stressed, adding that it is very important to end violations of children’s rights.

BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) detailed national measures to protect children that were launched based on a comprehensive understanding of current challenges and a desire to address the consequences of the terrorist war imposed on his country. Syria’s children have fallen victim to “aggressive policies adopted by well-known countries against my country”, he said, noting that such children continue to suffer from the unilateral measures imposed against them. Further, many are subject to recruitment by terrorist groups and separatist militias. Spotlighting the situation in the Al-Hawl refugee camp — controlled by separatist militia proxies of the United States occupation — he said the same is a live example of the suffering of children, who face serious dangers, including nurturing Takfiri extremist ideology that turns them into ticking bombs and threatening the peace and security of the region. He also underscored that addressing the issue of foreign terrorist fighters’ families requires political commitment from their countries of origin, who must guarantee repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration for such individuals.

AZRIL BIN ABD AZIZ (Malaysia), underscoring that the distressing trends demand resolute action from all concerned parties, commended the effort of the Special Representative’s Office and UNICEF in publishing the Guidance Note on Abduction in April 2021. It is pivotal to develop practical guidance on data collection surrounding the denial of humanitarian access. This effort would help standardize and support the work of the country task forces on monitoring and reporting. He echoed the Secretary-General’s proposal for the Council to ensure child protection provisions and capacity are included in all relevant mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions. It is also necessary to ensure that data and capacity on child protection are preserved and transferred during mission transitions. All States should become party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the earliest opportunity. All States should also endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration and the Vancouver Principles.

GVARAM KHANDAMISHVILI (Georgia), associating himself with the European Union, expressed grave concern over the increasing number of children killed, maimed and recruited. He noted the Russian Federation’s unprovoked, unjustified and premeditated full-scale military aggression against Ukraine continues; according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 343 children had died as of 12 July, but the real number could be higher. He condemned that aggression as a flagrant violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Expressing solidarity with the Ukrainian people, he said that Russian aggression is well known to his country. Fundamental rights of conflicted-affected children in the Russian-occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali continue to be violated, with restrictions on freedom of movement, health care, social services and prohibition of education in their mother tongue. The pressure on ethnic Georgians in occupied regions creates risks for another wave of displacement, with many children forced to relocate to Georgia-controlled territory to study in their own language. The Russian Federation bears full responsibility for violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the occupied regions, he stressed, calling on the international community to demand that Moscow cease its violations and observe the European Union-mediated 2008 ceasefire agreement. The international community further has a moral responsibility to guarantee children’s rights and hold perpetrators accountable, as there is no peace without justice.

JORGE ARANDA (Portugal), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, urged all States to ratify and fully implement the Paris Principles, Vancouver Principles and the Safe Schools Declaration. He also called for identifying shortcomings, as the number of grave violations against children have increased year over year for the last 16 years. “This is only the tip of the iceberg,” he acknowledged. To date, Portugal has received 351 children from Afghanistan and 12,846 from Ukraine. It will continue to focus on education in emergencies as a top priority in its humanitarian agenda. “It is the very foundation of tolerance and peace, the cornerstone of sustainable development,” he insisted. Noting that 872 schools and hospitals were attacked in 2021, he said “we all must do more”, including through the full implementation of resolution 2601 (2021), as full accountability is required.

AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) said girls deserve particular attention as the number of them who were killed, maimed or subjected to abduction and sexual violence has increased. In some places, such as Afghanistan, the situation of girls is particularly dire as their basic rights are denied, including their right to education. Many girls are also being forcibly married, so that the family has one fewer mouth to feed. “We have to admit that we failed to protect children around the world despite all the conventions and the legislations and action plans that are supposed to protect them especially in conflict,” she said. “We failed not because these conventions are not well-written or lacked the seriousness that this matter warrants. We failed because there is no will to implement them.” She said the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified treaty in history: a staggering 196 countries having ratified it. Strong instruments of implementation that can transform these conventions from a legal document to a living practice are necessary wherever there are conflicts, she said, stressing that the international community needs to be creative and more serious in implementing the humanitarian conventions and laws that protect children.

ANDREEA MOCANU (Romania) said that her country, as a neighbour of Ukraine, has worked to protect all Ukrainian refugee children, who represent 25 per cent of the Ukrainian refugees entering Romania. Ukrainian children under the protection of Romanian social services or living in host communities can benefit from counselling services adjusted to their needs, including trauma care, provided by child-protection specialists. Further, the Government takes abduction and human trafficking seriously, and has worked to tackle these issues since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine and the resulting inflow of refugees. She went on to note that the Government, in line with resolution 2601 (2021) and as a supporter of the Safe Schools Declaration, has taken steps to facilitate refugee children’s access to education. Ukrainian children are entitled to education, free of charge, in both Ukrainian and Romanian as a measure to ensure their integration. Five months since the Russian Federation’s unjustified, unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine began, the Government is now focusing on a long-term approach to protect the rights of Ukrainian refugee children. In addition, preparations for the next school year are in place.

FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for the State of Palestine, said that, in occupied Palestine, children are being systematically targeted by Israeli forces and settler militias, imprisoned, forcibly displaced and banned from returning from their towns and villages. Children continue to experience violent abduction from their bedrooms and interrogations without their parents or legal counsel, in flagrant violation of international law, including international humanitarian law. Israel’s targeting of Palestinian children in schools and streets in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, constitute a structural pattern of abuse, causing trauma to the entire Palestinian society. Israel’s remarks today that Palestinians purposely do this must be rejected. While others stress the role of child protection partners, civil society organizations in Palestine are labelled terrorist groups and banned by Israel in attempts to undermine their monitoring and conceal Israel’s violation of child rights in occupied Palestinian territories.

Since the beginning of 2022, Israel has killed at least 16 Palestinian children in a pattern of extrajudicial and wilful killings, she continued, adding that “no Palestinian child is safe”. The passage of 25 years since the adoption of the Special Representative’s mandate shows that listing and delisting is the most powerful tool of accountability. Recalling the Secretary-General’s appeal for Israel to be listed, should it repeat its attacks against Palestinian children, she pressed the Council to “list Israel now” for the war crimes it methodically perpetrates against them, and to enhance support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and its vital child protection services.

YOSEPH KASSAYE (Ethiopia) noted that, over the past two years, his country has been faced with extraordinary challenges due to the terrorist attack waged against the Ethiopian National Defence Force and targeted attacks against civilians. With extreme drought also exacerbating humanitarian challenges, the Government has worked to ensure full protection with a special focus on children. Regarding the Secretary-General’s report, he said it was inaccurate and unbalanced, adding that his delegation’s request to be heard and have the facts reflected went unaddressed for no reason — an approach which will only undermine the efforts made by Member States. For two years, Ethiopia has been flagging to the United Nations several signs of selectivity and partiality in the consideration of human rights issues. Use of children as fighters and human shields for the declared objective of protecting rapacious political interests of a terrorist group has been ignored, while publication by Western media of gruesome pictures of children carrying weapons glorifying their sacrifice received no condemnation. Some United Nations agencies could have revealed these violations, instead of harbouring an official who, on record, condoned the use of child soldiers by a terrorist group. If the work of the Special Representative is to follow a credible and constructive path, concerns of Member States must be respected and incorporated, as cooperation with them is critical for the effective protection of children in vulnerable situations, including conflict.

PAULA NARVÁEZ OJEDA (Chile), aligning herself with Canada and the Group of Friends of Children in Armed Conflict, said the situation of children in armed conflict is very concerning. Stressing that children suffer disproportionately although they have nothing to do with armed conflict, she said it is a moral imperative for the international community to act. She appealed to all parties to conflicts to respect international law, including humanitarian law, and refrain from damaging infrastructure, as well as to adhere to international conventions and principles. She underscored the importance of implementing a gender-sensitive focus to help the international response. She condemned, in the strongest terms, the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. She stressed the need to act so all children, particularly Stateless children, are protected, and the importance of monitoring and reporting mechanisms, which can help children move from being victims to agents of change.

LACHEZARA STOEVA (Bulgaria), associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Responsibility to Protect, noted the price children are paying for the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine is still not accounted for in the report, but welcomed the inclusion of Ukraine in the list of “concerning situations”. The Russian Federation’s illegal, unjustified and unprovoked aggression has not spared children, with attacks on schools, hospitals and orphanages, and the Group of Friends of Children and the Sustainable Development Goals — co-chaired by Bulgaria — issued a joint statement deploring the aggression. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates millions of refugees are fleeing to host countries, almost half of them children. She also expressed grave concern over the forcible deportation of children to the Russian Federation. She welcomed the call by the Secretary-General for the Council to ensure that protection provisions are included in all relevant United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) cited the Secretary-General's latest report which urged the Indian Government to undertake preventive measures to protect children in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, including by ending the use of pellets and illegal detention, both in occupied Kashmir and in various prisons across India. Since 2019 when India illegally passed legislation to annex the disputed territory, an estimated 13,000 Kashmiri children and youth have been arbitrarily captured by the 900,000 Indian occupation forces. They are routinely detained and subjected to torture and ill-treatment in order to elicit intelligence or extract confessions that they are associated with the Kashmiri groups struggling for the self-determination which was promised by the Security Council. His Government released a comprehensive dossier covering accounts — corroborated by audio and video evidence — of 3,432 cases of war crimes, including against women and children, perpetrated by senior officers of the Indian occupying forces since 1989. While voicing support for the Special Representative to deal with situations of children in armed conflict, he highlighted its singular focus to address the conditions of children in situations of "armed conflicts". However, he pointed out that it does not extend to consideration of violence within Member States, which is within their national jurisdictions. “On the basis of this understanding, my delegation will further enhance our engagement with the [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] and the Security Council’s working group,” he said.

ABDULLAH ALI FADHEL AL-SAADI (Yemen) welcomed the delisting of the Yemeni armed forces from Annex B of the Secretary-General’s report — which is a “long-overdue milestone” — along with the report’s recognition of Government efforts to protect and secure the rights of Yemeni children. Such efforts include ratifying the Paris Principles and Commitments on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups and the Safe Schools Declaration, as well as implementing measures to rehabilitate and reintegrate children affected by armed conflict into society. Further, the Government provides care, aid and protection for children who are victims of conflict, also organizing workshops to build capacity and train military officers in this area. He went on to express regret, however, that the Secretary-General’s report contains no mention of the grave violations against children perpetrated by Houthi militias, including such militias’ recruitment of children into so-called “summer camps” in an attempt to brainwash and teach them hate.

ÖNCÜ KEÇELI (Türkiye) said task forces monitoring the protection of children must be adequately resourced, with such provisions included in all relevant peacekeeping and special political mission mandates. The countries concerned should take steps to voluntary repatriate children, including those with alleged links to Da’esh. In Syria, the war waged by the Assad regime against its own people is having a staggering impact on children, while the PKK [Kurdish Workers’ Party] and Syrian PYD/YDG [Syrian-associated Democratic Union Party/Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement] continue to be a source of grave concern. The so‑called Syrian Democratic Forces, Kurdish Revolutionary Youth, among others, are elements of the same terrorist organization: PKK YPG [Kurdish Workers’ Party/People's Protection Units]. In addition, PKK-YPG and the so-called SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] abduct children and provide forced military training in camps. To fuel a separatist ideology, they impose arbitrary school curricula and arrest and mistreat teachers who oppose them. He urged the Council to demonstrate a unified front against terrorism in all its forms. Believing that a terrorist organization would be bound by any international legal commitments is an “illusion”, he emphasized. He also pointed to incorrect references to Türkiye’s counter-terrorism operations in Syria and Iraq, stressing that all such interventions are carried out in full compliance with international law and Article 51 of the Charter. They exclusively target terrorists with utmost care to avoid any harm to children. His country will continue to work with the Special Representative to ensure all information is correct and complete.

ARIEL RODELAS PEÑARANDA (Philippines) cited his country’s National Policy Framework on Learners and Schools as Zones of Peace, which ensure the safety of students and schools, as well as the continuity of education in situations of armed conflict. Because education helps address the root causes of child recruitment, the education department has a national peace framework to promote a culture of peace in the education system. The Government also actively involves civil society organizations, including reintegrated former child combatants. On the report, he noted that coordination and referral mechanisms between Governments and United Nations country teams should be actively utilized. He joined the Council in condemning six grave violations against children: recruitment; killing and/or maiming; rape and other forms of sexual violence; abduction; attacks on schools and hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access. The battlefield is no place for children, and his Government is committed to keeping children away from armed conflict. In addition, it is also focused on rescuing those exploited by armed groups and giving those children a chance towards recovery and being positive agents of change in their communities.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), thanking the Council for its support of Iraq and its children, said his country is working to seek solutions to children’s suffering by ensuring their voices are heard at the highest levels around the world. First, he reminded all participants of the scale of despicable attacks by Da’esh against all parts of the Iraqi population, including people of all ages and religions. Da’esh is a terrorist organization with a long list of their abuses that has significant military support and bring fighters from around the world. Children are the most affected victims of war and the most in need of support. The Iraqi Government is working with the United Nations and civil society organizations to find solutions and laws to create a better future for children. He thanked States which had repatriated their nationals and called on all those States who still have young people in Iraq to recall them. The Iraqi Government is developing legislation, in line with its national laws and international obligations, to protect children. He encouraged Member States to help Iraq clear explosives and mines that were planted by Da’esh, particularly in rural areas.

HEBA MOSTAFA (Egypt) stressed that the current situation requires more international cooperation and stronger measures to urgently respond to the negative impacts of armed conflicts on children, which deprive them of their human rights. She expressed strong support for all efforts to end the violations committed during armed conflict, especially crimes committed by terrorist organizations. Noting that Egypt is already a State party to the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he said respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of children in armed conflicts, forms part of the curriculum provided by the Egyptian Ministry of Defence to its personnel, especially those designated to participate in peacekeeping operations. She noted that the country is further actively engaged with the African Union and the League of Arab States in enhancing regional cooperation to protect children in armed conflict.

XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa), emphasizing that child-protection policies and programmes should be innovative and responsive, said that this requires comprehensive engagement with children regarding their experiences. Such engagement can then inform the design of programmes in peace processes, particularly protection and reintegration programmes. Noting that the Secretary‑General’s report provides concrete recommendations for addressing outstanding challenges, he stressed that it is the Council’s responsibility to take positive action in this regard. For example, the Council must ensure that child-protection provisions and capacity are included in all relevant mandates of peacekeeping and special political missions. He went on to say that, to address the plight of children in armed conflict, there must be a commitment to a broad strategy for conflict prevention, which should comprehensively address the root causes of armed conflict and create an environment conducive to the protection and promotion of children’s rights. He added that sufficient resources must be provided to enable peacekeeping missions to effectively fulfil their child‑protection mandates.

NARMIN AHANGARI (Azerbaijan) said accountability for violations is key, as wrongful acts left unpunished serve as a catalyst for the resurgence of conflicts and further crimes. She noted that 30 years of occupation of Azerbaijan territories by Armenia since the early 1990s, including war crimes and forcible displacement of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis, is an example of how children are affected by conflict. The war claimed hundreds of the country’s children, while 92 were taken hostage, and 3,500 lost one or both parents. In addition, 1,500 schools were destroyed or damaged, while, in 2020, missile strikes on cities killed 12 children. After the 44-day war ended the occupation, her country has made reconstruction of the liberated territories a priority, but the presence of landmines impedes efforts and the safe return of internally displaced persons. More than 200 Azerbaijan citizens have been killed by explosions as Armenia will not share accurate and comprehensive information on the location of the explosives. In addition, she called for Armenia to clarify the whereabouts of 4,000 missing persons including 71 children. Azerbaijan has launched normalization efforts within internationally recognized borders, and is determined to strengthen its security and advance post-conflict reconciliation and peacebuilding.

MD MONWAR HOSSAIN (Bangladesh), aligning himself with the Group of Friends of the Responsibility to Protect, said that peacekeepers from his country — the leading troop- and police-contributor — have been serving in many difficult situations to protect children from being killed, maimed and affected by sexual violence. Further, Bangladesh has been sheltering over 1 million Rohingya for the last five years, also providing them with basic needs and education opportunities. Noting that there has been no progress in Myanmar towards creating a conducive environment for return, he urged the Council to take concrete measures to ensure a prosperous future for Rohingya children, including their full repatriation. He went on to point out that, while States bear the primary responsibility for protecting children in armed conflict, the international community must work to strengthen engagement with all parties to ensure accountability under international law. He added that peacekeeping mandates to protect children in armed conflict should be strengthened further with adequate capacity and resources, welcoming the Secretary-General’s recommendations in this regard.

RYTIS PAULAUSKAS (Lithuania), associating himself with the European Union, said he was appalled that, in 2022, once again, two violations showed a sharp increase: abduction and rape and other forms of sexual violence both rising by 20 per cent. Since the Russian Federation launched its illegal, unprovoked and unjustifiable aggression against Ukraine, children have not been exempted from being killed, injured or forced to flee, with at least two children killed every day with many more injured. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), more than 300 children have been killed with another 500 injured, mostly due to the use of explosives in built-up, urban areas. Demanding that the Russian Federation stop the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and attacks on civilian infrastructure, he expressed concern about the growing evidence of violence perpetrated by military forces, including sexual violence, against children. He expressed hope that all violations against children by the Russian Federation will be duly documented and reflected in the next year’s report. He further voiced concern that Moscow is modifying legislation to facilitate fast-track adoption procedures for forcibly transferred and evacuated Ukrainian children, reiterating that UNICEF is of the view that adoption should never occur during or immediately after emergencies. Urging Moscow to unconditionally withdraw all its troops from the entire territory of Ukraine, he condemned all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes.

KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) said the elected civilian Government strengthened the legal framework for child protection, despite the constitutional constraints regarding armed conflicts. A new Child Rights Law was enacted and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Minimum Age Convention were ratified. The Government established an interministerial committee for the prevention of the six grave violations during armed conflicts. However, after the military perpetrated the illegal coup in February 2021, it effectively destroyed the rule of law by lawlessly arresting, torturing and killing civilians in cold blood, including children. Even with the elected civilian Government and Parliament in place, the military was the main perpetrator of grave violations against children. In this year’s report, the United Nations verified 503 grave violations against 462 Myanmar children, most of which were committed by the military. He urged the Council to take swift and decisive action, in accordance with its Charter responsibilities and children and armed conflict resolutions, to end military violence against children, stop military use of schools and hospitals, and release all arbitrarily detained children, not only in Myanmar but also in other conflict situations.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco), providing an overview of the history of international efforts to protect children over the last 25 years, said that the abduction and forced recruitment of children by armed groups is a method that such actors use to terrorize civilian populations. Children who have been abused are particularly targeted for recruitment because they can be manipulated, and due to their age, have not yet developed a firm sense of right and wrong. Noting that international law and instruments provide extensive protection to children, she stressed that the problem does not lie with the instruments — “they exist”, she emphasized; rather, their implementation is the issue, as is ensuring compliance. She called on Member States, civil society and human rights organizations to work together to protect children and ensure the monitoring and reporting of violations against this group. As a party to various germane international instruments, she said that Morocco is — and will remain — fully committed to protecting the rights of all children.

MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) said she was grateful for the briefings and the proposals and shared the Secretary-General’s serious concern with the violations against children. There were alarming trends, such as the number of abductions and cases of sexual violence. Underscoring that education is important for development and human rights, she stressed that access to education is important for children in order for them to reach their full potential. Humanitarian support should be provided to children and there should be appropriate accountability for the perpetrators. Further, more work needs to be done to help reintegrate children into the community after they have served as child soldiers. These efforts should involve all actors in a community. All responses need to comply with international laws, including laws regarding humanitarian issues and refugees, she emphasized.

AHMED SAHRAOUI (Algeria) said the international community must deal with the root causes of conflict and ensure justice and accountability for perpetrators — a complicated issue given the nexus between armed conflict and organized crime, including through human trafficking. A flexible mechanism is required. Protection of children must be granted priority through urgent measures to prevent recruitment, ensuring that children are not considered fighters, with States enhancing legal frameworks through joining the Optional Protocol on the Convention of the Rights of the Child — ratified by Algeria in 2009. He called on the international community to fight impunity, especially on documented violations, which require cooperation between Governments and regional teams. It is impossible to separate the conflict issue from the global picture, as development and economic issues are the root causes of many conflicts threatening children. The natural place for children is the classroom, and the international community and States must guarantee access to education during armed conflict. He called for reintegration policies for child victims, adding that grave violations against children are not inevitable. Condemning crimes perpetrated against Palestinian children being systematically targeted by the occupying forces, he called on the Council to live up to its obligations.

DAVIT KNYAZYAN (Armenia) condemned violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, as seen in attacks on schools and the use of schools for military purposes. He stressed the imperative of intensifying international efforts to address the protection needs of children in conflict areas. His country continues to face the impact of the premeditated military aggression in 2020 by Azerbaijan, amid the global health care crisis, which resulted in displacement and destruction of civilian infrastructure. Among the 19,000 displaced people from Nagorno-Karabakh, 88 per cent were women and children. He denounced the targeted destruction of schools and kindergartens, stressing that Azerbaijan’s violations of international humanitarian law have been widely documented. After its aggression, explosive war remnants continue to pose security risks to civilians in the area, while the denial of access to humanitarian agencies to the conflict zone prevents recovery. He also expressed concern over the continued involvement of children in State-sponsored propaganda of hatred, aimed at inciting “Armenophobia”, pointing to the opening of a military park with images that vilify Armenians, as an example of policies aimed at dehumanizing them. The Safe Schools Declaration, Paris Principles and Vancouver Principles are crucial instruments in this context.

ASHISH SHARMA (India), taking the floor a second time, said that Pakistan’s delegate has again chosen to “misuse this forum” and make “frivolous remarks” against India. “Such statements deserve our collective contempt,” he said, emphasizing the need to “set the record straight”. Pakistan has failed to protect the rights of minorities and the entire territories of Jammu and Kashmir were, are and will always be an integral, inalienable part of India. He called on Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism so that Indian citizens can exercise their rights to life and liberty.

MUHAMMAD RASHID (Pakistan) said that deflection and disinformation have “become a core part of India’s diplomacy”, and that the biggest example of this is the assertion that Jammu and Kashmir are part of India. This territory is not part of India now, nor was it ever; all United Nations maps show this as disputed territory; and the Council decided that the final disposition of Kashmir shall be determined by its people. He went on to say that his country possesses concrete evidence that terrorist organizations have been financed and sponsored by Indian agencies, that India has sponsored terrorism against all its neighbours and that there has been no terrorism across the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir, where the February 2021 ceasefire is holding.

For information media. Not an official record.