Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, Closing Remarks at High-Level Event on Protection of Children: Invisible Victims of Armed Conflict and COVID-19, at the General Assembly

News and Press Release
Originally published


23 September, 9:00 AM – 11 AM EST, Virtual

As delivered

I will not cite my prepared remarks today, for what has been powerful has been the passion and the reality and the truth of what we have heard this morning. I am very grateful for that.

I am very lucky because I have had the opportunity to be the father of school-aged children. And because of that I know, as we have all been reminded, that it is the innocence and the dreams of children that give us all humanity.

And it is in the suffering and the restrictions on children some of which we have heard today, which reminds us of our inhumanity.

Children are more than simply the future, they are also our present and our history. They play the central role in our very being. We know we can each feel that in our individual ways.

I want to take two or three issues based on that – on the vitality and the centrality of children.

First of all, relate to both COVID-19 and conflict: school closures which affect 600 million children across the world.

It is a number we can’t imagine. And it has led to the invisible scars that Peter has referred to. To increased abduction. To further sexual violence. To early marriage, as I discovered when recently in Syria. And to a range of threats against innocent children that are in our care but exist beyond our care.

Faridah’s story is almost unimaginable in its suffering, and frankly Faridah, in your courage.

There are two points I’d draw on for our action.

First, the child-centred approach: let us listen to children and see the universe as they see it and organize ourselves according to their view. Not just for the sake of inclusion but for the sake of understanding. And for the sake of coherence of our response. This has never been more powerfully needed than in these dark times.

Second, let us get that money in the right hands to spend on the protection of children and the education of children. On ensuring that when we hear how their dreams have been frustrated we have the means to give them a way out of that to a future which is important for them and even more important for us and our relationship to this planet.

Thank you.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit