NEW YORK, 18 January 2022 – “Thank you, Special Representative Gamba and your staff, and to the permanent Mission of Norway for organizing this important event.
“Thank you also to our fellow UN agencies, the Permanent Missions of Niger, Argentina, Mexico, Canada and Mr Dallaire and Mr Whitaker for joining us as we mark this occasion.
“The 25th-anniversary study being launched today is the product of significant effort across the UN. It provides a detailed description of the evolution of the UN’s mechanism for monitoring and reporting grave violations through the Children and Armed Conflict agenda. It also outlines a vision for how to strengthen the mandate further.
“As we mark the 25th anniversary of the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, I want to emphasize the positive impact that the mandate has had on the lives of children.
“UNICEF is proud of its role in the Children and Armed Conflict agenda. Our staff, in collaboration with other UN and partner organizations, judiciously collect and verify information on grave violations so that we can better understand and respond to the needs of children and surviving families. We also engage those responsible for violations, with the concrete goal of preventing further violations.
“These efforts have achieved concrete results for children. For example, since 2000, at least 170,000 children have been released from armed forces and armed groups, many having survived multiple violations – including abduction or sexual violence.
“Each one of these cases represents an individual child who has suffered terrible violence. Each is also a courageous survivor or witness.
“But there are many children who still need our help.
“That is why we must continue to collect these stories, even amidst dangerous circumstances. And that is why we must continue speaking up and speaking out, especially when children, families or witnesses are unable to do so.
“Looking ahead, the UN should continue to prioritize this precious and unique mandate. We should seize all opportunities to increase visibility and awareness of the terrible impact of conflict on children. We should be courageous in taking steps to end impunity and advance accountability for children in situations of armed conflict.
“It is critical that the UN at all levels remains empowered to engage with all parties to conflict, including groups designated as terrorist. Action to reduce the suffering of children in armed conflict starts with dialogue, and the mandate to protect children’s lives should not be politicized.
“We must also protect children from the reverberating consequences of conflict and from the stigma or revictimization that may come with surviving grave violations. This includes protecting child victims of recruitment from detention and ensuring that they are not denied citizenship.
“And it is imperative that parties to conflict commit to full compliance with international humanitarian law. Governments should demonstrate leadership by developing zero-tolerance policies on grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict.
“Finally, we call on the entire international community to take ambitious, principled and concrete actions to fulfil the rights of all children living in situations of armed conflict. This commitment will help to ensure that every child can reach her or his full potential.”