Statement by H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the UN on behalf of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania at the Security Council open debate on Children and Armed Conflict
I have the honour to speak on behalf Latvia, Lithuania and my own country Estonia. We fully align ourselves with the statement to be delivered by the European Union.
First, we would like to thank Sweden for convening this open debate here today and all the briefers for their presentations. The open debate’s focus today on prevention aspects of the issue of children and armed conflict is very timely. It places the much-needed emphasis on the task of ensuring that the specific issues related to the protection and well-being of the children are being continuously taken into account and included in political processes and peace negotiations. That is why all of our delegations have also co-sponsored the resolution 2427 (2018) that has just been adopted.
We would also like to extend our appreciation to the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, and UNICEF for their uncontested work in the field.
Armed conflicts continue to have a horrific impact on children and, as stated in the Secretary-General’s latest report on Children and Armed Conflict, last year the situation was one of the worst in recent memory. Children are being killed or maimed, recruited as child soldiers and used as human shields, their schools are being attacked, they are sexually abused, detained, abducted and separated from their families, denied humanitarian access.
On the other hand, there are a few optimistic examples. Intensive UN engagement with armed groups in the Central African Republic and Nigeria resulted in the signing of action plans to release children and prevent their future recruitment. Sudan made progress in the implementation of the action plan. Mali endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration. These positive steps, however, are not sufficient.
States and the international community bear a responsibility to prevent and protect children and others who are most vulnerable from the detrimental impact of conflict. It is clear that the way we treat children affected by armed conflict has a strong impact on their future well-being, their development as individuals, and ultimately communities as a whole.
We as the international community need to do more to bridge the gap between protection of children and conflict prevention. These prevention efforts should be guided by the necessity to ensure full compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law. In this regard, we first and foremost call on all States not yet parties to accede to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
In line with the Secretary-General’s agenda on prevention, we also acknowledge the need to receive early warning signs from the ground. Here, the civil society can play a vital role. For prevention to be truly efficient, however, States and ultimately the international community need to take sufficient and timely action. Children’s involvement in peacemaking, peacebuilding and transitional justice processes should also not be overlooked.
In order to take further steps in protecting the children, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are also among the UN member states that have endorsed the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers.
Children are both fragile and incredibly resilient. In order to create sustainable and resilient societies, it is important to offer all children affected by conflict a long-term support for reintegration into a society. Also, in line with the motto of the SDGs of leaving no one behind, we need to make sure that children recruited as soldiers or otherwise involved in armed forces or groups receive necessary support, including psychosocial support, to facilitate their reintegration into a normal life. An important and indispensable element here is the provision of education to all children, including all girls, without exception. We need to build community and family support capacity and skills-development opportunities, without which those children will not be able to regain their lives. We must remember to treat children as victims first, not as perpetrators, and to avoid at any cost the double victimization of children by detaining them for their former association with armed forces or groups.
Finally, Mr. President, allow me to stress that conflict resolution and sustainable peacebuilding involves the vital element of accountability. This includes fight against impunity for violations and abuses that have been perpetrated towards children. This obligation lies in the first place with States, whose capacity to enact appropriate national legislation to criminalize grave violations against children should be assisted. As a last resort, upon the inability or unwillingness to prosecute crimes, we continue to support the important role of the International Criminal Court.
It is important for us as the international community as a whole and as individual States to take all the efforts possible to not to let down the children that are being affected by the conflicts. By protecting them, we are protecting our common future.
New York, 9 July 2018