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Statement by Lithuania at the United Nations Security Council High-level Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict.

Created: 2021.06.28 / Updated: 2021.06.28 19:19

Statement by Lithuania at the United Nations Security Council  High-level Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict.

Madam President,

Lithuania aligns itself with the statement submitted by the European Union and would like to additionally submit a statement on its national capacity.

Lithuania would like to sincerely thank the Estonian Presidency of the Security Council for organizing this very important debate. We also really appreciate the briefers for their presentations.

As Nelson Mandela rightly said, there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. In this context, the recent annual report of the Secretary General on children and armed conflict reveals a very grim reality. The numbers are staggering: 26, 425 grave violations affecting 19, 379 children were recorded over the reporting period. It makes 42 pages filled with numbers and figures. Although properly structured and disaggregated, these numbers do not reflect the scope of real suffering. Behind each and every number, each and every figure, there are personal stories of real children, real families, real communities. The stories of real loss and real trauma. In the 21st century that has seen the real breakthrough in many fields – from utilization of new frontier technology solutions, including use of AI, to new space programmes – it is tragically sad and heart-breaking to read stories of children who will never be able to fully enjoy their childhood.

As the current President of the UNICEF’s Executive Board, I had an opportunity to get the broader insight into many problems that children still face in the modern world. The impacts of armed conflict and violence are particularly devastating for children, with interruptions to education and health services and heightened risk of conflict-related sexual violence. Children continue to suffer daily, and the numbers of children killed in conflict are appalling.

Children, who survived, will live with the terrible remnants of the conflict. The gravity of the violations is so much heavier and so longer-lasting than might appear from the sheer numbers: the impact of the conflict may adversely affect the life trajectory of children far more than adults and may leave enduring impacts in posttraumatic stress disorder. Severe losses and disruptions during the conflict lead to long-term psychological consequences, high rates of depression and anxiety.

During the reporting period, the scale and severity of grave violations against children remained very concerning, including increased number child abductions, recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict. In particular, Lithuania is appalled with the fact that during the verified cases of abduction and sexual violence against children increased alarmingly by 90 and 70 per cent, respectively. This is utterly disturbing, especially having in mind that sexual violence cases are usually greatly underreported and that they disproportionately affect girls.

Lithuania urges all parties of armed conflicts, state and non-state alike, to end all violations against children and fully implement international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. As set in the report, the levels of denial of humanitarian access to children continued to be high, therefore Lithuania urges all parties of armed conflicts to provide safe, timely and unimpeded humanitarian access. All parties that fail to comply with these obligations that bear on the protection of children in conflict must be held accountable.

The period of reporting was as difficult as never before– the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on every aspect of our lives and children in conflicts despite already being one of the most vulnerable groups, had to additionally face pandemic-related consequences, such as school closures, increased number of all forms of gender-based violence, including child, early and forced marriage.

The pandemic has, however, provided forward-looking solutions aimed at equipping all children with digital learning opportunities. We believe that the alternative and distance learning programs that have been put in place while schools have been closed during Covid-19, should be made available to children in armed conflict, especially girls and children with disabilities, and should continue to be available even when the pandemic ends.

It is also of utmost importance to ensure that all of those children (and their families) that were subjected to grave violations, especially survivors of rape and sexual violence, would receive the needed assistance and help, including psychological support, medical and legal assistance, food and shelter. In this context, we need to ensure that proper long-term and comprehensive programs for rehabilitation and reintegration of children affected by armed conflict would be put in place.

Lithuania would like to reiterate our strong support to the mandate of the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. As this year we mark the 25th anniversary of this mandate, we would like to thank Ms. Virginia Gamba and her whole team for their uncontested work in the field. Lithuania would also like to extend our appreciation to UNICEF and the Executive Director H. Fore for the tireless efforts of protecting the children.

This report should be a wake-up call. A reminder that behind each and every number in the report, there is a real boy or girl asking not to be left behind and not to be forgotten. Very often children are not able to protect themselves. The responsibility of protecting their peace, their dreams and their tomorrow lies on our shoulders. Let us not fail them.

New York, 28 June 2021

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