– CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY –
I have the honour to take the floor on behalf of the EU and its Member States.
The Acceding Country Croatia[*], the Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Iceland[†] and Serbia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this declaration.
Firstly, I want to thank today’s briefers for their presentations. Allow me to express our appreciation to Special Representative Leila Zerrougui for her highly esteemed work. Her tireless effort has contributed to the advancement of the Children and Armed Conflict agenda. We would like to assure her of the EU’s strong support for her mandate. We welcome the opportunity to speak today. Acknowledging the practical reasons for the format of the debate on this occasion, we look forward to returning to the practice of open debates on this subject.
The annual report of the Secretary- General on Children and Armed Conflict reminds us of the challenges ahead. We have seen progress in some areas, for example with the increasing number of action plans. Still, children in too many countries are suffering terribly from armed conflict. The situation in Syria is of a special and most urgent concern. Children there have been suffering for more than two years from the most heinous crimes. Also, the difficult situation of children in Mali and the Central African Republic has been highlighted in the SG report.
The widespread targeting of schools and their military use is very worrisome. Children are at threat when schools or hospitals are being attacked or occupied by armed groups. We strongly urge conflict parties to end this practice.
The report also highlights the growing practice of States to arrest and detain children, making them particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. Urgent action is required to prevent and address sexual violence against children; including by providing appropriate and accessible services for their rehabilitation and reintegration.
This demonstrates the importance of the Security Council’s work on this issue. We are also supportive of the work of Luxembourg as the chair of the Security Council Working Group. We welcome today’s presidential statement. In order to achieve further progress, we want to point to the valuable findings of the recent seminar organized by the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein and the NGO “Watchlist”.
Let me just mention some: Briefings of the SRSG to Security Council, its Working Group and the relevant sanctions committees, as was the case after her visit to Syria, should be a regular feature when the issue of Children and Armed Conflict is concerned. In addition, the “toolbox” of the UNSC Working Group should in general be fully applied against perpetrators of grave violations. These recommendations go hand in hand with those in the report of the Secretary- General and would contribute to adequately address the issue of persistent perpetrators. Still, 29 parties have been listed for a period of 5 years or more. The instrument of regular field trips of the Security Council Working Group would help to follow-up on the implementation of action plans as well as well- coordinated local networks of Governments and UN actors. It is essential also in this regard that Member States allow unconditional access for the UN to armed non- State actors.
The ICC continues to play a crucial role in fighting impunity. Serious crimes of international concern should be dealt with by national judicial systems but, when they are unwilling or unable to do so, States Parties to the Rome Statute should consider referring those situations to the ICC. Further institutional dialogue between the ICC and the Security Council and effective follow up of referrals made by the Security Council to the ICC could assist in ensuring accountability.
As it is crucial to implement existing commitments, I would like to provide you with an update on the EU’s strong commitment:
-The EU and its Member States have spent 200 Million Euro in 2009-2012 on assistance related to Children and Armed Conflict in the countries listed in the Secretary-General’s report.
– High Representative Catherine Ashton and the Special Representative issued a joint statement in 2013 on the occasion of the International Day against the use of child soldiers.
– Consequently the EU is systematically addressing child protection in all of the EU’s crisis management missions and operations. For example, the EU has adopted minimum training standards. In 2013, the EU introduced also a specialized training on children and armed conflict to its diplomatic staff, in cooperation with UNICEF. The EU training missions, the most recent one being in Mali, provide training to armed forces inter alia on humanitarian and human rights law.
Children have the right to be free from fear and want. Let us make sure that they can enjoy their childhoods so that they will become strong and self confident responsible members of our communities.
* Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
† Iceland continues to be a member of the EFTA and of the European Economic Area.