2 August 2016, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States by Mr. Charles Whiteley, Chargé d’affaires a.i., Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations at the Security Council Open Debate on “Children and armed conflict”.
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I have the honour of speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Armenia and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
I want to warmly thank today´s briefers and in particular SRSG Zerrougui to whom we lend our full support. We also want to thank the Malaysian Presidency of the Council for organizing today’s debate.
Unfortunately, serious challenges for the protection of children affected by armed conflict continue with increasing severity. Several protracted conflicts, but also current humanitarian crises have severe impacts on many children and leave them exposed, i.a. to the threats of violent extremism and displacement resulting from conflict, which the Secretary-General rightly highlights in his report.
Violent extremism is significantly affecting children who often are direct targets, including the abhorrent practice of using children as suicide bombers. Approaches to fighting and preventing violent extremism need to be comprehensive and address the root causes, such as protracted conflict, but also the lack of good governance, rule of law or education.
We note with growing concern the prevalence of attacks on, and the use of schools and hospitals for, military purposes. Governments and all other actors must protect schools and hospitals by upholding the provisions of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
We also see forced displacement as a particular challenge with an ever-growing number of children fleeing in search of protection, making them particularly vulnerable to crimes such as abduction and sexual violence. Governments must take urgent action to also protect the rights of these children.
This year’s report is an acute reminder of the vital work of the SRSG on Children and Armed Conflict and of UN agencies, in particular by providing objective and impartial information as the basis for the report. The lists in the annexes of the annual report are an essential tool in holding the relevant conflict parties accountable for the heinous crimes committed against children. It is therefore of utmost importance to protect the integrity and impartiality of the UNSG annual report, including the listings in its annexes and the children and armed conflict agenda of the UN Security Council. Ending violations against children and the implementation of action plans, rather than political or financial pressure should be the only route to de-listing. All parties to a conflict need to be held to the same standards when applying the listing criteria. We fully support the call of the Secretary-General on all parties identified in his report to work with the SRSG to protect children in conflict.
Last year was marked by very disturbing cases of sexual exploitation and abuse, including by UN peacekeepers, other international forces and civilians. Besides the need for ensuring full accountability, one crucial measure would be mandatory and comprehensive pre-deployment training on child protection to ensure the effective protection of children on the ground.
But there is also progress that can be achieved on this agenda. Colombia is a good example in this regard, with substantial progress achieved in the peace talks and the agreement on the release of children by FARC.
The protection and the promotion of children’s rights including the issue of children and armed conflict are central to the EU’s human rights policy and financing instruments.
This is why our Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2015-2019) ensures a comprehensive human rights approach to conflicts and crises, inter alia by moving from early-warning to preventive action and by enhancing the EU capacity to address conflicts and crises at multilateral and regional level.
This is also why the issue of children and armed conflict is mainstreamed in our common security and defence policy (CSDP) missions and operations through our crisis management procedures. Child protection considerations are addressed during the planning process for new missions and operations, in our pre-deployment training, and in our reporting and review documents.
EU development aid supports several projects for child victims of armed conflicts through promoting their safe access to basic services, protecting them from all forms of violence and ensuring their reintegration into societies. A specific call for proposals was launched last year under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights targeted at children associated with armed forces and groups and children impacted by armed violence. Projects on children affected by conflict are also implemented under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, e.g. in Colombia, Yemen, Ukraine and Syria.
In 2015, EU’s humanitarian aid dedicated over EUR 11.5 million to specific child protection activities, including psychosocial support, mine risk education and actions against the recruitment of child soldiers, as well as their reintegration, for example in the Syria Crisis, South Sudan, Ethiopia and DRC. In 2016 the EU is quadrupling its humanitarian assistance to education in emergencies. The humanitarian projects selected under the EUR 52 million packages for education in emergencies will enable safe access to quality education. Recently, the EU also decided to update the list of priority countries on Children and Armed Conflict to align it with the Secretary-General’s report.
Furthermore, the EU and its Member States continue to be strong supporters of the “Children, not Soldiers” campaign of SRSG Zerrougui and UNICEF. We welcome the significant progress made. The focus in the remaining months of the campaign will be on the implementation of the action plans. The EU stands ready to support Governments in this phase, together with the SRSG and UNICEF.
In concluding, let me underline that the UN and its Member States need to ensure that everything is being done to effectively protect and provide children affected by armed conflict with better prospects for their future.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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