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Statement by H. E. Mr. Margus Kolga, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Estonia to the United Nations at the Open Debate on Children and Armed Conclict

08.09.2014

At the outset, allow me to thank United States for organizing the open debate on this important subject. I also thank for their interesting and thought provoking statements Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Mr. Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Ms. Yoka Brandt, the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Mr. Forest Whitaker, Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation of UNESCO and Ms. Sandra Uwiringiyimana.

Estonia fully aligns itself with the statement of the European Union.

Madame President,

Estonia welcomes SG’s report and shares the deep concern on the grave violations outlined in the report. We must take all measures to prevent violations against children as well as to make violators accountable. We call on all States who have not yet done so to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and to join the Rome Statute of ICC.

Let me stress some key topics from our perspective.

Firstly, education: Education is one of the key elements for prevention. It is crucial also in preventing situations where progress is reversed and re-recruitment of child militants may occur.

We share SG’s concern over the use of schools for military purposes as seen among many others in Syria, Gaza and in Boko Haram's attacks in Nigeria. Moreover, military conflicts create cross border situations where neighbors need to find ways to guarantee education also to children in refugee camps. We are deeply concerned about the fact that thousands of children remain without basic education. Thereby let me stress that schools should be for children and should never and under no conditions be used for military purposes. In this regard, we welcome the Draft Lucens Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. In this connection I would also like to mention that Estonia highly appreciates UNICEF´s work to provide quality education to children in humanitarian crises and has recently supported UNICEF´s work in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Gaza, Syria and Somalia.

Secondly, another important aspect is educating and training the peacekeepers. We believe that the pre-deployment training should be a rule rather than an exception and this respect welcome the child protection training lunched in April this year. Let me also reiterate the crucial role of child protection advisers who have to be deployed in peacekeeping operations, peacebuilding missions and special political missions.

Thirdly, accountability:

With regard to the SG’s report, Estonia would have liked to see more focus on the accountability dimension, since we clearly see impunity as one of the main reasons for the recurrence of these grave violations against children. It is only by consistent prosecution, either domestically or internationally, that we can deter the commission of these crimes by sending out a strong signal that people who commit such atrocities will be held accountable for their actions. To achieve this we reiterate the important role of  the International Criminal Court (ICC) where States are unable or unwilling to bring perpetrators to justice domestically and emphasize the necessity by all States, this Council and international and regional organizations to cooperate with the ICC. Furthermore, we also believe that the international community should assist in strengthening national judicial capacities to ensure accountability, including through the development of legislation criminalizing violations against children.

Madame president,

We welcome the positive progress made with the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign and the ongoing cooperation with the states mentioned in the annexes of the report. However a lot still remains to be done and it is important to find more ways to co-operate with non-state armed groups.

In conclusion,

Let me stress that Estonia highly values the work of Security Council, its respective working group and the open debates on this issue. We appreciate the work of SG Special Representative, UNICEF and all other UN structures involved as well as the utmost important contribution of civil society organizations. There is never too much we can do for children. In short: by protecting children, we protect our future.

Thank you.

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