Joint Statement by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, 2 August 2016
STATEMENT BY CHARGÉ D’AFFAIRES A.I.,
THE DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE,
OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA
ON BEHALF OF ESTONIA, LATVIA AND LITHUANIA
United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict
2 August 2016, New York
I have an honor to speak on behalf of Estonia, Latvia and my own country Lithuania. Our delegations associate themselves with the statement made on behalf of the European Union.
Let me start by thanking Malaysia for convening this open debate and all the briefers for their presentations. We would also like to express our appreciation for the dedicated and passionate work of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, and UNICEF in this regard.
20 years after the groundbreaking report presented by Graça Machel, important advances to protect children in armed conflict have been made. Action plans to address grave violations against children were signed with Government forces and non-state armed groups, thousands of children were released from the armed forces; child protection advisers were deployed to the UN peacekeeping operations.
Despite the progress made, however, the Secretary-General’s annual report depicts a distressing situation for children in armed conflict. Countless children across the Middle East, Africa as well as Europe continue to suffer from conflict-related violence.
Children continue to be recruited in Central African Republic, Somalia and Mali. Thousands have lost their lives in the Syrian conflict and millions are out of school. Many children become victims of abduction, sexual violence or are detained because of their association with armed groups. Escalating humanitarian situations in Yemen or South Sudan are depriving children of food and basic necessities.
In recent years, extremist groups have inflicted a direct violence against children, including killing and maiming, abductions, torture and brutal sexual violence. Besides being victims of extremist violence, children are also used to perpetrate acts of terrorism, war crimes or crimes against humanity.
In many conflict situations schools remain under attack or are used for military purposes as barracks, detention facilities and weapon storages. All Member States have to fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law and ensure protection of schools. Targeting schools or using them for military purposes gravely endangers the lives of children and deny generations an education.
Children involved in armed conflicts first and foremost are victims. No matter their role, they are exposed to acute levels of violence – as witnesses, victims of various abuses and as forced participants. The administrative detention and prosecution for their alleged association with armed groups are unacceptable.
Children affected by conflicts face difficulties in finding their place in society; even the local communities tend to stigmatize and reject them. Proper long-term and comprehensive programs for rehabilitation and reintegration of children affected by armed conflict should be put in place. It is crucial to provide necessary psychological, medical and legal assistance for children and their families to ensure their successful reintegration into the daily lives. We have to use all available tools to empower children to participate in political processes and ensure their social inclusion.
Child protection work in the UN peacekeeping operations must be prioritized with further deployment of child protection advisers and targeted training for all contingents and UN personnel on children rights. The role of Mission’s leadership is crucial in ensuring that child protection is considered a priority across the whole mission. Adequate resources have to be allocated to ensure successful mandate implementation.
We are concerned that despite the zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse by the United Nations and related personnel, sexual abuses by peacekeepers remain a systemic challenge. Despite the progress made, however, a lot needs to be done to ensure that there is no room in peacekeeping missions for those who prey on the most vulnerable.
Protecting children from serious crimes and preventing such crimes from being committed go hand in hand with tackling impunity and ensuring that the perpetrators are held to account. While perpetrators are too many, the cases and judgments against them remain too few. We have to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice by redoubling our own efforts to enhance national judicial capacities as well as by strengthening international justice framework, including through the work of the International Criminal Court.
I thank you.