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



Madam President, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, allow me to thank Luxembourg 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, Mr Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of UNICEF and Mr Alhaji Babah Sawaneh, who, I think, knows probably better than anyone of us here, what we are today really talking about. 


We would like to congratulate the Presidency for the adoption of a timely resolution on this matter that also Estonia co-sponsored. The resolution represents a step forward in our common endeavour.


Estonia fully aligns itself with the statement of the European Union. Let me stress some topics that are especially important for Estonia.


Mr Chairman,

15 years have passed since the adoption of the resolution 1261. Significant progress has been made since. Nevertheless, we in the UN are used to reading, listening and talking about the atrocities around the world that concern children. Among others, most of us have read the recently issued (first) report of the Secretary-General on the situation of children in Syria. We have heard that over 10,000 children have died as a direct result of the conflict in Syria. We have read that thousands more have been injured and mutilated. We know that more than a million children are now living as refugees and millions more are displaced inside their country. Some children have been separated from their families. Others have seen their parents, brothers or sisters getting killed or injured. It sounds as something regular going on in the world on a daily basis and it can happen that we even don`t anymore think about the real persons behind these huge numbers – about the millions and thousands REAL children and their suffering.


What can we do to make a difference for these children?

I would like to stress three points: education, accountability and capacity building.

Education is the best and most effective prevention tool there is. Only through education can we change the norms and mindset. Only through education can we ensure a better future for these children. Thereby let me stress that schools should be for children and should never and under no conditions be used for military purposes. Also, every child continuing his/her daily schooling is kept away from the heinous hands of war lords willing to conscript them. Education means also empowerment, and if one has decent job opportunities he is less exposured to armed conflict.


Second, accountability. Although ending impunity for grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict is crucial to halt and prevent these crimes, perpetrators are rarely held to account. National courts have the primary responsibility of holding perpetrators of violations against children to account. The international community should therefore assist in strengthening national judicial capacities to ensure accountability, including through the development of legislation criminalizing violations against children. However, where national courts still lack the capacity or the political will to investigate and prosecute grave crimes against children in armed conflict, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has a crucial role to play. The Council itself has on numerous occasions, as in the resolution adopted today, acknowledged that the fight against impunity for atrocious crimes, including against children, has been strengthened through the work of the ICC. For the ICC to fulfil its mandate, effective cooperation and assistance by all States, this Council and international and regional organizations is essential.


To achieve its commitment to deal effectively with persistent perpetrators, the Council could increase pressure on persistent perpetrators by including violations against children in the mandate of all sanctions committees and by improving the exchange of information between the Council, Sanction Committees and the ICC to include individuals sought by the ICC on the sanctions list.


Mr Chairman,

While it is important to work with government authorities to end violations against children in armed conflict, it is also crucial to engage and conclude action plans with non-state armed groups.


Third, the capacity building: as to the concrete actions of the UN, one of the most important issues is the specific operational pre-deployment and in-mission training for the peacekeepers to enable them to make the right decisions in the difficult situations of armed conflict. We believe that the pre-deployment training should be a rule rather than an exception and we commend the recent developments in this regard. We would like to stress the crucial role of child protection advisers who have to be deployed in peacekeeping operations, peacebuilding missions and special political missions. They must be deployed in a consistent manner and the child protection capacities of the different missions must be reinforced.


Finally, let me express Estonia`s full support for the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UNICEF to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by Government armed forces by 2016, launched yesterday. Indeed, the goal sounds ambitious - in the UN we rarely see goals that have to be reached in only 2 years but Estonia believes in such ambitious goals. Children all over the world deserve the time of being children - they should not be parents, they should not be used as cheap labour and they should not be soldiers, shedding blood for the political, ideological or economic goals of grown-ups.


We will be looking forward to the next Secretary General`s report in June and truly hope that there is progress to be reflected already by then. No ambition should be too ambitious on this topic.


Thank you!


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