I am delighted to join you to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate. I would like to thank Minister Huitfeldt and Norway for their steadfast support for this agenda. I also want to pay tribute to Special Representative of the Secretary-General Virginia Gamba and her predecessors for the remarkable work of her office over the last 25 years.
As conflicts have become more intractable and protracted, civilians, particularly women and children, are paying the heaviest toll.
Our joint efforts to protect children in armed conflicts from the grave violations first identified by the Security Council back in 1999 (SCR 1261) could not be more urgent today.
Child recruitment; killing and maiming; rape and other forms of sexual violence; abduction; attacks on schools and hospitals; and denials of humanitarian assistance tragically remain all too common realities for children in many of the contexts where we operate.
The special political missions my Department oversees carry out a wide range of activities to protect children in conflict situations, from early warning, monitoring and analysis to political and programmatic engagement.
In several missions, child protection advisers report regularly on violence against children and other child protection gaps, helping guide political engagement.
In Iraq, for example, UNAMI has been able to work closely with national authorities to help verify and mitigate grave violations against children, such as recruitment by ISIL and other non-state armed groups.
The mission has also assisted the government in the reintegration of hundreds of children that had been recruited by armed actors, and in developing long-term programmes to protect the rights to education for children from all social, ethnic, linguistic and religious groups.
Our convening power and expertise can give us real leverage to advocate for child protection with national actors. In Colombia, for example, from the early stages of the UN involvement in the peace process, DPPA and the Office of the Special Representative worked closely with the parties to put emphasis on the issue of child protection.
The UN’s advocacy was instrumental in convincing the parties to commit to the early release of children from the FARC-EP, and to the establishment of a special programme to reintegrate them into their families.
To more fully address the risks that children face in conflict environments, we need to work closely with other actors and craft collective responses.
In Somalia, UNSOM has partnered with the Federal Government, local communities and civil society in the implementation of the government’s Action Plan on children and armed conflict. This involves conducting joint screenings in military camps to verify the presence of children, and providing training to the Somali National Army, police and judges, as well as the African Union Mission in Somalia.
Today’s event is an opportunity to re-commit ourselves to ensuring that children are protected from the destruction caused by war. My hope is that, in commemorating future anniversaries of this agenda, we will be able to recognize progress made in ending violations against children in armed conflict settings. This is vital for children – and for building peace in the long term.