I am speaking today on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and my own country, Norway.
We are concerned about the continued increase in verified violations and abuses against children. This trend can and must be reversed. First and foremost, parties to conflict must respect international humanitarian law and human rights law.
Protecting children and upholding their rights is not only positive for the individuals and their communities. It also contributes to successful reconciliation, reintegration and development and is therefore closely linked to the broader conflict prevention efforts and the sustaining peace agenda.
We should give special priority to education in emergencies, especially girls’ education.
The Safe Schools Declaration, which was launched in Oslo in 2015 and has been endorsed by 95 states so far, is a key initiative in this context. The main objective is to prevent military use of schools and stop attacks on schools during armed conflicts. We are encouraged by the positive response to the declaration and the joint efforts to implement it.
The continued silence and stigma related to sexual and gender-based violence, exploitation and abuse is of particular concern.
The international conference on ‘Ending sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises’ in Oslo this May sent a strong message that strengthening prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence is a humanitarian priority. It gave visibility and recognition to the key role of national and local organisations, including local women’s organisations.
Children involved in armed conflict need not only protection and comprehensive support and care, but also justice. In this regard, we want to recognise the crucial work done by the Justice Rapid Response in strengthening accountability for international crimes and human rights violations against children through the provision of highly specialized child-focused expertise.
Last year’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2427 set out a framework for the reintegration of children associated with armed forces or armed groups. Successful reintegration is in the best interest of the child, but also in the best interest of societies. The human rights of children formerly associated with armed groups or violent groups must be fully respected in line with international law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Resolution 2427 also stresses accountability for all violations and abuses against children, not just the gravest crimes. In the process, the Council set a new standard for the prevention of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. Resolution 2427 must now be translated into reality.
We reiterate our strong support for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. Ms Gamba is playing an essential role at the global, regional and national level by advocating for children’s protection and rights and providing practical guidance.
In conclusion, the Nordic countries urge all UN member states to ensure that children in armed conflict get the attention and protection they are entitled to.