SC: Children and armed conflict open debate

Statement by Permanent Representative Ambassador Mona Juul in the UN Security Council meeting on Children and Armed Conflict, 19 July 2022.

Thank you President for hosting this year's annual debate on children and armed conflict. Also, thanks to SRSG Gamba, Executive Director Russell, and Mr. Patrick Kumi for their powerful statements.

In the past year, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in political instability, military takeovers, and coups. We have seen violent flare ups, and unprovoked military aggression.

And the annual report for 2021 shows that- despite existing legal obligations and normative frameworks aimed at protecting children- the number of verified grave violations remains alarmingly high.

The report presents a highly uncomfortable, but unquestionable truth: that children pay the highest price of war.

In Myanmar, the UN recently reported that the military has killed at least 142 children. And more than a quarter of a million children have been displaced, and over 1,400 arbitrarily detained. These children are highly vulnerable to further violations and abuses of international law.

We are also deeply troubled by the reported targeting of girl’s schools in the Lake Chad basin region, and in Afghanistan. The Afghan de facto authorities’ denial of girls’ rights to education is unacceptable. 

Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine too is causing immense harm, and an uncertain future for millions of children. Many have been forced to flee their homes.

Countries that receive unaccompanied or separated children must ensure they are immediately identified, and registered. And adequate protection and support provided.

Against this troubling backdrop, allow me to highlight a few actions we should be taking to advance the agenda:

First, we must have the facts and data in order to respond adequately.

UN Country Teams and partners have proven to be adaptable- monitoring and reporting on violations in challenging environments.

And the addition of four new situations of concern in this year’s report, is an important step towards advancing country level progress to protect children.

For this, we must do more to secure the necessary funding- with follow-up also in the Fifth Committee.

Second, as we know, prevention is better than cure. We must take concrete measures to prevent violations and abuses of international law against children.

We call on all parties to conflict to sign and implement action plans with the SRSG. And Member States to endorse and implement the Paris- and Vancouver Principles, and the Safe School Declaration.

Effective implementation of Resolution 2601 is also key.

Third, all children must be treated as children.

Including those associated with armed groups, including those designated as terrorist.

We urge Member States to treat all children involved primarily as victims of violations of international law.

Societies cannot build sustainable peace without the effective and sustainable reintegration of children.

Moreover, the imprisonment of children should only happen as a measure of last resort, and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

First and foremost, non-judicial measures should be sought.

Finally President,

Accountability must be secured.

All Member States must bring to justice those responsible for violations of international law, including through cooperation with international justice mechanisms such as the ICC.

The integrity and independence of the Special Representative to monitor and report on the six grave violations committed against children is instrumental.

All parties in conflict must be held to the same transparent standards.

Including through the listing and de-listing criteria.

Children living in conflict have no time to lose.

Their childhood and our common future are at stake. As Chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, Norway remains committed.

Let’s act now to ensure a better life for the millions of children living in armed conflict.