Closing Remarks at joint FSC-HDC Side Event on Children and Armed Conflict

Delivered by Ambassador and HDC chair, Anne-Kirsti Karlsen, Vienna, 14. September 2022.

Dear speakers, dear colleagues and participants,

Children make up a particularly vulnerable group during armed conflict everywhere. We have heard how children are exposed to grave violations of their rights in the ongoing Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. This includes violations like injuries, killings, displacements, deportations, access to education and sexual violence. We have also heard how the OSCE Code of Conduct have some provisions that may be used better to remind states of their commitments to protect children.

We have heard several recommendations to us as participating States on how to monitor and address violations against children’s rights, such as:

  • Hold separate meetings for OSCE participating States with the aim of developing approaches and action plans to stop violations of children’s rights in armed conflicts.
  • Create special monitoring missions of the OSCE which are focused on the compliance of the rights of children in war zones. States should explore if this could be done under the Moscow Mechanism or under the Vienna Document.
  • Include an optional question in the Questionnaire on the Code of Conduct on Politico-Military aspects of Security allowing the participating States to report on how they address the protection of children in armed conflicts.
  • Synchronize the OSCE institutions to issue thematic reports, reviews or analytical notes on children’s rights in Ukraine.

Some recommendations fit more into the work of the FSC:

  • Educate our armed forces personnel on international humanitarian rules and conventions, and maybe to a larger extent invite experts under the human dimension to explain how children’s rights can be protected in conflict situations.
  • Implement effective legislation and proportionate criminal penalties for people who are guilty of violating children’s rights.
  • Abstain from occupying school buildings with armed personnel or artillery. Continue to use them for educational purposes only.
  • Protect children from indecent assaults by armed personnel by keeping arrested or detained children separate from adults who are not family.

Accordingly, some recommendations should primarily be followed up in the Human Dimension:

  • Establish National Referral Mechanisms as a tool to identify human trafficking victims.
  • Respect humanitarian corridors and ensure that aid organizations have access to those who remain in the country.
  • Register refugee children as quickly as possible. Unaccompanied children should be placed in appropriate and safe care.
  • Prevent illegal adoption of children. This should only occur when there is no chance of reuniting the child with its family.

I encourage all States to consider these recommendations.

I would like to give special thanks to the FSC chair and Ambassador Nagant de Deuxchaisnes for initiating this cross-dimensional meeting on a very important topic. I am also grateful to Ambassador Baldi for his able moderation this morning. Last, but not least, I would like to thank our excellent speakers, professor Lambert and Ms Sulialina for valuable contributions. We wish you every success in continuing your important work.

The children in Ukraine are in dire need of having the international community stand up for them and be their voice. The participating States of the OSCE can help in this regard. Visibly, we lack a comprehensive and systematic approach to target violations of children’s rights. By addressing the issue of children’s rights in both the first and the third dimension, awareness of the urgency of the matter has been increased. I hope we can find ways to follow up.

Thank you.