I would like to thank Ambassador Jurgenson and other contributors for setting the stage for today’s meeting, which we are proud to co-sponsor. We also welcome the SRSGs timely study. And affirm our strong support for her mandate, and the ‘UN Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on Grave Violations against Children in Situations of Armed Conflict’ (MRM) - to which greater both political and financial support is needed. Their work is instrumental in ensuring that the members of the Council - and indeed all of us - can get a better understanding of the situation for children caught in armed conflict.
We commend the work of the ‘UN Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting on Grave Violations against Children’. And we value that they were able to resume their work shortly after the outbreak of COVID-19.
We are at the same time deeply concerned that the monitoring of the Six Grave Violations has become more difficult, and that the pandemic has affected the capacity of the Country Task Forces, and their partners, to respond to such violations.
This is particularly troubling against the backdrop of the pandemic, which is threatening to undo gains on the protection of children. For example, the socioeconomic effects of the pandemic have been a push factor for the recruitment and the use of children in armed conflicts.
In Colombia, OCHA has reported a 113% increase in armed groups’ forced recruitment of children from 2019. And this from January to June 2020 only. A highly worrying trend. And while the reasons are complex and many, the pandemic is undoubtedly a catalyst.
It has also increased the vulnerability of children- in particular girls- to rape and other forms of sexual violence. Our efforts to protect and respond to conflict-related sexual violence must be stepped up, and perpetrators held to account.
Attacks on healthcare both hampers the COVID-19 response, and hinders access for children to healthcare. We call on all parties to swiftly implement Resolution 2286.
We have seen also the increased vulnerability of children being out of school. Since the start of the pandemic SRSG Gamba has warned us that schools – more than ever – are viewed as strategic military assets. Preventing military attacks against schools, and ensuring their civilian character must be a priority. The Safe Schools Declaration is an important tool. And we warmly welcome our dear Mexican colleagues’ endorsement of the declaration and call on others to follow their example.
We are pleased to see also steps taken by the African Union to prioritise protection of children in conflict situations. And encourage closer cooperation between the UN and the AU - together with other regional organisations - on CAAC.
This year’s 25th Anniversary of the CAAC mandate is an opportunity to take stock and strengthen the tools and mechanisms available for the mandate.
We have a responsibility to recommit to ensuring all children are safe in conflict.