SC: Children and Armed Conflict

Joint Nordic Statement in the UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, 5 July 2023.

The Statement was delivered by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Denmark Ambassador Marie-Louise Koch Wegter on behalf of Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.

Madam President, members of the Security Council, distinguished briefers,

On behalf of the Nordic countries – Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and my own country, Denmark – I would like to thank the UK for convening this meeting, and for the opportunity to reflect upon the Secretary General’s recent report. Let me also thank all the briefers for their valuable insights.

We would like to focus on the following: 1) prevention of violations, 2) recognition of the protective role played by local communities and 3) a principled direct engagement with parties to armed conflict.

Firstly, children are particularly vulnerable to violations and abuses before, during and after conflict. We need to invest in a protective environment for children before conflict, to reduce their vulnerability during conflict. We must invest to increase the likelihood of successful reintegration of children associated with armed actors. And we must do so in a manner that takes into account the underlying gender aspects of the grave violations, not least concerning sexual violence in conflict. That means investing in supporting governance structures and initiatives that protect children during conflict. One example is the Safe Schools Declaration that facilitates protection, prevention and reintegration. Our overall investments in education, mental health and psychosocial well-being are critical enablers of child protection.  

Secondly, the briefing from the SRSG reaffirm that too many children and communities are suffering during conflict with little or no access to humanitarian assistance and protection. More often than not, children and their families are left to their own devices. We need to insist on humanitarian access to all children whatever the circumstances and make sure that our humanitarian assistance complement the self-protection strategies of these communities by supporting them in a flexible and adaptable manner. 

Thirdly, international organizations can play crucial roles in protecting children. Success is often determined by sustained, principled and context-sensitive engagement directly with parties to armed conflict. The evacuation of 280 children from an orphanage in Khartoum by the ICRC shows that it is possible to appeal to belligerent parties. It speaks to the importance of direct engagement and the vital role played by such organizations.

At the same time, we must hold armed parties to account and remind them of their obligations under International Law as well as promote regional human rights instruments that are so desperately needed to ensure protection and prevention.

Finally, we emphasize our full support for the mandate on children and armed conflict, and our support to the Special Representative for her diligent work over the years. It shows that direct engagement with reference to international legal frameworks can play an important role in protecting children.

Madam president,

The listing of parties to armed conflict in the annexes of the Secretary General’s report is key for both prevention and accountability. We support the listing of parties to be done in a coherent and transparent way, holding the parties to the same criteria and procedures – to protect all children equally and to protect the integrity of the mandate.

The fact that the Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups have been listed gives testimony to the integrity of your mandate, which is to be welcomed. At the same time, it is deplorable that the report for the first time needs to list a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Thank you.