8 May 2002
Security Council, in Presidential Statement, Reiterates Strong Condemnation of Targeting, Use of Children in Armed Conflicts
Council Hears Statements on War Experiences from Three Children in Prelude to General Assembly Special Session
NEW YORK, 7 May (UN Headquarters) -- The Security Council this afternoon reiterated its strong condemnation of the targeting and use of children in armed conflicts, including their abduction, compulsory recruitment, mutilation, forced displacement, sexual exploitation and abuse, and called on all parties to conflict to immediately desist from such practices.
Through the unanimous adoption of a presidential statement (document S/PRST/2002/12) read out by its President for the month, Kishore Mahbubani (Singapore), the Council expressed its commitment to the protection of children affected by armed conflict as an essential component of its work to promote and maintain world peace and security.
Taking that action the day before the General Assembly's special session on children was due to begin, the Council looked forward to a successful final document. The statement also underscored the importance of unhindered humanitarian access to children, and called on parties to conflict to make special arrangements to protect and assist them.
Under a related term, the Council reaffirmed its call for the inclusion of provisions to protect children, with particular attention to the special needs of girls, in peace negotiations and agreements. It also reiterated its call to include child protection advisers in peacekeeping and peace-building operations, in accordance with previous texts adopted by it, in particular, resolution 1379 (2001).
Prior to adoption of the text, the Council heard from Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, who said that when adults waged war, children paid the highest price. He asked the Council to ensure that the protection and well-being of children systematically became part of negotiations to end conflict and the ensuing peace accords.
Graça Machel, former Independent Expert of the Secretary-General on the Impact on Armed Conflict on Children and author of the recent book Impact of War on Children, said it was a measure of progress made in moving children to the centre of the security agenda that this meeting had been convened. "Every day that a child lives in fear, pain or danger of violence of war, is another day where we have not done enough", she said.
Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Carol Bellamy commended the Council for its role in strengthening the protection of children in conflict situations. One of the biggest challenges in conflict situations was the difficulty of ensuring full and unhindered access of children to essential services. In an effort to promote such access, the international football association, FIFA, and UNICEF would urge all parties to conflict to observe "Days of Immunization" during the 2002 World Cup at the end of the month.
Also participating in today's meeting were three children from war-affected countries -- East Timor, Liberia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Each appealed to the Council to use its influence to stop war and protect children like them from its disastrous consequences.
"No more war", said Jose Cabral of East Timor. Only when children's rights were respected and children could grow up in safety and peace, would they be able to live in peace together when they became adults. "Please give us that chance", he said.
The Council President delivered opening remarks. He also welcomed the presence of high-level representatives of the member governments.
The meeting began at 1:55 p.m. and adjourned at 2:45 p.m.
Following is the statement on children and armed conflict read out by Security Council President Kishore Mahbubani (Singapore), which will be issued as document S/PRST/2002/12:
"1. The Security Council, recalling resolutions 1261 (1999), 1314 (2000) and 1379 (2001) on children and armed conflict, expresses its commitment to the protection of children affected by armed conflict as an essential component of its work to promote and maintain international peace and security.
"2. The Security Council expresses its concern at the grave impact of armed conflict in all its various aspects on children and reiterates its strong condemnation of the continued targeting and use of children in armed conflicts, including their abduction, compulsory recruitment, mutilation, forced displacement, sexual exploitation and abuse, and calls on all parties to conflict to desist from such practices immediately.
"3. The Security Council reaffirms its call for the inclusion of provisions for the protection of children, with particular attention to the special needs of girls, in peace negotiations and peace agreements; mandates and reports concerning peacekeeping operations; rehabilitation and peace-building programmes; training programmes for peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel; as well as the inclusion of child protection advisers in peacekeeping and peace-building operations, in accordance with previous resolutions and presidential statements adopted by the Security Council, in particular 1379 (2001).
"4. The Security Council looks forward to a successful final document concerning the protection of children affected by armed conflict on the occasion of the General Assembly Special Session on Children. The Security Council further reiterates its call to all parties to abide by their obligations as well as concrete commitments made to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other relevant United Nations bodies to ensure the protection of children in situations of armed conflict in all its various aspects.
"5. The Security Council welcomes the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and urges Member States to consider ratification, and for States parties to fully implement these provisions.
"6. The Security Council underscores the importance of unhindered humanitarian access for the benefit of children and, in this connection, calls on parties to conflict to make special arrangements to meet the protection and assistance requirements of children, including where appropriate the promotion of 'Days of Immunization'.
"7. The Security Council will remain actively seized of this matter."
The President of the Security Council, KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore) in his opening remarks said the Council was pleased to demonstrate support for the special session of the General Assembly on children, which provided the Council with an opportunity to reaffirm its support for protection of children in armed conflict. In the early years of the United Nations, there had been some instruments for protection of children. A breakthrough in the situation, however, came in 1996 through a study by Graça Machel, former Independent Expert of the Secretary-General on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children. She had recommended that the Council should be kept continually aware of humanitarian concerns, including concerns regarding children. A year later, Olara Otunnu was appointed as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
In 1998 the Council had held an open debate on the subject, followed by a presidential statement and three Security Council resolutions, he said. Resolution 1379 (2001) laid out comprehensive measures to assist children in armed conflict. In March 2002, the Council had drawn attention to the needs of children in armed conflict, including prevention of recruitment, and family reunification of displaced children. The Council had also included measures for child protection in several Council resolutions regarding conflict areas.
Through various Council missions to the field, members had witnessed first-hand the situation of children in areas of armed conflict around the world. He hoped today's meeting would contribute to the international community's awareness of the problem, he said.
OLARA OTUNNU, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said that when adults waged war, children paid the highest price. They were killed and maimed, made orphans and refugees, traumatized and abused, denied education, malnourished, and exploited as child soldiers. He greatly appreciated the Council's commitment to children and its work over the last several years to incorporate their protection and well-being into the peace and security agenda of the United Nations.
With respect to efforts under way to mainstream that activity, he asked the Council to ensure that the protection and well-being of children systematically became part of negotiations to end conflict and the ensuing peace accords. The protection of children should become the raison d'être of every peace operation of and report to the Council. Codes of conduct should be provided to peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel so that they might set the best example for the respect and protection of children and women. Child protection advisers should be included in the staffs of peacekeeping missions to strengthen advocacy on the ground.
He said he also actively promoted the participation of children, themselves, in peacekeeping processes. Further, in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes, child soldiers must be an important component of efforts on the ground. Indeed, the rehabilitation and well-being of children should be a centrepiece of any reconstruction, healing and rebuilding programme. And that should be expressed as a matter of urgency in policy-making, priority setting and resource allocation for the benefit of children and young people. The "best gift" that the Council could give to the children present today was to ensure that its resolutions were translated into realities on the ground.
GRAÇA MACHEL, former Independent Expert of the Secretary-General on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children and author of the recent book Impact of War on Children, said it was a measure of progress made in moving children to the centre of the security agenda that this meeting had been convened. Today, at the eve of the special session on children, the Council had enabled children to interact with one of the most important organs of the international community.
She said the Council had held discussions and passed resolutions to promote the protection of children and women in armed conflict. Doing so had been an important shift in attempts to promote the well-being of children. Other developments since 1996 included introduction of the International Convention on Land-mines, strengthening of international frameworks, such as the Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Children, and the appointment of the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
There was much more to do, however, she said. Prevention of conflict was the primary mandate of the Council and of the United Nations. The best protection for children was the prevention of conflict, and the Council must implement mechanism to enforce provisions on the prevention of conflicts. Otherwise millions of children will continue to die, to be forced from their homes, to be maimed and tortured. Improvement of the situation was a slow process. Six years after the original United Nations report on the dangers of sexual abuse of children in armed conflict, measures were still only beginning to be implemented. One could point to successes in demobilization of child soldiers; yet, children in 85 countries continued to live with the reality of abduction and forced recruitment.
"Every day that a child lives in fear, pain or danger of violence of war is another day where we have not done enough", she said. Monitoring of implementation of Security Council resolutions on children must be strengthened. The implementation was too slow, and she urged the Council to use its power to strengthen those measures. The Council was to be commended for the vision and commitment to social justice that had moved members to hear from children; she hoped it would be a regular occurrence.
CAROL BELLAMY, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that at the outset of the most important international gathering on children in more than a decade, the Council was again affirming its commitment to children and exercising its leadership in ensuring that the protection of child rights was at the heart of the international peace and security agenda.
Leaders were gathering from around the world to reaffirm their obligations to promote the rights of every boy and girl, and to commit themselves to creating a world "fit for children", she said. A global consensus was sought to mobilize resources and political will to promote the survival and health of every child, to assure the right of basic quality education, assistance in combating HIV/AIDS, and protection from harm and exploitation.
She commended the Council for its role in strengthening the protection of children in conflict situations. Indeed, the draft outcome document of the special session had drawn on the Council's exemplary work in that area. UNICEF would continue to invest in education, in particular education for girls, as a means of ensuring the long-term well-being and sustainable protection of the rights of war-affected children. Education also protected children from recruitment as soldiers in countries such as Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombia and Sudan.
One of the biggest challenges in conflict situations was the difficulty of ensuring full and unhindered access of children to essential services. In an effort to promote such access, the international football association, FIFA, and UNICEF would urge all parties to conflict to observe "Days of Immunization" during the 2002 World Cup, which started at the end of the month. Hopefully, football would help children make a start on reclaiming their childhoods. Children, especially girls, were extremely vulnerable to abuse, sexual violence, and rape perpetrated during armed conflicts.
Of great concern, she said, were the allegations of widespread sexual abuse and exploitation against refugee and international displaced children by humanitarian workers in West Africa. The Fund remained unwaveringly committed to ensuring the highest standards of conduct for its staff, to improving its accountability to the beneficiaries of humanitarian assistance, and to ensuring that such aid was provided in a manner that protected children and prevented their sexual exploitation and abuse. In giving the children present an opportunity to contribute to its meeting today, the Council had again set a high standard for leadership.
Statements by Children
D. WILMOT WUNGKO of Liberia said he was 16 years old. At age 5, he and his mother fled Liberia to Sierra Leone. He was too young to really understand what was happening, but he heard the sounds of guns and saw people running and shooting. People as young as him were dying. On two occasions, he saw a man being killed because of his tribe. Another man was slaughtered right in front of his family. He said he hid in his mother's arms.
Today, the children of Liberia were again suffering from war, he said. Because of war, they had not received a good education and were malnourished. There had also been many reports of children being recruited. "We are dying because of war", he said, adding, "Our hopes and dreams for the future are bleak". The cry of Liberian children was for peace. He was trying to put an end to the war by working with an all-children television programme that discussed the plight of children along with issues affecting their well-being and development.
None of that would mean anything if the war did not stop, he went on. The children of Liberia, therefore, appealed to the Security Council to do everything possible to stop the fighting. The human rights of those surviving the war were abused daily. "Please stop the war for the sake of children", he said. As the body responsible for promoting world peace, "please don't forget Liberia now. Help save the lives of the children of Liberia", he urged.
ELIZA KANTARDZIC of Bosnia and Herzegovina said she was 17 years old. War -- it sounded horrible and was very hard to describe when living through one. "Your whole world is falling apart; everything you know disappears. The only thing you can see is fear and death. You feel captured in every way. You're asking questions, but there are no answers", she said. Everybody was losing. She was seven years old when the war started. Most of her friends were refugees. Sometimes, whole families were split up, and nobody knew for months, even years, if their parents and siblings were alive.
She said she was one of the lucky ones. She knew where her family was, but she was surrounded by refugees. As a member of a youth centre in Banja Luka, she worked on the implementation of children's rights. She was trying to help refugees. "Being a friend to someone is the best thing you can do", she said. As a group, they made crafts to sell on the street. The money earned was used to buy candies and toys for the orphans and refugee children. That was a small thing, but it meant a lot to them. She was also involved in school workshops.
As a member of the Children's Forum, she said she wanted to learn from the other children at the United Nations this week. With her new knowledge, she could return home and share it with others, in order to make some progress. But, they also needed the Security Council's help. The best thing the Council could do was stop war -- prevent it. The real question was whether it was using its power to do so. She hoped members would remember her words when they had the opportunity to make another decision that could prevent and stop war.
JOSE CABRAL of East Timor said during September 1999 he was at St. Joseph College High School and, together with the school's directors and 10 friends was taking care of many people taking shelter there. There were about 4,000 refugees. It was very strange to find there was no child playing or singing. There was only silence or the sound of guns. "We began to play the guitar and to sing together to help us forget", he said.
Today, he was a journalist at his school, he said, and had learned many things from talking to children, especially street children. Many children had no opportunity to get an education. Some of them sold newspapers or other things, some just put out their hands to ask for money. Some were forced to give money to people who threatened them on the streets. The children did not know anything about war, but they were the victims of war and still had to face violence. "Most of the children around the world were born to give their smile that will bring happiness. But many of them were also born only to see and to face the suffering given to them by those who create war", he said.
East Timor would celebrate independence on 20 May, and when it joined the United Nations, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child would be the first international convention to be ratified. He wanted a Timor that was clean, beautiful and shiny, and where every person's dignity and human rights were respected. "What we need from you is your help to keep our peace and unity so that all children in East Timor can get an education and live in a peaceful country. No more war", he said. "I am sure that only when children's rights are properly respected and children can grow up in safety and peace, will those children be able to live in peace together when they are adults -- throughout the world. Please give us that chance."
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