Press Releases

    SC/7631
    15 January 2003

    Secretary-General Says Using Child Soldiers Can No Longer Be Done with Impunity, as Security Council Holds Day-Long Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

    Report Identifies 23 Parties to Conflicts on Council's Agenda That Continue to Recruit, Use Children

    NEW YORK, 14 January (UN Headquarters) -- By naming the parties that continued to recruit or use child soldiers, the international community had demonstrated its willingness to match words with deeds, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Security Council today, as it heard from more than 45 speakers in a day-long debate on children and armed conflict.

    Today's meeting focused on the Secretary-General's recent report that lists 23 parties to conflicts in the Council's agenda, including governments and armed groups, that continue to recruit or use child soldiers. The conflicts include Afghanistan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Somalia.

    As a result of the report, said the Secretary-General, those who violated standards for the protection of children could no longer do so with impunity. It was essential that the list of parties be followed by systematic monitoring and reporting on compliance by listed parties, as well as the consideration of targeted measures against those who continued to flout their international obligations.

    "By exposing those who violate standards for the protection of children to the light of public scrutiny, we are serving notice that the international community is finally willing to back expressions of concern with action", he stated.

    Olara A. Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, stressed that the most pressing challenge now was how to translate the principles, standards and measures that had been put in place, through such measures as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Optional Protocol to the Child Rights Convention, into facts on the ground. It was imperative to embark on an "era of application", and the Council was well placed to lead the way by example and action.

    The list, he added, provided an important opportunity for the Council to respond by, among other things, calling on parties to immediately end recruiting and using child soldiers; calling for a progress assessment; and considering taking targeted measures against the mentioned parties, including travel restrictions on leaders and their exclusion from any governance structures and amnesty provisions.

    The Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, was convinced that the naming and shaming of parties would help to establish a culture of accountability, one that could prevent such abuses from occurring in the future. She urged Council members to consider that list in all their deliberations, and to update it regularly, expanding its scope to include parties to armed conflict in situations not now on the Council's agenda. The list could be used not only to pressure those who violated children's rights, but also to support and encourage progress.

    Several speakers, including the representative of Angola, which had, during more than 27 years of conflict, experienced the dramatic effects of war on children, emphasized that that conflict prevention and resolution were the best ways to protect children. Pakistan's representative agreed that the Council could do more to ease the suffering of children by preventing the outbreak of conflict in the first place. It had had yet to fully explore the vast potential for conflict prevention and resolution offered by the Charter, he stated.

    Sierra Leone no longer had child soldiers, its representative stated. As a country that had just emerged from a brutal armed conflict in which children were both perpetrators and victims, it knew that urgent action must be taken to put an end to such practices through the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants. In addition, the problem of former child soldiers could be addressed through the establishment of an oversight institution for the welfare of children in a post-conflict situation.

    The problem of child soldiers was a "time bomb" for the entire population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- among those named in the list -- that country's representative said. He reaffirmed that his country had ended the enlistment of children in the Congolese Armed Forces, unlike the armed groups operating in certain occupied provinces.

    Myanmar's representative highlighted the need for verification of information before it was presented to the Council. In addition to the armed insurgent groups in Myanmar, the national armed forces had also been referred to in the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Those entering the military service, he clarified, did so of their own free will and must be at least 18 years of age.

    Also speaking today were the representatives of Germany, Syria, Mexico, Russian Federation, Chile, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, United States, Cameroon, Spain, Guinea, China and France.

    In addition, the representatives of Greece (on behalf of the European Union), Bahrain, Switzerland, Canada, Philippines, Monaco, Rwanda, Ukraine, Egypt, Austria (as Chair of Human Security Network), Nepal, Israel, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Slovenia, Colombia, Malawi, Liechtenstein, Burundi, Japan, Namibia and Ecuador also spoke, as did the Observer for Palestine.

    The representatives of Israel and Rwanda, as well as the Observer for Palestine, took the floor a second time.

    The meeting, which began at 10:24 a.m. and suspended at 1:13 p.m., resumed at 3:15 p.m. and then ended at 7:55 p.m.

    Background

    The Security Council met this morning to hold an open debate on children and armed conflict, for which it had before it the Secretary-General's report (document S/2002/1299). Annexed to the report is a list of 23 parties to conflicts on the Council's agenda that continue to recruit and use child soldiers, as requested by the Council in its resolution 1379 (2001). The parties include both Governments and insurgents in five conflict situations -- Afghanistan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Somalia.

    The list, states the report, represents an important step forward in efforts to induce compliance by parties to conflict with international child protection obligations. It clearly demonstrates the will of the international community that those who violate child protection standards cannot do so with impunity.

    The report also contains information about many other conflicts not on the Council's agenda, including Colombia, Myanmar, Sudan, northern Uganda and Sri Lanka, where children are recruited and used as combatants, as well as recently ended conflicts -- Angola, Kosovo, Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau -- where demobilization and/or reintegration programmes for child combatants are under way.

    The report indicates that, in recent years, impressive gains have been made to codify international norms and standards protecting children during conflict, including three Council resolutions (1261, 1314 and 1379). Particularly important are two landmark international instruments that have entered into force -- the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (12 February 2002), and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1 July 2002). The Optional Protocol sets the age limit for compulsory recruitment and direct participation in hostilities at 18, and requires States parties to raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment to at least 16. The Rome Statute classifies conscription, enlistment or use in hostilities of children below the age of 15 as a war crime in both international and internal armed conflicts.

    While their entry into force strengthens the international framework for the protection of children in armed conflict, the challenge today is in ensuring their implementation on the ground, states the report. More also needs to be done to promote and disseminate the standards and norms and to raise awareness about them on the ground. Strengthened monitoring and reporting mechanisms to identify and take measures against the violators are needed. All those components must encompass an "era of application".

    The report also states that the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, Olara A. Otunnu, continued to conduct field visits, which provide an opportunity to assess and draw attention to the situation of children affected by conflict and allow him to make targeted recommendations. In the past year, he undertook visits to Afghanistan, Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guatemala, the northern Caucasus in the Russian Federation, and Northern Ireland.

    Statements

    Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that he was pleased to note the progressive development of a body of international norms and standards for the protection of children affected by armed conflict, in particular, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court.

    Despite the progress made in creating and strengthening the normative framework, he continued, the tragic fact was that children continued to be victimized in the most cynical and cruel manner in conflicts around the world. In addition to being forcibly conscripted by government and rebel armies, children in conflict zones were at risk from landmines and unexploded ordnance; from abduction; from displacement and deprivation of education and basic health care; from use as forced labour in the extraction of natural resources; and from sexual exploitation and abuse. The time had come to ensure that the hard-won gains in crafting a protection regime for children were applied and put into practice on the ground.

    By naming the parties that continued to recruit or use child soldiers, the international community had demonstrated its willingness to match words with deeds, he said. Those who violated standards for the protection of children could no longer do so with impunity. The list represented an important step forward in efforts to induce compliance by parties to conflict with international child protection obligations. It was also the beginning of a new era of monitoring and reporting on how parties treated children during conflict.

    It was essential, he said, that the publication of the list was followed by systematic monitoring and reporting on compliance by listed parties, as well as the consideration of targeted measures against those who continued to flout their international obligations. "By exposing those who violate standards for the protection of children to the light of public scrutiny, we are serving notice that the international community is finally willing to back expressions of concern with action", he stated.

    JEAN MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France), Council President, said that the Secretary-General's report was important and should be followed up. It was a scandal that children were used in armed conflict, and it was necessary to take action. The report called for the Council to take stock of progress made. In that regard, consultations were ongoing in order to enable the Council to adopt a resolution on follow-up measures.

    OLARA A. OTUNNU, Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said since the Council had formally affirmed that the protection and well-being of children exposed to conflict constituted a fundamental peace and security concern, the Council's engagement had yielded significant gains for children, including adoption of three resolutions on the issue, an annual review, incorporation of child protection into peacekeeping mandates, and creation of the role and deployment of child protection advisers in peacekeeping operations. Key international instruments that had entered into force included: the Optional Protocol to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 182, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

    He said the most pressing challenge now was how to translate the principles, standards and measures that had been put in place into facts on the ground. It was imperative to embark on an "era of application", and the Council was well placed to lead the way by example and action. First, he said, there was a need to ensure systematic monitoring and reporting on the conduct of parties to conflict. Information received through monitoring must then serve as a trigger for action, for the application of concerted pressure and targeted measures against violators. Other measures would include the full integration of child issues in the mandates, training and activities of peace operations, the deployment of child protection advisers as a general practice in all peace operations, strengthening the capacity of local actors for advocacy, protection and monitoring, and ensuring that individuals responsible for war crimes against children will be among the first to be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court.

    The report's list of parties to conflict using children had broken new ground, he continued. It put on notice parties to conflict that exploited and brutalized children that the international community was watching and would hold them accountable. The list provided an important opportunity for the Council to respond by, among other things, calling on parties to immediately end recruiting and using child soldiers; calling for a progress assessment; and considering taking targeted measures against the mentioned parties, including travel restrictions on leaders and their exclusion from any governance structures and amnesty provisions. He said child soldiering was only one aspect of the impact of war on children. Other dimensions were many, but all of the child victims of war deserved the attention and protection of the international community.

    Drawing attention to two particular situations, he said the developments unfolding in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel had a grave impact on children, including frequent school closures in the West Bank and Gaza and a drop in immmunization levels among Palestinian children. He called on the Israeli authorities to abide fully by their international human rights and humanitarian legal obligations concerning the protection, rights and well-being of Palestinian children. There had been child victims at both ends of suicide bombings, he said, and he called on the Palestinian authorities to do everything within their powers to stop all participation by children in the conflict. He was also deeply concerned about the tragic turns of events in Côte d'Ivoire that was now beginning to reach the children. No efforts should be spared to preserve unity and peace in that country, to ensure the protection of children and to prevent their engagement in the conflict.

    CAROL BELLAMY, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that, in the last year, the Council had acquired a new and important mechanism for generating public scrutiny of those who recruited and used children in armed conflict -- the Secretary-General's list of parties to armed conflict. She was convinced that the naming and shaming of those parties would help to establish a culture of accountability, one that could prevent such abuses from occurring in the future. That was why UNICEF urged Council members to consider that list in all their deliberations, and to update it regularly, expanding its scope to include parties to armed conflict in situations not now on the Council's agenda. The list could be used not only to pressure those who violated children's rights, but also to support and encourage progress.

    For its part, UNICEF would use the list to intensify its advocacy efforts, both globally and locally, she said. It was a key that could open the door to negotiations and dialogue and, ultimately, to the demobilization and reintegration of children. The UNICEF was already working with a number of parties on the list, including Burundi, where UNICEF had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government to demobilize children from the ranks of its armed forces. The demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers was a top priority for UNICEF and its partners because it was key to breaking the cycle of violence against children during conflict. That was equally true after peace agreements, which must of necessity include specific commitments to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate children used in hostilities.

    At any given time, an estimated 300,000 children across the globe were serving as child soldiers, she said. They were living proof of the world's systematic failure to protect children, and why UNICEF's work was focused on building a protective environment for children, one that safeguarded them from exploitation and abuse. A protective environment for demobilized child soldiers much include effective strategies to prevent their re-recruitment and that helped lay the groundwork for their eventual return to their families and communities.

    The recent allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of refugee and internally displaced children and women in West Africa served as a wake-up call for the entire international community, she said. The message was simple -- efforts to protect children and women in such circumstances had been inadequate. She called on the Council to follow up on its recent presidential statement on the protection of civilians, in which it encouraged States, particularly troop- contributing countries, to adopt the six core principles developed by the Inter- Agency Task Force to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation. Over the years, responsible adults the world over have made good-faith promises to children to ease suffering and end exploitation. Yet, time and again, in such places as Rwanda and Afghanistan, cruelty and indifference have prevailed. "We must recognize that when it comes to the suffering of children in conflict, all of us are accountable."

    GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said all felt outrage at the devastating effect of armed conflict on children and at the cynicism and cruelty of adults who steal the childhood of boys and girls by making them fight in their wars. The Council was one of the few bodies that did not have to confine itself to "helpless outrage". As the Rome Statute had come into force and listed conscription, enlistment or use in hostilities of children under the age of 15 as a war crime, he urged all States to ratify the International Criminal Court Statute. He fully supported vigorous monitoring efforts by the United Nations to ensure that States fulfilled their international obligations. However, monitoring would only succeed if those who refused to cooperate faced consequences. The Council should add "bite" to monitoring.

    He said the inclusion of child protection units in peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola had helped to put the problem into sharp relief. It was crucial that the Council took the rights of the child into account in all its country-specific actions. Urgent action was needed in other fields as well, such as in the fight against anti-personnel mines. He also shared the Secretary-General's dismay at the disappointing progress made in curtailing small arms and light weapons, which directly contributed to the recruitment of child soldiers, and urged clear progress on the implementation of the Programme of Action adopted during this year's Conference on small arms. Other matters calling for urgent action included the aspects of gender, humanitarian access and sexual exploitation.

    ISMAEL A. GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that the long list of governments and insurgents that actively recruit and use children in conflicts indicated that the Council must redouble its efforts in the area of prevention and conflict resolution. Conflict prevention and resolution were the best ways to protect children. While crisis management could alleviate the adverse effects of conflicts on children, crisis prevention and resolution provided the opportunity to permanently address child protection and the enactment of a culture of respect for the rights of children by integrating those issues in political processes for conflict resolution, as well as demobilization and reintegration programmes.

    Angola, he stated, was one of the countries mentioned in the Secretary-General's report. After more than 27 years of war, his country had experienced the dramatic effects of war on children. A generation of Angolans were born and raised under the conditions of war. More than 60,000 children were orphans, over 100,000 were separated from their families, and many of them had witnessed the death of family members. Aware of its responsibilities, Angola was implementing a broad programme to help those children affected by war, which incorporated access to basic services, such as education and health care. While those efforts had been initiated during the war, great progress was expected under the period of peace and reconciliation.

    FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) expressed the hope that the meeting would lead to an effective plan to protect children in armed conflict and the protection of children under foreign occupation. He fully supported the Secretary-General's assertion of the need for integrating the protection of children into all aspects relating to international peace and security. The plight of young girls affected by armed conflict deserved more follow-up by the Council, he said.

    He said the Israeli occupation authorities had killed hundreds of Palestinian children. The Council had attached great importance to the recruitment of children in armed conflict, and his region had witnessed the effects of armed conflict on children. The situation of children under occupation must also be dealt with, and all issues mentioned in resolution 1379 (2001) must be taken up on an equal footing. Issues relating to the recruitment of children must be taken up based on the request of the parties concerned. However, the Council should check the veracity of information presented to it. Apart from fulfilling obligations to other international instruments, States must also be urged to fulfil their obligations in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention. It was of the utmost importance to give more attention to the root causes of conflict, as well as the motivation for the conscription of children, so that the issue could be dealt with correctly.

    ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER (Mexico) said that there was no doubt that advances had been made to regulate the problem of child soldiers, including the entry into force of the Optional Protocol on the recruitment of children and the Rome Statute. They constituted important developments, which reflected the will of States to strengthen the legal framework for the protection of children. However, the enactment of norms was insufficient, if they were not accompanied by action to ensure their application.

    The Secretary-General's report was particularly clear and stark, he said. The United Nations must take immediate and concrete action to protect children in armed conflict and to ensure that perpetrators would be sought and brought to justice. It was particularly important that the International Criminal Court would soon begin its work. The work of the Court in the area of children and armed conflict must serve as an encouragement for national legal systems to adopt more vigorous measures to fight that scourge.

    The sufferings inflicted on minors must not continue to be tolerated, he stressed. He was prepared to cooperate with the United Nations to implement the recommendations contained in the report. The preparation of the list of parties constituted important progress. It was hoped that the States on whose territory crimes were committed would directly deal with and remedy them. The follow-up must be conducted in all countries where the recruitment of children existed, whether or not those countries were on the Council's agenda. Yesterday, he had chaired a meeting of Council members with representatives of non-governmental organizations, under the Arria formula, during which, among other things, it was proposed that an informal working group of the Council be established to assess compliance with international norms by the parties to conflict.

    SERGEY LAVROV (Russian Federation) said the suffering of children from hunger, disease and violence remained a bitter reality. Protecting the rights of children was one of the most important tasks of the international community, and the best way of doing that was to prevent conflict. The role of the United Nations and the Council was hard to overestimate, he said, but the practical implementation of humanitarian goals should be the prerogative of the specialized agencies, functioning with the overall support of the Council. The problems of children in armed conflict should be seen in a broader context, including issues of trafficking, sexual exploitation and trafficking in their organs, among other things.

    Terrorism was becoming ruthless evermore and also victimized children, he continued. One of the barriers against that scourge should be the International Criminal Court, which could merge harmoniously within the existing system of the United Nations and the role of the Council, ensuring no evasion of punishment for crimes against children. The Optional Protocol should also facilitate the protection of children from the horrors of war. He strongly condemned the recruitment of child soldiers. The responsible people should be brought to justice. He was outraged by the fact that sexual violence was practised not only by armed groups, but also by humanitarian workers and peacekeepers. Comprehensive training for United Nations personnel was necessary, as well as monitoring and preventing impunity.

    JUAN GABRIEL VALDES (Chile) said he was deeply troubled at the continued denial of access for both State and non-State humanitarian organizations to zones of conflict where children's rights were trampled. It was regrettable that such organizations had to develop special negotiating skills in order to gain access to those zones. It was alarming that parties to armed conflict continued to recruit and use children in violation of their international obligations.

    In that regard, Chile supported the Secretary-General's appeal for measures to create monitoring mechanisms aimed at preventing such situations from continuing, he said. Chile also attached particular importance to the appointment of special advisers for the protection of children, who would be an integral part of peacekeeping operations. He hoped that the practice would continue and further strengthened. He welcomed the elaboration of guidelines on the incorporation of measures for the protection of children into peacemaking and peace-building activities, as well as the initial version of training materials for peacekeeping personnel.

    He said that education on the subject was one of the fundamental pillars for achieving lasting protection. That conviction was shared by members of the Human Security Network, to which Chile was a member, and was reflected in past and current activities promoted by the Network in the field of children in armed conflict and human rights. In addition to the preventive measures that should be adopted, he also urged that efforts be made to ensure that, in the event of armed conflict, education continued to be provided during the conflict. That would facilitate the subsequent reintegration of those children into society, he said.

    STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) said that the Secretary-General had provided an important report. The role of the Council on the issue was central. The use of children in armed conflict was a violation of the most elementary right of children to live in peace and security. The report had adopted an innovative approach by naming publicly those who transgressed humanitarian norms in its list of parties. He hoped that that would enable those responsible to be held accountable. They should not enjoy any impunity or amnesty. He also welcomed the entry into force of the Optional Protocol and the Rome Statute. Both instruments were ratified by Bulgaria and formed a basis for strengthening the framework to punish those who recruited and used child soldiers.

    Despite the progress made, he said, the number of children exposed to conflict and used as soldiers remained unacceptable. While the normative framework had been spelled out, the challenge now was to implement it and ensure compliance. He welcomed the important role played by non-governmental organizations in combating the use of child soldiers. It was important that the Council draw on the wisdom of their recommendations. He also thanked the French delegation for preparing the draft resolution on follow-up measures, which was currently under discussion.

    JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said he was pleased that an inter-agency working group would do further work on developing guidelines on the integration of child protection issues in the context of United Nations peace efforts. There was no alternative to mainstreaming protection concerns into the body of peace and security objectives.

    Turning to the issue of small arms and light weapons, which fuelled and prolonged conflicts, he said that his Government was organizing a meeting in London, starting today, to discuss with Group of 8 partners how to improve common controls on small arms and light weapons transfers. As part of the Group of 8 Africa Action Plan on the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the Group's members would be exploring how they could improve assistance to African countries in an effort to support regional transborder cooperation and enforcement regimes to combat the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

    It had been pointed out, he said, that children were being conscripted and used as forced labour in natural resource extraction by a number of armed groups. In that connection, the United Kingdom would host, in London next month, an international workshop which would take forward an initiative to promote greater transparency of payments and revenues in extractive sectors. In too many countries, the abuse of those resources and the opacity of wealth distribution arising from their exploitation constituted a massive blow to prospects for peaceful development and growth.

    In addition, Burma was not included on the Secretary-General's list of parties, but consistent reports indicated wide, systematic and forced recruitment and training of children for use in combat.

    RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States) said the use of children as combatants was one of the worst aspects of contemporary warfare. Allowing children's exploitation in armed conflict diminished the future of all by distorting the next generation's future and harming the child's opportunity for a healthy and productive life. On 23 December 2002, the United States had formally ratified the two Optional Protocols. His country also supported the age of 18 as minimum age for compulsory conscription and ensuring that people below the age of 18 years did not take part in action in armed conflict. He further supported recommendations that child protection should be a feature in peacekeeping mandates and that child protection advisers, where appropriate, should be part of United Nations peacekeeping operations. It was important that humanitarian access be allowed, consistent with humanitarian law. Adverse impact on children because of illegal exploitation of resources must be mitigated.

    He said for the first time the Secretary-General's report had explicitly named governments and armed groups that used child soldiers. Addressing the situation in Afghanistan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Somalia, he said the international community must be vigilant and must make extra efforts to protect children. Explicitly naming governments and armed groups could be a powerful tool in efforts to protect children in armed conflict. Perpetrators wanted to remain in the shadows. The moral and legal obligations compelled the international community to force them into the light of day. Impunity was unacceptable. However, some of the worst violators were not included in the list, such as those in Myanmar, Uganda and Colombia. He called on the Secretary-General to submit a list to the Council in his next report of the worst abusers, not limited to countries currently on the Council's agenda. In that regard, he also supported monitoring of those already named.

    MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said progress in setting norms and undertaking commitments had not yet translated into significant amelioration of the tragedies afflicting children in armed conflict, as about 300,000 children were still being used to fight in 33 contemporary conflicts. The Council must respond to the challenge. It must, first and foremost, seek to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. The Council could do more in preventing the outbreak of conflicts and had yet to fully explore the vast potential for conflict prevention and resolution offered by Chapter VI of the Charter. In that context, he emphasized the central responsibility of the Council to secure respect for and implementation of its own resolutions.

    He said the Council must address the growing deficit in respect for international humanitarian law and human rights. The civilians suffering in occupied Palestine and Jammu and Kashmir was ongoing. The emergence of the International Criminal Court and the increasing willingness of the international community to penalize gross violations of international humanitarian law and human rights were welcome signals that atrocities in armed conflict would not continue to enjoy impunity. He endorsed strengthened monitoring and reporting mechanisms to identify violations of international norms and standards. He also endorsed the idea that the "era of application" should encompass dissemination, advocacy, monitoring and reporting. He, therefore, proposed to extend the authority of existing United Nations peacekeeping or observer missions to perform the task of humanitarian monitoring and reporting.

    CHUNGONG AYAFOR (Cameroon) said that most conflicts today, particularly in Africa, were within States, and their root was intolerance based on racial, ethnic and linguistic differences. Furthermore, they were generally fuelled by illicit economic activities, which led to the circulation of large numbers of small arms and light weapons, and involved several non-State actors. All of that exposed children to the worst atrocities, such as forced labour, prostitution and exploitation. When war displaced families, children often spent their entire childhood in camps. A major challenge today was the effective implementation of the legal instruments which existed for the protection of children.

    He particularly welcomed the list of parties that recruited or used child soldiers. It was a stark warning to the parties and indicated that perpetrators of such violations would no longer be protected. He also welcomed the increased access provided to humanitarian workers to areas of conflict. His country had adopted measures to protect civilians, and particularly children in situations of armed conflict. It had ratified almost all of the conventions relating to the protection of children. Cameroon was a signatory to the Rome Statute and was preparing to ratify it. His Government had also taken in many refugee children and had provided them with protection. Also, it had taken several steps to promote a culture of peace and dialogue. He called on the international community to continue efforts to implement norms relating to the protection of children in armed conflict.

    INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain) said the report detailed the atrocities that continued to be committed against children in armed conflicts, including forced recruitment, mines, AIDS, and lack of access to schools. Thanks to non-governmental organizations, there was now general awareness among the public. Norms existed that would be applied. Now, the era of application must begin. He, therefore, supported Mr. Otunno's proposals, and agreed with speakers who had called for putting more "bite" into monitoring efforts.

    He said the Council had affirmed that protection of children exposed to armed conflict affected international peace and security. Many countries had ratified the Optional Protocol and the Rome Statute. That was not enough, however. The Council must also turn its attention to such critical issues as the abuse of children by humanitarian personnel and peacekeepers. One could not be passive; responsibility must be determined and impunity not permitted. All had a share of the responsibility, he said.

    MAMADY TRAORE (Guinea) said that the adoption of resolutions by the General Assembly and the Council, including "A World Fit for Children", attested to the determination of the international community to make the question of children more central to its deliberations. He welcomed the inclusion of child protection advisers in peacekeeping operations. There was no doubt that the entry into force of both the Optional Protocol and the Rome Statute strengthened the international legal framework, and would provide greater protection to children in armed conflict and punish perpetrators. He supported efforts to integrate child protection in efforts for peacekeeping and peace-building.

    He was pleased to note the list of parties to conflicts that recruited or used children in violation of international provisions contained in the Secretary-General's report. However, he stressed that even if the Council was not seized of certain situations, they should be given appropriate attention and an updating of the list was essential. Only if the international community had that information could it act on it, as recommended by the Secretary-General's report. He noted that 60 per cent of the items discussed by the Council were conflicts in Africa, in which children were the primary victims. He hoped that today's meeting would help the Council plan future action, based on past experiences.

    WANG YINGFAN (China) said the causes of armed conflict were myriad, but always affected children as the most vulnerable group. The parties to conflicts and the international community as a whole had to work together to find an integrated and comprehensive solution. He called on all parties to: abide by provisions in the Optional Protocol concerning age limits on conscription; put an end to enlisting child soldiers; and carry out demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of child soldiers.

    He said the international community must also step up its efforts to eliminate poverty and make education universal. The Council should continue to be concerned about the protection of children from the perspective of safeguarding international peace and security. Preventing armed conflict was its major responsibility, and carrying out that responsibility was the best way it could protect children. Drawing attention to the situation in the Middle East, he noted that children and women were the main victims of the conflict there. The Council must take effective measures to protect children in the region, especially in the Palestinian territory, he said.

    JEAN MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France), speaking in his national capacity, said that the Secretary-General's report noted several encouraging gains since the adoption of resolution 1379 (2001). At the normative level, there was the entry into force of the Optional Protocol and the Rome Statute. The latter contained specific provisions on the recruitment or use of child soldiers, describing it as a war crime. At the operational level, there had been the inclusion of the protection of children in peacekeeping or peace-building operations.

    It would be a good idea, he felt, for a follow-up resolution to be prepared in the Council to give clear-cut guidelines for the next stage. The resolution must firmly demonstrate the Council's resolve to act. He suggested three actions in that regard. The first was to ensure that, when child soldiers were demobilized and reintegrated, they remain so and were effectively monitored. In that way, the "re-conscription" seen in some conflict zones could be avoided. Second, it was crucial to end sexual exploitation of children in refugee camps.

    Third, he continued, it was necessary to go further in the analysis, follow- up and monitoring of the most troubling situations, whether or not they were included in the list annexed to the Secretary-General's report. He hoped that it would be possible to reach agreement quickly on the text of the follow-up resolution, with a view to its adoption by the end of next week.

    The meeting was suspended at 1:13 p.m. and resumed at 3:15 p.m.

    ADAMANTIOS TH. VASSILAKIS (Greece), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Iceland, called on all parties to armed conflicts to respect international law relating to the rights and protection of children. He also called on Member States to put an end to impunity for war crimes and other serious crimes perpetrated against children. He further urged States that had not yet done so to ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

    He said an enormous gap existed between the good intentions of international treaties and the real life conditions of poverty, neglect and involvement in armed conflict. The Union would seek to reinforce international action in all appropriate forums against recruiting and using children in armed conflict and look at improved United Nations monitoring and rehabilitation activities. The Union would, furthermore, insist on special protection of girls in armed conflict and more effective measures to fight impunity. It was essential that organizations such as UNICEF, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) received adequate support of Member States, although it remained Member States' responsibility to implement all obligations flowing from international treaties and instruments.

    The needs of children in conflict situations were many, he said. At the same time, the unimaginable resources that children and young people possessed should be recognized. Apart from being victims, they also had the potential of contributing to reconciliation and conflict resolution. The Union would welcome a comprehensive assessment of the scope and effectiveness of the United Nations system response, including recommendations for strengthening, mainstreaming and sustaining activities in relation to protecting children in armed conflict.

    MOHAMMED SALEH MOHAMMED SALEH (Bahrain) said that for a few years now, the Council had been devoting part of its work to the issue of the protection of civilians, including children, in armed conflict. Children were part of civil society and had to be protected by international law. Also, children were the sector of society most exposed and in greatest need of protection. Since the beginning of the discussion of the item in the Council in 1998, the Council had adopted several resolutions and presidential statements. Despite progress made, it was still necessary to redouble efforts to strengthen implementation of the relevant resolutions.

    During the consideration of humanitarian issues, it was important to be objective and credible and avoid having two yardsticks, he stated. It was extremely important for the Council to deal with the issue of Palestinian children affected by Israeli occupation. In the future, it would be useful to invite bodies, such as the ILO, to participate, so that their experiences could be taken into account. Also, it was necessary to increase cooperation and coordination among the Council, the Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to increase effectiveness in addressing such an important issue. He hoped that the deliberations of the Council on the issue would become something "we could sink our teeth into".

    JENÖ C.A. STAEHELIN (Switzerland) welcomed the Security Council's annual debate on children and armed conflict, saying it represented one of his country's priorities in the area of human security. He reiterated Switzerland's support for the international community's efforts to strengthen the protection of the civilian population in times of war, noting that children were particularly vulnerable, as conflicts impacted on their rights and well-being in a way that was felt at many levels and in various ways.

    He said far too many children also found themselves as refugees or displaced within their own countries, orphaned or unaccompanied. In the face of such situations, he drew attention to the importance of the 1949 Geneva Convention and two Additional Protocols of 1977 on the protection of and assistance to children. Switzerland, which ratified the Optional Protocol last June, was committed to working towards its universal ratification with minimum delay, he said, and urged all States that had not yet done so to follow in its example.

    He invited the Security Council to consider several recommendations as a way of addressing the issue of children and armed conflict. Among his recommendations were: the regular update of the list of parties to armed conflicts who continued to recruit children in violation of the international provisions meant to protect them; and that the list include all other countries and conflict situations as may be deemed necessary by the Security Council. Also the list should include all countries and situations of armed conflict on the Security Council's agenda, affected by the problem of recruitment and use of child soldiers.

    GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said now that the governments and armed groups using children in armed conflict have been publicly named, the Security Council must make them accountable. He called on the Council to undertake field missions in the specific conflict situations mentioned in the report and to, in particular, closely scrutinize the action of the parties identified in the list. Such field missions should include consultations with local non-governmental organizations, women's organizations, youth groups and children. The Council should ask for a six-month interim report, evaluate progress made on those situations, and commit itself to follow up in one year on the parties named. Ultimately, if there was no real progress, the Council must consider what actions it must take to give effect to its decisions, including targeted sanctions. While at present only countries on the Council's agenda were mentioned in the report, all conflict situations should be included in future reports.

    Today's debate should be made an annual event and recommendations from relevant resolutions should be assessed, he said. In addition, Council accountability for specific actions to enhance the protection and assistance for children affected by conflict and their communities could be reinforced. He encouraged United Nations agencies to continue their efforts to improve training on children's rights for United Nations staff and to evaluate lessons learned from incorporating child protection into peacekeeping operations. The six core principles should be incorporated into the mandates of all peacekeeping operations, including the prohibition of sexual activity with children.

    ENRIQUE A. MANALO (Philippines) said one fourth of the 300,000 child soldiers in the world were located in the East Asia and Pacific region. Most of those children were forcibly recruited. Poverty had also been a factor leading to child recruitment. Those not recruited had also been victims of displacement due to conflict. One of the most important milestones in protecting children from involvement in hostilities was the coming into force of the Optional Protocol, ratified by his country. Children were also protected by the legal framework of the Philippines. Law provided that children should not be recruited for fighting and that they should be given priority during evacuation as a result of armed conflict.

    He said the Council must take every opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to protect and prevent the involvement of children in armed conflict by mainstreaming that concern in its relevant decisions. Post-conflict reconstruction programmes must be tailored to assist children affected by armed conflict. Rehabilitation services were needed for girls and young women who had been targets of sexual abuse, abduction and forced recruitment. Any disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme must include former child soldiers and must distinguish between the post-conflict needs of girl soldiers and their male counterparts. Healing and reintegration of children affected by armed conflict should be a priority of any reconstruction effort and must be backed by sufficient resources.

    JACQUES L. BOISSON (Monaco) said that the Secretary-General's report had alerted Member States to the difficulties encountered by Mr. Otunnu in carrying out his mission, as well as the undeniable progress achieved, which had been encouraging. Responsible under the Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security, the Council should be decisive in putting an end to such problems as child soldiers. Using children as a tool of war was intolerable, and the international community and the Council must commit to a new stage of action to address it.

    Monaco had put the protection of children at the forefront of its concerns, he said. The public authorities and non-governmental organizations were dealing with child protection, particularly when it was compromised by such problems as poverty and violence. There were today, with the entry into force of the Optional Protocol and the Rome Statute, specific instruments to fight the ultimate form of barbarism. It was necessary to determine the juridical ways and means to allow for the prosecution of the most serious crimes committed against children. He noted with satisfaction the list of parties in the report and hoped the resolution to be adopted next week would contain proposals for follow-up to previous resolutions.

    AUGUSTIN MUVUNYI (Rwanda) said his country had had a wide experience with children and armed conflict. During the 1994 genocide, children under 10 years old had been used to hunt and kill fellow children and adults. After the tragedy, children suspected of genocide had been arrested, imprisoned and re-educated. They would be released from prison this coming Friday. Sufficient funds must be spent on the education of children, instead of diverting financial resources to the destruction of human beings. Recruitment of children in armed conflict must be halted at any cost. They must grow in the environment of peace. It was dangerous to indoctrinate children with the ideologies of hatred and genocide.

    He condemned the people who raped children, as well as adults. Rape had been one of the weapons used in armed conflicts, and had been used during the 1994 genocide. The death penalty must be applied in cases of infanticide, if the crisis imposed on children was to be halted. Young children were the potential resources who should raise the world out of poverty and injustice. Children must, therefore, be free from disease, hunger, slavery, corruption and conflicts. Those who were now in armed conflicts must be demobilized without delay. He, therefore, requested the Council to declare a universal ceasefire in favour of children, so they might be withdrawn from armed conflicts. Failure to save the lives of children was condemning the whole world to misery and long-term social injustice, he said.

    VALERIY KUCHINSKY (Ukraine) said the publication of the list of parties to conflicts which continued to recruit and use children in armed conflict was an important step forward in efforts to put an end to the impunity of those who disregarded the rights of war-affected children. It might, however, not be enough to condemn or prohibit the recruitment of children. To prevent children from participating in fighting, there was a need to understand the causes that forced children to become soldiers. Peacekeeping missions had a crucial role to play in providing protection to children. A child protection adviser should, therefore, be responsible for coordinating activities to ensure the protection and welfare of children.

    He said effective monitoring of adherence to the provisions of international law and to commitments pledged by parties to a conflict were essential in ensuring the protection of children and their rights. In that regard, it was important to continue to include observations concerning the protection of children in the reports to the Council. When designing peacekeeping operations, the Council should make every effort to protect both children and their supportive environment: schools; hospitals; health centres; and religious institutions. He strongly supported the concept of children and their nurturing institutions being considered as "zones of peace". There was also an urgent need to support programmes for the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers. More attention should also be given to the greater involvement of women, in peacekeeping missions, which should enhance their capacity to protect girl children and deal with gender-sensitive aspects.

    AMR ABOUL ATTA (Egypt) said that during the past two years, the Council had given particular importance to the issue of children and armed conflict. In addition, in his report, the Secretary-General had noted that the Special Representative's visits had heightened the awareness of the international community to the problems of children in armed conflict. Palestinian children were not just suffering from occupation, but also deprived of their basic rights to live in security. They were deprived of a future, as they were not given the tools to improve their future.

    The suffering of Palestinian children, he continued, had gone beyond all limits, and there was no hope for the future. He urged all countries to help Palestinian children and urged Mr. Otunnu to visit the region to become aware of the situation on the ground. He supported all activities in the area of child protection, internationally and nationally. The list of parties was a noteworthy development and should be followed up on. He advocated making sure that children lived in security and stability.

    GERHARD PFANZELTER (Austria) spoke in his capacity as Chair of the Human Security Network, an interregional group of countries also comprising Canada, Chile, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Thailand, and South Africa as an observer. He said that at its next ministerial meeting, in May in Graz, the Network was expected to adopt a "common support strategy" for children affected by armed conflict, identifying a set of operative principles, as well as a training curriculum for child rights monitors and rehabilitation experts.

    As one of the results, he continued, it was envisaged that the Network would contribute to establishing a pool of child experts for eventual use in conflict areas. Welcoming the list of parties, he believed it should be extended to encompass other situations where children were recruited or used as soldiers or where their protection needs were severely threatened in other ways.

    He presented a number of recommendations that would significantly increase the ability of the Council to address the issue of children and armed conflict. Among them was to request the Secretary-General to regularly update the list of parties and consider extending it by including conflict situations not on the Council's agenda, as well as other violations of child protection obligations, such as abductions or the use of landmines. Another recommendation was to enter into dialogue with governments on the list, ask them to report on the respective situations, and urge them to put an immediate end to the recruitment or use of child soldiers, to reintegrate them into society and to stop all other violations.

    MURARI RAJ SHARMA (Nepal) said the use of child soldiers was one of the most horrendous crimes. Despite international instruments, children continued to face misery and death in armed conflicts. The international community had been incoherent in its response to conflicts, and coherent action was often prevented by political considerations. It was imperative to ensure that perpetrators of violence against children did not go unpunished. Special measures were essential to protect girl children, including punishment. Clearing landmines was urgent and should receive adequate funding. Effective control of small arms was also necessary. Juvenile justice should constitute an important part of national and international courts, to deal with child soldiers. While a tailor-made response was essential to the solution of conflict, the root causes of conflict, such as eradicating poverty and injustice, must also be addressed.

    In his country, children were being subjected to forced recruitment by the Maoists, he said. They had turned children into sacrificial lambs. Yesterday, the Maoists reportedly abducted 80 children from schools. Those children were often used as human shields. Young girls had become the principal target of abduction by the Maoists. All that had set back the clock of development in Nepal, one of the least developed countries in the world. His Government had done its best to find a peaceful solution to the political problems and to promote development. The Maoists had been called to the negotiating table, but they had yet to emerge as a credible partner for peace. Nepal was committed to protecting children in armed conflict and had no children in its security forces. It had established programmes to rehabilitate children who had escaped the Maoist trap, but it would need international support in that endeavour.

    ARYE MEKEL (Israel) said that in his region, children had been recruited and used by terrorist organizations as human shields, for the placing of explosives, as gunmen and even as suicide bombers. It was regrettable that the Secretary-General's report had not mentioned such a reprehensible tactic. Moreover, children had been educated to revere and emulate fighters and terrorists. The subtler, but no less repugnant indoctrination of children to hatred and violence, through official media, educational and religious institutions, must also be condemned.

    He recalled that, in its most recent session, the Assembly had adopted a resolution pertaining specifically to the situation facing Palestinian children -- the only resolution adopted with respect to one specific group of children. While Palestinian children were undoubtedly deserving of protection, one might ask whether the 106 Israeli children killed and the many Israeli children wounded by terrorism since September 2000, or the children in Africa, or elsewhere were any less deserving.

    It was a shame, he added, that those who supported that one-sided resolution were unable to rise above their narrow political agenda and call for the protection of both Israeli and Palestinian children, alike. When human rights were allowed to be used as a political weapon, it cast doubt over the very commitment to human rights and damaged the credibility of the United Nations and its ability to work effectively on the issues of common concern.

    ABDUL MEIJID HUSSEIN (Ethiopia) said his country strongly supported the Secretary-General's recommendations to integrate child protection in peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building operations of the United Nations. There were many involved in the work to make the life of children more agreeable, but he commended in particular the Office of the Special Representative and UNICEF for their work.

    He said there were two areas to be addressed. All necessary actions had to be taken to stop those who violated the rights of children. There was also a need to look at the root causes of armed conflict all over the world. If the Council and the international community spent a fraction of its resources on the issue of stopping those who were abducting and recruiting children, that problem could be dealt with in a short time-span.

    BRUNO STAGNO (Costa Rica) said that, in the last four years, the Council had been holding open debates on the issue of children and armed conflict regularly. Unfortunately, they had led to little practical impact. Millions of children had fallen victim to war and hundreds of thousands had been orphaned or left homeless. However, some progress had been made at the legal level. He welcomed the entry into force of the Optional Protocol, but, unfortunately, it did not prohibit the voluntary recruitment of children. He also welcomed the Rome Statute.

    He was pleased to see the list of parties in the Secretary-General's report that recruited or used children in armed conflict in violation of international obligations. It was high time for the international community to shoulder its responsibilities vis-à-vis those who violated the rights of children. The Council must require that they stop recruiting children and demobilize those already recruited. It must also impose targeted sanctions, where necessary.

    He questioned the decision to include only those situations currently on the Council's agenda. The list of parties should be consistently updated and broadened to include situations that were not on the Council's agenda. In addition, the Council should ensure that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes include programmes to rehabilitate child soldiers. It was also essential to take steps to regulate the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, which were easily used by children. Furthermore, before adopting any sanctions regime, the Council must carry out a study of its impact on the most vulnerable in society, especially children. Ultimately, the only way to protect children from war was to do away with war altogether.

    MOCHAMAD S. HIDAYAT (Indonesia) said his country continued to be concerned at the use of children in armed conflict and was disturbed at the abuses that children suffered in camps and the general suffering and deprivation they endured on account of conflict. In that connection, it was important to point out the persisting problem of humanitarian access in conflict situations, such as in the occupied Palestinian territories. Children involved in battle, whether they were hurt or not, were victims. The continued recruitment of underage children for the purposes of conflict should not continue with impunity.

    With reference to a post-conflict situation, he drew attention to what UNICEF had been able to achieve in Sierra Leone, where former child soldiers obtained counseling, vocational training and education towards reintegration into their communities. He also stressed the importance of enhancing monitoring mechanisms spelt out in resolution 1379 (2001). While conflicts should be avoided altogether, he said, children should not be dragged into them if they did arise. Rather than celebrate minor moral victories, it was the larger picture that should attract the attention and evaluation of the international community.

    SYLVESTER E. ROWE (Sierra Leone) said his country had no more child soldiers. As a country that had just emerged from a brutal armed conflict in which children were both perpetrators and victims, his people knew from experience that urgent action must be taken to put an end to such practice through the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants. His country had also learned from experience that the problem of former child soldiers could be addressed through the establishment of an oversight institution for the welfare of children in a post-conflict situation.

    Noting that his country faced losing thousands of former child combatants to the conflict in Liberia, he endorsed the recommendation that the Council and Member States should be urged to provide sustained and adequate resources to the relevant organizations engaged in implementing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes for children. He strongly believed that the establishment of norms proscribing the involvement of children in armed conflict, and strict compliance with those norms, were important steps in the collective effort to rid the world of that unconscionable practice. It must, however, be recognized that rebels and other non-State insurgent groups were not parties to international instruments on the use of children in armed conflict. Those forces accounted for most of the recorded abuses. Ways and means must be found for dealing effectively with the role of non-State actors in the recruitment of child soldiers.

    Drawing attention to the problem of the illegal trade and transfer of small arms and light weapons, he appealed to all States, in particular manufacturers and their agents, to ensure, including through appropriate legislation, that those weapons did not get into the hands of rebel movements and other non-State actors. Arms embargoes and travel restrictions against rebel movements were important, but certainly not enough. Regarding the question of impunity, he said the Special Court for Sierra Leone should be seen as an example of the type of mechanisms available to the international community for addressing that problem, especially related to the recruitment of children. The objective of the Special Court was not to prosecute children, but the people who forced thousands of children to commit unspeakable crimes, he said.

    ROMAN KIRN (Slovenia), associating himself with the statement made by Greece on behalf of the European Union and by the statement of Austria on behalf of the Human Security Network, called on all Member States and other parties in conflict to fully implement provisions of the Rome Statute and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and especially to act against impunity for all crimes committed against children. The report and the annexed list were a clear sign that the international community would no longer tolerate abuses of children in conflict situations. The report should be a first step towards an integral list of all parties using children. There was a need to regularly update the list, to extend it by including situations that were not on the Council agenda, and to ensure that the issue of war-affected children was taken into account in all Council decisions on peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building operations.

    He said, in addition to global efforts, regional and interregional action was also needed. The Global Security Network could not only contribute significantly to the global debate, but also improve specific situations through different, concrete activities. Slovenia would contribute to the recovery of South-Eastern Europe, including by establishing the Regional Centre for the Psychosocial Well-being of Children -- called "Together". Another contribution to the safety of children in the region was an initiative conducted by the Slovenia- based International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance. He hoped that the United Nations subregional conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, to be held in Slovenia in March, would contribute to reducing the illicit trade and its negative impact on children in the region.

    U KYAW TINT SWE (Myanmar) noted that the Secretary-General's report departed from its mandate when it made reference under "situation of concern not included in the list" to a number of countries, including Myanmar. He particularly regretted that, in addition to the armed insurgent groups in Myanmar, the report also referred to the national armed forces. That was despite the fact that there had been no credible evidence of the use and recruitment of children by the Myanmar Armed Forces. That highlighted the need for verification of information before it was presented to the Council. The allegation against his country had been the result of interviewing some 20 or so insurgents inside a neighbouring country.

    Additionally, he continued, the situation in Myanmar was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a threat to international peace and security. The Myanmar Armed Forces was an all-volunteer army and those entering the military service did so of their own free will. Under Myanmar's laws, a person could not enlist in the armed forces until he had attained the age of 18. It was the practice of armed insurgent groups in Myanmar to recruit and use child soldiers, which was brought to international attention in 2000 when some members of a splinter group calling themselves "God's Army" took over a hospital in Thailand. He shared the view that the best way of protecting children in armed conflict lay in conflict prevention and resolution.

    ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said during the debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the Council had appealed to different United Nations agencies to cooperate with Member States, in order to establish a coherent approach to protect civilians in armed conflict. The report of the Secretary-General had referred to justice for minors, education on landmines and girls exposed to sexual exploitation, among other things. The problem of child soldiers had captured the attention of institutions, such as the World Bank. The list annexed to the report alerted the international community to the need to counter the trade in small arms and light weapons. He asked the Council to pay attention to establishing the origins of arms used by minors and asked exporting countries for greater control. He regretted that rebel groups in his country continued to use children.

    ISAAC C. LAMBA (Malawi) said the promotion of any action that alleviated children's suffering and deprivation was imperative. Although his country was not engaged in conflict, it was engaged in a more subtle war against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The Secretary-General's report had exposed the children's plight created by an insensitive adult world. He fully endorsed any measures proposed and adopted for the creation of "a world fit for children", and any efforts within international humanitarian and human rights law to induce compliance by perpetrators of crimes against children. He hoped for systematic international compliance by both States parties and insurgent armed groups of the Optional Protocol and the Rome Statute. He endorsed the establishment of child protection advisers in affected countries.

    He said the exploitation of children as forced labour to extract natural resources in various countries emphasized the tragedy faced by displaced children. The horrible experiences of girls and women in armed conflicts presented a nemesis to any norms of civilization. The field visits of the Special Representative needed to be encouraged. He urged that children facing other crises, such as HIV/AIDS, would feature in the Special Representative's itinerary, as well. Malawi would benefit from the Special Representative's proactive visit to assess the efficacy of the interventions and child protection measures currently in place.

    CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said success in establishing standards should not result in complacency, as the rights of millions of children around the world continued to be violated in numerous and brutal ways. The time had come to move resolutely into an "era of application", in which the Council could play a central role. The list of parties to conflicts on the Council's agenda should be expanded to cover parties to conflict in all situations. He welcomed the report's emphasis on systematically integrating child protection objectives in the mandates of peace operations, including through the deployment of child protection advisers. Children must also be given a voice in peace-building efforts.

    He said the situation of the girl child was one aspect requiring special attention. In armed conflict, rape, abduction, sexual enslavement and trafficking were some of the crimes perpetrated in particular against female victims. True stability and security could not be re-established for long after the armed conflict had subsided, because of the specific crimes inflicted upon women and girls. The effect of armed conflict on children, the different forms of child labour, sexual exploitation, and the resulting special vulnerability of children to the HIV/AIDS pandemic stood out as areas where concerted national and international action was a prerequisite for durable solutions. All those issues constituted large-scale crises that could only be addressed through specific and coordinated action from all.

    ILEKA ATOKI (Democratic Republic of the Congo) reminded the Council that problems related to the protection of children were among the priorities of his Government. Despite the war that continued to prevail in his country, it had responded positively to all provisions contained in the Council's resolutions. It was also party to the major instruments that protect the rights of children, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    As of 1997, his Government had realized the urgency to put an end to "KADOGO" -- the practice of using child soldiers in the armed forces. While, today, he welcomed the partnership between his country and the United Nations system and efforts to put end to the scourge of child soldiers, it must be recognized that, at the time, the response of the international community had not matched his country's expectations. He reaffirmed that his country had ended the enlistment of children in the Congolese Armed Forces, unlike the armed groups operating in certain occupied provinces.

    The problem of child soldiers was a "time bomb" for the entire Congolese society, he said. Everyone must act together and speedily. Last Thursday, France had made available to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) one million euros, 200,000 euros of which were immediately available for a programme to reintegrate ex-combatants in his country. The war in his country had brought with it a litany of problems, the primary victims of which were the children. It had also promoted all kinds of violations of human rights, particularly those of women and children. In addition, he denounced the tricks of Rwanda and Uganda, which had been quick to create new rebellions, to prolong the war in his country. If information about looting, mass rape and cannibalism in certain areas were corroborated, his Government would request the Council to take all necessary steps to punish those atrocities.

    MARC NTETURUYE (Burundi) said, in the report, the Government of Burundi and the rebel factions FDD and FNL-Palipehutu were accused of using child soldiers in the conflict. The war, which had been raging in Burundi since 1993, had particularly affected vulnerable populations, among them children. They were the ones who suffered most. There was, however, a glimmer of hope since the signing of the Arusha Agreement and the signing of the ceasefire agreement between government and three armed groups. He hoped that the FNL-Palipehutu would soon join the agreement. Both the peace agreement and the ceasefire agreement called for the cessation of the use of child soldiers and for the end to sexual violence, among other things. Technical arrangements on the matter of child soldiers had to be negotiated under the ceasefire agreement. The solution could be found in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, the most important part of the agreement.

    He said his Government recognized the existence of child soldiers who were recruited on a voluntary basis. His country had signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 and the Optional Protocol in 2001. A project for the demobilization of child soldiers had been established in cooperation with UNICEF. However, with respect to the armed groups, the situation was distressing. Following the ceasefire agreement, the FDD rebels had carried out a forced recruitment campaign of children, as they had been promised money by the international community on demobilization of those child soldiers. Rebels had also excelled in destroying schools and hospitals and kidnapping children for combat. Those actions were true war crimes. He asked the international community, the Council and the United Nations to continue to provide help to Burundi, so that it may finish the road to peace it had embarked upon.

    FUMIKO SAIGA (Japan) said "consolidation of peace" was a new pillar of her country's foreign policy, and included a feature to provide early support to local communities before the achievement of any formal peace agreements. That approach was more proactive than focusing on rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country after signature of peace accords. Japan had made concrete efforts to protect and assist children under armed conflict, such as its contributions to the "back to school" campaign in Afghanistan, school reconstruction in Kosovo, Timor-Leste and Côte d'Ivoire, and assistance to internally displaced children in Somalia.

    Concerning the Secretary-General's report, she said it was not sufficient simply to denounce those who were responsible for recruitment and use of child soldiers. Every possible effort, for example, raising awareness and eradicating the culture of impunity, must be made to bring such practices to an end. In order for United Nations agencies actively involved in children and armed conflict to use limited resources in an effective and efficient manner, inter-agency coordination and periodic review and streamlining of their activities were of great importance. The subjects of children and armed conflict, protection of civilians in armed conflict, and women, peace and security were intricately intertwined and should be addressed in an integrated manner, for instance, through addressing them under a single agenda item, he said.

    MARTIN ANDJABA (Namibia) said that the impact of conflict on children had severe implications, not only for peace and security, but also for socio-economic development. Further efforts should be made to ensure that the standards by which children were treated were implemented on the ground, and permanent monitoring and reporting mechanisms were created to identify and take measures against violations. It was necessary to move with a great sense of urgency, to close the gap between words and actions. "We must implement what we preach, and we must not forget the children that are today suffering under foreign occupation and domination", he said, referring to children in Palestine and Western Sahara. The Council had a Charter responsibility in that regard.

    He noted that the report, in paragraph 55, mentioned Namibia, together with several other countries where the World Bank and other donors had committed themselves to give priority to the unconditional and urgent demobilization of child soldiers, through a Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Programme for the Greater Great Lakes Region. While it was not directly said, the language as it was could be misinterpreted to mean that Namibia also had child soldiers to be demobilized. He made it clear that Namibia did not have or recruit child soldiers. It was against his country's Constitution. He urged the Council to act expeditiously on the information presented to it.

    LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said the adopted Council resolutions on the issue and their compliance were an important means for contributing to efforts towards protection of children in armed conflict. The entry into force of the Optional Protocol and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court were also important. Strengthening of international law in that area was crucial in the protection of children in conflicts of all kinds. He welcomed the fact that protection of children had become a component of peacekeeping and peace-building efforts.

    He said the Secretary-General's report had highlighted the risks children were exposed to as a result of landmines and small arms. It also talked about the situation of displaced children. The international community had to pay particular attention to the situation and guarantee the most basic rights of children. In his report, the Secretary-General also mentioned the problem of child soldiers. Nothing was more contrary of the values of society than that children were dragged into violence and destruction. Finding a solution to that problem must be among the priorities of the Organization. The list annexed to the report was an important development. Now, State and non-State actors could be moved to alter their behaviour.

    NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that during the last 28 months, Palestinian children had been subjected to the destruction of life at the hands of Israel, the occupying Power. The occupying forces had committed war crimes, State terrorism and systematic violations of the rights of the Palestinian children and the Palestinian people, in general. Those forces had killed deliberately almost 650 Palestinian children and wounded thousands of others, hundreds of whom were permanently handicapped. Most of all, Israeli policies had led to the impoverishment of Palestinian children. The Israeli representative, he noted, had today criticized the Assembly's resolution on Palestinian children.

    The work of the Council in the field of children and armed conflicts complemented the work undertaken by the Assembly, he said. He welcomed the Secretary-General's report and its reference to the suffering of the Palestinian children, which, while very brief, was a good start. The same could be said of the intervention of Mr. Otunnu this morning, which, while mentioning the plight of Palestinian children, did not fully reflect the situation clearly. He welcomed Mr. Otunnu to the region to assess the situation.

    In a second intervention, Mr. MEKEL (Israel) said during today's debate, a few speakers, in particular the Permanent Observer for Palestine, had used the issue to single out Israel for criticism. Such criticism directed at one country was not intended to alleviate the situation of Palestinian children, but to advance a political agenda and isolate his country. The situation facing Palestinian people and children was a serious one, and Israel had taken steps to alleviate that situation. The situation, however, was a product of the decision of the Palestinian Authority to continue violence and to participate in a campaign of terrorism. Israel had never, and would never, intentionally target Palestinian children or unarmed civilians, although he recognized that civilians had suffered. But, in contrast to Palestinian actions, which had, for instance, targeted schoolbuses, Israeli operations were directed to avoid harming civilians. The international community must condemn the practice of Palestinian leaders that actively encouraged the participation of children in the armed conflict.

    Mr. MUVUNYI (Rwanda), speaking in a second intervention, said the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had tried to divert the discussion in the Council, and had sought to tarnish the image of Rwanda by saying that it had sent 20,000 prisoners to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Those allegations were pure lies, he said and asked all present not to take that country's representative seriously.

    Mr. AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, said that any attempt by Israel to defend its criminal acts against Palestinians as a reaction to acts of violence by Palestinians was false. The Israeli occupation and its abhorrent practices was what had led to the violent reaction of the Palestinian people, and not vice versa. Also, the claims by Israel that it had mitigated the suffering of the Palestinian people were ironic. In that regard, it was enough to refer to the Secretary-General's reports on the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people.

    In addition, he continued, claiming that Israel had not targeted civilians and children was a lie. Israel had deliberately murdered civilians. Furthermore, the Israeli claim that the Palestinian side used children as human shields was a racist claim and reflected a sick mentality. He hoped that the representatives of Israel and its leaders would get over such thinking. Lastly, he hoped that the international community would truly stand up against the culture of impunity.

    In concluding remarks, Mr. OTUNNU, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said he had taken careful note of the important comments and criticisms made by speakers and he would be in continuous dialogue with those speakers. He would do everything possible to act on the proposals made.

    KUL GAUTUM, Deputy Director of UNICEF, said the open debate had been enormously encouraging to UNICEF, and he thanked all Member States who had acknowledged UNICEF's work in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. He also paid tribute to UNICEF's non-governmental organizations partners. Their work was of tremendous value to the work of the United Nations. As many delegations had said, prevention was better than cure. The major contribution UNICEF and everybody could make was investing in basic services and in implementing the Millennium Goals.

    He shared the concerns of several delegations who had said that illicit trafficking in small arms contributed to violence. He agreed with comments that the Secretary-General's list must be strengthened and be made into a practical tool. He hoped those concerns would be reflected in the coming resolution on the subject, as would some of the 10 specific proposals Austria had made on behalf of the Human Security Network.

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