Human Rights Council
MORNING 14 September 2010
The Human Rights Council this morning opened its agenda item on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, and heard the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict present her report, which was followed by an interactive dialogue in which speakers welcomed the progress made during the last year in the protection of children in armed conflict and the attention accorded by the Special Representative to internally displaced children and their particular vulnerabilities.
Radikha Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, said last year witnessed some important positive developments with regard to children and armed conflicts around the world, but great challenges remained. The recent incidents of mass rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were mind boggling, and this was the international community's collective responsibility. Ms. Coomaraswamy said that not all practices against children took place in the developing world, and the problem of children in detention had become a new challenge to be faced in the future. The special needs and concerns of internally displaced children all over the world must be highlighted, as they were at higher risk of becoming victims of grave violations, recruited to be child soldiers, and at high risk of sexual violence and harassment. Education was also a basic service that must be guaranteed to children, Ms. Coomaraswamy said.
In the interactive dialogue, speakers welcomed the important international mechanisms established to deal with children and armed conflict over the past decade and the progress achieved over the last year in protecting children in armed conflicts. Despite the progress in legislative terms, there was an alarming increase of children being used in conflict situations. Demonstrable United Nations action was crucial for the improvement of protection of children in armed conflict, particularly in the implementation of action plans, which was where the United Nations could have the most impact. Mainstreaming of child rights issues related to armed conflict into the work of human rights mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review, treaty bodies and Special Procedures was seen as important. There was no excuse for a national government to be listed as a violator of children’s rights in the Secretary-General’s report, or to refuse to enter into an action plan when requested by the United Nations. Speakers asked the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to provide her views and further information on a number of issues, including the “Zero under 18” campaign and a working paper that had been launched on the vulnerabilities of internally displaced children.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Qatar, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Georgia, European Union, Sri Lanka, Denmark, Slovakia, Russian Federation, Jordan, United Kingdom, Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Morocco, Israel, Egypt, Costa Rica, Japan, Brazil, Italy, Republic of Korea, Iraq, Switzerland, France, Argentina, Indonesia, Sudan, Philippines, Austria, Mexico, Greece, Colombia, China, Hungary, Nepal, United States, Norway, Uruguay, Slovenia, Algeria, United Nations Children’s Fund, Viet Nam, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: International Save the Children Alliance, Colombian Commission of Jurists, World Muslim Congress, International Islamic federation of student organisations and Action Internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la region des Grand Lacs.
This afternoon, at 3 p.m., the Council is scheduled to hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences and the Chairperson of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impending the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.
The Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, (A/HRC/15/58), covers the period May 2009 to May 2010 and outlines the activities undertaken in discharging the mandate of the Special Representative, including information on her field visits and on the progress achieved, and challenges remaining on the children and armed conflict agenda.
Presentation by Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict
RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, presenting her report, said last year witnessed some important positive developments with regard to children and armed conflict around the world. The Human Rights Council itself strengthened its own resolution on children to include provisions with regard to children and armed conflict, specifically on the fight against sexual violence against children in war. Despite these moments of progress, great challenges remained. The recent incidents of mass rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were mind boggling, and this was the international community's collective responsibility. Women and children must be protected, and everything should be done to review the situation, to put in place procedures and practices that would alert the international community to such events so as to ensure an effective response. But, most importantly, those who committed these horrendous acts must be held responsible. Without accountability, there was no justice, and without justice there was no deterrent. Not all practices against children took place in the developing world, and the problem of children in detention had become a new challenge to be faced in the future.
The special needs and concerns of internally displaced children all over the world must be highlighted, Ms. Coomaraswamy said. There was no child more vulnerable in the world than a child internally displaced by armed conflict, forced to leave home and community behind, facing discrimination and often denied the documentation and the legal and civic rights guaranteed to other children in the population. Children who had been internally displaced were also at higher risk for becoming victims of grave violations, recruited to be child soldiers, at high risk of sexual violence and harassment. Education was also a basic service that must be guaranteed to children. Humanitarian actors, led by UNICEF, had increasingly recognized that child participation should be promoted in devising local strategies for recovery and reintegration. Universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography would move the international community toward ensuring that the prohibition against child soldiers became an international norm which would be recognized by international customary law.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict
KHALID FAHAD AL-HAJRI (Qatar) thanked the Special Representative for her report, which had enumerated various abuses which violated children’s rights during armed conflict, including murder, displacement and sexual violence, especially from armed groups. Despite the existence of a number of international and regional instruments, which were designed to protect children in armed conflicts, there was an alarming increase of children being used in conflict situations. Qatar urged all parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to ratify the Optional Protocol on children and armed conflict. All States had a duty to work together to eradicate this phenomenon.
MARIAM AFTAB (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, thanked the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on her report and took due note of her recommendations. The Organization of the Islamic Conference believed that the security of children affected by armed conflict was crucial and recognised the importance of mainstreaming the issue in the work of the Human Rights Council. While States bore the primary responsibility for the protection of children in armed conflict, other actors had a role to play too. Systematic violation of the rights of children in conflict happened in situations of occupation. The international community must address the root causes of conflict and States must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.
LLIA IMNADZE (Georgia) said the humanitarian situation in the occupied territories of Georgia was grave. Displaced children had suffered and were denied their fundamental rights, including access to education, and education in their native language. Children in Abkhazia and other regions had been given textbooks printed in another country and designed by the Ministry of Education of that country. Division was being created in their communities. Civilian life was being damaged by the military occupation. A first step towards redressing the situation was to allow unhindered humanitarian assistance to assist the affected, children first and foremost. The Government of Georgia stood ready to continue to cooperate with the entire United Nations family to defend the rights of all children affected by the war and the ongoing military occupation.
NICOLE RECKINGER (European Union) said that the Convention on the Rights of the Child and it’s two Optional Protocols stood at the core of the European Union’s action on the rights of the child. The European Union asked the Special Representative to provide further information on a working paper that had been launched on the vulnerabilities of internally displaced children. The European Union also praised the Special Representative for her field activities, which had resulted in significant developments in signing action plans in Sudan and Nepal. In closing, the European Union encouraged all States to cooperate with the Special Representative and expressed a strong and unconditional support for this mandate.
MOHAN PEIRIS (Sri Lanka) said that throughout the three decade long conflict in Sri Lanka, the Government continued to uphold and enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards the abduction and use of children in armed conflict. The end of the conflict situation in Sri Lanka in May 2009 marked a significant new beginning for former child combatants. As the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam no longer had the ruthless capacity to forcibly separate children from their families, the abominable practice of forced recruitment of child soldiers had ceased to exist. A total of 667 former child combatants had undergone rehabilitation and were reunited with their families since May 2009. Finally, Sri Lanka added that it was among the first United Nations Member States to set up a National Task Force in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1539 and 1612 to monitor and report on child conscription.
ARNOLD DE FINE SKIBSTED (Denmark) thanked the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for her efforts to improve the situation of millions of children affected by armed conflict around the world. Denmark gave full priority to the enhancement and protection of children’s rights and strived to mainstream protection of children in its development work. Denmark welcomed the important international mechanisms established to deal with children and armed conflict over the past decade. Particular praise was to be given to the establishment of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General’s mandate, the United Nations Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict and the landmark United Nations resolution 1882. Denmark pledged contribution to the United Nations Children’s Fund for the establishment of monitoring and reporting mechanisms for the protection of children affected by armed conflict. Denmark wanted to hear the views of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the emerging challenges and priorities in this regard.
FEDOR ROSOHA (Slovakia) said the international community had made a huge step forward in the protection of children's rights in armed conflicts in recent years, putting the issue high on the United Nations agenda. The so-called "lists of shame" of perpetrators who recruited, killed, maimed or committed sexual violence against children had brought positive developments - however, a number of parties still did not care or were unaware of their listing. Slovakia asked where the Special Representative saw the biggest gap in the existing reporting and monitoring system, and whether she thought the Security Council's Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict could work more intensively. Slovakia appreciated the Special Representative's positive consideration of the preparation of the new Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and her readiness to participate in negotiations on it. Slovakia fully supported the mandate, including the recent campaign for the universal ratification of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
VLADIMIR ZHEGLOV (Russian Federation) said the Council was very important for the protection of children in conflict situations, but there were still conflicts where children's rights were being violated, and the international community therefore needed to ensure that resolution 18/82 was being fulfilled. The Special Representative should give more details on the new criteria and how they would be used in the future. With regard to the comments made by the representative of Georgia, the Human Rights Council should note that it was actually Georgia that moved into South Ossetia in August 2008, creating a disaster for a whole group, and violating international humanitarian law. The Georgian authorities preferred not to remember their past actions in this context, and their policies which had led to the suffering of many people, including children. There could be no limitation of human rights in Georgia, and access should be opened for those who wished to give humanitarian aid to South Ossetia.
SHEHAB A. MADI (Jordan) thanked the Special Representative for her work on this sensitive subject. The situation of civilian populations in armed conflict was alarming and deserved the full attention of the Council. Innocent civilians, especially women and children continued to suffer serious violations of their rights. The normative infrastructure for the protection of children was both robust and comprehensive and enjoyed an unprecedented consensus among Member States. However, violations in armed conflicts were usually associated with impunity. Emphasis should therefore be placed on fighting impunity for all forms of violence against children, especially in cases of rape and other sexual violence.
BOB LAST (United Kingdom) welcomed the significant progress made on children and armed conflict in the past year and believed that demonstrable United Nations action was crucial. The action plans signed in Burundi and Nepal had produced excellent results and the implementation of action plans was where the United Nations could have the most impact in protecting children in armed conflict. The United Kingdom asked the Special Representative which action plans she believed required greater implementation. It was ultimately national governments that must be accountable for the welfare of their citizens and there was no excuse for a national government to be listed as a violator of children’s rights in the Secretary-General’s report, or to refuse to enter into an action plan when requested by the United Nations. The United Kingdom asked what implementation of the Federal Child Act the Special Representative saw on her visit to Sudan. It was vital to maintain international pressure and the Universal Periodic Review was one of the ways to do so.
EMINA KECO-ISAKOVIC (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said the overall situation of children affected by armed conflict continued to be of serious concern, as they suffered from the horrors of war, sexual violence and killings. Children also suffered from the indirect impact of war, such as the loss of families, homes and communities, diseases and other problems. The development of more effective tools to fight all forms of violence against children was also required. In the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, children suffered from many forms of violence, which United Nations troops often witnessed. States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child should adopt appropriate measures at the national level to ensure the protection of children from all forms of violence. Those countries that had not yet ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol should do so. Children deprived of education were deprived of their right to a better future, and this issue should be given greater attention. This dialogue should also make a contribution towards finding a solution for this serious problem.
PEDRO OYARCE (Chile) reaffirmed the need for the Council to protect the rights of children in armed conflict and asked the Special Representative how they could strengthen international efforts in this regard. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, along with its Optional Protocols, represented a moral consensus amongst the international community. However, such instruments also had their limitations. Multilateral coordination needed to be strengthened in order to put an end to impunity. Another issue that needed to be addressed was the rehabilitation and reintegration of child combatants into society. In addition, Chile asked the Special Representative to elaborate on her suggestion that collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees could be useful going forward. The issue of children and armed conflict was more than a simple political and legal problem but a moral one as well.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said that Morocco was concerned about the situation of children living in areas of armed conflict who suffered from grave violations of their fundamental rights.
The report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General showed there was an escalation in violence against children and the international community must be mobilized to stop this. The international community must not fail to act when children’s rights were violated every day and that was why the Council must look into means to stop those violations and protect children’s rights. Eradication of causes of conflict would be the best way forward, because only peace would allow full respect of children’s rights. Morocco was among the first countries that had ratified the Optional Protocol on children and armed conflict, which was the instrument that aimed to stop the impact of armed conflict on children. Morocco also called on the United Nations to provide technical, legal and financial assistance to national programmes in concerned countries.
WALID ABU-HAYA (Israel) said when it came to children, certain basic principles were universal and beyond dispute. The international community must speak in one voice in condemnation of such immoral practices as child soldiers, child suicide bombers, human shields, trafficking, and other forms of violence, abuse and exploitation of children. As outlined by the Special Representative, significant advances had developed within the international arena to greater protect children in armed conflict. These advances, as well as the work of the Special Representative, brought to light the immoral practices of armed groups. Despite these improvements, however, there were thousands of child victims killed, maimed, raped, exploited and subjected to other forms of violence. It was through human rights mechanisms such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Periodic Review that these atrocities may finally fall from the shadows of obscurity into the glare of international recognition. There should be international support for disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration efforts in practice, so these children may hope for, and eventually know a life outside of combat.
HEBA MOSTAFA RIZK (Egypt) expressed Egypt’s appreciation for the work of the Special Representative and reiterated that it placed high importance on the protection of civilians during armed conflict. In this respect, children should be given special priority and protection, whether in cases of civil war or international conflict. Egypt recognized the progress made in addressing this issue in Sudan, the Philippines and Burundi. Moreover, Egypt recognized the importance of work on internally displaced children as well as combating gender-based violence, especially sexual violence, against children. Egypt asked the Special Representative to provide some tangible examples of how States could implement her recommendations, especially in situations where there was a lack of political will.
NORMAN LIZANO (Costa Rica) said Costa Rica agreed with the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, which outlined that the international community had done its work in legislative terms. There were instruments for the protection of children. However, there was still a lot of work to be done in implementation of those instruments and in ending impunity for those who perpetrated crimes against children. Costa Rica welcomed the progress in demobilisation of children and noted the progress made in some countries in the report. It was crucial to follow up on the recommendations emanating from the Universal Periodic Review reports and to comply with United Nations Security Council resolution 1882. Costa Rica called on concerned countries to enter into plans of action and to put an end to conscription of children in armed forces and the violation of applicable norms of international law.
MIRAI MARVO (Japan) said this year marked the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Solving the issue of children in armed conflict required legislative efforts in each country, and there should be a further increase to the number of States parties to the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict, including countries currently experiencing conflicts. In order to ensure compliance with the Protocol, it was essential that States parties work actively through various fora, including the Human Rights Council, to promote this. Japan welcomed the mainstreaming of children's rights issues related to armed conflict into the work of human rights mechanisms. The perspective of protecting children in armed conflict, through the provision of updates and recommendations by the Special Representative's Office was also being reflected in the Universal Periodic Review process. Japan welcomed the listing of parties responsible for rape and other incidents of sexual violence and assault in the Secretary-General's annual report, and was gravely concerned by the continued use of sexual violence against children as a weapon of war. Japan was also deeply concerned by the issue of school violence.
FRANKLIN RODRIGUES HOYER (Brazil) said that the case for the protection of children in armed conflict was urgent and morally compelling. The issue of children affected by armed conflict was of prime importance, both as a threat to international peace and security and also as a human rights concern, which never ceased to shock and horrify. The release of children associated with armed groups in several countries, as described in the report, was a cause for genuine celebration and the United Nations deserved recognition for this accomplishment. One of the greatest and most immediate challenges was to end impunity. In this regard, finding durable solutions that tackled structural causes, such as poverty and injustice, was also key. Finally, Brazil added that another aspect that deserved particular attention was the protection of internally displaced persons’ camps, where recruiting of child soldiers was reported to take place.
PAOLO CUCULI (Italy) said that in recent decades children had been increasingly involved in armed conflicts. Italy had been a sponsor of Security Council Resolution 1882 on children and armed conflict and had traditionally been actively engaged in defending the rights of children throughout the world. Italian Development Cooperation was working on emergency projects to help child victims of war in a number of countries and Italy welcomed the progress achieved so far in some countries, particularly in Burundi. Italy underlined the importance of mainstreaming child rights issues related to armed conflict into the work of human rights mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review, treaty bodies and Special Procedures. Regarding the campaign “Zero under 18” Italy was pleased to announce that the link to the relevant webpage was being inserted in the Internet site of the Italian Permanent Mission in Geneva.
LEE JUN-WON (Republic of Korea) said recognising that Security Council resolution 1882 took a major step forward through moving towards concrete action plans on child protection during armed conflict, the Republic of Korea welcomed the recent positive developments in several countries concerned in its follow-up, and appreciated the dedicated efforts of the Special Representative in inducing tangible results in the protection of children on the ground. The Republic of Korea also welcomed the progress made in mainstreaming child rights issues related to armed conflict into the work of the United Nations system as a whole. Security was not sustainable without respect for human rights - the deterioration of the security situation also resulted in increased violations and abuses of human rights. Despite positive developments, there was concern about the vulnerabilities and risks faced by internally displaced children. It was deplorable that such children were exposed to an increased number of threats, including gender-based violence, and that camps for internally displaced persons were often used as recruiting grounds for child soldiers. The combat of impunity was a precondition for complying with international obligations to protect the rights of children.
HUSSAIN AL-ZUHHAIRY (Iraq) warmly thanked the Special Rapporteur for the presentation of her annual report and its content. Iraq was a Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to both Optional Protocols. Iraq had put in place legal institutions to protect the rights of children. However, the current security situation in Iraq had had an impact on the ability of Iraqi children to fully enjoy their rights. Positive changes in child mortality and child schooling levels in Iraq were noteworthy. Moreover, the current Iraqi Government had managed to weaken the influence of armed groups and their recruitment of child soldiers. Iraq reiterated its commitment to working on this important issue and to setting up the necessary legal framework to promote and protect the rights of children.
BARBARA FONTANA (Switzerland) joined the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in her call to States that had not done so to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on children and armed conflict. Switzerland wanted to know more about the “Zero under 18” campaign. Switzerland attached great importance to the actions by United Nations and non-United Nations actors to perfect the protection of children in armed conflict and asked what the views of the Special Representative were on the pertinence of non-United Nations humanitarian actors in the context of protection. Particular attention must be afforded to ending impunity and concrete measures were needed to make sure that individuals who committed crimes were brought to justice. It was crucial to improve the communication between the Security Council’s Working Group on children and armed conflict and the Security Council’s sanction committee.
JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France) said a lot had been done since the publication of the Graca Machel report in 1996, which led to the international community's increased awareness of the problem of child soldiers. However, despite a lot of efforts and the freeing of thousands of child soldiers, this scourge continued to occur during armed conflicts. The decision to launch a campaign for universal ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child was thus important, as the problem of their reinsertion also remained acute, as this required resources in the medium- and long-term, which were difficult to mobilise. Without reinsertion, former child soldiers risked being recruited again. Since the adoption in 2009 of Security Council resolution 1882, the issue of sexual violence against children was also in the mandate of the Special Representative, and this was an important step forward.
HECTOR RAUL PELAEZ (Argentina) thanked the Special Representative for her work on children and armed conflict. Regarding the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Argentina had always been firmly in favour of establishing a minimum age of 18 for recruitment into national armed services. In 1994, four years after it had ratified the Optional Protocol, Argentina established a voluntary armed forces but kept the age of conscription at 18. The international community should not stand idle on the issue of children rights. Argentina stood committed to protecting against all forms of violence against children and would continue to fight for their protection, in particular with the most vulnerable children in the world.
ARDHYA ERLANGGA (Indonesia) said it was astonishing and troubling to hear that so many of the world’s children still lacked basic protection in situations of armed conflict. Member States had a responsibility to fully comply with international law for the protection of children and matters pertaining to grave violations against children needed to be more thoroughly discussed in the Universal Periodic Review process. Indonesia commended the Special Representative for the establishment of 18 as the global minimum age for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces. The internal displacement of children during times of conflict was another issue requiring urgent attention of both the international community and the national governments concerned. In conclusion, Indonesia asked how to measure progress and achievement in the integration of child soldiers into their communities and if there were already best practices in this regard.
HAMZA AHMED (Sudan) said Sudan wished to praise the report of the Special Representative, which covered a whole range of issues under her mandate. She had paid a number of successful visits to Sudan, and she was thanked for praising the cooperation of the Sudanese Government with her last mission. It had been a successful visit, and any future visit was welcomed. In cooperation with Governmental authorities and humanitarian agencies, Sudan had managed to protect its children through its accession to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and through the enactment of laws prohibiting the involvement of children in the armed forces. The Government had set the minimum age of recruitment at 18 years. A Presidential Pardon had been issued for all children involved in crimes during the period of the conflict.
EVAN P. GARCIA (Philippines) said that the Philippines was a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Protocols on the sale of children and children in armed conflict. Attaching great importance to its human rights obligations under these treaties, the Philippines had established a Comprehensive Programme on Children in Armed Conflict that monitored compliance with the Optional Protocol on children and armed conflict. The Government of the Philippines continued to strengthen its capacity to recover, rehabilitate and reintegrate children recruited for armed conflict by non-state rebel groups. Training and capacity-building programmes for military and government officials were being conducted, in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund. In an example of effective action, the delegation noted that the MILF had committed to desisting from recruiting child combatants, and had agreed to an action plan in this regard.
CHRISTIAN STROHAL (Austria) congratulated the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the progress in the implementation of her mandate, particularly on the signing of action plans and the release of child soldiers in some countries. Austria deplored the mass rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and welcomed the expansion of the trigger for monitoring and reporting mechanisms. This expansion in triggering would pose particular challenges for the actors in the field and Austria wanted to hear the views on what measures could be put in place to that effect. Rigorous measures must be taken to end impunity and Austria welcomed the improved communication between the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the sanctions committee of the Security Council. Austria commended the focus on internally displaced children, and called on all actors in the field to draw on the newly presented working paper by the Special Representative on internally displaced children.
MARIANA OLIVERA (Mexico) said the annual report bore witness to the work done by the Special Representative, and gave an idea of the important challenges remaining to fight the terrible suffering experienced by children affected by armed conflict. Mexico wished to reiterate its commitment to the full respect of human rights and international humanitarian law, and the full respect of civilians in armed conflict, including women and children, and believed efforts needed to be doubled to effectively protect children. Mexico believed that efforts should be doubled to protect children affected by armed conflict, and improve measures for rehabilitation. All countries should be parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, and should strengthen international measures to combat recruitment of child soldiers and their involvement in hostilities. Crimes against children would never stop if there was impunity - crimes against children were war crimes, and States had the primary responsibility to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice, and if they could not do so, then the International Court of Justice had the responsibility to do so.
EUGENIA BENIATOGLOU (Greece) thanked the Special Representative for her work and said that since her appointment she had engaged in extensive activities and had undertaken many country visits thus fulfilling, to the maximum, the requirements of her mandate. The Greek Ombudsman for the Rights of the Child, the Greek National Commission for Human Rights, other national human rights institutions and a number of non-governmental organizations were actively involved in the field of the protection of the rights of the child. Internationally, Greece had signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2000 and ratified it in 2002. Moreover, the Greek Constitution established the obligation of the State to protect childhood and consisted the basis for the adoption and implementation of measures for the promotion and protection of the child.
ALVARO ENRIQUE AYALA MELENDEZ (Colombia) said that the recruitment of children was an inadmissible practice and must be prevented and eradicated. Colombia had voluntarily submitted itself to the measures of resolution 1612 and established in 2007 an intersectorial commission for the prevention of recruitment of minors. It had achieved much progress but vacuums must be tackled in order to find the way out of this situation. In November 1999 Colombia had created a special programme for children who were formally involved with armed groups. According to the February 2010 report, more than 4,000 children were demobilised from armed groups and were given particular support in terms of protection of their rights and reintegration in their communities. Too many children were still being recruited by armed groups and that was why President Santos had said that those children must be released immediately.
XU JING (China) said the report emphasised that the international community should strengthen cooperation to prevent armed conflicts from violating children's rights. All parties should make efforts to protect children during conflict and give basic rights to displaced children. Children were the hope and future of mankind, and giving them their rights was essential to the international community, which had been making a lot of efforts to create a world fit for children. There had been progress, but there were still many children involved in armed conflict throughout the world, and many actions violating children's rights were still occurring. The principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols were still being violated. The international community should join hands to make efforts to eliminate this phenomenon, and adopt active measures to prevent children from being involved in armed conflict. The Government of China denounced and was against the recruitment of children and other actions against children's rights in armed conflict. Today, most of these occurred in areas where economic development was backward, and the international community should provide financial and technical assistance to the relevant countries and help them to eliminate poverty, thus removing the sources of conflict, which would fundamentally bolster and improve the rights of the child.
BALAZS RATKAI (Hungary) said that Hungary recognized the important and valuable work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and her office in the promotion and protection of the human rights of children affected by armed conflict. Hungary also welcomed her engagement with certain non-state armed groups as a result of which these actors had committed themselves to discontinue the recruitment of persons under the age of 18 and to release child soldiers from their ranks. At the same time, Hungary emphasized that the primary responsibility to ensure the rights and best interests of every child lay with States, especially during conflicts. Finally, the newly published working paper on internally displaced children in armed conflicts was welcomed by the Hungarian delegation and it hoped that the application of the principles described in the paper would improve the human rights situation on the ground.
DINESH BHATTARAI (Nepal) said that conflicts impinged on the well-being of children in various ways and children in armed conflict were deprived of universally recognised rights. Nepal was making a democratic transition after over a decade long armed conflict and remained engaged in cleaning up the remnants and ramifications of the conflict period. Nepal had started the discharge process in January this year and so far had released more that 4,008 disqualified combatants, according to the action plan signed in December 2009. The Government had devised financial packages including interim relief to assist in the resettlement and integration of internally displaced persons during the conflict. Nepal had also set the minimum age for entry into service of the Nepal Army and other security organs at 18 years and supported the “Zero under 18” campaign of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General. It was a matter of great concern that according to United Nations Children’s Fund’s estimation 300,000 children were engaged in conflicts around the world and Nepal felt that recruiting children in armed conflict put on hold not only the future of the child, but of the whole nation.
MARK CASSAYRE (United States) said the United States believed strongly in the protection of children from abuse and exploitation in armed conflict, and was dismayed at the continuing reports of children being killed, maimed, raped, sexually abused, forced to bear arms as child soldiers, forced into sexual slavery, used for exploitative labour purposes, and other deplorable acts at a young age. In the ten years since the adoption of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United States was hopeful at the progress that had been made, and welcomed efforts by the international community to recognize the importance of protecting children as they faced the trauma and uncertainty of armed conflict. Nonetheless, more needed to be done to protect children from violence and exploitation by parties to armed conflict and the United States encouraged parties who had not yet done so to immediately release and repatriate children within their ranks.
CLAIRE HUBERT (Norway) said Norway fully agreed that the protection of the rights and well being of children affected by armed conflicts should be an issue of primary concern to the Council. Norway welcomed the development of an increasingly stronger protection framework for children and armed conflict, most recently through Security Council Resolution 1882, which demonstrated the commitment of the Security Council to fully and firmly embrace responsibility to protect children in situations of armed conflict. In addition, Norway encouraged the Special Representative to continue, in cooperation with key United Nations’ partners, to engage with armed groups in developing action plans to stop the recruitment and use of children, and to advocate for the fight against impunity and for bringing perpetrators to justice. In closing, Norway asked the Special Representative to comment on the role of UNICEF in providing technical assistance to States that considered ratifying the Optional Protocol.
LAURA DUPUY LASSERRE (Uruguay) said this report did not only include references to countries which recruited children, but also to other parties which demonstrated the same behaviour, including killing of children. Resolution 1882 was crucial in recognising children’s rights in armed conflicts and did not stop only at recruitment. Uruguay condemned ongoing serious violations of children’s rights and said the international community must double its efforts to stop violations and end impunity. Uruguay viewed favourably action plans put in place by some countries in situations of armed conflict, as they led to freeing of recruiting children, but those countries also had to investigate the violations themselves and put an end to impunity. Uruguay invited the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to contribute within her mandate to a resolution which would focus on the rights of children who lived or worked on the streets.
URSKA CAS SVETEK (Slovenia) said Slovenia fully supported the campaign to achieve universal ratification of both Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and had issued a publication with Slovenian versions of both with the aim of raising awareness of the general and expert public on the content of the Protocols. Slovenia welcomed the focus of the Special Representative's report this year and shared the view that internally displaced children were among the most vulnerable in armed conflicts and in need of special care and protection. Regarding impunity for grave crimes perpetrated against children, Slovenia agreed that impunity remained disturbing, and posed a serious challenge to the protection of children, and asked what action the Human Rights Council could take to complement the efforts of others to end such impunity.
BOUALEM CHEBIHI (Algeria) said that the phenomenon of children in armed conflict was not limited to one region. Algeria came from a continent that was particularly affected by this problem and it welcomed the “zero under 18” campaign, which would hopefully be adopted by a large number of States. Thankfully, there was a broad consensus today against the need to condemn the recruitment of child soldiers. Nevertheless, despite this consensus and international mechanisms to prevent child recruitment, the problem remained acute. Furthermore, the issue of reintegration of child soldiers was a major challenge in post-conflict situations and needed to be included in peace-building plans and efforts.
NICOLETTE MOODIE, of United Nations Children’s Fund, appreciated the collaboration of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General with the United Nations human rights mechanisms of child rights issues. The Human Rights Council had a fundamental role in guaranteeing the protection of children and other civilians in times of war. The inclusion of grave violations of child rights in situations of armed conflict in the Universal Periodic Review could play an important role in promoting change and improving the lives of children. One main area of cooperation with the Special Representative had been the implementation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism on grave violations against children established by United Nations resolution 1612, which had elevated the understanding of the extent of grave violations perpetrated against children. This knowledge brought with it also the responsibility to act. Another area of collaboration was a two-year campaign to achieve the universal ratification of the two Optional Protocols on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United Nations Children’s Fund believed that the collective engagement of the Special Representative, the Human Rights Council and human rights partners was already making a difference in the lives of children by serving as a solid platform for advocacy and responses.
NGO LE HOANG VU (Viet Nam) said the Convention on the Rights of the Child firmly declared that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding. In light of this Convention, Member States, United Nations agencies, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and relevant stakeholders had made efforts to protect and promote the rights of the child. However, children in some areas around the world still suffered from violations and deprivation of their rights, and children affected by armed conflict continued to be of serious concern. Children were, directly or indirectly, subject to many forms of violations in the midst of conflict and were affected by its aftermath. This was an important issue which required a collegial and concerted approach to be dealt with. The solution would be concentrated not only in releasing children from armed conflict, but also in reintegrating them into their society. This was a long-term process, but essential. Viet Nam was committed to defend and promote the best interests of children, and encouraged appropriate initiatives and measures to resolve the situation. Combating poverty, ensuring sustainable development and reducing society gaps were among the keys to the issue.
NAHIDA SOBHAN (Bangladesh) said that children were the future. Their welfare was the common responsibility and Bangladesh was among the first signatories of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and was party to both the Optional Protocols. Bangladesh shared the concern about the exploitation of children in any circumstances, including armed conflicts. Member States had a central and immediate political, legal and moral responsibility for the protection of children. Moreover, the international community should not discard its role in promoting development, equitable international economic order and non-discrimination and in addressing poverty, which were major root causes of armed conflicts. In this respect, promoting peace was a common responsibility of all. One area of concern was the recovery and reintegration of child victims as well as former child soldiers. In this context, Bangladesh fully agreed with recommendation 67.
The Representative of Afghanistan said the Government of Afghanistan was committed to addressing the issues affecting Afghan children as a result of the armed conflict. President Karzai was personally committed to the plight of the children and attached great importance to putting this issue on the agenda of the day. The resolution of the Human Rights Council adopted during its fourteenth session on addressing attacks on school children in Afghanistan expressed one of the efforts the Government was undertaking to bring the plight of Afghan children to the attention of the Council. The Government of Afghanistan would take every necessary measure to facilitate the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General through this recently established Steering Committee for Children and Armed Conflict for the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.
DAVINIA ORETTA BONDI, of International Save the Children Alliance, said there should be universal ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Much needed focus and attention had been brought to this issue, and progress had been made in addressing violations of children's rights; despite this, the overall picture for children in conflict situations remained bleak, and they continued to be at risk of recruitment into armed forces or groups, sexual violence, separation from their families, psychosocial distress and other forms of violence, exploitation and abuse, as well as threats to their right to education. There was still much to be done to ensure that violations were monitored and reported and that these reports led to concrete actions and responses for children, and accountability for the perpetrators.
ANA-MARIA RODRIGUEZ, of Colombian Commission of Jurists, said in internal armed conflicts, children continued to be the victims of murder, recruitment, sexual violence, forced displacement, and other violations. All of this occurred in a general climate of impunity for perpetrators of such crimes. Guerrilla groups, paramilitary groups and the police force continued to highlight insecurity for victims. The contribution made by the Special Representative to make sure that countries implemented the monitoring system of resolution 1612 of the Security Council was noted, and this should be fully implemented in Colombia. The Security Council Working Group should urgently adopt conclusions on Colombia, with particular emphasis on the rights of the child and solutions to the conflict, whilst bringing perpetrators to justice.
KHAN SARDAR AMJAD YOUSAF, of World Muslim Congress, commended the work done by Ms. Coomaraswamy in visiting different parts of the world within her mandate. The Special Representative had emphasized that unless all the parties to conflicts adhered to their commitments, complied with their international obligations and were held accountable for non-compliance, the plight of children in situations of armed conflict risked deterioration. In closing, the World Muslim Congress expressed concern with the enforced and involuntary disappearances of parents, especially that of the fathers.
ALTAF HUSSAIN WANI, of International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, said that armed conflict, more than any other force, had transformed the lives of millions of children and women. Children and their families were not just getting caught in the crossfire. Many were being targeted. Nothing was spared, held sacred or protected. It was the singular characteristic of armed conflict in our time that children suffered the most. Finally, the international community had to be seen to be responding, as a matter of priority, to mitigate the impact of conflict on children.
MAURICE KATALA, of Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs (AIPD), said that the issue of the involvement of children in armed conflict was crucial not only for the Great Lakes Region, where it was linked with illegal exploitation of natural resources, but for the whole world. To resolve it, root causes must be tackled, such as the failure of development processes, the impunity of warlords in all States of the Great Lakes Region, proliferation of small arms, the absence of monitoring and reporting mechanisms and the non-application of regional and international conventions on the protection of the right of child. Action Internationale called on the Human Rights Council to urgently organise a conference on the underlining causes, which would bring together the African Union, representatives of civil society and the media.
RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, responding to questions and issues raised and in concluding remarks, said a campaign was being launched with UNICEF, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Committee on the Rights of the child and the Special Representative to ensure universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols. With regard to the issue of the Universal Periodic Review and the need to include the subject of children and armed conflict in the review, she hoped this would be included. There had been an increase in attacks on schools throughout the world, and work needed to be done both with perpetrators and with communities, to ensure that children's right to education was not violated. With regard to progress in implementing Security Council resolution 1882, for the first time the Secretary-General's report would include violators of the human rights of children, as well as those guilty of killing and maiming, and they had been listed. With regard to what were the pressing needs and how to deal with persistent violators, it was time to move towards targeted measures to deal with the latter, and a solution had to be found to ensure this, in particular as otherwise the Council would look weak. With regard to the draft Optional Protocol and the communications procedure of the Human Rights Council and what the latter should do, the Security Council and the International Criminal Court had to some extent dealt with the criminal charges issue, and the Council could deal with the civil rights violations committed against children, such as internal displacement. The changing nature of conflict required an effort to find new ways to deal with how it impacted children, including in the context of terrorism. The Human Rights Council should have a special session on the recent horrifying events in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
For use of the information media; not an official record