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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue on violence against children and on children and armed conflict

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6 March 2018

MIDDAY

GENEVA (6 March 2018) - The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, Marta Santos Pais, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba.

Presenting her report, Ms. Santos Pais said that half of the world’s countries had adopted a comprehensive policy agenda on violence against children.  Nevertheless, half of the world’s children experienced violence.  Children were disciplined by violent means, bullied, sexually assaulted in their circle of trust, groomed online, and abused in detention centers.  The 2030 Agenda provided a historic opportunity to end violence.  In 2019 there would be an in-depth review of goal 16, including target 16.2 to end all forms of violence against children.  Efforts had to be redoubled and all voluntary national reviews submitted to the High-Level Political Forum had to include a sound reflection on national actions taken to respond to violence against children.

In her presentation, Ms. Gamba warned that the progress attained in 2017 had been once again overshadowed by the extremely worrisome situation for boys and girls growing up in countries affected by conflict.  The longevity, severity and complexity of many of today’s conflicts had unfortunately led to a further decrease of traditional safe spaces and had moved children even closer to the heart of war.  Ms. Gamba reminded all parties to conflicts of their obligation to allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of aid to civilian populations in need in areas subject to their control.  She also noted that it was important to recognize the interlinkage between trafficking and the sale of children and the six violations that she monitored, namely recruitment and use, killing and maiming, sexual violence, abductions, attacks against schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access.

In the ensuing discussion on violence against children, speakers noted that there was no more relevant obligation than to ensure the highest level of protection of children from all forms of violence.  The phenomenon of violence against children often remained undocumented and underreported, and it had long-term repercussions on society.  Legal prohibition of all violence against children, including within the home, and policies that supported families to prevent violence were necessary to break the cycle of violence and abuse.  Speakers asked the Special Representative to share best practices from other countries to further encourage reporting of violence against children.  

On children and armed conflict, speakers noted that a firm global action and stance to protect children, and the establishment of the necessary response and preventive mechanisms was required to protect children.  One of the preventive mechanisms was education.  Speakers urged all parties to conflicts to respect the basic principles of humanitarian law and condemned all attacks on schools and hospitals.  They recalled that children had the right to access humanitarian aid and that all parties to conflicts were bound by international law to allow it.  Some speakers disagreed with the equation of the recruitment of children into armed forces with trafficking in human beings.  The first one was a war crime, whereas the other was a criminal offence.

Speaking were European Union, Argentina on behalf of a group of countries, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Belgium on behalf of a group of countries, Jordan on behalf of the Arab Group, Slovenia, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, United Nations Children’s Fund, Colombia, Israel, Russian Federation, Croatia, Germany, Pakistan, Belgium, Egypt, Norway, Estonia, Switzerland, Senegal, Tunisia, Spain, Libya, United States, South Africa, Italy, Austria, Australia, Cuba, Bahrain, Syria, France, China, Angola, Ukraine, Myanmar, Morocco, Sweden, Greece, State of Palestine, Venezuela, Malaysia, Iraq, Mexico, Maldives, Iran, Thailand, Georgia, Algeria, Sudan, Djibouti, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, Ecuador, Azerbaijan, Sovereign Order of Malta, and Uruguay.

The Council will resume the dialogue with the two Special Representatives on Wednesday, 7 March at 9 a.m.  It will next hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, and with the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.  

Documentation

The Council has before it an Annual Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (A/HRC/37/47).

The Council has before it an Annual Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (A/HRC/37/48).

Presentations by the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and on Children and Armed Conflict

MARTA SANTOS PAIS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, presented her annual report, highlighting major initiatives to ensure children’s protection from violence.  The first End Violence Solutions Summit recently hosted by the Swedish Government had been an important milestone in attempting to end violence against children.  Ms. Santos Pais conveyed three major messages.  First, there were strong reasons to feel encouraged by tangible results on the ground.  Half of world’s countries, including Cambodia, France, Mexico, Paraguay and Tanzania had adopted a comprehensive policy agenda on violence against children.  A landmark law had been adopted in Brazil providing confidential child sensitive counselling and complaint mechanisms.  Chile had established an independent Ombudsman for Children.  A growing number of household data surveys on children’s exposure to violence had been conducted, including in Botswana, Rwanda, Uganda, Lesotho, Mozambique and Namibia.  The second message was that there was a strong imperative to move ahead with a deep sense of urgency.  Half of the world’s children experienced violence.  Some 300 million children between 2 and 4 years of age were victims of physical or psychological abuse.  Children were disciplined by violent means, bullied, sexually assaulted in their circle of trust, groomed online, or abused in detention centres.  The continuum of violence had to end.

The third message was that the 2030 Agenda provided a historic opportunity to end violence.  The annual session of the High-Level Political Forum marked a strategic moment in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  In 2019 there would be an in-depth review of Goal 16, including target 16.2 to end all forms of violence against children.  The same year was the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Efforts had to be redoubled and all voluntary national reviews submitted to the High-Level Political Forum had to include a sound reflection on national actions taken to respond to violence against children.

VIRGINIA GAMBA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, said that the progress attained in 2017 had been once again overshadowed by the extremely worrisome situation for boys and girls growing up in countries affected by conflict.  The longevity, severity and complexity of many of today’s conflicts had unfortunately led to a further decrease of traditional safe spaces and had moved children even closer to the heart of war.  Children were being used and abused for, in and by conflict; and at times they had also been physically and mentally coerced in violence.  The denial of humanitarian access had become a growing concern.  In 2016 the United Nations had verified almost a total of 1,000 incidents where humanitarian aid had been unable to reach children in need.  In a continuation of that trend, in 2017, such cases had been documented in almost all the country situations on the Special Representative’s agenda.  In Myanmar and Yemen, for instance, broad-based denials of humanitarian access had affected large numbers of civilians in 2017.  In Syria, the current escalation of violence and the besiegement of Eastern Ghouta and rural Damascus was depriving around 400,000 persons, including children, of access to food, healthcare and other essential commodities.  In South Sudan, humanitarian actors had continued to be killed, attacked or threatened and had thus been hindered to reach populations in need.  In other situations, denial of access had taken on more subtle forms.  Bureaucratic impediments had unduly burdened the operational capacity of humanitarian actors, safe passage to humanitarians had been only granted if certain demands had been met, or parties to the conflict had levied taxes on humanitarian aid.  Such instances pointed out to a trend of politicization of humanitarian access for the delivery of aid, even when it was intended for children.  Ms. Gamba reminded all parties to conflicts that it was a principle of customary international law that they had to allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of aid to the civilian populations in need in areas subject to their control.

Ms. Gamba also touched upon the trafficking and the sale of children highlighted in her report.  She noted that it was important to recognize the close interlinkage between those acts and the six violations that she monitored, namely recruitment and use, killing and maiming, sexual violence, abductions, attacks against schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access.  When children were affected by grave violations, they were often left in situations of heightened vulnerability which in turn increased their susceptibility to sale and trafficking.  That was particularly true of unaccompanied children within conflict areas, or those that had been forcibly displaced from conflict zones.  Those interlinkages should be kept in mind when elaborating programmes to better protect children.  Actors working towards holding perpetrators accountable should draw on anti-trafficking legislation whenever a grave violation was not explicitly criminalized but could be covered by legislation by legislation on trafficking.  Ms. Gamba also pointed out several areas where there had been progress over the course of 2017, such as engagement with Governments and non-State armed groups to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children.  She listed examples of the work done in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, and the Philippines.  Given that almost 9 in 10 parties listed in the annexes of the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict were armed groups, it would be imperative for States to facilitate meaningful engagement with those parties.  That could be achieved by including child protection concerns in peace negotiations and supporting the conclusion and implementation of action plans between listed groups and the United Nations.

Interactive Dialogue

European Union said that while highlighting progress, the report had cast a dark light on the situation faced by children in armed conflict.   More had to be done to eradicate violent disciplinary practices and one positive example was the project Non-violent Childhoods implemented by the Council of the Baltic Sea States.  Were there additional good practices? Argentina, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, supported the Safe Schools Declaration as a continuing responsibility of States, even during conflicts.  Education was not only a human right, but also a preservation mechanism from the impact of armed conflict. Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the stress that the report placed on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  Awareness among State and non-State actors had to be raised on the participation of children in armed conflicts.

Belgium, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, expressed concern that humanitarian access continued to be denied in numerous situations, even when it was intended for children.  A common estimate was that girls made up to 40 per cent of all children associated with armed groups globally. Jordan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities vis-à-vis children in armed conflicts and occupied territories.  The Arab Group supported the efforts of Ms. Santos Pais.  The Arab Group was working on drafting a strategy for the protection of children in accordance with the 2030 Agenda. Slovenia asked what had been the greatest achievement and greatest challenge of the Office of the Special Representative on violence against children?  Did the plans on raising awareness on grave violations against children in armed conflict include setting up an inter-regional dialogue?

Liechtenstein noted that the target on ending all forms of violence against children by 2030 provided a unique opportunity.  On children and armed conflict, it urged all parties to conflict to respect the basic principles of humanitarian law and it condemned all attacks on schools and hospitals. Montenegro noted that there was no more relevant obligation than to ensure the highest level of protection of children from all forms of violence.  The phenomenon of violence against children often remained undocumented and underreported and thus Montenegro would introduce a special register. United Nations Children’s Fund agreed that the legal prohibition of all violence against children, including within the home, was necessary to break the cycle of violence and abuse, as well as policies that supported families to prevent violence.  It recalled that children had the right to access humanitarian aid and that all parties to conflict were bound by international law to allow it.

Colombia reminded that it had adopted special measures for all those under the age of 18 who had left the ranks of FARC.  They benefitted from comprehensive reparation and care.  Colombia stressed that only through sustained preventive efforts would children be spared from recruitment. Israel noted that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognized the crucial role played by early childhood development in creating peaceful and prosperous societies.  Target 4.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals specifically committed States to ensuring that all children had access to inclusive and equality education.   Russian Federation said that one of its main foreign policy priorities was ensuring dignified and happy childhood for children.  As for children and armed conflict, it noted that it was not right to equate the recruitment of children into armed forces with trafficking in human beings.  The first one was a war crime, whereas the other was a criminal offence.

Croatia noted that the comprehensive protection of children in armed conflict and effective access to humanitarian aid deserved the attention of all Member States.  What could be done to ensure the universal ratification of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict? Germany asked how could child protection be strengthened at the policy level of regional and sub-regional organizations?  Ms. Santos Pais was asked for a more detailed exposition of upcoming activities and information was sought on how could Member States support the mandate. Pakistan quoted the report of the United Nations Children’s Fund which warned about alarming levels of violence affecting young childhood and the ways that millions endured violence.  The protection of children had to be maintained in different United Nations mandated interventions in situations of armed conflicts.

Belgium agreed that the 2030 Agenda and more specifically the target 16.2 offered a joint agenda to end violence against children.  How could the best interest of the child be integrated into reintegration programmes, and had there been any best practices? Egypt said it supported the 2030 Agenda and the eradication of all forms of violence against children.  All countries were called on to ratify the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.  The need for the implementation of the Security Council resolution 1612 was stressed. Norway agreed that the success of the 2030 Agenda would be measured by the tangible difference made in the lives of children.  How could early childhood development initiatives enhance violence prevention and break the cycle of violence?

Estonia said that as conflicts continued to emerge and protract, the work on safeguarding the rights of children in armed conflict had to be further strengthened.  As for violence against children, Estonia noted that preventive interventions saved children from harm and gained additional resources that could be reinvested in social systems. Switzerland called on all parties to armed conflicts to abide by their international obligations and to depoliticize humanitarian access.  It called for making progress towards achieving target 16.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals, namely eliminating all forms of violence against children. Senegal underlined the importance of investing in early childhood in order to prevent violence against children.  On children and armed conflict, it was essential to facilitate humanitarian access and make it reach children in conflict areas.

Tunisia stressed that the abuse of children in armed conflict required a firm global action and stance to protect children, and the establishment of the necessary response and preventive mechanisms.  On violence against children, it welcomed the focus on early childhood. Spain emphasized that the protection of boys and girls in armed conflict was a priority of its foreign and humanitarian policy.  It had also supported the Safe Schools Declaration, and it condemned any deliberate attack on schools and hospitals. Libya welcomed the awareness raising campaign “Children, Not Soldiers”, noting that wars were the major source of violence against children, leading to numerous violations of their rights.

United States remained committed to the elimination of unlawful child recruitment and was pleased with the accomplishments that the children and armed conflict mandate had made over the past 20 years.  How could States and non-governmental stakeholders combat cyber bullying? South Africa said that in 2017 a case of corporal punishment at home had been found to be illegal by a High Court order.  South Africa was concerned about the plight of children in armed conflict and about the politicisation of humanitarian aid. Italy supported the adoption of a Global Compact on safe, orderly and regular migration.  During its 2017 Security Council presidency, Italy had promoted a large debate on the role of peacekeeping, supporting the inclusion of several child protection-related provisions in the mandates of peace operations.

Austria said that a large number of countries still had not adopted legal provisions prohibiting corporal punishment.  Support for the Safe School Declaration was expressed, however, it was stressed that the situation of children in armed conflict remained appalling. Australia agreed that trafficking constituted a violation of the rights of the child and was linked to other abuses, such as child labour or forced marriage.  Australia was concerned by the denial of humanitarian access to children in armed conflict and urged all parties to allow humanitarian actors unhindered access. Cuba agreed that protecting children in early infancy was an opportunity to break the cycle of violence.  In 2017 Cuba had the lowest child mortality in its history, 4.0 on 1,000 live births.

Bahrain reaffirmed its desire to continue to eradicate the phenomenon of violence against children and had launched a two-pillar strategy to this effect.  Namely, the Sustainable Development Goals were integrated in the national legislation, and target 16.2 to end all violence against children had been incorporated in the law, thus criminalizing physical, psychological and all forms of violence against children. Syrian Arab Republic said the report failed to mention that foreign interference, including direct military intervention in order to achieve political and economic interests, was fuelling internal wars, causing the suffering of children.  The report had also failed to mention the impact of unilateral sanctions, including smart measures, restrictive measures and targeted measures on children.  Syria called on the mandate-holder to take these into account in future reports, noting that it had informed of the numerous incidents perpetrated by terrorists, armed groups and those who financed them, but that this information had been ignored. France was convinced that violence against children had long-term repercussions on society and it was resolute in bringing an end to this violence.  France stood behind the Special Representative on children in armed conflict, noting that she played an important role, 11 years after the adoption of the Paris Principles.

China said violence was a major factor affecting the growth and development of children, and informed that it had undertaken robust legislative and judicial measures against this scourge.  China called upon all to put an end to the recruitment of child soldiers, and stressed its support to all relevant United Nations bodies which worked in accordance with their mandates to protect children in armed conflict. Angola said it had defended, in December, its consolidated reports on the rights and welfare of the child in front of the African Commission of Peoples and Human Rights, while it would be examined for the second time in Geneva on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in May.  Angola condemned practices involving any kind of violence against children, which constituted a crime, and admitted there were still many challenges to achieve in this direction. Ukraine said that the number of internally displaced persons due to the war with Russia was 1.5 million people, including hundreds of thousands of children.  There were 20 periodic reports by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights indicating that the children of Dombas were paying the high price of the war, and Ukraine deeply regretted that the report on children in armed conflict had not reflected this.

Myanmar said that it paid great attention to securing the rights of women and children, and to addressing the issues of abuse, such as sexual violence, trafficking and forced labour.  It had signed all relevant international treaties in that respect, and it conducted awareness raising concerning the recruitment of children into armed forces. Morocco shared the concern about the need to respect the rights of the child in emergency situations and to invest in early childhood.  Children’s rights were one of the main national priorities, particularly in education and healthcare. Sweden noted that sexual violence was a global plague, occurring in and out of conflict and affecting both girls and boys.  To prevent and respond to such violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights were essential.  What challenges did the Special Representatives see in ensuring that every child had access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services?

Greece said it was committed to combatting violence against children, reminding that corporal punishment had been criminalized in 2006.  It agreed that the rights of children were central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. State of Palestine regretted that none of the reports referred to the suffering of the Palestinian children under Israeli occupation.  Israel systematically perpetrated crimes against Palestinian children, such as detention, torture, deprivation of food, and sexual harassment. Venezuela stated that it provided assistance to children and adolescents to reduce family and gender-based violence.  On children recruited into armed groups, there was a need to avoid the criminalization of children and ensure their social reintegration.

Malaysia stated that last year a special court had been established to deal with cases involving sexual crimes against children, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia.  Malaysia shared the international commitment to the protection of children in armed conflicts and was chairing the Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict. Iraq said that the Government had created a parliament for children and a series of education programmes to allow for a childhood free from violence.  Iraq had conducted numerous activities to support the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Mexico condemned the recruitment of children by non-State actors and reaffirmed the importance of its national plan to prevent violent extremism.  How could communities be supported in reintegrating girls who had been victims of sexual violence?

Maldives shared the view on the inclusion of children’s voices and experiences to realize the vision and targets of the 2030 Agenda.  The Special Representative was asked to share best practices from other countries to further encourage reporting of violence against children?   Iran noted that according to the report one child died every 5 minutes as a result of violence and one billion children between 2 and 17 years of age experienced some sort of physical, sexual, emotional or other forms of abuse.   An estimated 120 million girls and 73 million boys were victims of violence. Thailand said that the Government had set up child protection systems at the community level in 385 sub-districts across the country, protecting children from violence.  Noting that efforts in violence prevention in early childhood were a cost-effective investment, a child support grant scheme had been introduced for poor families.

Georgia said its Government paid particular attention to combatting violence against children, and had adopted legislative amendments to 10 legal acts to this end.  The occupation of Georgia’s regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, however, prevented the Government of Georgia from protecting children remaining on the other side of the occupation lines. Algeria said the involvement of children in armed conflict had to be targeted by systematic efforts on an international scale, including through peacekeeping missions.  A report would be presented on this topic.  Algeria was fully committed to combatting violence against children and was party to all domestic, regional and international instruments to this effect. Sudan said it had joined the “Safe Schools” initiative and would soon join the “Safe Hospitals” initiative.  Sudan had undertaken a series of positive measures, including a monitoring council that harmonized laws, to prevent the use of children in armed conflict.  It also worked towards re-integrating children released from armed forces into society.

Djibouti noted that the measures adopted to combat the recruitment of children had not achieved the results hoped for and asked the Special Representative what measures she envisioned for an action plan to this effect.   Djibouti had launched a legal arsenal, including courts for minors, to try to eliminate violence against children, and was of the opinion that target 16.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals was a major instrument in this regard. Luxembourg said armed conflict continued to have a disproportionate effect on children.  The use of schools and hospitals for military purposes deprived children from the right to education and health.  Luxembourg was particularly concerned about the use of siege, as in the case of Syria, as a war tactic, and said total, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access had to be ensured. Nigeria reiterated its grave concern about children in armed conflict and was deeply committed to their protection, in particular the vulnerable children in the north-eastern region of the country which had been ravaged by Boko Haram terrorist activities.  It shared the view of the Special Representative that the best way to avoid leaving children behind, in the context of the 2030 Agenda, was to put them first in all policy decisions. Bangladesh urged both Special Representatives to visit the affected areas of Myanmar as early as possible to assess the scale of alleged violence and atrocities perpetrated against Rohingya children since August 2017 and to determine their conditions.  This was the way to bring the full import of the thematic to the specific situations for the future work of both Special Representatives.

United Kingdom remained greatly concerned about continued grave violations against children, namely abduction, killing, maiming and recruitment as child soldiers.  It reminded that girls in conflict zones tended to be left out of school two and a half times more than boys. Ecuador stated that it had adopted a series of measures to protect children from violence, with a specialized focus on the most vulnerable populations.  It was also strengthening inter-institutional work to punish any crime against children. Azerbaijan highlighted the importance of enhancing synergies among different United Nations agencies, regional and sub-regional and civil society entities to raise further awareness of six grave violations against children.  The quick settlement of armed conflicts was the most important protective factor for children.

Sovereign Order of Malta underlined the need for strengthening alliances and partnerships to prevent violations against children, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.  It agreed that the reintegration of children was crucial to ensuring long-term peace, security and sustainable development. Uruguay condemned the rejection of humanitarian access to children, and attacks on schools and hospitals.  The elimination of gender stereotypes was necessary to fight violence against children.

Remarks by the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General

MARTA SANTOS PAIS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, was very thankful and uplifted that so many delegations recognized the critical importance of preventing all forms of violence against children.  The first 1,000 days of a child were decisive and defined the way and their future.  When they benefited from a very loving and caring family environment, they could become the happiest human beings.  But when abuse, neglect, corporal punishment and ill-treatment happened in early years, they would not have confidence to share their stories, and even less, to seek help.  They would have health problems, and would often become recruited in criminal activities, not even realizing that what they were doing was wrong.  When societies did not invest in early childhood programmes, countries could lose up to twice of their health and education investment.  As such, this was also an economic argument, and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4, was a prerequisite in order to achieve the best and highest quality education.

The Special Representative urged States to undertake three important measures.  Firstly, to convey a very clear message to society that it was unacceptable to use disciplinary or punishment measures against children.  Unfortunately, 300 million children in the world (approximately one of every four children) suffered violence in early life.  Second, to create conditions for supporting parents to stimulate their children, be at home, to not be stressed.  Third, cross-sectoral cooperation between different levels of government as well as civil society had to be promoted.  States had to invest in early childhood programmes, social protection measures, justice and home affairs.  The investment in budgets for early childhood was very weak.  Ms. Santos Pais thanked Chile, Senegal, Norway, Thailand and Estonia who had shared interesting best practices and urged that national plans were needed on this issue.  She also hailed the initiatives launched by Sweden, Austria and Sovereign Order of Malta on best practices on prevention and victim reintegration.  Even more encouraging were the initiatives launched by regional entities, including by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the South American Trade Bloc, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.  So many encouraging decisions were being taken but this was not enough.

Addressing the questions, including the one on cyber bullying and online abuse raised by the United States, she referred to a report issued by the Secretary-General a year and a half ago on this issue, which proposed strategies and measures on how to combat these scourges.  Good practices were fundamental in this regard, and States needed to model positive behaviour, sensitize children, and involve parents on how to use these guidelines.  They needed to ensure the capacity of children.  They needed to move forward in helping child victims report safely.  In this regard, she stressed that most children were very frightened about the level of violence they suffered.  States needed to empower children and enhance the capacity of professionals.  They needed to fight impunity.  The work of child protection and law enforcement agencies was crucial in achieving positive results.  Mexico had made important contributions, and she welcomed not its national plan but the survey on the violence against children, which would be a great contribution to this debate.

VIRGINIA GAMBA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, explained that her Office was strengthening the existing tools through proactive engagement with States going through conflict, including through delivering technical assistance.  The Office intended to reinforce the country task forces on the monitoring mechanism.  The action plans were the best tools for protection and they complemented future prevention actions to protect children in armed conflict.  It was important to ensure access to verify how action plans were managed.  More understanding and research was needed into what worked or did not work in the action plans.  The Office was building broader partnerships and benefiting from the existing work.  It was also going to engage and improve on awareness rising campaigns, as well as to increase membership of voluntary initiatives, such as the Safe Schools Declaration.  Ms. Gamba said she intended to open an office in Brussels to strengthen the interaction with all the missions, agencies and civil societies based there.  She suggested to the Council to hold a special session on attacks on schools and hospitals.  As for sub-regional and regional approaches, the Office was currently in negotiations with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on the protection of children in armed conflicts in the East Horn of Africa.  More child protection officers were needed everywhere to try to draw attention to all those negotiations on peace agreements and the protection measures for children.  As for the special needs of girls in conflicts, Ms. Gamba invited delegations to attend a special session on that.  If the plateau between the children released and the children recruited was to be broken, States had to seriously discuss what reintegration meant and the costs of reintegration, Ms. Gamba emphasized.
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