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End the killing of children in armed conflict, UN committee urges

20 November 2023

GENEVA (20 November 2023) – With one out of every five children worldwide living within armed conflict zones, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child marks World Children’s Day in a sombre mood and calls for ceasefires and a return to basics of humanitarian law to safeguard all children. The Committee today issued the following statement:

“World Children’s Day has generally been regarded as a day to celebrate the gains made since the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. Thirty-four years later today, it, however, has become a day for mourning for the many children who have recently died in armed conflict. More than 4,600 children have been killed in Gaza in only five weeks. This war has claimed the lives of more children in a shorter time and with a level of brutality that we have not witnessed in recent decades.

The Committee has previously urged for a ceasefire. Unfortunately, the UN Security Council has not put its weight behind that call. While the 15 November 2023 resolution of the Security Council calling for humanitarian pauses and corridors is a positive step by the international community, it does not end the war that is waging on children – it simply makes it possible for children to be saved from being killed on some days, but not on other days.

There are 468 million children worldwide living in armed conflict zones, according to Save the Children’s research, accounting for about 20% of the world’s 2.4 billion children population, based on UNICEF’s statistics.

On World Children's Day, the Committee also wants to underscore that while the armed conflict in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is at the forefront of our minds, we remain acutely concerned that thousands of children are dying in armed conflict in many parts of the world, including in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Myanmar, Haiti, Sudan, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. Verified figures show that in 2022, the global figure of children killed or maimed was 8,630. Of deep concern is the fact that up to 4,000 children were denied humanitarian access last year. Given the current situation in Gaza, the number of child victims of these grave human rights violations is rising exponentially.

The plight of girls affected by armed conflict is also at a crisis point. In Sudan and Haiti, there are verified reports of abduction and rape of girls, and concerns have been raised by the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children about the deterioration in access to humanitarian services is driving girls towards being recruited by armed groups.

Children of so-called ‘foreign fighters’ are a further area of concern. The Committee has recommended in three complaints under its communications procedure that children in the camps in Northeast Syria should be repatriated. While some States have acted to return children and their mothers, an estimated 31,000 children are still living in abysmal conditions in the camps. The Committee also remains very concerned about boys who are being separated from their mothers when they reach early adolescence, as well as several hundred boys who are in prison.

The Committee recognises World Children’s Day in a sombre mood. In the face of wars affecting children around the globe, we call again for ceasefires, for a return to the basics of humanitarian law, and for thorough investigations by competent authorities of all grave violations against children in the context of armed conflict.”


For more information and media requests in Geneva, please contact:
Vivian Kwok at [email protected] or
UN Human Rights Office Media Section at [email protected]

The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors States parties' adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols on involvement of children in armed conflict, and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Convention to date has 196 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

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