Security Council Open Debate: Preventing children victims in conflict
- Children and Armed Conflict
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by H.E. Gillian Bird, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you, Mr President, for convening this important debate. I also thank the Secretary-General for his commitment to the plight of children caught in conflict, and our briefers for their tireless efforts to protect the world's most vulnerable.
Australia reaffirms its commitment to the Paris Principles and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict. We encourage all states, which have not already ratified or acceded to the Convention and Protocol, to do so expeditiously.
Despite progress in the 16 years since Children and Armed Conflict first appeared on the Council's agenda, armed conflict continues to take a terrible toll on children around the globe.
As the conflict in Syria enters its fourth year, the Assad regime's cruelty shows no signs of abating. A generation of Syrian children faces deprivation, displacement, violence, under-vaccination, malnutrition and disrupted education. Schools are attacked, most often by Syrian government forces. Half the refugees from Syria are children.
We are alarmed by the threat posed to children by extremist groups. Daesh continues its deplorable campaign of violence, including crucifixions, beheadings, and mass executions. Children are not immune, as victims, witnesses and – disturbingly – as forced participants.
Girls are especially vulnerable. Daesh supports the sexual abuse of girls who have not yet reached puberty, and operates brothels where non-Muslim Iraqi women and girls are held as sex slaves for Daesh terrorist fighters.
Resolution 2178 requires all nations to prevent the financing, travel and activities of these terrorists. It must be implemented fully by all states. Stronger and more effective measures must be taken to protect children, and – importantly – to rehabilitate them.
Non-state armed groups engaged in peace processes are more likely to engage on child protection. In the Philippines, Australia has worked closely with UNICEF and the MILF to establish Community-Based Child Protection Networks, which have strengthened child protection systems in MILF command and conflict-affected areas.
It is crucial that the SRSG continues her efforts to conclude action plans with non-state armed groups – difficult though that is. We urge governments to facilitate and support engagement by the Special Representative to develop action plans and prevent the abuse and exploitation of children.
Where parties to a conflict fail to adhere to their obligations under international law, the Council should use the tools at its disposal to ensure accountability, including by providing political support for the work of the International Criminal Court. ICC actions can have an important deterrent effect on the use of child soldiers by rebel groups. The vast majority of groups listed in the Secretary-General's annex have been abusing children for more than five years. This impunity cannot persist.
Sanctions should be used to full effect against those perpetrating grave violations against children. We welcome the fact that five sanctions committees are already focused on child protection.
The world has expressed its outrage at Boko Haram's kidnapping of children and its targeting of schools. As others have done, we encourage the Council to expand its listing criteria to include abductions of children, and request the Secretary General to include in his annual report those parties to a conflict that engage in these abhorrent acts.
We expect the High level Review of Sanctions will provide a strong blueprint to improve coordination and implementation of sanctions, including the Council's response to the abuse and exploitation of children.
We encourage all states to redouble efforts to protect children caught up in conflict. The Council must continue to seek practical means to ensure the protection of children. We can't do enough to protect children. They are, after all, our future.
Thank you Mr President.
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