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Joint Statement for the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, 9 March 2021

Human Rights Council – 46 Session

Interactive dialogue with Ms. Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

Geneva, 8-9 March 2021

Statement of the Group of Friends on CAAC

Madam President,

It is my pleasure to deliver this statement on behalf of the Group of Friends on Children and Armed Conflict in Geneva comprised of 27 States and co-chaired by Belgium and Uruguay.

Our group wishes to reiterate its continued strong support for the SRSG and the CAAC mandate. We stress the importance we attach to the independence, impartiality, and credibility of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism. We also stress the need for objectivity in decisions to list and de-list parties to conflict in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual reports. We further encourage the full implementation of all Action Plans and commitments made by parties to armed conflicts.

We welcome the work undertaken by the SRSG during 2020 and we commend the joint efforts together with country task forces on monitoring and reporting and child protection teams to ensure that the monitoring and verification of grave violations against children continued in accordance with the standards of the MRM despite COVID-19 related lockdown and mobility restrictions.

We stress our group's support to the Secretary General's appeal for a global ceasefire, and we agree with the SRSG’s latest report that in the context of the pandemic, more than ever, processes such as ceasefires, peace negotiations, security sector reforms and other reforms of governance must be seized as opportunities to strengthen mechanisms to include and protect children. In this regard, we also join the SRSG in encouraging the inclusion of children formerly associated with parties to conflict in peace, reconciliation, and transitional justice processes.

We remain deeply concerned about the scale and severity of international law violations and abuses committed against children in the context of armed conflicts, involving their killing and maiming, their recruitment and use all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, their abduction by armed groups and forces, attacks against schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access for children by parties to armed conflicts and all other violations of international law committed against children in situations of armed conflict. We reiterate our call on States to end impunity for perpetrators of all six grave violations and abuses against children in armed conflict identified by relevant UNSC resolutions, and to focus on long-term survivor-centred and gender-sensitive rehabilitation and social reintegration of children, ensuring international juvenile justice standards and due process are applied to any criminal proceedings involving a child, and the prevention of their secondary victimization. Protecting children and upholding their human rights in situations of armed conflict is a precondition for successful reconciliation, reintegration and development; and contributes to conflict prevention and to building sustainable and lasting peace.

We are appalled by the continued attacks against schools and hospitals in violation of applicable international humanitarian law, and we condemn the increasing unlawful use of schools for military purposes, stressing that their civilian character must be respected; noting in this regard the Safe Schools Declaration. Hospitals and health-care institutions must also be respected and protected in all circumstances, in accordance with international humanitarian law.

We stress our concern on the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children affected by armed conflict and we join the SRSG’s call on States to consider child protection concerns when designing and enforcing measures to contain the pandemic, and to ensure that child protection services continue to be delivered during the pandemic.

Our Group also wishes to underscore that the full, safe and unhindered access for the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection is fundamental for the protection of girls and boys in armed conflicts, which is even more urgent in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We strongly condemn the rise of incidents related to the denial of humanitarian access, which can not be reasonably explained by measures to fight the pandemic, and is increasingly disrupting the provision of vital assistance to children. We therefore call upon all parties to conflicts to ensure rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access to all children in need as well as to undertake appropriate measures to mitigate the immediate, medium and long-term consequences of the pandemic on the enjoyment of children’s rights.

We appreciate and further encourage the cooperation of the SRSG Virginia Gamba with the HRC, and other UN human rights bodies and mechanisms, including the special procedures, and we extend our appreciation to the SRSG and the team of her liaison office in Europe for their continued cooperation with our Group of Friends.

We also wish to renew our call on all member States to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, as well as to consider to endorse the Paris Principles, the Vancouver Principles and the Safe Schools Declaration.

Finally, taking into account the recommendations contained in the report, we would like to ask the SRSG if she could share her thoughts on how the Council could strengthen the mandates of its investigative mechanisms from a child rights-based approach.

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