Swedish Statement at the 20th anniversary of the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
Statement during the Informal Meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, by Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, H.E. Ambassador Olof Skoog, 8 February, United Nations, New York.
Today, as we mark the 20th anniversary of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate, we celebrate a remarkable achievement by the global community and the United Nations. Since 2000, over 115,000 children have been released from armed forces and groups. This shows the power of the UN, member states and civil society working together to give back a future to children affected by armed conflict. Here is another fact: As of 2016, every national armed force identified by the Secretary-General as using child soldiers is working with the United Nations to end this practice. This is a development of major significance that is opening new doors to address the suffering of children in times of conflict.
Yet, much work remains to be done. The changing nature of conflicts presents new challenges for the protection of children. Non-state actors, violent extremism, and an utter disregard for human rights and international humanitarian law, are killing and maiming children and creating a lost generation of children who are traumatized, depraved of education, orphaned or displaced by armed conflicts. Tackling non-state armed groups will be the next frontier for the Children and Armed Conflict mandate.
I am proud to chair the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and I believe it has an important role to play to support the General Assembly mandate and the important work of the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms Leila Zerrougui. SRSG Zerrougui and her predecessors have been instrumental in the successes of the CAAC-mandate that we are highlighting today. That function needs to be supported also as a means to mainstreaming the protection of children in the broader work of the UN family.
As the Chair of the Security Council Working Group for Children and Armed Conflict I commit to do my best to ensure that the Security Council remains focused on making a tangible difference for children affected by armed conflict. That the information from the monitoring and reporting mechanism guides the broader work of the Council and that the Children and Armed Conflict agenda is mainstreamed throughout all action. We will work to ensure that United Nations peace keeping operations are given appropriate mandates and resources to enhance the ability of child protection actors to deliver on the ground.
We have made conflict prevention and sustaining peace a priority for our term on the Security Council. We are heartened by the massive energetic support to the Secretary-General's vision as manifested during the Open Debate on January 10 and the High level Dialogue on Building Sustainable Peace for All on January 24. If we get this agenda right we have found the best recipe for protecting children.
The costs of war are enormous, especially on the future of children and their communities. We must be much better at systematically including child protection in peace processes.
The peace process in Colombia is a case in point. The Peace Agreement in Colombia sets as guiding principles the best interest of the child, the treatment of children separated from armed groups primarily as victims, a gender-sensitive approach and a focus on family and community-based reintegration. If fully implemented it can serve as a model for the protection of children in other peace processes.
The SDG:s recognize that boys and girls are key to building peaceful and strong societies and the 2030 Agenda is an opportunity to integrate and improve the protection of children affected by conflict. We worked hard to get target 16.2 on ending all forms of violence against children into the 2030 agenda, which all countries of the world have committed to. The UN and donors need to provide support to programmes and initiatives aimed at protecting children affected by armed conflict, including through reintegration, psycho-social support, and finding durable solutions for displaced children.
As a UN Security Council Member we will do everything that we can to ensure the UN Security Council delivers on its responsibility to uphold international peace and security. As Chair of the Security Council Working Group we will do our utmost to ensure that the Security Council fulfils its task to deliver tangible difference for children affected by armed conflict. We will proactively engage with countries, especially those who have shown a serious willingness to address these issues and which need our support.
For the two years to come, building on the work of my predecessors I hope that we can rally behind SRSG Zerrougui and her mandate as well as Unicef and come together as Member States and with civil society to push the Children and Armed Conflict mandate forward and that we can look back to a completely new paradigm shift:
- with a new level of respect for the right of children to access to health care and education, also in situations of conflict and displacement;
- where children are fully exempt from war;
- a new level of protection of children in humanitarian crises;
- where children are given a voice, not just as victims, but as agents of change;
- where impunity for violations and abuses against children is an isolated exception, not a rule.