NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 8 – Marking two decades of efforts to protect children from armed conflicts, UN Special Representative Leila Zerrougui flagged the importance of helping children in war. “We cannot afford” not to do it, she said uniting her voice to those of top officials from the United Nations and the international community applauding the 20th anniversary of General Assembly resolution 51/77 (1997) on promotion and protection of the rights of children.
In an informal meeting of the 193-member Assembly in New York, the UN body’s President, Peter Thomson, called the resolution “a landmark development in our global efforts to improve the protection of children in conflict situations.”
“Among the incomprehensible horrors that take place in the chaos of warzones, unconscionable crimes, violations, exploitation and abuse are perpetrated against the most vulnerable members of our societies – namely our children,” Mr. Thomson said.
He called for a concerted effort to protect children in armed conflict as part of the international community’s commitments to peace and security, sustainable development and human rights. As an outcome of the historic resolution, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to name a Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
Another step for the protection of children in war was taken by the UN Security Council which today adopted a resolution renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts of the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee. Following an Italian proposal, the Council introduced a clause on the Plan of Action signed by Sudan and the UN on child-soldiers.
As a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2007-2008, Italy strongly supported the inclusion of specific provisions on the protection of children in the mandates of the UN peacekeeping operations, which is now the standard practice of the SC, and actively participated in the drafting of UNSCR 1820 (2008) on Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict, which was the first resolution that openly recognizes that sexual violence, when used as a tactic of war, may exacerbate conflicts and impede the restauration of peace and security. Other initiatives were taken by Italy to protect children in armed conflict. Among them, Italy joined the “Safe Schools Declaration”, which supports the “Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict”, promoted by a coalition made of countries, UN actors and NGOs. Italy also support campaigns like “Children, Not Soldiers”, launched in 2014 by the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflicts and UNICEF.
There is more: given the growing trend of abuses and violence committed against children in the current crises, Italy is promoting and implementing long-term initiatives for the recovery and social integration of former child soldiers and victims of conflicts through our development cooperation programmes, in particular in the Middle East and in Africa. Looking at the unprecedented and steadily rising in mixed migration flows on the Mediterranean central route, the Italian government is putting in place a new and ad hoc legal framework in order to better assist and grant reception to minors coming from conflict areas, strengthening the implementation of their rights. After having increased the financial resources dedicated to unaccompanied minors from 90 million Euro in 2015 to 170 million Euro in 2016, Italy is committed to increase the quality and quantity of receptions for unaccompanied minors: 2.000 more reception places will be available for them by the end of 2018, while highly specialized services will be granted, based on the principle of the best interest of the child. (@OnuItalia)