Children in armed conflict: UN’s Gamba, SC should come together; Italy, protection is priority in our agenda

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Virginia Gamba speaks during an event at the United Nations. @UN Photo

NEW YORK, AUGUST 2 – It is “vitally important” that the Security Council “comes together” on the current plight of children affected by armed conflict across the globe, Virginia Gamba, the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict said on Friday.

Recalling that 2019 marks 20 years since the Council first passed a resolution on children and armed conflict and the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, she said the open debate, which comes on the heels of the release of the Secretary-General’s annual report on the issue earlier this week,  “provides a milestone” to take stock of our collective efforts to date.

“Armed conflicts pose a wide range of challenges to minors, increasing their vulnerability and putting them at risk of recruitment, neglect, exploitation, trafficking, sexual violence and abuses, also worsening the risk of harmful practices such as early and forced marriages. The issue is very high on the agenda of our country, which attaches the greatest importance to the protection of the rights of children in armed conflicts”, said the Italian Deputy Representative and charge’ d’affairs Stefano Stefanile in his address to the Council.

“This was a top priority during our last term in the Security Council in 2017, and is currently at the core of our mandate in the Human Rights Council”, he added, recalling that Italy endorses the Paris Principles on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, and the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers, being cognizant of the crucial importance of mainstreaming these principles into the wider Peacekeeping agenda. “We were also amongst the first signatories to the Oslo Declaration on Safe Schools, as we value the key role of education in promoting stable and peaceful societies, where children can feel safe to learn and become actors of positive change, and we have been devoting particular efforts to the protection of schools ever since”.

In 2018, Italy has allocated more than 10% of its humanitarian budget to emergency interventions in the field of education and school infrastructures.

In her remarks, Henrietta Fore, Executive Director the UN Children’s Fund, spotlighted the stark figures from the SG report, pointing to the 24,000 violations against conflict-affected children documented in 2018. Half of these cases involve the killing and maiming of children, she said, adding: “Those are just the verified incidents; we must do better.”

She also expressed deep distress over the continued rampant use of explosive weapons and their impact on children, who account for more than two thirds of all civilians killed and maimed by these weapons. “Ten years after the Council adopted resolution 1882 (2009), the facts tell us that we have miles to go to end grave violations against children in armed conflict,” she said.

At the end of July a new UN report found that 2018 was the worst year on record for children caught up in armed conflict; the year saw the highest numbers killed or maimed since the United Nations began monitoring the violation. In the 20 conflict situations monitored in the 2018 edition of the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, released Tuesday, more than 12,000 children were killed or maimed that year. (@OnuItalia)