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Updated On: Thursday, December 14 2017

Secretary-General Calls Highest Recorded Number of Child Casualties in Armed Conflict ‘Global Shame’, during Security Council Debate

Content by: UN General Assembly

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Security Council open debate on children and armed conflict, in New York today:

Je souhaiterais tout d’abord remercier le Ministre des affaires étrangères de la France, Son Excellence Jean-Yves Le Drian, pour l’organisation de ce débat d’une importance vitale autour de la question des enfants et les conflits armés.

Le rapport dont vous êtes saisis aujourd’hui indique qu'en 2016, les enfants ont continué d’être affectés par les décisions et les actions des dirigeants politiques et militaires, et ce de différentes manières.

Children around the world are suffering enormously and unacceptably by conflict.  This is a source of global shame.  The period covered by my report revealed an alarming level of violations.  We see armed groups forcing girls and boys to act as suicide bombers.

We see children stigmatized for having been recruited and used by armed groups.  We see children held criminally responsible for acts they were forced to commit.  And we see parties to conflict often obstructing life-saving aid for children.

Over the period covered by the report, we witnessed the most child casualties ever recorded by the United Nations in Afghanistan; a doubling of verified cases of recruitment and use of children in Syria and Somalia; and wide‑spread sexual violence against children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and elsewhere.

Tens of millions of children across the globe were also uprooted from their homes by fighting — their families often split apart, their childhoods disrupted, their futures put at risk.

Despite this bleak picture, some progress has been made.  Changes to the reporting process this year allowed for deeper engagement with parties to conflict to encourage the implementation of measures to better protect children.  Many entities are now undertaking such measures, as my report outlines.  I have asked my Special Representative to work closely with these parties to improve their efforts to spare children from the horrors of war.

Measures to better protect children were put in place by five Government security forces and four armed groups during 2016.  These ranged from specific steps such as the release of children held in prison in Somalia, to substantive measures affecting complex operations such as those undertaken by the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in the Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia.

While there is progress, the scale and intensity of some of today’s crises require us to redouble our efforts and take innovative approaches.  The cross‑border elements of conflict are increasing year by year.  To address this, we need to strengthen our engagement with regional and subregional actors.

We should also encourage additional legal and political commitments to protect children, as well as other measures that my Special Representative is developing.  I appeal to Member States to provide resources to support these initiatives.

In 2016, thousands of children were released from armed groups and armed forces, yet only half were successfully reintegrated into their families and communities, most notably by UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] and its partners.  We must do more to provide funding and capacity for programmes that offer education, job training, counselling and family reunification.

The legal framework to protect children in armed conflict is in place.  I call on all parties to respect this framework in all conflict situations.  We also must pursue accountability for abhorrent crimes and violations of human rights and humanitarian law.  If we leave the next generation traumatized, seething with grievances, we betray those we serve and we betray ourselves.

I call on all parties to conflict to work with the United Nations, both on the ground and in New York, to ensure that we protect the most vulnerable of your populations and the most precious resource of your countries: your children.  And I urge this Council to strongly support this work as we strive together to build long-term peace, stability and development.  Thank you.

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