2 August 2016 - Protection of children requires full commitment [fr]
Children in armed conflict - Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - 2 August 2016
I should like to thank Malaysia for having convened this debate on this crucial topic, as the protection of children in armed conflict represents a universal moral duty. I should also like to thank the Secretary-General for being with us today, for his statement and his commitment to this crucial issue.
As has been highlighted, important progress has been made since the call to action made by Ms. Graça Machel. This progress would not have been possible without the praiseworthy work undertaken for several years now by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, as well as the Executive Director of UNICEF, Mr. Anthony Lake. On behalf of France, I should like warmly to thank Ms. Zerrougui and Mr. Lake and their teams for their exemplary action and the statements they made today. I should like also to thank civil-society actors, who play a vital role in supporting the work of the United Nations.
However, in spite of this progress, children continue to be recruited, torn from their families and denied education and health care. They are the victims of murder, mutilation, rape and other forms of sexual violence. As the black list shows, non-State armed groups are the perpetrators of most of these violations. Among them, the terrorist groups Da’esh and Boko Haram represent a particular threat, as they intensify the horror by making children not only the direct targets but also the perpetrators of terrorism, through suicide bombings, executions and trafficking in human beings. Above and beyond those children who are recruited and kidnapped, we must also think about the fate of children born to these armed groups, who risk perpetuating and making extremist violence seem normal, as if it were in their DNA.
The international community has a moral and political obligation to undertake this crucial existential combat for the sake of the children and of us all. The required mobilization includes not only military action but also tackling the root causes of this tragedy. That is the thrust of the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which France fully endorses. These root causes include education, which plays a key role. In Syria, almost 4 million children are deprived of access to education. France firmly condemns attacks against schools and calls upon States to uphold international law, in particular international humanitarian law, and to spare no effort to prevent a lost generation of children deprived of education, in particular young Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
Combating terrorism is a sine qua non, but it cannot justify arbitrary detention. This is, however, the case in a number of theatres of conflict, where thousands of children are detained because of their affiliation with armed groups or in a totally arbitrary manner. This is the case in Syria, where many children, probably thousands, have been beaten and tortured in the prisons of the regime, often perishing there. That is not even to mention the mass bombings of civilians, including children, undertaken relentlessly by the Damascus regime in Aleppo and elsewhere.
We must never forget that Governments bear responsibility for protecting their people and must deal with children associated with armed groups in the most appropriate manner based on their age and life experience, pursuant to international standards of justice applicable to minors.
Given these weighty challenges, I would like to briefly highlight three areas of action.
First, at the institutional level, the United Nations has effective mechanisms to protect children in armed conflict. The Security Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, currently chaired by Malaysia, must continue to facilitate dialogue with Governments in New York and on the ground. The monitoring and reporting mechanism is also particularly useful, because it helps to identify all serious violations committed on the ground, so as to add them to the Secretary-General’s annual black list. It is key for the United Nations and all States to ensure that these mechanisms are impartial so as to preserve their effectiveness.
We must also organize our actions at the operational level. The United Nations Must continue to deploy child protection advisers to identify and prevent rights violations and to ensure the protection of children is fully integrated into the planning of peacekeeping operations.
Finally, we need to ratchet up our action at a political level. In March 2016, the primary goal of the Children, Not Soldiers campaign launched by Ms. Zerrougui and UNICEF was achieved. Eight of the States concerned signed a national action plan to halt the recruitment of children in national security forces. Now the full implementation of those plans is required in order to reach a new goal, namely, a world free of child soldiers. That should be our shared goal. We can achieve it if we support and strengthen the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General by applying the Children, Not Soldiers campaign to non-State armed groups so as to secure additional concrete commitments on the ground.
Before concluding, I should like to pay tribute to the commitment and determination of the Secretary- General to combat sexual abuse within the United Nations and with respect to national forces under a United Nations mandate. France, as the Council is aware, remains fully mobilized in the areas of prevention, the training of staff and dealing with all allegations.
The protection of children in armed conflict requires exemplary behaviour from everyone and an unwavering commitment. France chose this path several years ago. Since the adoption of resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005), initiated by my country and which form the cornerstone of our shared efforts, France has continued to play a crucial role along these lines. It is in this spirit that in February 2017 in Paris, along with UNICEF, we will organize an international conference on the protection of children in armed conflict, to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Paris Commitments and Paris Principles on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, which have been signed by 105 countries to date. I call on all States to participate in this event and endorse the Paris Commitments and Paris Principles at this time in order to demonstrate their commitment to the universal cause of protecting children in armed conflict.