Opening Remarks by Ambassador Leendertse at the side event, “Unlocking Access to Provide Assistance and Protection to Children Affected by Conflict”, May 23, 2022.
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This Side Event is the first one to kick off the Protection of Civilian-Week with over 15 side events and the Secuirty Council Open Debate in New York, and it could not be timelier to talk about two very grave and interlinked issues: humanitarian access and children and armed conflict.
Because one fact is more evident today than ever before: Children are the most affected and vulnerable in conflict.
All issues arising in conflict affect children on a much higher scale: food insecurity, displacement and physical and psychological impact. The particular vulnerability of children in conflict situations was also emphasized by several UN Member States during last week’s ministerial meeting on food security and conflict. All these aspects must be addressed together, as they are closely interlinked.
This is currently the case in Ukraine: Millions of people are on the move fleeing from attacks, from bombing and shelling by Russian aggression. The number of internally displaced persons, especially children, is growing every day. We are talking about millions of girls and boys who have been forced to abandon their homes. All this because of an unprovoked, unjustified act of aggression by Russia.
The war in Ukraine is having a devastating impact on the country’s 7.5 million children. Humanitarian needs are multiplying by the hour as the fighting continues. Children continue to be killed, wounded and deeply traumatized. Education is interrupted. Children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable.
I would like to particularly stress the gender dimension of this war: There have been multiple accounts of sexual and gender based violence that have not been accurately reported yet.
And let us not forget other conflicts, where the denial of humanitarian access is a serious concern: for example in parts of Syria and Ethiopia, children are not even receiving the most basic protection or assistance. So what do we, the international community, need to do better?
First, we need to be better at ensuring humanitarian access to children. Access that is rapid, responsive, unimpeded, and consistent.
Let me be clear: Arbitrary denial of humanitarian access is a violation of international humanitarian law, and is considered one of the six grave violations stipulated explicitly in the framework of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate.
Allowing humanitarian access to those in need is an obligation which binds all actors, it is not a gesture of solidarity.
Germany will continue to raise arbitrary denial of humanitarian access (at the Security Council and other fora), stand up for humanitarian principles and against impunity, and we encourage the Secretary-General and his Special Representative Virginia Gamba to do the same, especially with a view to the upcoming report on CAAC.
Secondly, we need to be better at allowing humanitarian workers to do their job.
Germany once again calls on all parties of conflict everywhere to ensure humanitarian access and by doing so providing the humanitarian space needed.
And we need to ensure adequate funding for their work.
In this spirit, Germany is the second largest (bilateral) donor of humanitarian assistance worldwide. We will stick to a principled and needs-based approach and the protection of the most vulnerable, including children, will remain a priority.
Let me finish by thanking all those who work on the protection of children in humanitarian settings – here in headquarters, but especially those in dangerous circumstances elsewhere.