I join others in thanking His Excellency the Foreign Minister of Poland for convening this important debate. Today, some 420 million children worldwide are affected by conflict. We therefore face the real danger that the Security Council sits idly by as a whole generation of children grows up without knowing peace and without access to basic services and education.
We need to change that and I would like to extend our utmost appreciation to Ms Kamara and Mr Awan for bravely showing us the way forward and reminding us of the brutal realities on the ground
I also thank SRSG Gamba and Henrietta Fore for their important work. Germany is proud to be one of the largest donors of UNICEF [BMZ Commitment in 2018: 407 Mio. EUR].
We take our commitment to children’s rights seriously and see our engagement in the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict as an important part of that. I would like to thank Belgium for its excellent chairmanship so far. We are pleased that with it the Group has been able to agree on strong conclusions on Syria and Myanmar this year and has developed more innovative ways of following-up on its conclusions.
Madame Chair, allow me to contribute three non-exhaustive points to this debate.
First, on the UN framework for Children and Armed Conflict.
We welcome the annual report by the Secretary-General and we note the listing in the Annexes.
We are aware that this is not an easy exercise, but there is intrinsic value in the report and the listing: it will open further avenues for engagement by the UN.
We therefore encourage SRSG Gamba to continue to work towards concluding and implementing action plans with the listed parties and to further engage the countries mentioned in the narrative of the report.
In this vein, we also welcome her recent travel to the Central African Republic and Mali, her recent public statements about situations of concern, and her successful efforts to conclude an action plan with the Syrian Democratic Forces.
And we encourage her to dig even deeper into the issue of children deprived of their liberty for alleged association to armed groups, for example in Nigeria and Iraq.
We will specifically be providing funding to her office to engage in more regional prevention programs as per Resolution 2427 (2018). We also very much appreciate her cooperation with the EU, as well as with NATO, where we have supported the position of senior child protection advisor.
Since much of the work on CAAC is entrusted to child protection advisors in UN peace operations, Germany underlines the need for UN missions to be adequately resourced in this regard. This is especially important since human rights and other protection functions have in some cases been consolidated and as the distinct role of child protection advisors needs to be preserved.
Second, a few words on the grave violations captured in the report.
We deeply regret as many speakers before us have said that ten years after Resolution 1882 (2009), there seems to be no end in sight for killing and maiming of children; in fact: numbers are unfortunately at a record high. The Secretary-General has identified Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen as cases of particular concern.
The use of explosive weapons in populated areas needs to be avoided at all cost. In Syria alone, airstrikes, barrel bombs and cluster munitions have killed and maimed over 1.850 children.
This is unacceptable and tragically unnecessary:
We are deeply concerned about sexual and gender-based violence, the levels of which are constantly underreported in the monitoring and reporting mechanism due to difficult verification. Despite the strict verification requirements, the Secretary-General was able to confirm appallingly high figures in the DRC and Somalia.
In April this year, this Council called for a more consistent focus on the gender specific nature of sexual violence against all affected populations, including men and boys and recognized the situation of children born out of sexual violence. We will keep our attention on these issues.
We need to ensure non-discriminatory and multi-sectoral assistance to all child survivors of sexual violence. This must also include access to sexual and reproductive health services.
Finally, as initiators of Security Council Resolution 1998 on attacks on schools and hospitals, we condemn all such attacks in contravention of international law in the strongest terms, some of which we have seen in Syria and Afghanistan. With 225 recorded attacks on schools and hospitals in Syria the number for 2018 was at an all-time high since the beginning of the conflict.
We urge all States to sign up to the Safe Schools Declaration.
Germany works hard to ensure that international humanitarian law is implemented so as to prevent all six grave violations documented by the SG’s report. That is why we, together with France, are drawing up a ‘humanitarian call for action’ to improve compliance with international law and the humanitarian principles to be presented in September this year. In this context, we look forward to the upcoming debate about the Geneva Conventions initiated by the Polish Presidency.
Third and finally, a few words on accountability and reintegration.
In our view, the most effective way to prevent grave violations is to ensure that there is accountability instead of impunity. Impunity regarding violations against children must be stopped!
In Myanmar, for instance, accountability for mass atrocities, including sexual violence and killing and maiming in Rakhine, has been left wanting.
Germany also reiterates its fullest confidence in the work of the International Criminal Court in ensuring accountability as well as international investigative mechanisms such as those set up by the Human Rights Council.
It is clear, however, that for long-term reconciliation and reintegration of children affected by armed conflict we need community-based programs anchored in a child rights approach that complement accountability mechanisms.
All too often staying with armed groups appears to be a more viable option for children than being released into an environment with no basic services, no education and, crucially, no psycho-social support. This underlines the urgent need for more predicable long-term resources for reintegration.
We are encouraged by the work of UNICEF and the SRSG in looking at reintegration more fundamentally and hope to be able to examine concrete suggestions for improvements soon.
Thank you, Mr. President.