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On behalf of the co-sponsors Estonia, the United Kingdom and Germany, allow me to thank you for joining us today for this open Arria meeting with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria. I welcome its Chair, Mr Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, and his colleagues Ms Karen Koning AbuZayd and Mr Hanny Megally. You have our full support.
The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic has been mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic. They are here today to present their report on children’s rights in the Syrian Arab Republic entitled “They have erased the dreams of my children”. We are pleased about this opportunity to present a product of the Human Rights Council from Geneva in New York here today. One of the aims of our Security Council membership - and indeed of many of you - has been to bring New York and Geneva closer together. This is a good occasion to do so, we find.
We deeply regret the fact that the presentation could not occur in a formal meeting of the Security Council, because we firmly believe that sustainable peace can only be achieved where human rights are respected and perpetrators of human rights violations are brought to justice. Given its responsibility for international peace and security, the Security Council as a body cannot close its eyes to this reality.
We thank all those delegations that supported such an important addition to our discussions on this dreadful conflict. The CoI report provides an essential element in our dealing with the situation in Syria.
The presentation of this paper is very timely. Just yesterday, UNICEF estimated that roughly half a million children - 500,000! - children have been displaced from northwest Syria since December alone. It is hard to grasp these vast numbers - and it hurts to envision the situation of each individual child behind such numbers. It hurts to imagine the despair of mothers and fathers seeking to protect and nurture their children for them to be safe.
We are deeply concerned about the longterm effects this conflict will have on the education and the mental health of children. A child, who should have begun school at the beginning of the conflict and would have graduated by now, may forever be deprived of the opportunity to visit a proper school.
A great number of Syrian refugees have found a safe place in Germany in recent years and we are witnessing first-hand the enormous human toll that it exacts.
As we listen to the Commission of Inquiry brief and engage in subsequent discussion, I hope that we can focus on the plight of children, which should, regardless of our political agenda, be a concern that unites us all: The children of Syria did not start this conflict and they should not be the ones to bear the brunt of it.