Check against delivery
In front of us, we have a 38 page report that details the gravest violations against children. This report reflects the worst of human nature. I wish there was more to celebrate in the 15th year of resolution 1612. I would like to thank SRSG Gamba and Executive Director Fore for making it abundantly clear that we haven’t even come close to where need to be. I would also like to thank Mariam for joining us today and for giving a voice not only to the children suffering from conflict in Mali, but also to children affected by the devastating consequences of war around the world.
Allow me to share some views on the issues at hand. I want to raise four crucial points, the first of which is accountability. Violators of international law must be held accountable. In Syria, as our Foreign Minister said in this Council in February, the Syrian regime and Russia have been bombing civilian infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals. In Myanmar, we are yet to see any credible accountability for the killing and maiming of and sexual violence against children in 2017. Access to humanitarian assistance is denied without consequences; look at the Houthis in Yemen. With such rampant impunity, there is no deterrent against committing any of the horrible crimes against children detailed in the report. To strengthen accountability, Germany established the “Alliance against Impunity”. Germany reiterates its full confidence in the work of the International Criminal Court as well as in international investigative mechanisms. Moreover, we fully support the Secretary-General’s recommendation that accountability is reflected in action plans to be concluded with listed parties in the annual report. The interplay between international accountability elements and the strengthening of national judicial systems is crucial.
Second, the protection of children through humanitarian assistance and development programmes requires sufficient financial resources. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we are increasingly concerned about the delivery of such humanitarian assistance. Children are already affected. Germany committed an additional 300 million Euros for COVID-related humanitarian funding. Additionally, we are pleased to be one of the largest donors of UNICEF. Peace operations must be adequately resourced. The distinct role of child protection advisors must be preserved and strengthened – their roles are unique and provide decisive added value. In the long-term, more funding needs to be made available for the reintegration of children affected by armed conflict. We are looking forward to studying the results of the “Global Coalition for the Reintegration of Child Soldiers”.
Third, a brief reflection on the annual report: Killing and maiming continue to be the most common violations. We therefore continue to support Irish-led efforts on a declaration on explosive weapons in populated areas as a concrete step forward. Yet, just like the Secretary-General, we are also concerned about other violations, such as sexual and gender-based violence – some sickeningly conducted by state actors, such as in Somalia and the DRC. Sexual and reproductive health services must be provided to survivors. We will ask the Council to discuss this in detail at the debate on combating conflict-related sexual violence during our presidency. We are also concerned about attacks on education facilities, and The Safe Schools Declaration is crucial. We encourage all those who haven’t done so yet to endorse this Declaration and, even more importantly, to implement it. As for the detention of children allegedly or actually associated with armed groups, we note that handover protocols are crucial to ensure that the best interest of the child prevails. We note that, for instance, in Nigeria such a protocol has not yet been adopted. We believe it is timely that Cameroon and Burkina Faso will be considered as part of the report next year. The cross-border nature of criminal groups, especially in the Sahel and Lake Chad area, provide for a worrying trend.
We thank all who contributed to the substantial report. In Germany’s view, it is imperative that the findings of the report consistently reflect the listing in the Annexes. In this way, we note that the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen was delisted for killing and maiming of children despite 222 violations of this nature having occurred in 2019. We would ask the Secretary-General to clarify his approach to the Annex in order to ensure that the mandate remains robust, 15 years after the adoption of resolution 1612.
My last point: in our view, in its 15th year, it is more important than ever that the Working Group continues to closely monitor the situation of children in the conflicts on the agenda of the Security Council. Belgium has led the way. We welcome new interactive dialogues with peace operations and UNICEF and hope that such formats are being continued. I thank the SRSG and all others involved for increasing the frequency of country reports submitted to the Group, leading to a significant reduction of the respective reporting periods.
In closing, Mr. President, we fully subscribe to the statements submitted by the European Union and the Group of Friends. We support the Secretary-General when he says that peace remains the most powerful means to reduce violations against children. We would add that parties to conflict need to understand that killing children, raping them, destroying schools and hospitals, will never be a winning military strategy. It is a crime against humanity. A crime against our future. It needs to stop.