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Statement by Ambassador Günter Sautter  during the UN Security Council Meeting on Children and Armed Conflict, September 10, 2020

10.09.2020 - Speech

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This week many of us here brought our kids back to school after the summer break. Teachers here in New York took every effort to make sure they entered a safe space in which they could feel protected. It is a scandal and a tragedy that many children in conflict-ridden parts of the world live through very different experiences. Today's briefers bear witness to one of the most serious violations of children's rights: attacks on schools. I thank Virginia Gamba, Henrietta Fore, Marika Tsolakis and in particular, I thank our young briefers for their bravery to stand before the Council and recount their stories of perseverance and courage.

In 2011, Germany put forward Resolution 1998 that set in place important standards and provisions for the protection of schools and hospitals. In spite of progress that has been made since then, we see that attacks and threats against schools are on the rise. The initiative of Niger and of Belgium is therefore very important. It is important that we updated Resolution 1998 with a presidential Statement today. It is important that we recognize the ongoing threat for children arising from attacks on schools, especially, many of us have mentioned this, for girls and that we prescribe relevant additional operative measures.

 

Let me say a word on the role of schools. They are far more than places of education. They are safe spaces for children to learn and to play, places for friendships and social encounters, places of critical thinking and creativity. They are the places that are key for creating inclusive societies. It is therefore all the more deplorable that for many children around the world, schools become places of horror and grief. For example, in Syria, as German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in this Council in February. The Syrian regime and Russia have been bombing civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals. This must end now.

Germany is also concerned about attacks on other educational facilities such as universities. Some attacks deliberately target girls' schools and result in the most heinous crimes, human trafficking, sexual and gender based violence and abuse.

Also, girls suffer disproportionately even in instances where attacks on education do not target them specifically. 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.

On COVID-19, because of the threat of COVID-19, millions of children worldwide remain out of school. In situations of conflict, this is of particular concern. Children are deprived of their basic education. They are also often stripped of any access to health services and regular food supply as these functions and services are frequently provided through schools. We note with grave concern that children with disabilities might encounter heightened obstacles to return to school once they are out.

The Secretary-General has called on all member states to adopt what he called “aggressive back-to-school strategies” and to prioritize the reopening of schools. Germany fully supports this call, which is of particular importance in situations of conflict. Let me say a word on the annual report and listings. Attacks on schools and hospitals are a trigger for listing parties to armed conflict in the annexes of the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict. The presidential statement that we are adopting today contains several concrete measures to enhance monitoring and reporting, for example, in the regional and subregional dynamics of armed conflict on children. The attacks and abductions committed by Boko Haram are a visible example of violations of children's rights that have to be monitored, prevented and persecuted cross-regionally. We're also concerned about other violations, such as sexual and gender-based violence, some conducted by state actors such as in Somalia and in the DRC. In Germany's view, it is imperative that the findings of the Secretary-General's report consistently reflect the listing in the annexes.

This is a question of credibility.

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 and the conflicts on the agenda of the Security Council. Belgium has led the way. We welcome the new interactive dialogues with peace operations and UNICEF and hope that such formats are being continued. In closing, let me reiterate, schools must be safe spaces, zones of peace, and parties to conflict need to understand that killing children, raping children, destroying schools and hospitals will never be a winning military strategy. It is a crime against humanity. It's a crime against our future. And it needs to stop.

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