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Statement on behalf of the EU to the Security Council of the United Nations on children and armed conflict

Date of Speech : 24-02-2005

Place : New York

Speaker : Jean-Marc Hoscheit, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Mr. President,

I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia and Montenegro, align themselves with this declaration.

 I thank you for providing us with an opportunity to debate the important issue of Children and armed conflicts. I also wish to express my appreciation to the Under-Secretary General and Special Representative of the Secretary General Mr. Olara Otunnu, for his briefing and his commendable work, and to other key players, such as UNICEF, for their contribution in taking forward this important agenda.

Mr. President,

It is absolutely fitting that the Security Council returns once more to the issue of Children and Armed Conflicts. Despite the good news that the estimated number of child soldiers has declined from 380,000 to 300,000 in the last 18 months, a disturbing gap remains between the standards and the initiatives developed for the protection of children on the one hand and the atrocities that continue to be perpetrated against children by parties to armed conflicts on the other. These atrocities must end.

Mr. President,

While the European Union welcomes the adoption of resolution 1539 in April 2004, it also notes that the goals that have been set by the UN have not yet been adequately fulfilled. In this context, the European Union welcomes the report of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict of 9 February 2005, which identifies persisting shortcomings and proposes remedies.

The EU agrees that there is “importance and urgency�? for establishing a systematic and comprehensive monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism to provide systematic, reliable and accurate information on child rights violations in situations of armed conflict, based on the experience of the United Nations peacekeeping missions and country teams. In this context, the European Union encourages all relevant actors of the United Nations, in particular UNICEF, as well as NGOs to persist in their coordinated effort to ensure both for systematic monitoring and reporting of violations and for preventive and rehabilitating actions for child victims of armed conflict. Furthermore, in the monitoring and reporting processes, the EU would like to stress the need for particular emphasis on the situation of girls, on gender-based violence and on humanitarian access to children. 

The EU supports the mainstreaming of child-specific best practices in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, as foreseen in the Secretary General's report, at every stage of the UN's work and calls for more effective rehabilitation and reintegration of children associated with armed groups back into their communities. The EU is concerned by negative side-effects of illicit cross-border activities on children in armed conflict: abduction and recruitment of children, trafficking of small arms and light weapons and the illicit exploitation of natural resources often go together and reinforce each other.

Mr. President,

In accordance with resolutions 1379, 1460 and 1539, and in view of the widespread and unacceptable pattern of violations recorded in the Secretary General's report of 2005, the European Union believes the Security Council should take appropriate measures against those parties listed in the annexes of the report, who are guilty of persistent violations and have not taken action to end these violations. The EU welcomes the inclusion this year of other violations and abuses committed against children into the annexed lists than the recruitment or the use of children in situations of armed conflict.

The European Union urges States and other parties to armed conflict listed in Annexes I and II of the Secretary-General’s last report to immediately stop the recruitment and use of girls and boys in situations of armed conflict and to end the violation of their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law it entails.

Alongside the violations perpetrated against children in situation of armed conflict, the European Union expresses grave concern at the allegations of sexual misconduct by United Nations peacekeeping personnel. While the EU commends the ongoing investigation, it urges for a prompt review of this very serious problem and requests the Secretary General and troop contributing countries to strictly enforce the standards contained in the Secretary General’s bulletin on special measures for protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse and to ensure that perpetrators of this abuse are properly brought to justice.

Mr. President,

The EU fully subscribes to the views and recommendations of the Secretary General with respect to the role of the International Criminal Court, both for its deterrence effect and the prospect of prosecution of war crimes against children. The EU stresses the importance of putting an immediate end to impunity. In this context, we urge States to accelerate the process of ratification or accession to the Rome Statute of the ICC, which contains an important provision classifying the conscription or enlisting of children under the age of fifteen years as a war crime.

The EU also urges those States that have not done so to accede to the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a matter of priority and to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Mr. President,

For its part, the EU is determined to continue to raise awareness of the plight of children affected by armed conflict and to intensify its efforts to address their plight in an effective and comprehensive manner. In December 2003, the EU adopted its Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict, following consultations with the SRSG, UNICEF and relevant NGOs. With a clear perspective for action, the EU has carried out a range of political, diplomatic and financial initiatives during the past year:

Firstly, we have instituted a system of reporting by EU Heads of Mission in affected countries, drawing on the list of countries where parties to armed conflict have been censured by the Security Council for their recruitment and use of children. The reports pay particular attention to the need to have a clear picture not only of recruitment of child soldiers but also attacks against schools and hospitals, blockage of humanitarian access, sexual and gender-based violence against children and abduction.

Secondly, reporting and analysis have been accompanied by recommendations for action, such as enhanced funding of relevant programs and demarches. EU Special Representatives, including in the Great Lakes region, have been tasked with paying full attention to the issue when executing their mandates.

Thirdly, in co-operation with UNICEF, the EU has launched a children’s rights training program for EU officials and the issue has also been introduced in training activities related to the European Security and Defense Policy and crisis management.

Finally, as children are a particularly vulnerable group in humanitarian crises, they have been a priority of the EU’s humanitarian aid policy for several years. The Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO) has financed projects on child-related activities such as therapeutic feeding, vaccination, primary education and reintegration of child soldiers for a total amount of € 37 million in 2004.

The Plan of Action, recently adopted by the EU, is meant to further reinforce the implementation of the EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict through political and practical EU involvement on the ground and a better use of the wide range of tools at our disposal. The Plan of Action intends to match technical assistance with political action by identifying gaps and possibilities for increased co-operation on this issue. As a first step, three focus countries have been identified for pilot projects, namely Uganda, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka.

Mr. President,

The EU agrees that the main challenges identified in the Secretary General’s report - such as the establishment of an effective monitoring, reporting and compliance mechanism, the need of imposing appropriate measures where insufficient or no progress has been made, and the necessity for collective action at national, regional and international levels - need to be addressed urgently.

The Security Council has begun negotiations on a new resolution. It is our hope that the new resolution will adequately deal with these issues. 

Let me conclude, Mr. President, by underlining that the EU stands ready to continue to work closely with the United Nations system, including the Office of the Special Representative, UNICEF, UNHCR, OHCHR, as well as with national, regional, organizations, NGOs and civil society to ensure coherence, effectiveness and efficiency in our efforts to relieve the suffering of children in armed conflicts and ensuring that those responsible for atrocities against children are held accountable for their crimes. The EU will continue to play its part in trying to make the “era of application a reality on the ground, as a way to bridge the existing gap between norms and action.

Thank you, Mr. President.

This page was last modified on : 14-03-2005

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