· Intervention of the Holy See to the United Nations Security Council ·
Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza,
Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN
United Nations Security Council Open Debate on “Children and Armed Conflict”
New York, 18 June 2015
Mr. President, At the outset, my delegation wishes to congratulate Malaysia for its Presidency during this month and, in particular, for scheduling this debate on Children and Armed Conflict.
One of the saddest developments in the evolution of armed conflicts is that more and more victims are civilians. In the early 1900s, around 5% of fatalities were civilians, while in the 1990s, over 90% of the fatalities were civilians, so many of them children.
A disproportionate number of children are killed and injured. Countless others grow up deprived of their material and emotional needs. The entire fabric of life and society is torn, as homes, schools, health systems and religious institutions are no longer safe from attacks and military operations; indeed, these institutions have become frequent targets in armed conflicts.
The year 2014 has been touted as the worst year for children affected by armed conflict. An estimated 230 million children currently live in areas affected by armed conflicts. New levels of violence have been inflicted on children namely using them as suicide bombers and as human shields. The Secretary General’s 2015 Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict provides a horror list of the forms of violence to which children have been subjected in 2014: killed, maimed, abducted, enslaved, recruited as soldiers, displaced, trafficked, sexually abused. We can safely affirm that never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to brutality.
It is very important to highlight the issue of abduction of children in armed conflict, because it is often the “gateway” to greater abuses against children and graver violations of international humanitarian law. The 24 April 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram exemplifies the horrors of this specific crime and highlights the added challenge of bringing non-state armed and terror groups to justice and to compliance with national and international human rights laws, especially those related to child protection obligations.
There has been progress in combating violence against children in armed conflict. The “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign has strengthened the commitment of governments concerned. Already many times, this Council has focussed its efforts and resources on the question. However, the gap between legislation and implementation remains very wide and the emergence of new challenges requires new tools.
Thus, my delegation believes that we must strengthen our response to the crime of abduction and its trail of further crimes against children in armed conflict. This Council can still and must do more. For instance:
1. Specific child-protection commitments aimed at children’s rapid release from armed forces and armed groups should be incorporated in peace-building efforts. The Council
should consider expanding Resolution 1612 (2005) to include abduction as an additional issue to be specifically monitored in peacekeeping operations.
2. Considering the increase of cases of abduction, there is a need for the Security Council to request the Secretary-General to include in the Annexes to his Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict those parties to conflict that engage in abductions of children.
3. The care and rehabilitation of children saved from armed groups must have adequate and long-term resources to provide them with the greatest probability of successful reintegration in their families and in society. We must assure that these children would never remain hostages of the horrors they survived.
4. Putting an end to impunity must be a key part of the healing process. Without justice, children and their communities can never completely heal. Without the certitude of punishment, there is no deterrent for future potential perpetrators.
5. The prohibition to use schools, hospitals and other institutions for children for military purposes and armed attacks must be strictly implemented.
I would like to assure this Council that the Holy See and the Catholic Church have been and continue to be actively engaged in providing specialized support to child victims, including many forms of trauma healing services, spiritual accompaniment, and reconciliation with families. I wish to mention in particular the Saint Monica’s Center in Gulu, Uganda, which has dedicated itself to the rehabilitation of the child victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Numerous initiatives are fostered to raise public awareness on this plague and to help child victims reunite with their families.
In areas of armed conflict, faith communities have demonstrated that they are essential in the recovery and reintegration of child victims into normal life. In addition, faith communities are a key part in an “early warning system” to prevent abductions.
Horrendous as they are, the crimes committed against children in armed conflict are just one manifestation of a violent world. We must combat all forms of violence, especially those that breed crimes against children in armed conflict. We must not cease to foster education that promotes peaceful and harmonious co-existence among peoples.
Thus, the Holy See exhorts the international community, and this Council in particular, to engage in a more vigorous diplomacy in order to put an end to all situations of violence that rob many children of their present and their future. The protection of children is a serious moral and legal obligation. To protect children from violence is to protect our future.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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