Statement by Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Acting Deputy Representative to the United Nations at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

Must read

July 5, 2023

Thank you, Madam President. Let me take this opportunity to thank the UAE for its effective stewardship of the Council in June, and welcome the UK presidency for the month of July. Thank you very much, Special Representative Gamba, Deputy Executive Director Abdi, and especially to our civil society briefer Ms. Violeta for bringing your voice from the frontlines of this important issue to today’s discussion.

It is clear we have not done nearly enough to protect children from the impacts of conflict. The United States remains firmly committed to the CAAC agenda item, and is keen to see it elevated, enhanced, and better integrated into all the work of the Security Council.

This year’s annual CAAC report provides a sobering snapshot of how conflict impacted children. As the SRSG underscored, in 2022, the United Nations reported 27,180 instances of the six grave violations against children, including more than 8,600 children killed or maimed. We are deeply saddened by this staggering number.

We are encouraged by the outcome of engagement with parties to conflict, which resulted in the release of 12,460 children from armed groups and armed forces, and hope for more steps that will make children’s lives better. However, too many children have further been subjected to sexual violence, abducted, and denied humanitarian aid.

Girls in particular are at high risk of experiencing gender-based violence, both during and after conflict, and have unique needs in recovery after conflict. Armed conflict also has a devastating toll on children with disabilities.

In Sudan, there are reports of children who have been forced from their homes, and in some cases separated from their families or subjected to sexual violence.

Armed groups remain the main perpetrators of abuses against children in Colombia, where the forcible recruitment or use of children remains a prevalent concern – particularly for Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities in rural areas. We welcome the continued progress made by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. We encourage the Colombian government to prioritize the cessation of these abuses in any peace talks with illegal armed groups and act swiftly to implement protective measures. Perpetrators of crimes against children, including sexual violence must be held accountable through the justice system.

In Afghanistan, the ban on girls’ access to education beyond primary school, patterns of early and forced marriage, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers have been detrimental to the physical and emotional well-being of youth. We call on the Taliban to reverse these policies and practices that restrict access by women and girls to education at all levels.

Of course, we cannot talk about the impact of conflict on children, without discussing Russia’s war against Ukraine. While pursuing Russia’s war of choice, members of Russia’s forces and its officials have committed crimes against humanity, including against children.

Members of Russia’s forces have committed execution-style killings of Ukrainian men, women, and children, and alongside other Russian officials, have deported hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians to Russia, including children who have been forcibly separated from their families.

These acts are not random or spontaneous, they are part of a widespread and systematic attack against Ukraine’s civilian population. Russia’s forces continue to attack areas where children are clearly present, including schools, hospitals, and residential buildings.

This stark reality serves as a poignant reminder of the urgency and necessity of strengthening the international community’s child protection capacities, and for the crucial need for all States to respect international law and the principles enshrined in the UN Charter.

Children are not merely caught in the crossfire, they are often deliberately victimized. Many continue to experience trauma, rejection, and social isolation from their communities, and require a broad, holistic, survivor-centered, and trauma-informed range of interventions to support their long-term health and well-being, and to allow them to make future contributions to peaceful societies.

We must do better. Children around the world deserve to feel safe, to receive an education, to have a future. When we take steps to protect children, we are safeguarding our collective future and helping to end enduring conflicts.

I thank you, Madam President.

More articles

Latest article