Statement by Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang, Permanent Representative of the Gabonese Republic to the UN, at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Children in Armed Conflict

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July 05, 2023

Madam President,

  1. I congratulate the United Arab Emirates on its exemplary presidency of the Council during the month of June, and I also congratulate the United Kingdom on its presidency of the Council and on initiating this important public debate on the situation of children in armed conflict.
  2. The picture painted by Special Representative Virginia GAMBA and Deputy Director-General Omar Abdi is particularly serious and alarming. Madame Violeta’s striking testimony and recommendations add to the gravity of the picture.
  3. The Secretary-General’s report makes it unbearably clear that children are victims of murder, mutilation, bodily harm, enlistment, abduction, denial of humanitarian access, recruitment and use in terrorist organizations in various regions of the world plagued by armed conflict. These figures deserve to be known, so that no one is unaware of the scale of the situation.
  4. The year 2022 was particularly horrific for children in theaters of operation around the world. 24,300 violations of children’s rights. 2985 murders, 5655 mutilations, 7622 recruitments, 3985 abductions and 2496 detentions for real or supposed association with armed groups.
  5. The Secretary-General’s report highlights the persistence and resurgence of gender-based violence, in particular rape, forced marriage and other forms of sexual violence, which impact on children’s physical and mental health. Added to this are child labor, trafficking, smuggling and numerous attacks on educational and health establishments, used for military purposes, thus depriving children of their right to education and health services.

Madam President,

  1. My country remains deeply concerned about the use of explosive devices in battlefields. Children. These devices cruelly kill and amputate countless children.
  2. In Africa, many forcibly-recruited children serve as combatants, mine testers, messengers and cooks. Some are used as human shields. Women and girls are used as sex slaves.
  3. In some countries in crisis, children are used as lookouts at checkpoints, to gather intelligence or to plant improvised explosive devices.
  4. In countries in crisis, it is essential to systematize the implementation of reinsertion, reintegration and assistance programs for children separated from armed groups, taking into account their age and gender, as well as the progress made in repatriating children to their countries of origin.

Madam Chairwoman,

  1. The protection of children in times of armed conflict must remain a priority issue on the agenda of this Council. Children everywhere must be able to live in a stable, safe environment where their fundamental rights are respected and protected.
  2. We must ensure the implementation of the relevant legal instruments at our disposal to give full effect to the protection of children in conflict, in particular resolutions 1612 (2005) and 2427 (2018).
  3. On all belligerent fronts where the safety and dignity of children are threatened, humanitarian access must be unhindered and belligerents must strictly respect international humanitarian law and abide by the relevant resolutions of this Council, in particular resolutions 1998 (2011), 2143 (2014) and 2601 (2021).
  4. The partnership concluded between the United Nations and UNESCO to combat attacks on educational establishments in order to guarantee quality education for all is a lever for action that must be supported on a global and national scale.
  5. We must undoubtedly go beyond the significant progress made in talks between the United Nations and armed groups to better protect children in times of conflict.
  6. It is up to each State to protect itself from the spectre of violence against children through concrete measures, including :

–           Firstly, to make national legislation on child protection as robust as possible and sufficiently dissuasive, and to ensure that, in times of conflict or peace, the perpetrators of atrocities or violations of children’s rights are held to account;

–           Then there’s education, access to healthcare, and the eradication of poverty and hunger. These are essential links in the prevention of violence against children. Indeed, education is an essential lever in the fight against obscurantism, fanaticism and terrorism.

  1. In conclusion, I reiterate our support for the efforts of Special Representative Virginia Gamba, while stressing the importance of implementing international legal instruments and strengthening international cooperation to guarantee the protection and future of children during armed conflict.

Thank you very much.



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