Statement Delivered by Italy at the Security Council Open Debate: Protecting children today prevents conflicts tomorrow
At the outset, I wish to thank the Swedish Presidency for convening today’s open debate and for its capable leadership of the Security Council’s Working Group on this subject. I also wish to congratulate the Security Council on successfully adopting a new resolution stepping up efforts in the protection of children in armed conflict.
Italy aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union and the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict and wishes to add few remarks in a national capacity.
According to the Secretary-General’s latest report, in the past year there has been an alarming increase in the number of children affected by armed conflict and the severity of the violations committed against children. New armed groups have emerged, while the cross-border nature of conflicts makes it harder to monitor and report all the abuses.
We would thus like to commend the work carried out by the United Nations in this field. Despite the devastating number of violations in 2017, over 10,000 children were formally released from armed groups and forces, thanks mainly to the advocacy efforts of the UN system. First, through the country visits of the SRSG and the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. They have helped, for example, the Sudanese Armed Forces to end violations against children and to be subsequently delisted from the SG’s report this year. Second, through the Secretary-General’s political calls in his annual reports. We welcome in this regard the approach applied to the list and we hope it will encourage more parties to armed conflicts to put in place measures to improve the protection of children, also by signing and implementing Action Plans. Third, through the crucial role of UNICEF in monitoring and reporting on the ground, together with the unparalleled work of humanitarian workers and NGOs.
To break the cycle of violations affecting children, we must take a systematic and coherent approach, from prevention to accountability to reintegration.
First, prevention: we need to continue to encourage as many States as possible to ratify the relevant international instruments — including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict — and promote their implementation and enforcement. We encourage also endorsing initiatives like the Paris Principles, the Vancouver Principles and the Safe Schools Declaration to make a significant change in the lives of children. Also, it is important that peacekeeping and political missions have the necessary means to monitor, report and respond to grave violations. To this end, we must ensure that Child Protection Advisers positions are duly staffed and budgeted. Finally, UN personnel should receive specialized pre-deployment training on children in armed conflict: a practice that should be scaled up and become standard. In Italy, all the courses offered to peacekeepers each year by CoESPU, the Centre of Excellence for Stability Police Units, include modules on respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians.
Second, accountability: it is difficult to rebuild broken communities and begin the process of social healing needed to break the cycle of violence unless violations and abuses are prosecuted and victims receive reparations. At the national level, States need to adopt, develop and implement the legal and administrative measures needed to ensure that all violations against children are criminalized and perpetrators are brought to justice, in compliance with the provisions of the relevant international instruments. At the international level, we encourage the Security Council to include in its sanctions regimes specific listing criteria for grave violations of children in armed conflict. Finally, the International Criminal Court has an essential role to play in holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
Third, reintegration: the international community’s attention must not cease once children have been released from armed groups. Exposure to the cruelties of war and the battlefield has a serious and often irreparable impact on the physical and psychological well-being of children involved in armed conflicts. They need to be successfully reintegrated into society and also overcome the stigma and blame often wrongfully attached to them. This is the unfortunate last and most forgotten link of the chain. At the Arria formula meeting we organized last year as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Joy Bishara, a student kidnapped by Boko Haram, testified from his personal experience that unless children are reintegrated, they will see no alternative other than re-recruitment with armed groups. As the successful example of Colombia has shown, all peace agreements need to include specific provisions on this issue if they want to be sustainable.
Mr. President, we need to connect all the dots of the chain I have described above as we strive together to build long-term peace, stability and development.