Statement delivered by Ambassador Mariangela Zappia, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting in Arria Formula on “Children and Armed Conflict: Protecting Boys and Girls in Shrinking Humanitarian Space” —
I thank the organizers for holding this meeting, as well as the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict and the briefers for their insightful remarks.
On Red Hand Day, let’s not forget that children pay the heaviest price in armed conflicts and the persistent violations and abuse of their rights is unacceptable and profoundly detrimental to the perspective of a peaceful and prosperous future for our societies.
Reinforcing international and national legal frameworks is therefore crucial. Over the past years, some progress has been achieved, also thanks to the work of the Special Representative, with the signing of Action Plans, Protocols and other instruments, ensuring alignment with international standards and accountability.
We continue to advocate for the universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Countries could take a step further, by endorsing initiatives like the Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children associated with Armed Conflicts or Armed Groups, the Safe Schools Declaration, the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention and Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers, and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict – which Italy fully supports.
We have consistently trying to do our part. The protection of children’s rights is among the pillars of our foreign policy: it is among the priorities of our term in the Human Rights Council and a core-crosscutting dimension of our development assistance. In line with our participation in the Friends of Reintegration Group on Children and Armed Conflict, we are engaged in long-term initiatives for the recovery and social integration of former child soldiers and victims of conflicts through development cooperation programs especially in the Middle East and Africa.
Keeping a victims-centered approach, Resolution 2388, adopted by the Security Council on Italy’s initiative, introduced a special focus on children and non-accompanied minors in addressing the scourge of human trafficking.
Ensuring accountability remains crucial. The recruitment and use of children by armed forces and non–state armed groups must continue to be prosecuted. During our term in the Security Council, we supported the inclusion of a separate listing criterion regarding the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict in the sanctions regime on the Central African Republic. I would be interested in your perspectives on the possibility to replicate this practice in other contexts.
Working from the grassroots is also essential to trigger real change. Countries should engage with civil society to provide viable alternatives to children at risk. As an example, Italy has a long-standing tradition of support and partnership to the Central African Republic, also through Non Governmental Actors, such as the Community of Sant’Egidio. The commitment of the Government on Bangui to keep the protection of children as a central part of peace negotiations is an extraordinary example of leadership.
Let’s not forget that we must always prioritize prevention. Child protection must be mainstreamed into the mandates of all UN peacekeeping operations, starting from targeted specialized pre-deployment training of peacekeepers – a practice Italy is spearheading and supporting at the CoESPU in Vicenza and the UN Staff College in Turin. We must also ensure that Child Protection Adviser positions in UN operations are duly staffed and budgeted so that they have the means to monitor, report and respond to grave violations.
We must keep acting with resolve and determination to defend children’s rights, especially in deteriorating crisis situations, from Afghanistan or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. We must continue to discuss and raise awareness on this issue and engage actively with all stakeholders and in all fora.
Thank you very much.