Statement by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, Ambassador Stefano Stefanile, at the Security Council meeting in Arria formula on “Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on violations against children in situations of armed conflict.”—
I would like to echo other colleagues in welcoming this debate, commending the promoters and thanking the briefers.
I also wish to refer to the written statement of the EU, with which we align, and to the statement made by Canada on behalf of the pertinent Group of Friends, which we were pleased to join.
In times of crisis, children are always the most vulnerable. In situations of armed conflict, they are particularly exposed to the risk of experiencing harsh and brutal forms of violence, which can have long-lasting impact on their physical and psychological development and undermine their future. The state of insecurity produced by conflicts prevents thousands of children from accessing appropriate food resources, education and health care, while schools and hospitals continue to be targeted.
As clearly emerged from the briefers’ interventions, this is even more critical in Covid-19 times, where school closures and limitations in accessing social and health services expose children to greater risks than usual. These include subsequent non-return to school, child pregnancies, child labor, risks of being recruited by armies and militias and the exacerbated vulnerability, especially for girls, to violations and abuses, including harmful practices as child, early and forced marriages and female genital mutilation.
In this particularly challenging context and phase, Italy reaffirms its commitment to the protection of children affected by armed conflicts and fully shares the objectives to put an end, as soon as possible, to the worst forms of violations against them. The protection of the rights of the children is also among the priorities of Italy’s current mandate on the Human Rights Council.
Last year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the First Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. It is absolutely important to continuously promote the universal ratification of the Protocol as it represents a fundamental tool to avoid that children be recruited by armed forces or otherwise involved in armed conflicts. We urge all the Countries that have not ratified the Protocol yet, to do so as soon as possible, to enact national legislation and policies to prohibit and criminalize the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups, and to endorse instruments to improve the protection of conflict-affected children, in particular the Safe Schools Declaration, which Italy strongly supports.
However, signing and ratifying international instruments is clearly not enough. Tangible actions must follow and many important measures have been outlined by today’s briefers. We must ensure that children are freed from the threat of being used as soldiers, slaves, military shields or targets. And we have to make sure that they are also provided with options to enjoy a better future. In order to secure a positive, long-lasting results for the protection of the rights of children involved in armed conflicts, Italy presented an “open pledge” on the occasion of the 33rd International Conference of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent in December 2019. We committed to undertake all the appropriate and necessary actions to reduce the impact of wars on the life of children, actions that are as important as ever considering the Covid-19 pandemic.
Italy will also continue to support – both financially and politically – key global actors such us UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, the Global Partnership for Education, the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization and other partners with a view to ensuring that no child is left behind.
We hope that together we can take more and more concrete actions to safeguarding the rights of children during armed conflicts, to protect them from abuse and violence, and to ensure their rightful life prospects.