Thank you for convening this open debate on Children and Armed Conflict. First of all, let me take this opportunity to commend the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, for her valuable work and reiterate our strong support for her mandate. I also wish to thank the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Yoka Brandt, and UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, Forest Whitaker. Their commitment to defending and promoting the rights of child victims of armed conflicts is crucial to this all-important question.
Italy endorses the statement delivered by the European Union and wishes to deliver some remarks in a national capacity.
As a constant advocate of greater Security Council action to address the scourge of children in armed conflicts, Italy welcomes the progress in recent years toward strengthening the protection framework. This trend is confirmed by resolution 2143, which Italy co-sponsored and the Security Council adopted unanimously last March.
Italy also concurs with the Secretary-General’s assessments in his 13th annual report on the increase in deliberate attacks on schools, teachers, and students. Of the 23 conflicts profiled in the report, 17 involved targeted attacks on schools, students, and/or teachers, and even hospitals. The international community can no longer hesitate in acting to stop such blatantly unlawful acts.
In too many parts of the world, violations against children, including sexual violence, are carried out with impunity, perpetuating what the SG’s report calls “the disproportionate effect armed conflicts have on children”.
Cooperation with national and international courts is crucial. In cases of serious crimes of international concern, when national judicial systems are unable or unwilling to intervene, let us remind everyone that States Parties to the Rome Statute should consider referring them to the International Criminal Court.
The commitment of the entire UN system is critical to ensuring implementation of the architecture created since resolution 1621. We thus commend once again the work of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, in cooperation with the Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF, and NGOs, to develop a comprehensive and systematic training program on child protection and child rights for all peacekeeping personnel. That is an initiative Italy has strongly supported since its inception, also – among others – by engaging the CoESPU, a Police Units Training Center of Excellence based in Vicenza, in technical cooperation with any willing country and party.
We have a solid protection framework to implement and a decisive campaign – “Children, Not Soldiers” – to support and consolidate. Any boy or girl that we save from the scourge of war represents hope for a better future. As many speakers before me have said, we need to keep high the pressure of the international community. At the same time, we should acknowledge progress made and commend governments that engaged strongly, as is the case of Chad, as well as Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and the RDC. That is why we hope that this trend will continue and that the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict will soon be ratified by all countries, thus showing determination in joining forces together to put into practice all its provisions for the sake of each and every children in the world.
Thank you, Mr. President.