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Mr. President,

I wish to thank the French Presidency for convening today’s open debate. It is a very timely occasion for the Security Council to discuss the sensitive issue of children victims of armed non-State actors.
I also thank the Secretary-General, the briefers and the Special Representative, Ms. Zerrougui. My country continues to strongly support the Campaign, “Children, Not Soldiers” and the efforts of the SR’s Office to engage with 12 armed non-State actors.
Italy aligns itself with the statement delivered by the European Union and wishes to make the following remarks in its national capacity.

Mr. President,

Armed conflicts have evolved in nature in recent years. We witness a significant involvement of non-State armed actors along with the radicalization of conflicts. As a result, children are among those who suffer most from the consequences of armed conflict.
They are recruited as soldiers. Their right to education is often denied. Their lives are subject to a greater risk of neglect, exploitation, trafficking, sexual violence, and harmful practices like forced marriage. Girls and boys are also increasingly victims of abduction.
Substantive progress has been achieved. Yet as current news – even the most recent – reminds us this plague still remains. We cannot let our guard down. We thus welcome the invitation of France to make concrete suggestions to better prevent and respond to this scourge and would like to contribute with the following five proposals.

First, accountability at national and international level to ensure that perpetrators be brought to justice. For this reason, the Security Council might also consider expanding resolution 1612 by recognizing abduction in armed conflict as a listing criterion in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report. Abduction has long been used as a tactic by non-state armed groups and is often the precursor to other grave violations. While calling for immediate and unconditional release of children held captive by armed group, we believe it is time for the Security Council to emphasize its condemnation of this practice.

Second, peace-keeping mandates. As a non-permanent member of the Security Council during the 2007–2008 period, Italy strongly supported the inclusion of specific provisions on the protection of children in the mandate of UN peacekeeping operations, which has today become a standard practice. Mandates due for renewal could be thoroughly evaluated with a view to considering the degree of protection given to children and to strengthening the mandate accordingly.

Third, training. Since its inception, Italy has strongly supported the work of the DPKO to develop a systematic training program on child protection for peacekeeping personnel. Targeted pre-deployment training of UN personnel on children in armed conflicts could now be fully scaled up and become a standard practice for the UN, in coordination with regional organizations.

Fourth, access to humanitarian relief. If an armed non-State actor proves to be willing to engage constructively on this matter with the UN, there should be no obstruction to such engagement. UN Peace Operations mandates could encompass this priority through stricter and more consistent norms.

Lastly, reintegration of children into their communities. If children are not properly cared for after their release, they may face the risk of being re-recruited or may be willing to join the armed groups again. To this end, UN peace-building mandates should aim at involving local communities through joint outreach programs and “peer-to-peer” initiatives.

Mr. President,

Ending abuses by persistent perpetrators does not end impunity altogether. As Italy is holding the position of Vice President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, we believe that the ICC has an essential role to play in holding persistent perpetrators to be accountable for their crimes. In this regard, we welcome the Court’s recent sentencing of rebel leader, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, for war crimes, including the conscription of children.

Let me conclude by underscoring that prevention is crucial. It is not only a moral responsibility, but also a strategic investment in our future. Italy backs development cooperation projects to support children in humanitarian emergencies in many regions. From this experience we have learnt that preventing this scourge is possible by empowering youths through rule of law and education, through economic and civil reconstruction processes. Let us work on developing UN comprehensive strategies also in this field.

I thank you.