I wish to thank the Malaysian Presidency for convening today’s open debate and for having presented the resolution that recognizes abduction in armed conflict as a “listing criterion” in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report.
I also thank the Secretary-General, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF for their work in identifying ways that will help us better prevent and respond to the scourges that continue to affect children in armed conflict. I am here to reaffirm Italy’s strong support for your endeavors.
Abductions are often a precursor to other grave violations, from recruitment to mental and physical abuses, to harmful practices, such as forced marriages. They can be used as retaliation by non-state actors (such as Daesh, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups), who neglect the rights to education and deny the empowerment of children, especially adolescent girls, and target ethnic and religious communities. We believe that our common efforts to counter violent extremism should also be aimed at eradicating this plague.
The resolution we adopt today is a very relevant tool to address the increasing use of abductions. But much more relevant will be its concrete implementation, through the work of the Security Council and its bodies, supported by the entire international community.
As a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2007-2008, Italy strongly supported the inclusion of specific provisions on the protection of children in the mandates of UN peacekeeping operations. The evaluation of the concrete protective measures for children adopted by UN peacekeeping operations should be one of the key elements in renewing their mandates. Moreover, targeted training of UN personnel on children’s rights remains paramount to ensuring effective peacekeeping on the ground.
Italy is continuously engaged in this through our training centers. The Peace Operations Review will, no doubt, be an opportunity to provide concrete recommendations on how this important topic may be considered in planning and conducting peacekeeping operations.
We need renewed political commitment to humanitarian law, threatened by the involvement of non-state actors in conflicts. In this spirit, Italy recently joined the “Safe Schools Declaration”, which supports “Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict”, promoted by a coalition of countries, UN actors and NGOs. The “Safe Schools Declaration” highlights the political need to concretely enforce the rules of international law for the protection of schools during armed conflict, and practically implement their provisions in the domestic legal system of each State.
Accountability at the national and international levels is key to ensuring that perpetrators are brought to justice. National authorities have the duty to enforce rules, investigate and persecute violations and abuses. At the same time, we must spare no effort in supporting the international criminal justice system.
Prompt action is vital to reduce the exposure of children to serious risk factors, while promoting and implementing long-term initiatives for the recovery and social integration of former child soldiers and victims of conflicts.
Some 14 million children have been impacted by conflict in Syria and Iraq, according to UNICEF. Italy pays particular attention to their condition. In 2014, we allocated a total of 2 million euros for projects carried out by UNICEF in support of children in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. These included social and educational activities, through the creation and management of child and family protective facilities. We funded programs, such as “No Lost Generation Initiative” by UNICEF, aimed at tackling child malnutrition and providing psychological assistance and support for minors and their families. In the Kurdish Autonomous Region (KRG) of Iraq, since January 2015, we have financed UNICEF assistance to young Christian and Yazidi girls, victims of violence.
Our own “lessons learned” from these and other programs is that, in the short term, success lies in the ability to rapidly re-establish family, social and institutional protection networks and to set up direct relief initiatives. Short-term success, however, is not enough. Medium and long-term actions are crucial to safeguarding the security and development of children in situations of crisis and conflict. This requires the adoption of a holistic/multidimensional approach, able to address the “root causes” of poverty, lack of education and basic services, and of the militarization of societies.
Lastly, at this juncture approaching the adoption of the Post-2015 Agenda, allow me to reaffirm that the needs and rights of children and adolescents, particularly adolescent girls, and those living in poverty or otherwise excluded, must be a cross-cutting priority in our development efforts.
I thank you, Mr. President.