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Consiglio di Sicurezza – Dibattito Aperto su “Children and armed conflict”

Discorso pronunciato dall’Ambasciatore Stefano Stefanile, Vice Rappresentante Permanente e Incaricato d’Affari a.i. dell’Italia presso le Nazioni Unite, al Dibattito Aperto in Consiglio di Sicurezza su “Children and armed conflict”. —


Mr. President,

We would like to thank you for organizing this Open Debate and express our appreciation to the briefers for their contributions.
Italy aligns itself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, as well as with the statement made by Canada on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children in Armed Conflicts, and would like to add the following remarks in its national capacity.

Armed conflicts pose a wide range of challenges to minors, increasing their vulnerability and putting them at risk of recruitment, neglect, exploitation, trafficking, sexual violence and abuses, also worsening the risk of harmful practices such as early and forced marriages. The issue is very high on the agenda of our country, which attaches the greatest importance to the protection of the rights of children in armed conflicts.

This was a top priority during our last term in the Security Council in 2017, and is currently at the core of our mandate in the Human Rights Council. Last July 8th we organized in Bruxelles, together with Belgium, a seminar on the protection of children in armed conflicts to mark the 70th anniversary of the Geneva conventions and the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We endorsed the Paris Principles on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, and the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers, being cognizant of the crucial importance of mainstreaming these principles into the wider Peacekeeping agenda. We were also amongst the first signatories to the Oslo Declaration on Safe Schools, as we value the key role of education in promoting stable and peaceful societies, where children can feel safe to learn and become actors of positive change, and we have been devoting particular efforts to the protection of schools ever since. In 2018, we allocated more than 10% of our humanitarian budget to emergency interventions in the field of education and school infrastructures.

We commend the relentless commitment of the Secretariat and of Special Representative Gamba as well as the initiatives they promote in order to protect children in conflict, such as the launch of the “ACT to Protect campaign”, with the co-sponsorship of the African Union and the European Union. We are convinced that cooperation between regional and sub-regional organizations is crucial in addressing this problem, as recognized in Resolution 2427.

We welcome the 2019 report of the Secretary General on Children in Armed Conflicts, and the thorough analysis it provides. Huge efforts have been carried out in mediation and peacebuilding, prevention and protection, and for the release and reintegration of children, also through the dedicated child protection advisers. Now there is an important normative framework in place, and legal instruments to enforce the law.

Yet, as the SG’s report clearly highlights, much work remains to be done. More than 24.000 violations were verified by the UN across twenty countries. Schools and hospitals continue to be the unfortunate targets of indiscriminate attacks, while children are arrested and detained upon alleged association with armed and terrorist groups. The changing nature of conflicts and their growing complexity, their length and their urban nature are disproportionally affecting children, and the figures of those falling prey of traffickers, terrorist and armed groups exemplify the need for a cohesive and urgent action of the international community.

Against this background, we must ensure the full implementation of our political commitments and strengthen our efforts. We need to continue fostering the widest adhesion by Member States to the relevant international instruments, in particular the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts, and promote their effective implementation and enforcement. Our interventions should aim at providing a child-rights-based response to the problem, bearing in mind the best interest of the children in all actions concerning their lives, and treating children separated from armed groups as victims, consistent with Resolution 2427.

Prevention is key, and we must engage in reintegration programs, including psychological support to the victims, education and vocational training, with special regard to children with disabilities, as stressed by recently adopted Resolution 2475. Accountability at national and international level remains fundamental.

It is also very important to keep promoting educational and communicational programs, with a view to raising public awareness on the centrality of protecting children in armed conflicts, involving all governmental and non-governmental actors.

Italy stands ready to live up with this challenge. We are fully engaged and will continue to be committed, in cooperation with the UN and the other Member States, toin increasing our common efforts to curb this heinous phenomenon and help children go back to their childhood within peaceful and inclusive societies.

I thank you.