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Security Council – Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict
19 July 2022

Statement of the Permanent Representative of Italy, Amb. Maurizio Massari

Mr. President,

I would like to thank Brazil for organizing this annual Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflicts, as well as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the Executive Director of UNICEF, for their informative briefings. Italy aligns itself with the statements delivered by the European Union and by the Groups of Friends on CAAC and R2P, and would like to add the following remarks in its national capacity.

As shown by this year’s Secretary-General’s Report, all around the world, children continue to be disproportionately affected by armed conflicts, suffering violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. This is even more evident in these last months, since the unlawful and indiscriminate attacks by the Russian armed forces against homes, educational facilities, and hospitals in Ukraine, have made children frontline targets for widespread killing, trafficking, sexual violence, abductions and other violations. Italy welcomes in this regard the inclusion of Ukraine as a situation of concern in the report.

In line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children, regardless of their legal status, must have the right to enjoy their childhood in stable and peaceful societies, where they can feel safe to learn and become actors of positive change, peace and sustainable development.

Mr. President,

In these challenging times, schools and leisure facilities play a life-saving role, as they provide children with psychological and physical support as well as social protection, offering them hope for a better future.

Attacks against schools and children’s facilities constitute indeed one of the six grave violations committed against children during armed conflict, seriously jeopardizing their immediate and long-term health. The overlapping of armed conflicts with other ongoing crises, namely the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change, further exacerbates children’s vulnerability and the need to protect those living in emergency situations. Furthermore, forced displacement exposes the most vulnerable to a higher risk of suffering from recruitment, abduction, trafficking, sexual exploitation, and harmful practices including early and forced marriage.

In order to break the cycle of violations affecting children, we must take a systematic and coherent approach, from prevention to accountability to reintegration.

This requires, first and foremost, the widest possible support to the “Safe Schools Declaration”, in order to mitigate the consequences of armed conflicts on education, students and other educational personnel as well as on educational infrastructures. In this perspective, Italy reaffirms its support for this framework and calls on all Member States to endorse and fully implement it.

Second, we also 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 conscious of the crucial importance of integrating these principles into the wider peacekeeping agenda. 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 aspects concerning their lives, and treating children formerly recruited by armed groups primarily as victims.

Third, when we see that children displaced due to armed conflicts are deprived not only of their homes and family, but also of a chance to learn and play, we cannot just limit ourselves to condemning these attacks. All perpetrators of grave violations against children must be held accountable, regardless of whether they are state forces or non-state armed groups. In this perspective, we reaffirm our strong support to international justice, monitoring and accountability mechanisms, including the work and the independent role of the International Criminal Court.

Lastly, exposure to the cruelties of war and the battlefield has a serious and often irreparable impact on the physical and psychological well-being of children involved in armed conflicts. We must engage in reintegration programs, also by fostering the crucial role of the Peacebuilding Commission, including psychological support, education and training.

Mr. President,

For all these reasons, yesterday we organized, together with SRSG Gamba and in co-sponsorship with Brazil, Canada, Kenya, Qatar and Malaysia, an High Level Event in the margins of today’s open debate on “Strengthening Monitoring, Reporting and Response to the Abduction of Children”, to present the UN’s “Guidance Note on Abduction” which we have supported and which we hope will offer concrete solutions to closing protection gaps of children.

Thank you.