UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict
Remarks by Ambassador Karel J.G. van Oosterom, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations, at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, March 25, 2015
The Kingdom of the Netherlands aligns itself with the statement of the EU. I would like to use this opportunity to thank France for organizing this important debate, and in particular the invitation to Member States to make concrete proposals for a non-paper. We have included some practical suggestions in my statement for that purpose.
I also would like to commend today’s briefers and Special Representative Leila Zerrougui for the important role she plays in promoting and protecting the rights of children affected by armed conflict. Personally I was touched by the impressive personal story of Junior Nzita Nsuami about his time as a child-soldier.
The protection of children in armed conflict should be a major concern for us all. The fate of children is closely linked to Peace, Justice and Development, the priorities of the Kingdom of the Netherlands here at the UN.
Today I would like to make three points, on (1) prevention, (2) vulnerability of girls, and (3) accountability.
(Prevention and mediation)
First, we need an integrated approach for the prevention of child rights abuses by non-state armed groups. Before, during and after conflict. We need to invest more capacity and resources in mediation by the UN in general and in the Department of Political Affairs in particular. Mandates of UN missions should be well coordinated to address the protection of children coherently.
UNICEF has the mandate to address the rights of children with both state and non-state actors. We urge States to cooperate closely with UNICEF to more effectively address these violations. In this context a UNICEF symposium on the effects of conflict on the mental health of children will take place in the The Hague from 26 to 28 May.
Furthermore the Kingdom of the Netherlands would like to express its continued support for the concept of the Responsibility to Protect. National governments and the international community share a common responsibility that children can grow up in a safe and peaceful environment.
(Vulnerability of girls)
Second, the Kingdom of the Netherlands would like to draw the Council’s attention to the particular risks faced by girls. Girls are especially vulnerable targets of sexual violence. The acts of some extremist groups, for example ISIS and Boko Haram, are abhorrent. These groups seem to take pride in the trafficking of young girls, forcing them to marry and exploiting them as sex-slaves.
Because of the vulnerability of girls during armed conflict the Kingdom of the Netherlands pays particular attention to this matter. We have deployed several experts on Sexual and Gender Based Violence in UN Peacekeeping missions around the world. We intend to step up our efforts in this area.
(Sanctions and accountability)
Third, we need a stronger focus on child protection in sanctions committees. This can be realized by enhancing cooperation between this Council’s sanction committees on the one hand, and the expert group of children and armed conflict on the other.
Furthermore, this Council could request input from experts such as the Special Rapporteur on issues like the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Ensuring accountability for the crimes committed against children should be a key priority. Documentation can be an important step towards this end. The Kingdom of the Netherlands supports organizations which document war crimes. Last February in The Hague we organized an expert conference on documenting war crimes in Syria.
Mr President. Ensuring accountability for the atrocious crimes committed in Syria, even against children, is a historic responsibility of this Council which must be met.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands believes that the Security Council should play a more active role in the documentation and monitoring of crimes against children in armed conflict. We believe the Security Council should therefor expand the listing criteria of Resolution 1612 to include abductions of children. The problem of abductions of children by extremist groups is increasing and needs to be addressed.
Children deserve protection against any form of violence. Sexual abduction, abuse, mutilation and killing of children during armed conflict has to stop.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands, as Your Partner for Peace, Justice and Development, will do its utmost to achieve these goals.