Security Council Open Debate: Children and Armed Conflict

Statement by H.E. Lise Gregoire-van Haaren,
Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

New York, 31 October 2017

Mr President,

The Kingdom of the Netherlands aligns itself with the statement made by the European Union as well as with the statement of the Permanent Representative of Italy.

We also fully support the statement of the Permanent Representative of Canada on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict.

Mr President,

The Kingdom of the Netherlands thanks the Secretary General and the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on CAAC for their detailed reports. Behind the chilling trends and statistics lies an abundance of personal stories, such as Mr. Shaikh’s. We owe him gratitude for reminding us of our responsibility.

I would like to highlight three elements today:

The erosion of International Humanitarian Law

The strength and resources of the SRSG’s Office and other relevant UN-entities

Our joint responsibilities to address the issue of Children and Armed Conflict not only here in the Security Council but in other relevant UN fora as well.

Firstly, international humanitarian law provides the very core of clear legal obligations binding on all parties to armed conflict. Respect for these obligations is key, but the trend of eroding respect for international humanitarian law is alarming. If we don’t act now, this erosion will become an unstoppable landslide.

The Optional Protocols to the Rights of the Child Convention are further binding instruments to the States Parties. Non-legally binding commitments such as the Paris Principles and the Safe Schools Declaration are proven incentives for positive change. The Kingdom of the Netherlands will therefore endorse the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers, to be launched next month. We strongly encourage others to do the same.

Second, the SRSG’s office is key to our framework for action. The monitoring and reporting mechanism is a powerful instrument for positive change. As is the listing in the Secretary General’s report. If curtailed, by political influence or a shortage of resources, these instruments risk losing their current value.

The reports we discuss today are highly dependent on direct presence in the field. Indeed, peacekeepers, Child Protection Advisers and civilian personnel across the board make a critical difference on the ground.

We welcome the strong engagement from the SRSG in the past months. As staunch supporters of her mandate, we appreciate the efforts that she has taken in the proactive engagement with the parties listed in her report.

We applaud that the new format of the differentiated listings are designed to have a preventive effect. At the same time we call for maximum transparency on how the lists are compiled. Completeness, accuracy and credibility are ensured only through an evidence-based and impartial process.

Mr President,

In September, the Human Rights Council decided to establish a Group of Eminent Experts to examine alleged violations of international human rights committed by all parties to the conflict in Yemen. The Kingdom of the Netherlands, together with a core group of co-sponsors, played an active part in the discussions which resulted in the consensus resolution formulating this request. It was a breakthrough with direct relevance for today’s debate. Why then?

Because ending the plight of children in armed conflict is by no means the responsibility of the Security Council alone. The Human Rights Council, the OHCHR, UNICEF, Regional Organizations and civil society all have a crucial role to play.

Because ending the plight of children in armed conflict in Yemen, Syria or South-Sudan - and all too many other countries - starts with establishing the facts and identifying perpetrators.

Because ending the plight of children in armed conflict is impossible if we accept impunity.

Mr President,

The Security Council remains seized of the matter. We shall all remain seized of the matter until it is not a matter anymore. We owe it to ourselves, but mostly to the future generations that count on us to provide them with a safe, secure and peaceful childhood and let them be children.

Thank you.

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