Open Debate Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict

Remarks by the Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations, at UN Security Council Open Debate on Children in Armed Conflict, June 18, 2015

Mr. President,

I want to thank the Malaysian Presidency of the Council for organizing today's Open Debate.

I would also like to thank today´s briefers and in particular SRSG Zerrougui whom we reassure our continued strong support. The Netherlands aligns itself with the statement of the EU.

Mr. President,

Each year thousands of children are abducted in armed conflict, taken from their secure home environment, leaving behind destroyed families and destabilized communities. Their future is often filled with horrific crimes such as systematic violence, rape, indoctrination, forced conversion and forced recruitment as child soldiers. We need to step up our efforts to protect children, specifically when they are the most vulnerable: that is in armed conflict situations.

Because of the abhorrent consequences of abduction, such as child recruitment and sexual exploitation, abductions should trigger increased attention of the international community. In this intervention I would like to focus on the link between indoctrination and recruitment of child soldiers and will touch upon (1) prevention, (2) monitoring and reporting and (3) accountability.

(Prevention)

States are primarily responsible to protect their populations from atrocity crimes . Special focus should be placed on protecting the most vulnerable groups like children. The Netherlands remains strongly committed to the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). We believe that prevention is at the core of R2P. We have a growing toolbox of prevention instruments to work with, allowing for tailor-made approaches. We have a responsibility to take the necessary measures to safeguard children, especially in areas where rebel groups are active.

(Monitoring and reporting)

When prevention fails, as it has in several cases mentioned in the Annex of the SG’s report on Children in Armed Conflict, monitoring and reporting of abductions are crucial. The reference to such cases in the report of the Secretary General gives a strong political signal. It forms the basis for condemning abductions and clearly shows the international community where to focus its efforts. We therefore reiterate our full support for designating abductions as a fifth criterion for listing in the annex to the Secretary General’s annual report.

(Accountability)

We need to ensure accountability for violations of international humanitarian law in general and for violations that affect civilian populations and children in particular. Whereas the International Criminal Court (ICC) can play an important role, primary responsibility to hold perpetrators accountable lies with states. Therefore, national capacity has to be strengthened where needed. We need to be aware of the fact that often perpetrators were once victims of abduction themselves. Tragically, in many cases abductees are recruited and become perpetrators themselves when they are forced to commit atrocities against their own families and friends. It is therefore crucial to consider alternative non-judicial measures and a comprehensive package of psycho-social support for children who escape from rebel groups.

The Ongwen case at the International Criminal Court is an extreme example of an abductee who turned into a perpetrator. After being abducted at age 10 and risen through the ranks of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) he became one of the top commanders of the LRA and is now indicted by the ICC for atrocious crimes. The dilemma of victims becoming perpetrators raises important questions about how to ensure accountability. More importantly, it confirms the importance of prevention of abduction and child recruitment as this can reinforce conflicts.