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Human Rights Council Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

16 March 2022
Afternoon

The Human Rights Council this afternoon concluded its interactive dialogue with Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict. 

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Gamba said the Country Task Force monitoring report and mechanisms had put in place communication methods in-country to respond to the pandemic.  Networks of child protection actors and monitors had been reinforced to better protect and respond to the crisis facing children and to ensure that monitoring and reporting continued, whilst living up to international standards.  A study had been conducted on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children in situations of armed conflict in the short term: one of the outcomes had been a request for a long-term study on the engagement of partners in conflict situations.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child was only the first step and needed to be followed by implementation at the national level.

In the discussion on children and armed conflict, speakers said that the report emphasised the unprecedented challenges for the protection of children living in conflict zones, and marked sustained occurrence of grave violations against children, killing and maiming of children, recruitment of children, and denial of humanitarian access.  It was of key importance to ensure the unabated respect for international humanitarian and human rights laws by all parties to conflicts, while upkeeping accountability and fighting impunity.  The health crisis had increased the vulnerability of children, making them more vulnerable to recruitment, due to the interruption of education, and it had made it more difficult to identify those who violated their rights.  The need to protect schools, teachers and students during armed conflicts was underscored.  States were urged to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration to achieve safe, secure and high-quality education for all.

Speaking were Egypt, Libya, Slovenia, United Nations Children’s Fund, Malaysia, Iraq, Venezuela, France, Japan, Nigeria, Luxembourg, Ethiopia, China, Armenia, Lesotho, Switzerland, Pakistan, Lithuania, State of Palestine, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Panama, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, Ireland, Tunisia, United States, Belgium, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Greece, Malta, Colombia, Poland, South Sudan, Georgia, Portugal, Malawi, Syria, Cuba, Viet Nam, Ukraine, Philippines, Croatia, Spain, India, Saudi Arabia, Burkina Faso, Iran, Turkey and Argentina.

The following civil society organizations also spoke: Morocco National Human Rights Council, Centre for Reproductive Rights, Defence for Children International, Colombian Commission of Jurists, International Bar Association, Organisation Internationale pour les pays les moins avances, China Society for Human Rights Studies, Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism, the Next Century Foundation, Centre d’etudes juridiques africaines, and Il Cenaclo.

Armenia, Belarus, Lithuania, Iran, Russian Federation, Algeria, Israel, China, Azerbaijan and Morocco spoke in right of reply.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-ninth regular session can be found here.

The Council will next meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 17 March to hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing.  It will then open its agenda item on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention and hold an interactive dialogue on the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Belarus.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

The interactive dialogue with Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, started on Tuesday, 15 March and a summary can be found here.

Discussion

Speakers said that the report emphasised the unprecedented challenges for the protection of children living in conflict zones, and marked sustained occurrence of grave violations against children, killing and maiming of children, recruitment of children, and denial of humanitarian access.  It was of key importance to ensure the unabated respect for international humanitarian and human rights laws by all parties to conflicts, while upkeeping accountability and fighting impunity.  Delegates voiced support to numerous programmes of reintegration, comprehensive rehabilitation healthcare, and psychosocial services for children from Ukraine, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Yemen.  Speakers commended the commitment of the Special Representative in identifying tangible measures to strengthen the protection of children affected by armed conflict.  How could the Human Rights Council promote discourse to identify the specific needs of conflict-affected children?  No violence against children was justifiable and eliminating violations against children in situations of armed conflict was a moral obligation and a collective responsibility.

The health crisis had increased the vulnerability of children, making them more vulnerable to recruitment, due to the interruption of education, and it had made it more difficult to identify those who violated their rights.  The need to protect schools, teachers and students during armed conflicts was underscored.  States were urged to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration to achieve safe, secure and high-quality education for all.  Thanks to the Global Fund for Survivors of Conflict-related Sexual Violence, children were provided with access to medical, psychological and financial reparations, as well as the reintegration of victims.  Among the issues raised to illustrate violations of international humanitarian law, some States spoke of the ongoing Russian military aggression, including indiscriminate attacks on hospitals which had already claimed the lives of at least 50 children across Ukraine.  Some speakers said that Western countries, led by the United States, had interfered in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, leading to the death of children in Afghanistan, while others spoke of Israeli attacks on Palestinian children.

To break the cycle of violations affecting children, a systematic and coherent approach was needed, from prevention to accountability and reintegration.  The Special Representative was asked what measures could be undertaken to ensure the reintegration of children from armed conflict situations back to their societies? What concrete action could the international community take to protect the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Ukrainian children?  What measures could be taken to prevent the recruitment of children in the media?  What measures could countries take to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access in conflict zones?  The Special Representative was asked to provide an update on the situation in Ukraine and the human rights violations against children there.  How was her office planning to assist Ukrainian children?  How could States offer more support to the Special Representative in her work?  What best practices could stakeholders use to assist those suffering hardships on the ground?  Speakers also welcomed the adoption, in 2021, of the first standalone Security Council resolution on the protection of education in conflict.

Concluding Remarks

VIRGINIA GAMBA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said the Country Task Force monitoring report and mechanisms had put in place communication methods in-country to respond to the pandemic.  Networks of child protection actors and monitors had been reinforced to better protect and respond to the crisis facing children and to ensure that monitoring and reporting continued, whilst living up to international standards.  A study had been conducted on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children in situations of armed conflict in the short term: one of the outcomes had been a request for a long-term study on the engagement of partners in conflict situations.  This would be published in the coming three months.  The Universal Periodic Review was essential in getting a picture of the child rights’ situation in any given country.  Children in armed conflict language should be maintained in resolutions establishing the mandates of rapporteurs, including in geographic and thematic matters.  Her office had interacted with the independent investigative mechanism on Myanmar, and she intended to reach out to the Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child was only the first step, and it needed to be followed by implementation at the national level. 

The office had also provided input to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.  The office was really working on reintegration in Lesotho, but non-governmental organizations had stepped up and they were the leads, but she was working on a text on child soldiers, assessing their needs, and reframing it from child development to peace building and beyond.  An academic advisory group was being created on child reintegration, and perspectives and advice were being sought from children on how they would like to be reintegrated.  On Palestine, she was personally engaging with both sides of the conflict.  On access to medicine for children, non-governmental organizations were frontline, rather than the office.  On child recruitment in the media, she would look into and publish research on the issue. 

On what could be done in support of children in armed conflict, countries could join the Children in Armed Conflict Group of Friends at Headquarters, Geneva or at the local level, provide resources, support accountability measures, ensure funding of the monitoring and reporting mechanisms, and ensure that children in armed conflict language was included at all international discussions, be it the Security Council, the General Assembly or the Human Rights Council.  There should be bilateral engagement between countries on children in armed conflict.  On education, the best way was to get armed groups to respect the right to education, and stress the obligations of the armed groups to protect it and why they should be interested therein needed to be explained to them, and they should be encouraged to sign agreements, with an action plan to discuss this and put in place targeted measures.  Accountability should also be pushed for, where criminalisation of attacks on schools could be pushed into national legislation.  On Ukraine, there was no monitoring reporting mechanism in Ukraine, as the country was not on the children in armed conflict agenda, and it would not happen until this was the case. Finally, she appreciated the support of the Human Rights Council, and her office would try to do better.  There was no excuse for the abuse of children during or as a result of armed conflict.

 

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/03/afternoon-human-rights-council-concludes-interactive-dialogue

 

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