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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVES ON VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN AND ON CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT

7 March 2017

The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting held a clustered interactive dialogue with Marta Santos Pais, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, and with Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.

Ms. Santos Pais, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, said that freedom from violence was a fundamental right and noted that there were many promising developments around the world, with more than 90 countries having a plan or an agenda for the protection from violence.  Still, the urgency of the cause had not lessened, as millions of boys and girls of all ages continued to be exposed to appalling levels of violence.  The report highlighted the plight of the millions of children who were fleeing their homes as a result of violence, noting that many were seldom referred to the appropriate child protection authorities, and many were deprived of liberty.  The report also addressed bullying which was a top concern for children, particularly those marginalized, socially excluded, or with gender identity different from the norm.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, Ms. Zerrougui, stated that the impact of conflict on children had once again been deeply troubling in 2016: in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen thousands of children had been killed and maimed as a result of intense conflict.  Recruitment and use of children in armed conflict had continued at high levels in those situations, as well as in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.  The Special Representative urged States to ensure that children allegedly associated with armed groups were primarily treated as victims, and to ensure that reintegration was the principal response.

Speakers in the discussion on violence against children welcomed the report which suggested concrete steps to combat various forms of violence against children and said that every society and State had an obligation to break the cycle of pain and fear that children suffered from.  They expressed support for the proposed global study on children deprived of liberty and asked how the mandate would continue to support the development of the study, and how the study itself would contribute to the implementation of the Goal 16.2 of the 2030 Agenda to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children.

With regards to children and armed conflict, delegates said that the campaign “Children Not Soldiers” had spread a vital message that children were victims and not perpetrators and had to be treated accordingly.  Progress had been achieved in putting in place the international framework for the protection of children in armed conflict; the focus now must be on closing the gaps and strengthening its implementation.  In this context, the inclusion of regional organizations and civil society was vital.  Delegates asked for an assessment of the work of the Human Rights Council in the context of cooperation with other institutions in reducing the protection gap in situations of armed conflict, and measures to empower girls in the aftermath of armed conflict.

Speaking were the European Union, El Salvador on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Argentina on behalf of a group of States, Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, Belgium on behalf of a group of States, Uruguay on behalf of a group of countries, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Slovenia, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, United Nations Children’s Fund, Israel, Qatar, Syria, Croatia, Czechia, Iceland, Germany, Russia, Montenegro, Council of Europe, Switzerland, Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela, Belgium, Cuba, Palestine, El Salvador, China, Egypt, Italy, Libya, Benin, Spain, Colombia, Algeria, Iran, Austria, Malta, Pakistan, South Africa, Maldives, Hungary, United States, Belarus, Afghanistan, Botswana, Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Iraq, Sudan, Norway, Sweden, Djibouti, Estonia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Malaysia, Togo, Ukraine, Tunisia, Bolivia, Paraguay, Azerbaijan, Angola, Jamaica, Thailand, Lithuania, Indonesia, Ghana, Nigeria, Honduras, Mali and Brazil.

Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Africa Culture Internationale, Réseau International des Droits Humains, Child Rights Connect, United Schools International, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Defence for Children International, Coup de Pousse Chaine de l’Espoir, Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism, International Commission of Jurists, the Palestinian Return Centre Ltd, Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples, Alubayt Foundation, Iraqi Development Organization, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, and Il Cenacolo.
 
At 5:30 p.m., the Council will hear the presentation of reports by the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy Joseph Cannataci, and by the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography Maud de Boer-Buiquicchio.  The interactive dialogue with them will be held on Wednesday, 8 March.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children (A/HRC/34/45).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (A/HRC/34/44).

Presentation of the Reports

MARTA SANTOS PAIS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, said freedom from violence was a fundamental right recognized by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and that with the Sustainable Development Agenda, a clear path was apparent to secure its effective implementation.  The protection of children from violence could not remain a simple ideal or an afterthought.  There were many promising developments around the world, she said, noting that she had recently returned from a mission to Indonesia where a national development plan identified children’s protection as a key priority.  Similar agendas on violence prevention were now in place in more than 90 countries, including most recently in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Tunisia.  Significant legislation had also been seen recently in Ireland, Lithuania, Peru, Slovenia, Solomon Islands and Viet Nam.  But the urgency of the cause had not lessened, as millions of boys and girls of all ages continued to be exposed to appalling levels of violence.  Her report highlighted the plight of the millions of children who were fleeing their homes as a result of violence.  Unfortunately, children were seldom referred to the appropriate child protection authorities, and many were deprived of liberty. 

Turning to another topic, she said child victims of bullying were suffering torment that was exacerbated by fear, loneliness and helplessness.  Bullying was a top concern for children, and the fear was particularly strong among marginalized children who felt socially excluded or because they were perceived as having a gender identity different from what was seen as the norm.  She reviewed regional achievements in the sphere of legislative initiatives, and concluded by noting that time was of the essence and the international community was compelled to act with a deep sense of urgency.

LEILA ZERROUGUI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, stated that the impact of conflict on children had once again been deeply troubling in 2016.  In Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen thousands of children had been killed and maimed as a result of intense conflict.  Recruitment and use of children in armed conflict had continued at high levels in those situations, as well as in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.  Children’s education and health had also been impacted with attacks on schools and hospitals reported in almost all situations on the agenda.  That was a deeply concerning issue for boys and girls.  Children were in their formative stages and needed access to food, water and basic medical care to survive and grow in a healthy manner.  Ms. Zerrougui urged all parties to conflict to end restrictions on aid for children, underlining that besiegement was not a legitimate tactic of war.  She urged the Council to ensure that children allegedly associated with armed groups were primarily treated as victims.  Reintegration should be the principal response.  She encouraged the Council to help convince Member States to adopt protocols for the handover of children encountered in military and security operations to child protection actors.  The impact of conflict on girls had also been emphasized in the report.  They continued to be at a high risk of violations during armed conflict and displacement, especially sexual violence, trafficking and denial of education.  

Ms. Zerrougui reminded of the launch of the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign three years ago.  That campaign had provided an important platform to catalyse cooperation with States.  In Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar and Sudan, cooperation had been developed between the United Nations, civil society and Governments to benefit the youngest citizens.  The recent collaboration between Ms. Zerrougui’s office and parties in Colombia had illustrated how progress on the protection of children could build confidence and help to address more contentious issues.  The African Union, the League of Arab States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union had also been key partners.  Speaking of future priorities, Ms. Zerrougui noted that the Council and the international community could enhance their efforts to open up political space to address violations.  Stronger accountability processes were another core element.

Interactive Dialogue

European Union commended the action by the Special Representative on Violence against Children against bullying, which was too often seen as a normal part of schooling.  Noting that some action plans had not always met expectations, the European Union asked how the international community could better assist in the implementation of national action plans and what leverage could be used to promote their full implementation.  El Salvador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, asked for examples of good practices to combat violence against children, noting that progress had been made, but that much remained to be done, meaning that the international community needed to act proactively.  Argentina, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, took note of the reports and expressed concern about attacks on schools, teachers, and students, noting that the Safe Schools Declaration was important, as it included the need to investigate allegations of attacks.  Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the detailed reports and said the goals that the international community wanted to achieve should be specific ones, welcoming initiatives at all levels.  Conflicts should be resolved as early as possible.  Belgium, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, asked Ms. Zerrougui how she would assess the level of cooperation and coordination between her office and country-specific Special Procedures.  Uruguay, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, called the Human Rights Council’s attention to Security Council resolution 2286, which condemned acts of violence against medical personnel, asking Ms. Zerrougui how potential synergies between Security Council resolutions and monitoring mechanisms could increase the protection of children in armed conflict. 

Organization of Islamic Cooperation welcomed the reports which suggested concrete steps to combat various forms of violence against children and said that every society and State had an obligation to break the cycle of pain and fear that children suffered.  Slovenia asked Ms. Santos Pais how she would continue to contribute to the study on children deprived of liberty now that the Independent Expert had been appointed.  Slovenia asked Ms. Zerrougui to assess the work of the Human Rights Council in the context of cooperation with other institutions in reducing the protection gap in situations of armed conflict.  Sierra Leone asked which measures would empower girls in the aftermath of armed conflict and whether the international community should be paying greater attention to identifying those responsible for trafficking of refugee and migrant children to Europe for nefarious purposes. 

France said that 100 States had endorsed the Paris Principles and that it had acceded to the Declaration on Safe Schools.  France remained mobilized to fight violence against children and asked the Special Representative to elaborate on the proposal to mobilize the capacity for innovation in fighting violence against children.  Bosnia and Herzegovina said it continued to make progress in the harmonization of domestic legislation with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in 2015 it had adopted an action plan for children 2015-2018 which aimed to improve health, social care and education, and also planned to draft the law of protection of children from violence.  United Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the focus on the challenges faced by children on the move in the ongoing migration and refugee crisis and said that it placed priority on mitigating the impact of those crises on children.  On children in armed conflict, the United Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the focus on children facing deprivation of liberty, often under national security legislation and procedures, and stressed that detention of children must be avoided.

Israel said its policy framework included addressing the needs of both victims and perpetrators, and that to eradicate crimes against children, the root causes needed to be examined.  The international community should condemn the culture of hatred fostered by the Palestinian Authority.  Qatar condemned the violence and abuse that children were subjected to under armed conflicts that adversely affected them, and stressed the importance of reintegrating all child soldiers back with their families.  Syria said the situation in Syria had stolen the lives of many children, with schools having been turned into military camps.  Croatia said there was an obligation to treat children associated with non-State armed groups as victims, and asked what kind of mechanism should be put in place to support that approach in the countries concerned.  Czech Republic asked the Special Representative on violence against children to share good examples of newly adopted legislation enhancing the protection of children from all forms of violence.   Iceland said children faced violence in schools, in institutions, and within their families, noting that violence against children had a gender dimension, which could not be solved without the involvement of men and boys.

Germany said that the campaign “Children Not Soldiers” had spread a vital message that children were victims and not perpetrators and had to be treated accordingly.  Stressing the vital importance of the inclusion of regional organizations and civil society for the better protection of children in war, Germany noted the need to focus on closing the gaps and strengthening the implementation of the international framework for the protection of children in armed conflict.  Russia said that unfortunately children continued to be most vulnerable in armed conflict and stressed that dialogue with parties to the conflict was the best route to ensuring their better protection.  What were good practices in the area of rehabilitation and reintegration of children who were victims of armed conflict?  Russia asked for good examples of the “High Time to End Violence against Children Initiative”.  Montenegro said that the protection of children remained high on its agenda and that its new strategy for the prevention and protection of children from violence 2017-2021 would allow a more proactive approach in fighting violence against children. 

In 2015, the Council of Europe had hosted the cross-regional meeting on the prevention and response to sexual abuse and exploitation and asked the Special Representative of the Secretary-General how regional organizations could better support their Member States in implementing the 2030 Agenda.  Switzerland thanked Ms. Santos Pais for her efforts to establish the protection of children as a priority and a cross-cutting theme in the 2030 Agenda and reiterated the vulnerability of children deprived of liberty.  How could the global study on children deprived of liberty contribute to the implementation of the Goal 16.2 of the Agenda 2030?  Mexico said it was a member of the “Alliance We Protect against Sexual Exploitation of Children Online” and was working on setting up a comprehensive protection children which would also protect migrant children.

Ecuador said the report reflected the hope that children would be free from acts of violence in the future.  Ecuador had a bill before the national assembly regarding corporal punishment.  Venezuela was committed to working against violence, being involved in a project with the United Nations Children’s Fund to that end, and the justice system should be strengthened, following the principle of the best interests of the child.  Belgium said that to raise awareness of the plight of girls, Belgium was planning a side-event in September, also noting that the Belgian National Commission issued indicators which were relevant to the subject under discussion.  Cuba said meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and those pertaining to gender equality would contribute to reducing all forms of violence, and it was crucial to let the best interests of children guide policy.  State of Palestine said Israel, the occupying power, systematically committed crimes against Palestinian children, asking the Special Rapporteur what recommendations could be made to ensure full accountability in a situation where crimes were persistently committed against children as part of the State policy.

Remarks by the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General

MARTA SANTOS PAIS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, said that she was very pleased by the number of delegations expressing concern about the deprivation of liberty of children, stressing that it was never in the best interest of the child and should be prevented.  Responding to questions concerning the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, Ms. Santos Pais said that her mandate would continue to chair the United Nations Task Force which played a leading role in the global study process, but it would also work on raising awareness about the issue of deprivation of liberty, identification of best practices and policies, and alternatives to deprivation of liberty.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General would also continue to work with Member States and many other actors in presenting important national initiatives and work on collecting data on children deprived of liberty, including on the situations in which children were detained, the offences for which they were detained, and if alternatives to detention were being used.  

The Special Representative further said that it was absolutely critical to address the situation of children on the move.  It was an absolute priority for the United Nations system, there was no room for passivity and indifference, and States must act in accordance with their international responsibilities arising from the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1951 Refugee Convention.  There was a need to show that the best interest of the child must prevail in every single situation, from arrival, age determination, and the possibility of return, which must never put a child at risk.  The capacity of child protection authorities in all countries must be strengthened to avoid that children arriving to a host country were handled by security authorities, and not child protection specialists.  Finally, there must be child-friendly information on laws, policies and practices to enable children to understand and enjoy their rights. 

Ms. Santos Pais welcomed the positive legal initiatives in a number of countries, and stressed that laws alone were not enough.  A clear ban on all forms of violence against children was the first step, which must be accompanied with child and age sensitive mechanisms and institutions to accompany children.  One good practice was one-stop-shops for children victims of violence, to ensure that children received comprehensive services and support in one place and to avoid situations in which children had to repeat their stories over and over again to different authorities.  

LEILA ZERROUGUI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said that based on her own experience, when there was a legal framework that protected a child in compliance with international standards, action could then be legitimized.  International laws allowed actors in a country to convince others to help and served as a reminder that a legitimate international framework had been violated.  Therefore, it was indeed important that legal frameworks be present, but they also needed to be supported on the ground.  Raising awareness and repeating statements that children were victims were important, she said.  They needed to put in place measures, even rudimentary ones, as they helped.  When children emerged from conflict, they were often arrested by armies or militias and had no resources available to them, she noted.  Even if they had committed crimes, it was not up to military tribunals to sentence them.  They must be treated appropriately and the international community must ensure that there was an alternative to prison.  The plan of action was a legal framework that specified where the gaps were and what needed to change institutionally.  In terms of how to integrate girls, she said the best example of reintegration was when children were taken into consideration right from the outset and were not an afterthought.  They could succeed at this when they worked together, she said, adding that when they sat down and talked to people, they succeeded in their work. 

Concerning the link between what was being done in the Council’s Special Procedures and her office, she was ensuring that her office worked with all relevant United Nations bodies and non-governmental organizations to make sure efforts were not duplicated and that they used what they had to ensure that the same message was put forth and they could help States move forward.  In terms of what resolution 2286 could add to monitoring and reporting mechanisms, she said there was a mechanism to verify whether there had been recurrent attacks.  As per the resolution, sanctions could be triggered when children were attacked.  There were agreements in place that changed the rules of engagement.  In addition, the Council’s Special Procedures covered hospitals as well and allowed all to put additional pressure. 

Interactive Dialogue

El Salvador said violence compromised all the rights of boys and girls, and El Salvador had presented a resolution on migrants, as unaccompanied child migrants were among the most vulnerable.  China said it had adopted strong measures to combat violence against children, promulgating a law on domestic violence which had gone into force in 2016.  In recent years, the international community had made some progress, though children were still abused in some conflicts, which was of grave concern.  Egypt welcomed the Special Representative’s report and noted that the growing number of armed groups using children attested to the need to protect children in armed conflicts, underscoring that challenges remained.  Italy welcomed the shared vision about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and attention paid to bullying, which remained a particular concern of Italy, asking how cooperation could be envisaged with other United Nations entities based in Geneva.  Libya thanked the Special Representatives for their reports, reaffirmed the need to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and noted that armed conflicts gave rise to major violations of the rights of civilians.

Benin stated that if the Sustainable Development Goals were to be achieved, there should be investment in children, notably in combatting poverty, providing education and nutrition, and establishing a genuine juvenile justice system.  Spain reiterated its firm commitment to protecting children in armed conflict.  It highlighted the issue of bullying and cyberbullying, and the need to prosecute the perpetrators of crimes that affected minors. 

Colombia highlighted the issue of recruitment of children due to the lack of opportunities, particularly among the most vulnerable.  It underlined the importance of international cooperation in building capacities both nationally and internationally.   Algeria said that the vulnerability of children in conflict, particularly of girls, and the recruitment of children by armed groups remained one of the most urgent issues worldwide.  The protection of children against violence should be at the heart of measures in each State.  Iran underlined the need to address the vulnerability of children to online and offline violence.  Words on paper could not save children in peril.  Iran drew attention to the suffering of children in Syria and Yemen.  Austria remained seriously concerned by the extent of violations against children in the recent past.  It was only by ways of common endeavour that the suffering of children in conflict could be prevented and eliminated.  Sovereign Order of Malta attached particular importance to the issue of protection of children, notably with respect to the reintegration of former child soldiers.  It welcomed the key role of faith-based organizations in that endeavour.   Pakistan stated that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provided a unique opportunity to renew commitments and reinvigorate action to end violence against children.   It was a breakthrough that could transform the lives of children.   

South Africa said it was gravely concerned about the increasing number of children involved in armed conflict and asked what could be done under international human rights law to combat the impunity of non-State actors such as private military and security companies for the recruitment of children.  Maldives said that one third of its population were children and youth; their protection was a national priority, including through the implementation of the recommendations it had received from the Committee on the Rights of the Child during its review in January 2016.  Hungary remarked that the international normative and institutional framework for the protection of children in armed conflict had been strengthened, and noted Hungary’s commitment to the Paris Principles and the Safe Schools Initiative.  United States said violence against children was a global problem which the United States was trying to help alleviate through joint programmes and partnerships.  The United States asked Special Representative Santos Pais how Member States could work together to encourage children to report violent acts against them.  Special Representative Zerrougui was asked how Member States could work together to ensure that appropriate services were in place to reintegrate girls affected by conflict.  Belarus said it had created the necessary institutional and legal framework for the protection of children from violence.  Measures had been developed to provide assistance to children who were victims of violence, and specialists on domestic violence were being trained.  Afghanistan said that the ongoing armed conflict caused huge violations of children’s rights and remained the core reason of suffering and pain among children.  In 2015, Afghanistan had criminalized underage recruitment by the national armed forces.

Botswana agreed with the Special Representative that regional processes played a pivotal role in urging States to implement their commitments in fighting violence against children.  With respect to the report on children and armed conflict,  the number of children detained in deplorable conditions was deeply concerning, and the Special Representative’s efforts towards the release of detained children in Sudan and Somalia was welcomed.  Saudi Arabia thanked both Special Representatives of the Secretary-General for their reports and said, regarding violence against children, that a protection from harm law had been enacted.  Regarding the report on children in armed conflict, measures had been carried out based on constitutional principles based on Islamic law, and regulations specified a minimum age of 19 years for recruitment.  Kyrgyzstan thanked the Special Representative on violence against children and noted that Kyrgyzstan had made concrete and far-reaching efforts aimed at preventing abuse and violence against children, and expressed support for her mandate.  Armenia thanked Ms. Zerrougui for her report, and noted that since the early 1990s, Armenia had suffered from a protracted conflict which had killed children, urging the international community to consider targeted measures.  Iraq welcomed both Special Representatives, noting that Da’esh should have been mentioned by name in the report on children and armed conflict.  Iraq rejected the claim that Iraqi militias had recruited children, noting that Iraq was committed to recruiting to its special forces according to regulations.  Sudan said it was completely committed to the protection of children in armed conflicts, and referred to the President’s general amnesty for 21 minors who had been enrolled with armed factions.  Sudan would continue to support the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

Norway asked how States could support and reintegrate girls associated with parties to a conflict, and how they could reintegrate girls who had been forcibly married or had suffered rape or other forms of violence.  How could children associated with non-State armed groups be adequately protected?  Sweden noted that it was a joint responsibility of States to ensure that children affected by armed conflict were given a voice and hope for a better future.  Djibouti welcomed the inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals of target 16.2, noting that cooperation with regional and international organizations was the best way to advance the protection of children’s rights.  Estonia noted that due to ongoing political conflicts, the situation of children had worsened in many parts of the world.  There was a need to apply a gender perspective when addressing the situation of girls in armed conflict.  Luxembourg said that recent images from Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Yemen had given a face to the suffering of children.  The use of schools and hospitals for military use was condemned in the strongest terms.  Portugal asked about advice for States to fight violence against children, especially those with mental illnesses.  What was the role of boys and men in preventing violence against girls in armed conflict?

Myanmar said it continued to put forth its utmost efforts to ensure the protection of children from all forms of violence.  In line with its international obligations, the Government had signed a Joint Action Plan in 2012 to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by armed forces.  Togo said it supported the call to bridge the gap between commitments made in the 2030 Agenda toward the prevention of violence against children and the measures needed to make it a reality.  On armed conflict, Togo supported the recommendations made by the Special Representative.  Ukraine said children suffering in the conflict in and around Ukraine needed to be further brought to the world’s attention in order to address the vicious cycle of conflict and violence and put an end to impunity for crimes committed by Russia.  Tunisia said it was well aware of the long-term negative impacts as the result of violence where children had been exploited or targeted.  Tunisia was concerned about the multiplication of hot spots where much displacement was taking place.  Its Government ensured the protection of children at home and at school and had established a committee on the rights of children.  Bolivia said there was a need to look at violence in all forms.  Hunger and malnutrition were forms of violence and created defencelessness amongst children.   Bolivia had created an information campaign on the rights of children.   Paraguay said children were victims and needed to be treated as such, particularly in the context of armed conflict.   The eradication of violence against children needed to be at the heart of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. 

Azerbaijan said its determination with regard to the protection of children in armed conflict stemmed from the country’s experience with the war unleashed by Armenia against it.  Azerbaijan urged the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to reflect in her next report on the situation of Azerbaijani child victims of Armenia’s occupation.  Angola thanked both Special Representatives of the Secretary-General for their presentations, and said the world was confronted with a worsening situation for children in Africa and the Middle East, and the United Nations was called on to step up its efforts to protect children.  Jamaica shared the concern of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children that millions had fallen victim to human trafficking and other exploitative practices.  Jamaica was pursuing commitments in the field of child protection despite being faced with a high debt burden and economic challenges.  Thailand placed great importance on creating a safe online environment for children, and had in place a multi-agency child protection system at the community level to protect children from all forms of violence.  Lithuania addressed the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children in armed conflict and asked which measures could be employed to increase the visibility of girls affected by armed conflict and address their needs in demobilization, disarmament and reintegration processes.  Indonesia welcomed Ms. Santos Pais’ visit to Indonesia, and reiterated Indonesia’s commitment to strengthening national efforts to free children from violence.  Regarding Ms. Zerrougui’s efforts, Indonesia welcomed the United Nations’ work to prevent and combat all forms of violence against children in conflict situations. 

Ghana recalled that it was the first country to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and had taken steps to incorporate the treaty and its Optional Protocols into the national legislation.  Nigeria was alarmed by the use of children in war and stressed the need to accelerate peace processes in conflict areas.  When there was a political will and political space, action plans were among the most powerful tools to accelerate the protection of children in war.  Honduras restated that eradicating violence against children was a national priority, especially in the context of violence by organized crime in some areas of the country, and the large number of migrant children.  Honduras asked how the global compact for migration could contribute to combatting violence against unaccompanied migrant children.  Mali noted with regret that children continued to suffer violence, including in armed conflict and terrorist attacks.  The 2030 Agenda was a vital tool for promoting the rights of all children to live in dignity and be protected from violence and ill-treatment.  In Brazil, protecting all children from fear and violence was a national priority.  Brazil had enacted the law which guaranteed the right of every child to be raised and educated without fear of physical punishment, and the law against bullying.  Brazil shared the concern about the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on girls and urged all parties in conflicts to abide by international humanitarian law, respect the principle of distinction and refrain from recruiting children.

Africa Culture Internationale wondered why some States which had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child were still not fulfilling their international legal obligations.  Exposure to violence could increase children’s vulnerabilities and there was room to do more to protect all children.  Réseau International des Droits Humains said that 2,000 girls were raped in Ecuador every year.  By reporting them, health providers were violating their privacy.  There were no forms of reparations provided to the victims of sexual violence.  Child Rights Connect, in a joint statement with Save the Children International, welcomed the progress of the “Children Not Soldiers” campaign.  To stop violence against children in armed conflict, it called on States to sign on to the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on children and armed conflict.   United Schools International said that whenever there was any conflict or a war-like situation in any country, the most affected section of the population was children, who often carried the scars of conflict throughout their lives.  United Schools International called on all United Nations Member States to treat children associated with armed groups as victims entitled to complete protection of their human rights.  International Human Rights Association of American Minorities condemned the violence against children by the Houthi militia in Yemen.  This included extra-judicial killings and the denial of education, shelling of schools, kidnapping and looting of humanitarian assistance.  Some 171 children had been killed by the militia in 2016 alone.  Defence for Children International said it shared concerns by both Special Representatives on the practice of depriving children of their liberty.  It welcomed the study aimed at collecting evidence on children in detention and said it was a unique tool that would help facilitate States in the implementation of their international obligations.  Coup de Pousse Chaine de l’Espoir said the Polisario Front was behind the lack of delivery of humanitarian assistance to children.  It was worried about the situation of children who were vulnerable to trafficking and called for prompt intervention.

Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism said childhood was the most critical period for all people, but violence and extremism deprived many children of happiness.  In Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other places, children were displaced and were living in severe conditions, and it was necessary to provide them with access to justice.  International Commission of Jurists thanked both Special Representatives for their reports and asked which measures should be put in place to eradicate impunity and ensure access to justice for children who had suffered violence and other wrongs.  The Palestinian Return Centre Ltd said the international community had to talk about Palestinian children whose rights were being violated by the Israeli occupation, which was being carried out systematically, and Israel was the only country where children were kept under house arrest.  Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples said in 1976 the Polisario had abducted a person and subjected her to inhuman treatment, and the Human Rights Council should take the most stringent measures. 

Alubayt Foundation said the use of children was not limited to ISIS in Syria, others also took advantage.  Children also faced lack of access such as in Yemen, where children were enduring brutal conditions to find daily essentials.  The Human Rights Council was implored to guarantee food relief and other relief.  Iraqi Development Organization in a joint statement said the Council should take steps toward ending all violence toward children, but Saudi Arabia had yet to enact legislation that protected children from the death penalty.  Several arrested as minors were facing imminent execution, and Saudi Arabia was urged to take steps to combat torture and arbitrary detention.  Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy drew attention to the plight of children in Manipur in Northeast India who were under the rule of the Armed Special Power Act of 1958.  It urged the Government of India and the Council to take steps to protect children from military recruitment.   Il Cenacolo stated that children in the Tindouf camps lived in very difficult conditions and that some of them were trained in military camps.  They were taken away from their families and subjected to training beyond their physical and psychological capabilities. 


Concluding Remarks

MARTA SANTOS PAIS, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, underlined the importance of implementing institutional development and relevant policy-making in a number of countries to address violence against children, which was an obligation under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Law conveyed a message of what was acceptable and it sent a signal to victims that States were willing to intervene.  However, law was not a magic wand and it had to be understood and implemented by all relevant stakeholders.  It was especially important to make known best practices, such as good parenting and early parenting initiatives, including the role of fathers, in curbing violence against children.  Health professionals also played an important role, as well as public awareness initiatives.  Ms. Santos Pais stressed the role of young people who took part in initiatives launched to fight violence against children, in addition to heads of state and parliamentarians.   As for children reporting incidents of violence, most of the time their stories were dismissed and ignored, and they lacked information on whom to address and what to expect from the process.  Children often felt judged by professionals.  There was an opportunity to change that situation by providing better information and complaint mechanisms to children.  All of that required active children’s participation at all levels of consultations.  With respect to bullying and cyberbullying, the Secretary-General’s report emphasized the need for national implementation of the report’s findings, and follow-up consultations at the regional level to document good practices.  Mental health concerns affecting children was an important topic because there were no specialized programmes, services and investment in that neglected area.  As for the promotion of synergies between the two mandates – violence against children, and children in armed conflict – Ms. Santos Pais underlined their close relationship.    

LEILA ZERROUGUI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, thanked all Member States and non-governmental organizations for continuing to raise the issues of children affected by armed conflict, and violence in general.  Those were issues so important to every nation.  Children were the future and nothing mattered more to parents.  On the issue of girls impacted by sexual violence and how to support their reintegration, the roles of boys and men in dealing with the issue, as well as the issue of accountability, were all linked.  Men must be on board and talk about gender issues.  They really could make a difference.  With regards to services, she acknowledged that they were not everywhere.  But they were present in some remote places where there were no schools, hospitals or anything.  In such cases, even the minimum assistance could make a huge difference.  If they wanted to help, they must do it in a targeted manner, not just to tick a box, she stressed.  With regards to impunity, unless this was addressed, violations would not stop.  At the same time, a national response must be put in place.  Without it, stakeholders could not deliver.  The international community could help so long as mechanisms that lasted were put in place.  In terms of how to support her successor, she said the Special Representative just sold words.  “You are the ones who can make a difference,” she told the Member States.  Concerning non-state actors, she said more countries were eager to sign an action plan and progress on the ground was being made.  However, non-state actors were emerging because Governments were not criminalising children joining their armies.  Governments needed to put in place the tools for accountability, otherwise non-state actors would step in.



For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC17/022E