UN SECURITY COUNCIL: CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT - ANNUAL OPEN DEBATE 2022
19 July 2022
Statement by H.E. the Hon. Mitch Fifield, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Australia thanks Brazil for convening this important debate - which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the mandate for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
We thank the Special Representative, Virginia Gamba, for her leadership and dedication to children affected by armed conflict around the world, and her team for producing the annual report.
In the past 25 years, over 170,000 children have been freed from armed forces and groups and reintegrated into society.
This has been achieved with the help of:
- child protection advisors;
- joint and national action plans;
- and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration;
all guided by the UN’s Children and Armed Conflict efforts.
This demonstrates the critical role of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate, which continues to have Australia’s full support.
Sadly, despite this success, conflict continues to take a devastating toll on children every day. The Special Representative’s report details 23,982 – let me repeat that, 23,982 - grave violations against children last year: especially killing and maiming; recruitment and use; and denial of humanitarian access.
The wellbeing of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen continues to be of great concern. We encourage the signing and implementation of joint and national action plans with the UN to end and prevent grave violations in these countries.
We must also highlight the plight of children in other conflict situations like Myanmar, where an accurate picture of the extent of violations against children is, sadly, difficult to obtain.
The inclusion of Ukraine, Ethiopia and Mozambique as new situations of concern for the next report is a sobering reminder that the rights of children across the world need our active attention and protection more than ever.
Australia is particularly concerned by the increase in grave violations against girls who, in addition to becoming casualties of conflict, are disproportionately subjected to abduction and sexual violence. And such incidents are vastly underreported.
Conflict also displaces children from their homes and disrupts their education, development and wellbeing.
It is our shared responsibility to prevent further harm and exploitation of children in conflicts.
All parties to conflict must comply with international obligations and commitments to protect children, including international humanitarian and human rights law.
All parties must take action to protect children in accordance with the principles of precaution, distinction, and proportionality.
We must prioritise gender and age-responsive interventions, with the interests of the child at the centre. Australia supports increased child protection capacity in UN peace operations and special political missions, and increased support for the UN’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism – to inform response and prevention efforts.
As an international community, we must do more to end grave violations against children, and to shield current and future generations of children from the impact of armed conflict. In doing so, we strengthen the foundations for a sustainable peace.