Norway welcomes this renewed opportunity to take part in a wider international partnership determined to enhance the protection of children affected by armed conflict. It constitutes an important pillar in Norway’s overall commitment to the protection of civilians in situations of armed conflict.
Children are not marginal but central to peace and security, to the prevention and resolution of conflict and to peace building. “Children deserve protection, violations of children’s rights must stop and impunity must end” as the UN Special Representative for Children in armed conflict stated on the Universal Children’s Day.
We fully support efforts to further integrate the agenda of children and armed conflict in the peace and security sector of the UN and to make them an integral part of the work of the Security Council. The report before the Council highlights several concerns that must be addressed.
Our attention should also be directed at emerging challenges and new threats as suggested by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in her recently presented strategic framework. Norway stands ready to support her in this important endeavour and in her mission in general. Through the UN reform process we should also seek to advance results in the area of children and armed conflict.
The principle of the best interests of the child and the recognition of children as holders of rights must guide our common efforts to achieve real change in the lives of so many children who are subject to the horrors of abduction, forced recruitment, exploitation and sexual slavery, killing and maiming by the parties to conflict. The Security Council’s real test over the next year will be how it can contribute tangibly to the momentum of the international movement to stop the use of child soldiers.
Norway welcomes the more comprehensive framework of the Council in dealing with the agenda of children and armed conflict in line with Resolution 1612 and its previous resolutions. The Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict has committed itself to a work plan that includes consideration of specific situations and regular review of all situations of concern.
It can play an important role in developing response strategies and suggesting practical measures based on country reports. The ministerial meeting called by France earlier this year could serve as a model for ensuring continuous engagement by all stakeholders including countries that are not members of the Council.
Another significant development relates to the reporting and monitoring system to collect and provide information on the recruitment and use of child soldiers and other violations and abuses committed against children affected by armed conflict. Information should be provided on the practices of all parties to armed conflict - including government forces, government linked paramilitary groups and non state armed groups as a basis for action.
We recognise the significant challenges involved in setting up the system and making the mechanism operational. Moreover, regular and substantive reports by the country level taskforces must be followed up by adequate responses and resources. Norway has already provided support to the reporting and monitoring system through UNICEF.
Civil society and NGOs can play an important role in the reporting and monitoring system. Their role should go beyond providing information on violations and abuses against children. They are particularly valuable actors when it comes to public awareness, protection mechanisms and programmatic responses.
In the follow up of the monitoring and reporting system Norway would encourage a broader application to cover all situations wherever children are vulnerable and at risk. In short we support the Secretary-General in suggesting to the Council to expand its focus and give equal care and attention to children affected by armed conflict in all situations of concern. This should also include all the categories of grave violations beyond the recruitment and use of child soldiers as set out in Resolution 1612.
The establishment and implementation of time-bound action plans by countries to end the practice of forced recruitment and use of child soldiers is regrettably lagging behind. Work is needed to make better use of action plans and improve their effectiveness.
We are pleased to note that several countries have expressed their commitment to developing such plans but we also join in the call for all those listed in the report to follow up with concrete time-bound action plans. We also call on OHCHR, UNICEF and other UN partners to work closely with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in her leadership role. As a member of the international community Norway stands ready to consider ways of support. The Secretary- General’s proposal in the report to expand the call for action plans to all situations of concern has our support.
Although there is reason for serious concern there is also cause for careful optimism.
On the concern side the international community has witnessed serious setbacks affecting the civilian population including children in the Middle East region. Civilians are killed and maimed by cluster munitions during conflict and in their daily lives for a long time afterwards. Children are severely affected on their way to school, during play and when families cannot harvest their crops. Cluster munitions must not be allowed to cause another humanitarian scourge the way anti-personnel landmines did before the Mine Ban Convention. In light of this my Government has launched an international imitative to ban cluster munitions.
On a note of more careful optimsm Norway welcomes the cessation of hostilities agreement between the LRA and the Government of Uganda. We hope this will materialise into a sustainable peace agreement and put an end to the protracted humanitarian crisis where large numbers of boys and girls have been abducted and recruited as child soldiers. We call on the LRA to release all women and children in captivity in accordance with Resolutions 1612 and 1325.
Norway has warmly welcomed the news that the parties to the conflict in Nepal have signed a comprehensive peace agreement. Thus, these developments also underscore the potential for effective implementation of Resolution 1612. According to the Peace Agreement cantonment of armed personnel will soon be initiated. It will then be mandatory that children under 18 years of age are separated and transferred to transit centres. UNICEF, Nepal in its capacity as lead agency in addressing issues of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups (CAAFAG), has already signalled its readiness to assist in this important task. Norway is willing to second personnel to enhance UNICEF’s capacity to succeed in this endeavour.
Finally, Mr President, I would like to reassure you of Norway’s firm commitment to continue to provide resources and funding for demobilisation, reintegration and rehabilitation of children who have been associated with armed forces. Both a perspective of gender and community are crucial. We have to work together with all relevant stakeholders to help restore young people’s hope and confidence in the future and thus make actions more sustainable. It is also vital to recognise and support the contribution children and young people themselves can make in national efforts to build peace. This is a theme that Norway is increasingly focusing on.