I have the honour to speak on behalf of the five Nordic countries − Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
Children are often forced to bear the heaviest burden when it comes to the consequences of armed conflict, although they bear the least responsibility for it. A single act can destroy a young life before it has really begun − and all too often the violence is sustained, even systematic. The effects of violence stay with the survivor forever. The trauma suffered affects the whole society, and tends to project to future generations, providing fuel to vicious circles of conflict that affect stability across countries.
The Nordic countries would like to take this opportunity to reiterate their deep gratitude for the tireless efforts made by the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to record violations against children, to bring them to the attention of the international community, to call the perpetrators to account, and to make inspired proposals for concrete action to monitor the violence and to bring relief to the children who are suffering. We fully endorse the report by the Secretary-General (SG) on children and armed conflict, as well as the recommendations made therein.
Mr. President, all forms of violence against children must be condemned unequivocally. They violate the human dignity and the human rights of the child who is especially entitled to our protection and care. Each of the six categories of grave violations set out in resolution 1612 must be addressed with equal vigour. Rape and other forms of sexual violence are heinous crimes. In addition to the immediate physical, mental and emotional damage, they often cause lasting harm to sexual and reproductive health; they spread HIV/AIDS and other serious diseases; they cause disabilities that diminish the capacity for learning, safe parenthood and social interaction, and so on. All too often, it is the victim that is stigmatized while the perpetrator escapes punishment.
Girls and women constitute the largest group of victims in armed conflict. As the SG's report shows, they are particularly vulnerable to gender based and sexual violence perpetrated by all sides in conflicts, and sometimes even by the security forces and soldiers who as peacekeepers are supposed to safeguard them. In some instances, rape and other forms of sexual violence are used systematically to achieve military or political ends. The united condemnation of such crimes by the international community has been heartening. However, urgent and forceful action is still required. The Nordic countries fully endorse the para 162 of the SG's report, recommending that the SC consider, at a minimum, expanding the criteria that trigger listing in the annexes to this report so that they include rape and other grave sexual violence.
We believe that efforts to monitor and address gender based and sexual violence and other grave violations set out in the resolution 1612 could benefit from increasing interaction and collaboration among UN and regional actors involved in the protection of children, the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as those working to improve gender equality and the rights and status of women and girls. For example, useful synergies should be established between the monitoring mechanisms established to support the implementation of resolution 1612 and resolutions 1325 and 1820. We would like to express our satisfaction with the work undertaken by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in designing a Global Policy on Child Protection Advisers and in mainstreaming child protection issues to the work of the UN peacekeeping and political missions. We look forward to the finalization and subsequent implementation of that policy by rolling it out to the field.
We strongly commend the efforts of the civil society. In spite of their usually severely limited resources and the most dangerous working conditions, the local non-governmental organisations (NGO) provide invaluable information and concrete action that no other actor could provide with equal intensity, reach and effectiveness. We note with deep appreciation the support provided by civil society organisations to the SC and other international actors in developing more effective policies and other tools to protect children in armed conflict. The success of the 1612 monitoring and reporting mechanism depends on the contribution of NGOs. We welcome the SG's emphasis on cooperation with non-state actors.
Recruitment and use of children by armed groups is a persistent problem in most of the situations on the agenda of the SC covered by the Report, and a reason for deep concern. Recruitment of boys and girls to take part in hostilities is a violation of international law, and a war crime in both international and non-international armed conflicts. The (nearly) universal recognition of the prohibition on recruiting or using child soldiers must be matched by effective implementation on the domestic level. The first case before the International Criminal Court (ICC) to have proceeded to trial phase, the one against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, is a milestone in the efforts to end impunity for the use of child soldiers. The Nordic countries call on all States to become Parties to the Rome Statute and to effectively implement its provisions in their national legislations.
The Nordic countries wish to emphasize the need for all parties to relevant situations of armed conflict to present concrete, time-bound action plans with detailed descriptions on how they will end and prevent the recruitment of child soldiers, sexual and gender based violence, and other grave violations listed in resolution 1612. International and national actors should ensure that the work done in this field is supported by the more general efforts related to humanitarian assistance, peace building, the protection of human rights and the establishment of the rule of law, as well as social and economic development.
Despite of the encouraging steps taken place in the recent past concerning impunity, determined action is needed. We urge the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to use the full range of measures at its disposal especially when it comes to persistent perpetrators. We call on the SC to ensure that interaction and cooperation among the Working Group and the Sanctions Committees is made more speedy and effective, and to use the most effective measures at its disposal, including targeted sanctions, to make clear to the perpetrators that the UN takes its commitment to the protection of children seriously. The SC should refer violations against children in armed conflict to the ICC for investigation and prosecution when national governments fail to carry out their responsibility to protect these children. We wish to recall that the rule of law, including a functioning judicial system, at the national level is a necessary condition for peace and stability.
Mr. President, the growing incidence of attacks on schools recounted in the SG’s report is of deep concern to the Nordic countries. We call upon UN country teams, peacekeepers, and governments to actively negotiate among community stakeholders and parties to armed conflict to designate schools as safe sanctuaries.
We are deeply concerned with the unacceptable suffering of children amid the military endgame in northern Sri Lanka. The ongoing recruitment of children into the LTTE as well as the fact that civilians, including children, continue to be prevented from leaving the war zone, fill us with dread. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to protect all the civilians in the area, especially children, in accordance with its obligations under humanitarian law.
This year we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). We call for universal adherence and implementation of the CRC and its two Optional Protocols. In conclusion, we would like to reiterate our encouragement to the SC and to the entire UN system to give children in armed conflict the attention they deserve and to constantly seek the most effective means to improve their situation. Institutional prerogatives or procedural traditions should never stand in the way of concrete action.
Thank you, Mr. President.