Statement by H.E. Mr. Halit Çevik, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, at UN Security Council Open Debate “Children and Armed Conflict Towards the full implementation of the agenda”

Halit Çevik 07.03.2014
Thank you Madam President,

I would like to thank the Luxembourg Presidency for organizing this important debate. We also welcome the adoption of the resolution 2143 (2014), which includes very important elements with regard to the development and implementation of the framework on children and armed conflict.

Madam President,

The legal and normative framework regarding children and armed conflict has developed considerably in the last 15 years, leading to significant improvements on the ground. There has been increased momentum especially with regard to the prevention of the recruitment of child soldiers, also thanks to important campaigns such as “Children, Not Soldiers”.

On the other hand, the expansion of the framework of children and armed conflict beyond child soldiers to include the six grave violations, have highlighted other challenges currently faced. The latest report of the Secretary-General stresses that tens of thousands of children continue to be recruited, killed or maimed, sexually abused or deprived of their right to education and healthcare, among other abuses. We are particularly concerned about the widespread and deliberate attacks against schools, educational personnel and students, as well as the use of schools for military purposes, including as barracks, fighting positions, detention centres, interrogation or torture sites, and weapons depots.

Sadly, we are witnessing an heartbreaking example on how children are affected by armed conflict, right across our border with Syria. Recent depictions of the grave crimes committed against the children of Syria are the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry released on the 12the of February this year, as well as the Secretary-General’s June 2013 report on children and armed conflict. According to UNICEF statistics, over 4 million Syrian children are in need of assistance and 3 million are internally displaced. 94.362 lost their parents due to the conflict, at least 5000 schools out of 22000 were partially or totally damaged and a further 1000 schools were used to shelter IDPs and over 60 thousand Syrian students at the camps in Turkey.

Madam President,

A strong display of political will, unity and joint action from the international community will be the most important tool for child protection. The UN and other missions can be crucial sources of trustworthy information and provide monitoring and reporting functions, which could lead to awareness-raising as well as better planning, protection and response. Thus, it is crucial to mainstream principles related to children and armed conflict into peacekeeping mandates and the training programmes of their personnel. Moreover, ensuring humanitarian access as well as full access to justice by children should be prioritized in areas of conflict.

New conflicts erupting around the globe as well as the evolving character of war and conflict lead to new threats and challenges in relation to children and armed conflict. The increased number and scope of conflicts heightens the importance of cooperation and coordination between UN, regional countries and organizations, troop contributing countries and other relevant actors that are active in crisis areas. Especially regional and sub-regional organizations can contribute to the protection of civilians and child protection on a number of issues, ranging from reporting, information-sharing, analysis to mediation and possible presence in the field, especially during armed conflict. Towards this end, these organizations, which are increasingly involved in conflict prevention, mediation and peace support, should further mainstream child protection issues in their efforts.

Madam President,

While focusing on new threats and challenges, we must not lose sight of the initial goal of mobilising efforts to end the recruitment and use of children by armed groups. The Security Council must continue to apply pressure on persistent perpetrators, including through sanctions if necessary. Preventive measures, such as the establishment of legal frameworks and age verification mechanisms, especially birth registration are of particular importance. Justice and security sector reform processes must be supported to foster investigative and prosecution capacities as well as national accountability mechanisms. On the other hand, international organizations or NGOs should refrain from concluding any kind of documents, including deeds of commitment, with terrorist organizations, who can easily abuse this situation to legitimize their existence and acts.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that children and armed conflict is a development issue as well. The sustained denial of right to health, education and a safe and secure environment to children result in “lost generations”, risking the future of entire societies and cultures. We appreciate the work done by UNICEF and its partners in this respect, especially with regard to the critical efforts made to minimize the impact of the crisis on children - including in life-saving areas of health, nutrition, immunization, water and sanitation, as well as investments in the future of children through education and child protection.
While concluding my words, Madam President, I would like to voice our strong readiness to extend our full support to international and regional efforts related to child protection and child soldiers. I would particularly like to commend the valuable efforts of the UN, and express our heartfelt gratitude to SRSG Zerroughi and her hard-working team.
Thank you.