Saturday, August 23, 2014

UN Security Council Addresses Children and Armed Conflict

On 12 July the UN Security Council convened an open debate on Children and Armed Conflict. Secretary-General H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-Moon opened the meeting, followed by remarks by Mr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, and Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  The meeting was presided over by the Foreign Minister of Germany, H.E. Mr. Guido Westerwelle.

H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan, contrasted ongoing improvements in the living conditions of children in Afghanistan with the alarming recent escalation in violence against civilians and children in particular. He pointed out that terrorist attacks indiscriminately targeting women and children, such as recent school and hospital bombings. Ambassador Tanin condemned such “deplorable” and “heinous” attacks, particularly those involving child suicide bombers.

“A child’s vulnerability, from knowing nothing outside of a war-torn existence, is not up for exploitation in war;” he stated, “a child’s innocence is not fair game for fighting strategy; and most importantly, a child’s body is not a weapon for war, by the standards of the constitution of Afghanistan or by international law.”

On the other hand, while many Afghan children are living in poverty, Ambassador Tanin explained, many more – especially girls – are going to school for the first time ever, and almost all have access to basic healthcare services.

Ambassador Tanin reiterated the Afghan Government’s commitment to protecting children through their National Action Plan and other measures. He went on to assert that children in Afghanistan need and deserve “an environment free of indiscriminate violence to pursue their full potentials,” and according to Ambassador Tanin, the Afghan Government and the international community are responsible for ensuring one.

Other speakers in the debate echoed this unwavering support for the protection of children’s lives and rights. These speakers included Foreign Minister of Columbia, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, The Minister of Justice of South Africa, and the Deputy Foreign Minister of Portugal. Other Council Members and Non-Council Members also expressed their concerns about children in armed conflict, violations of children’s rights, child soldiers, and attacks on schools and hospitals.