Thank you, Mr. President, for convening this timely meeting on Children and Armed Conflict and for the United States of America’s able leadership of the Council this month. I would also like to thank Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and her office for their tireless efforts towards mitigating the devastating impact of war on children and thank the other distinguished speakers for their statements. Afghanistan aligns itself with the statement delivered by Indonesia on behalf of OIC.
Children around the world suffer enormously as a result of war, violence and armed conflict. This devastating reality is even more widespread today due to the upsurge of bloody conflict and brutal extremism in Iraq, Gaza, South Sudan and around the world.
In Afghanistan, children have suffered immeasurably as a result of over 30 years of war. Their childhoods have been compromised, and characterized, by persistent violence, killing and loss. Today, resurgent conflict and pernicious extremism continue to cause children tremendous suffering. They are caught in the crossfire of military operations, explosions of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and deadly suicide attacks. They are exploited by terrorists who force them to serve as combatants, suicide attackers, manufacturers and planters of IEDs, and even sex slaves.
The enemies of Afghanistan, in flagrant violation of international law, deny Afghan children- particularly girls- their fundamental rights to education. The Taliban threaten girls and their teachers with acid attacks, killings, injury and abduction to prevent them from attending school. Terrorist groups attack schools, plant IEDs inside school premises, and detonate IEDs and suicide bombs close by. In 2013, schools were attacked in at least 73 such incidents, resulting in the deaths and injuries of dozens of children. In parts of the country, the fragile security situation has forced the closure of hundreds of schools, affecting 115,000 children in 2013 alone.
The Government of Afghanistan deplores the use of children in war and affirms that child recruitment is unacceptable in all cases. It is tragic that Afghan children attempt to join the national and local police and army, and that they are compelled to lie about their age in order to serve and earn money for their families. Noting this terrible reality, my government has established a series of policies and practices aimed at mitigating child recruitment.
In 2010, Afghanistan launched an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict. In 2011, the committee developed a National Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment of children in the Afghan National Security Forces.
Since, among other reforms, my government has established Child Protection Units within the Afghan National Police and Afghan Local Police recruitment centers; those in the western region rejected 132 boys from voluntary enlistment in 2013. High level focal points have been assigned to promote the protection of children within the Afghan National Police, Afghan Local Police, and Afghan National Army. In addition the government has pioneered age verification procedures in Herat, in the West of the country, and aims to extend this good practice throughout the country and to share similar good practices with developing countries elsewhere in the world.
On 1 August, Afghanistan reaffirmed its commitment to end child recruitment in the Afghan security forces by endorsing a Road Map towards Compliance, with the support of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). My government looks forward to continuing its efforts to implement the National Action Plan and uphold the commitments laid out in the Road Map.
Afghanistan faces profound challenges in its fight to find peace, but we are committed to doing our utmost to end child recruitment and enhance child protection in the country. We cannot do this alone; we call on our international partners to continue their support to help us achieve our goals. As Afghanistan looks towards a bright new future with the conclusion of the elections process, we hope to strive towards an Afghanistan in which all children are able to live in freedom and in peace, and the horrors of war and violence are but distant facts of history.