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 Childrenâ€™s Fund, and Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.Â 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 â€œdeplorableâ€ and â€œheinousâ€ attacks, particularly those involving child suicide bombers.
â€œA childâ€™s vulnerability, from knowing nothing outside of a war-torn existence, is not up for exploitation in war;â€ he stated, â€œa childâ€™s innocence is not fair game for fighting strategy; and most importantly, a childâ€™s body is not a weapon for war, by the standards of the constitution of Afghanistan or by international law.â€
On the other hand, while many Afghan children are living in poverty, Ambassador Tanin explained, many more â€“ especially girls â€“ are going to school for the first time ever, and almost all have access to basic healthcare services.
Ambassador Tanin reiterated the Afghan Governmentâ€™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 â€œan environment free of indiscriminate violence to pursue their full potentials,â€ 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 childrenâ€™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 childrenâ€™s rights, child soldiers, and attacks on schools and hospitals.
On 6 July, the United Nations Security Council held a debate on the Situation in Afghanistan. The debate began with a briefing by Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN, was given the floor after the SRSGâ€™s remarks.
Both the SRSG and Ambassador Tanin focused on the â€œcritical juncture,â€ as Ambassador Tanin put it, of transition to Afghan ownership and leadership of the countryâ€™s security. In this transition, according to Ambassador Tanin, continued international support and engagement beyond 2014 is crucial for the future stability of the country, in particular, a â€œlasting partnership with the UN.â€ The SRSG pointed out the need to focus beyond security for the transition period and address â€œsocial, economic and, frankly, human rights.â€
Most participants in the meeting brought up the recent tragedies of the attacks on the hospital in Logar Province and the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. Ambassador Tanin referred to the recent campaign as a display ofÂ â€œpromo-psychodramaâ€¦a conspicuously well-orchestrated attempt by the enemies of Afghanistan, designed to incite fear among people, to hinder the international support for Afghanistan, and to convince a war-weary audience in some countries that the war is unwinnableâ€¦However,â€ he said, â€œacts of terror will not shake our determination for securing peace and stability in Afghanistan.â€ The SRSG highlighted the effectiveness of the Afghan military and police in responding to these attacks, praising their strengthened capacity and improved abilities.
Both Ambassador Tanin and the SRSG emphasised the importance of ongoing reconciliation and reintegration efforts aimed at achieving a political solution to the conflict. In these efforts, the SRSG explained, UNAMA is functioning as a confidence-builder, as substantive discussion on these matters is the purview of the Afghan government. In this regard, he praised the Security Councilâ€™s ongoing de-listing of ex-Taliban militants from sanctions lists as a move in the right direction.
In addition, the SRSG praised progress on bilateral, multilateral and regional cooperation, as well as improvements in the human rights, including womenâ€™s rights and the protection of children â€“ though both the SRSG and Ambassador Tanin noted that civilian casualties from Taliban action continue to increase.
The other delegates of the Security Council, along with representatives from the EU, Japan, Pakistan, Canada and Turkey, expressed concern over recent escalations in the level of civilian casualties, and unanimously condemned violence against UN personnel. Nevertheless, they alsoÂ reaffirmed theirÂ faith in the Afghan parliamentary process and pledged continued support of an Afghan-led reconciliation effort.