Human rights

Human Rights Council concludes interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict – World

The Human Rights Council this afternoon concluded its interactive dialogue with Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

In her closing remarks, Ms. Gamba said that the follow-up report and the mechanisms of the national task force had put in place methods of communication in the country to respond to the pandemic. Networks of child protection actors and monitors have been strengthened to better protect and respond to the crisis facing children and to ensure that monitoring and reporting continues, while respecting international standards. A study was conducted on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children in situations of armed conflict in the short term: one of the results was a request for a long-term study on partner engagement in conflict situations. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is only a first step and must be followed by implementation at the national level.

During the discussion on children and armed conflict, speakers said the report highlighted the unprecedented challenges for the protection of children living in conflict zones and the continued frequency of grave violations against children. , killing and maiming of children, recruitment of children and denial of humanitarian access. It is of paramount importance to ensure the unwavering respect for international humanitarian law and human rights by all parties to conflicts, while maintaining accountability and combating impunity. The health crisis has increased the vulnerability of children, making them more vulnerable to recruitment, due to the interruption of education, and it has made it more difficult to identify those who violate their rights. The need to protect schools, teachers and students during armed conflict was highlighted. States were urged to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration to achieve safe, secure and quality education for all.

Egypt, Libya, Slovenia, United Nations Children’s Fund, Malaysia, Iraq, Venezuela, France, Japan, Nigeria, Luxembourg, Ethiopia, China, l Armenia, Lesotho, Switzerland, Pakistan, Lithuania, State of Palestine, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Panama, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, Ireland, Tunisia, United States, Belgium, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Greece, Malta, Colombia, Poland, South Sudan, Georgia, Portugal, Malawi, Syria, Cuba, Viet Nam, Ukraine, Philippines, Croatia, Spain, India, Saudi Arabia, Burkina Faso, Iran, Turkey and Argentina.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: National Human Rights Council of Morocco, Center for Reproductive Rights, Defense of Children International, Colombian Commission of Jurists, International Bar Association, International Organization for Countries Least Developed, Chinese Society for Human Rights Studies, Association for the Defense of Victims of Terrorism, Next Century Foundation, Center for African Legal Studies and Il Cenaclo.

Armenia, Belarus, Lithuania, Iran, Russian Federation, Algeria, Israel, China, Azerbaijan and Morocco exercised the right of reply.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be viewed here. All meeting summaries are available here. Documents and reports relating to the forty-ninth regular session of the Human Rights Council are available here.

The Council will then meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday 17 March for an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing. He will then open his agenda item on human rights situations that require the attention of the Council and hold an interactive dialogue on the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights rights in Belarus.

Interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

The interactive dialogue with Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, began on Tuesday 15 March and a summary can be viewed here.

Discussion

Speakers said the report highlighted the unprecedented challenges for the protection of children living in conflict zones and the continued frequency of grave violations against children, killings and maimings of children, recruitment of children and denial of humanitarian access. It is of paramount importance to ensure the unwavering respect for international humanitarian law and human rights by all parties to conflicts, while maintaining accountability and combating impunity. Delegates expressed support for numerous reintegration programs, comprehensive rehabilitative health care and psychosocial services for children in Ukraine, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Yemen. Speakers welcomed the commitment of the Special Representative to identify concrete measures to strengthen the protection of children affected by armed conflict. How could the Human Rights Council promote a discourse to identify the specific needs of children affected by conflict? No violence against children is justifiable and the elimination of violations against children in situations of armed conflict is a moral obligation and a collective responsibility.

The health crisis has increased the vulnerability of children, making them more vulnerable to recruitment, due to the interruption of education, and it has made it more difficult to identify those who violate their rights. The need to protect schools, teachers and students during armed conflict was highlighted. States were urged to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration to achieve safe, secure and quality education for all. Thanks to the Global Fund for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence, children have had access to medical, psychological and financial reparations, as well as the reintegration of victims. Among the issues raised to illustrate violations of international humanitarian law, some states referred to ongoing Russian military aggression, including indiscriminate attacks on hospitals that had already claimed the lives of at least 50 children across Ukraine. Some speakers said that Western countries, led by the United States, had interfered in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, resulting in the deaths of children in Afghanistan, while others spoke of Israeli attacks on Palestinian children.

To break the cycle of violations affecting children, a systematic and coherent approach is needed, from prevention to accountability and reintegration. The Special Representative was asked what measures could be taken to ensure the reintegration of children from situations of armed conflict into their society? What concrete steps could the international community take to protect the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Ukrainian children? What measures could be taken to prevent the recruitment of children in the media? What steps could countries take to ensure unhindered humanitarian access in conflict areas? The Special Representative was asked to provide an update on the situation in Ukraine and the human rights violations against children. How did his office plan to help Ukrainian children? How could States provide more support to the Special Representative in her work? What best practices could stakeholders use to help those suffering on the ground? Speakers also welcomed the adoption, in 2021, of the first stand-alone Security Council resolution on the protection of education in conflict.

Final remarks

VIRGINIA GAMBA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said the follow-up report and the national task force mechanisms have established communication methods in the country to respond to the pandemic. Networks of child protection actors and monitors have been strengthened to better protect and respond to the crisis facing children and to ensure that monitoring and reporting continues, while respecting international standards. A study was conducted on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children in situations of armed conflict in the short term: one of the results was a request for a long-term study on partner engagement in conflict situations. This will be published within the next three months. The Universal Periodic Review is essential to get an idea of ​​the situation of children’s rights in a given country. Language relating to children in armed conflict should be maintained in resolutions establishing the mandates of rapporteurs, including for geographic and thematic issues. Her office has had contact with the independent investigative mechanism on Myanmar and she intends to contact the Special Rapporteur on human rights and climate change. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is only a first step and must be followed by implementation at the national level.

The office also contributed to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The office was really working on reintegration in Lesotho, but the non-governmental organizations had stepped up and they were the leaders, but she was working on a script on child soldiers, assessing their needs and reframing child development to peacebuilding and beyond. A university advisory group is being created on the reintegration of children, and perspectives and advice are being sought from children on how they would like to be reintegrated. On Palestine, she personally engaged with both sides of the conflict. Regarding access to medicines for children, non-governmental organizations were in the front line, rather than the office. On child recruitment in the media, she would review and publish research on the issue.

On what could be done to support children in armed conflict, countries could join the Group of Friends on Children in Armed Conflict at Headquarters, Geneva or locally, provide resources, support accountability measures , secure funding for monitoring and reporting mechanisms, and ensure that the language of children in armed conflict is included in all international discussions, whether in the Security Council, the General Assembly or the Human Rights Council. There should be bilateral engagement between countries on children in armed conflict. In terms of education, the best way was to get the armed groups to respect the right to education, and to underline the obligations of the armed groups to protect it and to explain to them why they should be interested in it, and to encourage them to sign agreements, with an action plan to discuss and implement targeted measures. Accountability should also be promoted, where the criminalization of attacks on schools could be pushed into national legislation. Regarding Ukraine, there was no follow-up mechanism for reports in Ukraine, because the country was not on the agenda for children in armed conflict, and that would not happen until it was the case. Finally, she appreciated the support of the Human Rights Council and her office would strive to do better. There is no excuse for child abuse during or as a result of armed conflict.