UN Security Council high-level open debate on Children and armed conflict



Mr. President,
Your Excellency Fernando Simas Magalhães, ViceMinister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil,
In the words of my illustrious compatriot and former Secretary General, Busumuru Kofi Annan: “we were all children once and we all share the desire for the well-being of our children, which
has always been and will continue to be the most universally cherished aspiration of humankind.” Today, as we meet in this Chamber, united by our collective aspiration to protect children and ensure their well-being, Ghana wishes to express appreciation to Brazil for convening this highlevel open debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC). Finding ways to protect children from the harsh, daily reality they face, growing up in communities ravaged by armed conflict, is the singular most important responsibility we can exercise to defend the defenseless and most vulnerable.Let me also express appreciation to SRSG Virginia Gamba, Ms. Catherine Russell and Mr. Patrick Kumi for their rich perspectives which, rightly, point us to the need for action on the commitments and promises we have all made, as an international community, to the world’s children.

Mr. President,
Earlier this year, as Ghana joined in the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate, we were encouraged by the outcomes that the Office of the SRSG, UNICEF, and others, have achieved over the last two decades, including: the successful release of hundreds of thousands of children from the custody of armed groups and their reintegration into society; the development and implementation of action plans by parties to conflict; and the provision of services to survivors and affected families. These outcomes inspire hope in existing capabilities to ensure child safety. We remain concerned, however, by the fact that many more children in conflict environments are currently being subjected to all the 6 grave violations against children especially killing and maiming, including through explosive remnants of war, antipersonnel landmines and improvised explosive devices; recruitment and use; and the denial of humanitarian access, by a plethora of actors who operate within an atmosphere of impunity and social dysfunction, and who take pride in perpetrating the most heinous attacks against children, as a weapon of war. For child refugees, internally displaced and stateless children, the horrors of armed conflict are even more distressing as their lack of a home, family or even citizenship heighten their vulnerability to extreme violence and abuse. The arbitrary detentions and mistreatment of children associated or allegedly associated with armed groups are a prevalent feature of many armed conflicts which must be tackled through the prioritization of both global and national child release and reintegration mechanisms.
The gut-wrenching images we see and the disheartening stories we hear within this Council regarding the plight of children in situations of armed conflict must propel our righteous anger and
repugnance towards the consolidation of a culture of robust action. In today’s open debate, in addition to Ghana’s alignment with the statement to be read by the Friends of the Responsibility to Protect and the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, we
would share four (4) key messages on how the UN and Member States can further enhance the protection of children in conflict contexts.
First, an indication of the level of importance we attach to the Children and Armed Conflict agenda is reflected by the resources we devote in support of its implementation. We therefore urge the
Council’s full support for the allocation of targeted, practical and rapid resources to facilitate responses to threats against children or avert potential dangers they may face. Such resources provide,
among others, safe accommodation and enhanced protection of displaced, refugee and stateless children from the six grave violations. Moreover, there is the urgent need for targeted resources
and collaborative efforts by the international community and Member States to sensitise communities on explosive ordnance risks as well as to ensure the identification, fencing off and eventual destruction of all manner of explosive ordnances, which could endanger the lives of children.
Secondly, the United Nations, regional organisations and Member States should mainstream child protection into all efforts and discussions on conflict, including conflict prevention, mediation,
peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction. Peacekeeping missions need to ensure the integration of child protection obligations into mission planning, policies, decisions and activities
and include child protection focal points in their peacekeeping and field operations.
Thirdly, there is an urgent need to ensure that children associated with armed or terrorist groups are not treated as criminals but rather as victims. With the support of the United Nations, States that require capacity should be assisted to put in place standard operating procedures for the rapid handover of these children to relevant civilian child protection actors and their reintegration into society, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2427 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, among others.
Finally, in view of the importance of child education, we strongly condemn the military use of schools as well as all attacks against schools and educational facilities. Member States have the
responsibility to establish and strictly enforce laws which criminalise attacks against schools, as well as to ensure the continuation, re-establishment and preservation of education during armed conflict, in line with the Safe Schools Declaration. We call for this commitment to be upheld by all and reiterate that all parties to conflict need to respect the civilian character of schools in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Mr. President,
In concluding, I would like to reiterate that while significant strides have been made globally in raising awareness and protecting children affected by armed conflict, there is still more miles to
travel in enhancing international collaboration to protect children in conflict. Ghana is committed to travelling those extra miles for the cause of protecting these children and securing their safe and sustainable future.
I thank you,
Muito Obrigado.