"Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict"
Statement by Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg
Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN
 Security Council, New York, 20 January 2004

 

  

Madam President,

I wish to express our honor and pleasure at seeing you presiding the work of the Security Council on this very important and sensitive item. Your presence, Madam, at the Chair adds value and prestige to the excellent work being performed by the Chilean presidency in the person of the Permanent Representative of Chile.

We have before the Council a comprehensive report presented by the SG, who together with his Special Representative, deserves our congratulations. This report Ė I should add Ė constitutes a step forward in the efforts the UN began to undertake more than ten years ago, when the first independent expert on children and armed conflict was appointed.

Madam President,

Creating a world fit for children is tantamount to guaranteeing the future of all humankind. In recent years, the UN efforts to focus international attention on child-specific issues, in the context of armed conflicts, have been expanding in order to respond to the demand for action, given the seriousness of the issue and the growing number of conflicts affecting children in different parts of the world. 

Brazil has always attached great importance to the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. Over the years, negotiations concerning the international instruments related to this issue have been a continuous source of inspiration for our legislators and policymakers. Brazil is fully committed to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and has recently ratified its optional protocols.

Madam President,

The situation of children continues to be alarming, as they are preyed upon by parties to armed conflict around the world. Their vulnerability makes them easy victims of all sorts of abuses and gross violations of humanitarian law. 

It is precisely because the efforts of the international community to address this problem still fall short of what is needed to end the grievous suffering of children in armed conflict that this issue must continue to be taken up by the United Nationís system and, most appropriately by the Security Council. 

In order to maximize the effect of the Councilís actions in this regard, it seems to our delegation that close coordination with the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council is needed, given the complexity of the issue, their social and economic responsibilities and their central role in assuring assistance to children in need. 

Indeed, the treatment to be given to the issue of children and armed conflict will certainly benefit greatly if it is squarely put within the context of the more general problem of children in need. This is a task that various organs of the United Nations system must address in close coordination and cooperation among themselves as well as with Member States and NGOs. Coordination among the relevant departments of the Secretariat should also be strengthened and continuously reviewed.

The Secretary-Generalís report contains constructive elements that, further developed and duly implemented, are capable of greatly improving the situation. Among these elements, the provision of a list of parties to armed conflict that recruit or use children in conflict situations, seems to be an indispensable tool for the purpose of setting strategies to deal with the problem. 

For such a list to become a more efficient instrument, however, it must be made as precise as possible, through continuous updating and refinement. This entails creating institutional mechanisms capable of leading the process of engagement with parties responsible for the involvement of children in armed conflict. This also includes the possibility of adding or excluding names. 

As it is not possible to ascribe this responsibility to one single agency or actor within the UN system, given their uneven presence in the afflicted areas, such mechanisms should include, to the extent possible, members of the Special Representativeís office, of UNICEF and other relevant UN agencies having adequate field presence in designated areas, and Child Protection Advisers, whose participation in Peace-Keeping Operations has proved useful, therefore deserving expansion. 

Once established, these working groups would be able to open lines of dialogue with parties in conflict, extract commitments regarding action plans for the demobilization of child soldiers and monitor compliance. Information provided by these mechanisms would be the basis for all further action.

Such mechanisms should be responsible, as well, for ensuring that special provisions for children are included in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, having in mind the stigmatisation faced by children in armed conflict; not requiring the handing in of weapons for eligibility, which should be defined by broad criteria, in order to contemplate not only combatants, but also those in ancillary activities; and the monitoring and follow-up of demobilized children.

Madam President,

Brazil is in favour of applying a graduated and targeted approach with regard to parties that fail to adopt measures with a view to ending violations concerning children and armed conflict. As to this point, the Secretary-General has made constructive recommendations in his report, such as enacting travel restrictions on leaders and their exclusion from government structures and amnesty provisions, a ban on the export or supply of small arms, a ban on military assistance, and restrictions on the flow of financial resources to the parties concerned. For such measures to be implemented, they must: first, rely on precise information, the source of which should be a mechanism such as the one we already described; and second, be finely-tuned, so as to avoid a problem common to sanctions and the conditioning of assistance, which often delay and even prevent the provision of humanitarian aid to those who most need it - in this case, children trapped in situations of conflict.

Madam President,

Given the persistence of this problem of children exposed to armed conflict and the need for more developments in the field, the Security Council should demonstrate its political will and within its functions and powers, take upon the responsibility for maximizing the UN systemís response to the issue of children in armed conflict. 

That is what is required if we are to successfully prevent childhood from being a choice victim amidst warfare. 

That is what is necessary to uphold the rights of children and to guarantee a future in which children can be bearers of hope and confidence as they emerge from conflict situations.

Thank you Madam President.