Side Event: Statement by Ambassador Thoms at the Launch of the Guidance Note on Attacks on Schools and Hospitals
"Madam Special Representative,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here today to witness the launch of the guidance note on attacks against schools and hospitals.
As former Chair of the Security Council working group on Children and Armed Conflict this issue is of utmost importance to us. In this regard, we very much welcome the steps taken to operationalize this important resolution, which was initiated by Germany and adopted during our Presidency of the Council in July 2011.
It needs to be said, however, that the negotiations were not easy. In fact, they were more controversial and acrimonious than we had foreseen, with a consensus virtually unsure until the day of adoption by the Council. First, there was the usual unease by some Member States with regard to thematic issues on the Council’s agenda. Others were of the opinion that the UN system was already overburdened and should not be tasked with another trigger to monitor. Still others had doubts about the broad formulations in the resolution and the practical steps to be taken. During the negotiations, also the child protection mandate as a whole came under attack, especially the scope of country situations to be monitored.
As Chair we finally managed - with the help of other countries in the Council – to maintain the integrity of the SRSG’s mandate and to find compromise formulations acceptable to all. There was also agreement to include credible threats as part of the trigger. This was an important step forward as it allows the UN to monitor all relevant elements of protecting education and health of children in armed conflict.
Resolution 1998 closed a gap in the protection system. This new trigger is very different from previously established triggers on sexual violence, killing, maiming and recruitment of children. Attacks on schools and hospitals are much more complex in their violation of International Humanitarian Law. The new guidelines are therefore an important advocacy tool for raising awareness of the legal provisions among parties to conflict, governments as well as UN staff reporting on these violations.
The new guidance note gives clear instructions on monitoring and reporting. It is only when we have a clear picture of what is happening on the ground that we can take adequate action and advocate necessary to create change.
We very much welcome the collaborative spirit in which these guidelines have been developed and the impressive outcome. UNICEF, WHO and UNESCO are important entities in the reporting on such attacks, and related advocacy and their involvement and cooperation is crucial.
The guidance note is very specific and user-friendly. Many examples are given for specific action, giving concrete answers to questions one might have in the field. More reporting on this grave violation will allow us to better understand the root causes and to help us find ways and means to improve the lives of children in many countries affected by armed conflict. Education and health are THE prerequisites for a child to grow up safely, and they build the groundwork for a life in dignity.
I hope that UN staff in the field, UN member states and NGOs will find this tool helpful and use it in their daily work.
I thank you."