"Security Council team led by Ambassador Wittig urges greater protection of children during Afghanistan visit"
A Security Council delegation today reiterated its calls for better protection of children and other civilians in Afghanistan who are caught in conflict, as the United Nations body prepares to take tougher measures to boost security for schools and medical facilities in war zones.
“The Security Council attaches very high importance to the protection of civilians in the many armed conflicts in the world, and in particular to the protection of the rights of children,” Peter Wittig, Germany’s Ambassador to the UN, told journalists in Kabul at the end of the Council’s weeklong visit to Afghanistan.
“The Security Council is of the firm belief that phenomena like recruitment of children as child soldiers and fighters, killing and maiming, abduction, sexual abuse, and attacks on schools and hospitals have to stop and have to be sanctioned,” he added.
The visit comes one month before the 15-member Council takes up a draft resolution condemning attacks on schools and medical facilities in the context of protecting children in armed conflict. The debate will be led by Germany, which will hold the rotating presidency of the Council in July.
“We want to adopt a resolution that warns potential perpetrators who commit those acts and will issue a general message that governments and armed groups should protect schools better.”
While the draft has not been made public, Mr. Wittig said individuals and groups who decline “encouragement” to protect children could be placed on a sanctions list.
Mr. Wittig – who chairs the Security Council Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict – said he wanted to visit Afghanistan to see firsthand how attacks affect children and to discuss with government officials, civil society members and religious leaders what could be done.
He said the delegation was “encouraged and pleased” to hear that a large majority of Afghans support the proposed measure, and would convey those impressions to the other members of the Council who participate in the Working Group.
“We have the feeling that the Afghans themselves care about their children, about their rights, about education, and we bring this message back to the Security Council.”
During the visit, the delegation also met with officials to assess progress on the Action Plan signed in January between the Afghan Government and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.
The Action Plan sets out the commitments of the Government to address practices such as under-age recruitment, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, attacks against schools and hospitals, abduction and denial of humanitarian access. In Afghanistan, these violations are monitored by the UN-led Country Task Force on Children and Armed Conflict, which includes members of the Government and Afghan civil society.
Noting the progress made on the Action Plan, Mr. Wittig called on the Taliban and other armed groups, the international armed forces and the Afghan security forces to provide more information to show they are abiding by international agreements and not recruiting anyone under the age of 18, and to give the UN access to any children in detention.
On the possibility of removing some Taliban members from the Council’s sanctions list, Mr. Wittig – who also chairs the Security Council committee that monitors the sanctions for links to the Taliban or Al-Qaida (known as the 1267 Committee) – said that decision is up to the authority of the Committee but he expects “a number of de-listings by mid-June.”