Statement by Mrs Béatrice Le Fraper of the Permanent Mission of France on the side-event Children and Armed Conflict

Jun 30, 2011

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(as delivered)

Mr. Secretary-General,

First Lady,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank Ambassador Wittig and the German mission for having organized this event, which is for us an excellent way to prepare for the public debate on July 12th on the protection of children in armed conflict in the Security Council and the possible adoption of a resolution.

We are at an important moment today: on the one hand, we can draw lessons from what we have done in the past years, it’s not yet a success story but some good progress has been made; and on the other hand, we must increase our effectiveness. Her Royal Highness wondered what we can do, what action we can take. Let me add that this issue of children in armed conflict is another project on which Qatar and France share the same objective. We do that also on a number of other issues.

I would firstly like to look at the lessons learned since the adoption of resolution 1612.

We still assess that there are 250,000 child soldiers around the world. At the same time, UNICEF and others can vouch for the release of around 10,000 children per year. That is why, with this kind of figures, we can share the United Nations’ objective: a world without child soldiers within 25 years. It is an ambitious but realistic goal. We must ask ourselves how we managed this progress. Here we must of course speak of the advocacy role played by Mrs. Coomaraswamy which hs been essential. But this would not have been possible if she didn’t have the advantage of leverage when she speaks to different states around the world. The leverage of possible sanctions by the Security Council, of being on the Secretary-General’s “naming and shaming” list, and also the possibility of mobilizing and informing the ICC. I have had personal conversation with Mrs. Coomaraswamy, she was mentioning meetings with ministers when the first question of the minister, eager to meet her, was: am I going to be on one of your lists. It is a very important tool that we have.

However, current events remind us of the scale and seriousness of the fate of children. The killing and maiming of children is still perpetrated around the world. I’d make a mention of a current event. In Libya, children and children in Misrata have not been spared by the attacks of Colonel Qaddafi’s forces. We are still a long way from protecting all the children. didn’t spare the or in the rest of the country. In Syria, the unbearable images of the tortured body of Hamza Ali al-Khateeb – a 13 year old boy – bear witness to the barbarity of the crackdown prevailing in that country. Second lesson: the Security Council often receives relevant information through various channels. The question we need to ask therefore relates to the political will of its members. A second less optimistic comment I want to make is that, of course, the Secutity Council receives a lot of information on violations concerning children. But we are very far from acting on all this information. I thank again H.R.H. for pointing that the issue here is the political will of the UN member states.

The scale of the challenges we face in order to deal with problems of cgildren in armed conflict, and in particular with sexual violence remains absolutely immense. We need to devote more resources to the prevention of sexual violence and to combat impunity for the perpetuators of sexual violence. We have seen progress, thanks to the work of not only Mrs. Coomaraswamy but also Mrs. Wallström who also have adopted the same attitude of using all the tools at her disposal in the United Nations. I would also wish to commend the work of Mr. Alain Le Roy, the head of DPKO, who has always insisted on the contribution of Peacekeeping forces on the ground to assist the victims.

Let me now, after having spoken of the lessons, speak about the action and what we can do next. There is still a lot to do.

- We believe that the first objective and it has been addressed here by other participants, will be the addition of attacks against schools and hospitals to the criteria for inclusion in “naming and shaming”’ list of the United Nations Security Council. I think there is a growing consensus on that. I would like to pay tribute to UNESCO and Irina Bokova. Without the report made by UNESCO on this specific issue, I don’t think we would have reached a growing consensus so fast. You have done a lot with your report on armed conflict and education to highlight this issue. I was stricken when I read your report that some schools were targeted in Afghanistan because little girls were allowed to be in those schools. It was really something that triggered awareness and the need for action.

Furthermore, we should also include attacks against hospitals. They are becoming more widespread and it also affects children.

- Secondly, we want to see progress on the humanitarian dialogue between the parties to the conflict and the United Nations. I see on my left the ICRC and I’m sure he will talk about this issue.

- Lastly, we want to see progress on the issue of sanctions against what we call “persistent perpetrators”. Here, there is a gap in all our tools. There is a gap because for the moment, in the Security Council, we only have the possibility of sanctions in situations which are explicitly on the Security Council’s agenda, and we must have a mandate concerning a specific situation which includes a possibility of sanctions. This leaves out of any possibility for sanctions of the Security Council too many “persistent perpetrators”. We have to address this gap and this is one of our objectives.

These are the objectives that we have to assist Germany in its future efforts in adopting a resolution on this issue. They have the lead. We will support them. I would like to make a special mention to civil society that is supporting them and NGOs. I could tell you that all the ambassadors of the United Nations, in the Security Council, get up in the morning and just want to go out and protect the children in armed conflicts. I might be exaggerating. If there were not a little push by civil society and international NGOs, we might have not been so eager to work on the issue. So thank you to civil society for its help.

Thank you very much.

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