Security Council: Statement by Ambassador Wittig on Subsidiary Organs

Dec 7, 2012

(Statement as delivered by Ambassador Wittig in a Security Council meeting on the work if its Subsidiary Organs)

"Mr. President,

over the last two years Germany had the honour to chair the Al Qaida and Taliban sanctions committees as well as the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.

Advancing the work of these bodies was one of Germany's priorities during its membership in the Council. Both the fight against terrorism and the protection of human rights are essential elements of German foreign policy. I therefore appreciate the opportunity to share some personal observations on this with you.

With regard to the Al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions regime I would like to point out three of the challenges we had to tackle:

First, we had to make the regime more responsive to the changing nature of the terrorist threat.

Second, we had to make sure that the sanctions regime continues to serve its political purpose.

And third, we had to ensure continued universal respect for the sanctions regime.

Those challenges could only be met with a determined and united effort by Council members. Our task was to forge a consensus in the committee as a basis for the needed reforms.

These efforts culminated in June 2011, when this Council adopted resolutions 1988 and 1989 (2011) – establishing new landmarks within the UN sanctions policy.

Resolution 1988 separated the Taliban sanctions regime from the former Al Qaida- and Taliban sanctions regime. This step rendered the instrument of sanctions more nimble and more responsive, which is of significant importance to the political process in Afghanistan. It is an encouraging development that Afghanistan is seeking an even stronger role in the Committee’s work and has presented proposals for de-listing reconciled individuals.

Resolution 1989 substantially strengthened the role of the Ombudsperson for the Al-Qaida sanctions regime. This introduced a much-needed element of due process that is crucial to ensure universal respect of the sanctions regime.

It is time to consolidate the progress made and to build further on it. We, together with our partners in the Like-Minded Group on Targeted Sanctions, have made concrete suggestions to improve due process in the sanction regimes. In particular, we are of the view that this Council should consider widening the mandate of the Ombudsperson to other sanctions regimes.

We are convinced that all Council members must have an interest in the universal respect of the Council's political instruments, especially the sanctions regimes. We are therefore looking forward to the discussion of our suggestions in the Council.

Mr President,

I now turn to the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.

Allow me to start with a couple of words on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Just last month more children were killed due to the fighting in Eastern DRC than in the whole year before. In 2012, the number of children killed or maimed by parties to the conflict almost tripled as compared to the previous four years. Some estimate that up to 200.000 children suffer from this conflict.

M23 is estimated to have at least 300 children forcibly recruited as child soldiers. Other armed groups increased recruitment of children as well. There are gruesome testimonies from children confirming that M23 commanders killed child soldiers within their ranks who tried to escape.

The situation in DRC is a grim reminder that civilians – especially women and children – continue to bear the brunt of war and conflict. Their suffering continues to oblige the international community.

The Security Council commands unique powers – and responsibilities – to advance the protection of children in conflicts. Germany is convinced that the Security Council must make use of these powers to the fullest extent possible – for the sake of the children affected and for the sake of international peace and security.

In this spirit my delegation focused on three tasks within the working group:

First, we worked hard to significantly reduce the time gap between the reports of the Secretary-General on a given situation and the Working Groups respective conclusions and recommendations. We appreciate the cooperation of Council members in this time-consuming and labour-intensive endeavour.

Second, we set out to strengthen the existing protection mechanism:

We are pleased that the Security Council adopted resolution 1998 under Germany's Presidency in July 2011. The resolution added a new „trigger“ to guarantee that also those armed groups who „attack schools and hospitals and persons related to them“ are hence listed by the Secretary-General in his annual report.

We are also satisfied that the Council adopted resolution 2068 in September 2012 – again under German Presidency –, focussing on how to put more pressure on persistent perpetrators and to achieve better accountability.

Furthermore the Secretary-General now has an open-ended mandate to present annual reports to the Council. And let me underline: his reports and the listings therein are highly valuable and effective tools to protect children. They are part and parcel of the international legal architecture to protect children in war.

Third, we ensured that the protection of children enjoys a high priority in all peacekeeping mandates and sanctions committees. Most of the relevant sanctions regimes now contain provisions to hold those accountable who violate children's rights in armed conflict.

The Security Council can be proud of the innovative and successful mechanism to protect children in armed conflict. However, we call upon members to remain vigilant and to prevent the mechanism from being weakened.

On the contrary, Council members should strive for further improvement. We firmly believe that the Council should swiftly follow-up on resolution 2068 and discuss what can be done to further advance children's protection, and particularly what can be done to hold persistent perpetrators accountable.

From our point of view there are some practical steps the Working Group could take already now:

  • The Working Group should make better use of its tool-kit by issuing press statements on situations of concern which occur outside the reporting cycle. So far, there has been some resistance to use this tool. I recommend discussing this issue again, as the Working Group must be able to immediately react to massive violations and abuses of children's rights in armed conflict. The informal „Horizontal Note“, by which UNICEF informs the Working Group about the current situation on the ground, is an ideal source of information in this regard.

  • The Working Group should continue to hear briefings by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, as we have on Côte d’Ivoire, Syria, Libya, Mali and the DRC. These briefings not only provide a valuable source of information but also send strong signals of Council members commitment.

  • The Working Group should also explore options to increase the number of country visits. We have successfully conducted a highly useful visit to Afghanistan in 2011, also in preparation of resolution 1998. We are certain that these visits could substantially complement the work of the UN staff on the ground.

Let me take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the tremendous work being done by the SRSG, her office as well as by our peacekeeping missions and UNICEF. I commend them for their commitment: they are the true cornerstones of the UN’s mechanism to protect children in armed conflict.

Thank you.

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