Panel Discussion: Statement by Ambassador Thoms on "Train, Act, Protect: A new standard in child protection training for military peacekeepers"

Apr 8, 2014

"Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you in the German Mission. I am very grateful to our very distinguished panelists for being here with us today to share their expertise. My special thanks go to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations - our partner in today’s event, and Ms Leanne Smith, Chief of DPKO’s Policy and Best Practices Service for moderating our discussion.

In all armed conflicts around the globe, children are the ones most affected, and those who have to suffer the most from wars started by adults. Every year, thousands of children are killed, injured or abused in armed conflicts. Many more lose their parents or other close relatives and are exposed to traumatizing situations. They are deprived of their childhood, their education and their fundamental rights. And while carrying this heavy burden they face the task of rebuilding their country after the conflict.

Over the past years, the international community has fought to make child protection an integral part of UN peacekeeping efforts. Three out of four peacekeepers serve in missions with a child protection mandate. But what exactly can peacekeepers do to prevent and respond to grave violations against children? What are the responsibilities of commanders? And what should peacekeepers do when confronted with armed child soldiers? These are some of the questions we will discuss today.

We have seen in the past that mainstreaming child protection measures into pre-deployment and in-mission training has led to significant improvements on the ground. For example, in the DRC and in Sudan, more than 1800 children associated with armed groups were demobilized.

Today, we are happy to present to you the new specialized training modules on child protection for peacekeepers. The modules were developed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in close cooperation with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF, Save the Children, and the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative. Workshops funded by Austria, Canada, Italy, Luxembourg, the United States and my own country, Germany, gave further valuable input. Last but not least, pilot courses hosted by Malaysia and Uruguay were excellent opportunities to test the material on the ground.

These new training modules will enable UN peacekeepers to better address children’s needs and concerns in situations of conflict and to help preventing recruitment and exploitation of children by armed actors. Our hope is that the training material will be widely used by the UN as well as by troop contributing countries in order to ensure that the protection of children in armed conflict is part and parcel of UN peacekeeping missions and that all peacekeepers are sensitized to this issue, which they will - in many cases - encounter in the field. Given the large number of personnel deployed to peacekeeping missions, adequate training and education for all of them can have a great impact on the situation and future of children in situations of armed conflict.

Therefore – please spread the word about this training material and encourage your colleagues to incorporate it into the preparation courses for UN peacekeepers. Together we can make sure that the international community meets its obligations towards building a better life for all children.

I thank you very much and I look forward to the discussion today."

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