Statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the UN Security Council open debate on children and armed conflict

Statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the UN Security Council open debate on children and armed conflict

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Statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the UN Security Council open debate on children and armed conflict

(2 August 2016)

Ukraine appreciates the Malaysian initiative to hold an open debate on children and armed conflict. It is especially timely and symbolic considering that this year we mark the 20th anniversary of the creation of the mandate of the Special Representative of Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

I also thank the Secretary-General for his introduction as well as all distinguished briefers for their contributions.

Ukraine commends the work of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

Ukraine also aligns itself with the statement of the EU to be delivered later today.

Mr. President,

Progress achieved over the last 20 years on the implementation of the mandate on Children and Armed Conflicts is quite impressive. We commend the fact that 25 Action Plans were signed with parties to conflict. 9 parties to conflict were delisted from the annexes of the annual reports.

Yet, Ukraine is deeply concerned over the increase in grave violations of children rights, as outlined in the recent SG’s report.

It is completely unacceptable that children continue to bear the brunt of suffering in war and armed conflict. The ongoing crises and violent conflicts in Central African Republic, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan, DRC and in many other places have claimed the lives of thousands of children and disrupted the daily lives of millions of others.

Armed conflicts result not only in senseless injuries and deaths but also severely disrupt children’s lives. In zones of fighting children become separated from their parents and families in the chaos. Communities’ lives are ruined. Schools are forced to close and health facilities cannot provide services, which are needed more than ever.

Ongoing armed conflicts lead to an increase in a number of refugees and internally displaced persons. This is a challenge we have to find a way to effectively deal with. The plight of children displaced by armed conflict is especially of a very serious concern.

In situations of conflicts the risks for displaced children and children refugees to be recruited, abused or abducted are chillingly real. We all have to ask ourselves: have we as members of the international community done enough to ensure protection for these children?

Mr. President,

The report highlighted the concerns regarding Member States’ responses to violent extremism. Ukraine fully shares the SG opinion that we need to identify and address the root causes of violent extremism.

In our view, education is a key factor in countering extremist discourses. However, every child’s right to a quality education is out of reach for millions of children affected by conflict.

Yet, education alone is not enough. To address the vicious cycle of conflict, violence and hatred, more must be done to put an end to impunity for the grave crimes that take place in various regions and threaten peace, security and well-being of the world.

According to UNICEF, nearly one in four of 109.2 million children of primary and lower secondary school age — typically between 6 and 15 years old — living in conflict areas are missing out on their education. An average of four schools or hospitals are attacked or occupied by armed forces and groups every day.

More has to be done to better protect schools from attack and to deter the military use thereof in accordance with international law.

Mr. President,

Unfortunately, we know first-hand what negative impact armed conflicts could have on children.

According to our data, 68 children have been killed and 186 have been wounded in Eastern Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict masterminded by Russia. The number of IDPs in Ukraine, who were forced to leave their homes in war affected regions, now stands at 1,7 million, including 215 thousand children.

The Ukrainian Government is doing its utmost to strengthen social protection of displaced children and families with children, including through elaboration of relevant legislation.

As UNICEF reports, lives of 580,000 children living in non-government controlled areas and along the contact line in Eastern Ukraine have been severely effected as a result of the continuing conflict.

According to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, 39 schools, kinder gardens and other children facilities in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine are used for military purposes by the Russia-backed illegal armed groups. They have transformed these sites into barracks, fortified military outposts, ammunition and weapons storage facilities. On numerous occasions Russia-backed separatists used school grounds as artillery and mortar positions.

There are also extremely worrying reports regarding establishment of camps, where children are trained to handle weapons, use of children for intelligence gathering and manning checkpoints. For example, last May at a checkpoint on the outskirts of “DPR”-controlled Makiivka (10 km east of Donetsk), OSCE monitors observed a child, approximately 12–14 years old, wearing a camouflage uniform and holding an AK-47 rifle. OSCE mission in Ukraine has on several occasions reported that irregular armed formations in the East are allegedly preventing young men from leaving Donetsk and forcefully recruiting them to join their ranks, which could amount to human trafficking. In particular, at ‘DPR’ checkpoints, the SMM observed young armed persons, with some of the male individuals estimated to be minors.

There have also been reports from various sources that children as young as 15 years old were being recruited to armed youth groups and taking part in active combat as full-fledged members of combined Russian-backed militant forces, including as youth reconnaissance and sabotage groups operating in the government-controlled territory.

It all amounts to recruitment of children, which is a grave violation of international humanitarian law.

In this light the fact that the UN Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict does not contain any reference to the situation of Ukrainian children affected by the conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine is an omission that should be corrected. Unfortunately, this is another example of a blind eye turned to the only ongoing armed conflict in Europe.

Ukraine highly appreciates the financial and technical assistance provided to our country by the UN Children’s Fund. We are especially grateful to UNICEF and its partners for their continuous support of children, in particular those affected by the consequences of the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Mr. President,

In closing, let me reiterate Ukraine´s commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. We will continue to make our utmost to support the efforts exerted to this end in the framework of the UN system, regional organizations and civil society.

Thank you.