Briefing the committee, Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, said that 24,000 grave violations committed against children were recorded in 2021 and that the abduction of girls has increased by 40 per cent. She highlighted her Office’s proposal to integrate all existing initiatives related to children and armed conflict into a comprehensive international framework, underlining the importance of reintegrating child soldiers into society.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, many delegates condemned the aggression of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, while the representative of that country decried that children in his country are being killed, confined and displaced by the conflict. Addressing child soldiers, the representative of Norway expressed concern that children under 18 are no longer legally treated as children if they have been conscripted into armed conflict by armed groups, which prevents their reintegration into society, she said.
Najat Maala M’Jid, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, expressed concern about the lack of early protection for displaced children due to conflicts in Ukraine and other countries, who are at risk of being trafficked, abducted or going missing. Adding that the climate crisis is a threat multiplier for violence against children, she said that they are among those hit hardest by its impacts, with the most vulnerable particularly affected — those with disabilities, in poverty, in a rural setting, or those relying on a close relationship with nature and its resources, such as indigenous children.
Mama Fatima Singhateh, Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children, affirmed that children in situations of poverty, conflict, and internal displacement are subjected to child labour and are at an increased risk of sale and exploitation. “They are also at risk of being left behind in terms of strategies for tackling sale and sexual exploitation, as they remain largely excluded from data-collection exercises,” she added.
As such, alleviating poverty is essential, Ms. Singhateh said, offering solutions such as increased support, schemes for caregivers supporting children with disabilities, ending language barriers in accessing support systems and ensuring access to health care for families and children in street settings. She called for increased national standards to deliver needed care and also deter the exploitation of children.
Also briefing the committee were Sanjay Wijesekera, Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Mikiko Otani, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Turning to their general debate, delegates expressed regret for giving the climate crisis burden to today’s children and future generations, calling for the distribution of financial support to the most vulnerable as well as quality and continued education for all children.
Citing targeted attacks on schools in Ukraine and Myanmar, the representative of Liechtenstein insisted that schools must be protected spaces. Echoing Ms. M’Jid, he lamented the burden placed on future generations by climate change.
Striking a similar tone, the representative of South Africa recognized the duty of providing children with an education, but underscored the difficulty that the current panoply of crises poses. Highlighting the spike in violence that women and children experienced in his country during the pandemic, he said violence “deserves to be prioritized with the same urgency as the COVID 19 pandemic and its mitigations”.
The representative of the European Union, speaking in its capacity as observer, also acknowledged difficulties posed by the pandemic, particularly for those living in poverty or countries in conflict, and children belonging to minorities or with disabilities. She emphasized the importance of investing in educational tools and remote learning for children in these contexts.
Also speaking were representatives of China, Israel, India, Ireland, Cameroon, Panama, United Kingdom, Colombia, Zambia, Honduras, Cuba, Indonesia, Slovakia, Canada, Thailand and Uruguay.
Source: UN General Assembly