Human Rights Council: Violence against children has increased due to the pandemic and multiple humanitarian crises, and 2021 posed unprecedented challenges for the protection of children living in conflict zones

The Human Rights Council this afternoon heard from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, who said that violence against children has increased due to the pandemic and multiple humanitarian crises. It also heard from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict who said that 2021 had posed unprecedented challenges for the protection of children living in conflict zones.

Najat Maalla M’jid, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, said the urgency of ending violence against children had not diminished since she last addressed the Council. On the contrary, it had increased due to the impact of the pandemic and multiple humanitarian crises caused by conflict, climate change and natural disasters. Based on all her work, the Special Representative shared three key takeaways. The first was that ending violence against children could not wait because violence against children was increasing worldwide. The second key message was that ending violence could not wait because of the serious human and economic costs of violence. The third message was that ending violence was possible, feasible and cost-effective. Investing in child protection and violence prevention should be seen as a “vaccine” against the pandemic of violence against children.

In the discussion on violence against children, speakers said that violence had immediate, lifelong and inter-generational impacts on children and their families. Combatting violence against children was an important priority, and all relevant services and authorities should work together to serve the best interest of the child. The risk of violence and abuse, cyber-bullying, the mental health gap, the increase in violence and other factors were all matters of great concern which had been exacerbated by the pandemic. Children were agents of change as well as the future, and should be respected as such.

Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, said 2021 had certainly posed unprecedented challenges for the protection of children living in conflict zones. The year was marked by a sustained high number of grave violations against children: killing and maiming remained the highest verified violation, followed by the recruitment and use, and the denial of humanitarian access. Compounded by political, security and climate emergencies, the repeated waves of the COVID-19 pandemic had continued to increase children’s vulnerability and to hamper the monitoring and verification of grave violations, as well as the engagement with parties to conflict. There were further areas that also needed increased attention, such as children with disabilities, the nexus between climate change and grave violations against children in conflict-affected countries, and accountability mechanisms.

In the discussion on children and armed conflict, speakers said the protection of children in armed conflict was a vital concern for all: children had the right to a future, and one where peace prevailed, and it was up to the international community to give them the opportunity and future in which they could be the ones who made changes. Resources must be allocated to the effective implementation of the rights of the child. Girl children in particular should be guaranteed education, especially in the situation of armed conflict, in which they were at ever-greater risk of sexual violence.

Speaking in the discussion on violence against children were: European Union, Lithuania (on behalf of a group of countries), Argentina (on behalf of a group of countries), Cambodia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Sovereign Order of Malta, Germany, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Montenegro, Israel, UN Women, Paraguay, Libya, Fiji, Slovenia, United Nations Children’s Fund, Malaysia, Iraq, Cuba, Venezuela, France, Maldives, Kenya, Luxembourg, Ethiopia, Brazil, Namibia, China, Marshall Islands, Saudi Arabia, Lesotho, Austria, Russian Federation, Cambodia, Indonesia, Panama, Algeria, India, South Africa, Mauritania, Uruguay, Tunisia, United States, Belgium, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Albania, Malta, Nigeria, Croatia, Italy, North Macedonia, South Sudan, Portugal, Malawi, Georgia, Tanzania, Ukraine, Philippines, Iran, Armenia and Morocco.

Also speaking were: Commission Nationale Indépendante des droits de l’homme du Burundi, National Human Rights Commission of India, International Catholic Child Bureau, International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development – VIDES, Arigatou International, Child Rights Connect, Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), Defence for Children International, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Edmund Rice International Limited, and World Organisation Against Torture.

Speaking in the discussion on children in armed conflict were European Union, Estonia (on behalf of a group of countries), Belgium (on behalf of States members of the International Organization of la Francophonie), Argentina (on behalf of a group of countries), Uruguay (on behalf of a group of countries), European Union (on behalf of a group of countries), Paraguay, Israel, Italy, Germany, Sovereign Order of Malta, Qatar and UN Women.

Speaking in right of reply were China, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-ninth regular session can be found here.

The Council will next meet at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 16 March, when it will hear the presentation of thematic reports under agenda item three on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, and then hold a general debate on item three. It will continue the discussion with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in the afternoon.

Source: UN Human Rights Council

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