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Children and armed conflict
Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (S/2001/852)
The meeting was resumed at 3.20 p.m.
Mr. Jerandi (Tunisia) ( spoke in French ): ...
This morning we heard the moving testimony of Alhaji Babah Sawaneh. Yes, he was a child soldier, but we must not forget that it was the war commanders who made him a child soldier against his will. How many children are there in the world who have been robbed of their childhood by wars and conflicts of all types? So many children in Palestine have never had a childhood, have known only insecurity and have witnessed the death of their parents or of other children. The same has happened to children in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Afghanistan. I also see the children of Iraq, whose childhood — and even life — continues to be severely affected by one of the harshest sanctions regimes. Even here in the United States, what will happen to the children who lost their parents on 11 September, having done nothing to deserve to become orphans? All these children and so many others demand our attention. There are so many in the world!
The President : The next speaker inscribed on my list is the representative of Egypt. I invite him to take a seat at the Council table and to make his statement.
Mr. Aboul Gheit (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
Finally, my delegation would like to affirm that Egypt will untiringly stress the need to protect children and promote their basic rights, including their right to life and development in areas and territories under foreign occupation. We wonder in this regard: is it not high time to halt all military and violent actions directed against civilians and children in the occupied Palestinian territories? Is it not time to put an end to the torture, tears and sorrow of Palestinian children, whose innocent lives the Israeli forces continue to take, without regard for moral, political or international commitments, while disregarding and flouting the cries for help and relief that they make? Today, as the Security Council is considering, for the second or the third time, the issue of protecting children in armed conflict, the Palestinian child is still living in very inhumane circumstances, which touches the conscience of the international community.
We believe that our duty, as part of a civilized world, and the role of the Security Council in the new millennium, is not only to express regret and remorse for the suffering and death of Palestinian children who may have been killed by a stray bullet or have lost those who once cared for them, or whose basic rights have been violated, but also to protect their lives and promote their rights, dignity and welfare.
Children are the future of our civilization and of every community. Their development, their protection and the promotion of their rights is a joint responsibility for us all. Future generations will harvest and reap the fruits of either war and violence or peace and development.
The President : The next speaker inscribed on my list is the representative of Iraq, whom I invite to take a seat at the Council table and to make his statement.
Mr. Aldouri (Iraq) (spoke in Arabic) : On behalf of my delegation, Madam Chairman, I would like to congratulate you on presiding over the work of the Council this month. We are convinced that you will be able to direct its work with the wisdom we know you possess. My delegation would also like to thank you for having convened this public meeting devoted to the question of children and armed conflict. This is a subject of paramount importance in today’s tumultuous world.
We believe that your interest in children, your experience and the fact that you presided over the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session on Children will make it possible to achieve concrete results. Nor can I fail to thank Mr. Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, for the presentation of his report and for his efforts in this area. I very much wish that, when he presented his report, he had referred to the children of Palestine or of Iraq, particularly since he quite correctly referred to the children of Africa, particularly of Sierra Leone, and to the children of Afghanistan. May I also thank the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who has been making very sincere efforts. In fact, the children of Iraq have witnessed the sincerity of her efforts over the last 10 years.
Because of the existing balance of power, the Security Council has become incapable of dealing with a number of cases of armed conflict. In fact, it has even become the cause of a number of armed conflicts, thereby subjecting children to suffering and daily dislocation, starvation, bombings, killings and other acts of aggression that have deprived them of the most basic rights, particularly the right to life. The situation of children in Iraq, Palestine and numerous other parts of the world provides but a few striking examples of this. Iraqi children were the first victims of the military aggression by the United States and its allies against Iraq in 1991. In the course of that aggression, over 88,000 tons of bombs were dropped, striking civilian targets and our infrastructure: roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, water purification plants, electric power stations and so on.
The Palestinian people is also subject to occupation and oppression. Their lands have been usurped. Their villages and towns have been destroyed and are under siege. All of this is happening without the United Nations making any attempt to take any concrete steps against the Zionist entity, the main perpetrator of that aggression or against Zionist terrorism, which mows down Palestinian children. Those children are suffering from very serious psychological trauma, which has a severe impact on their future.
The President: The next speaker inscribed on my list is the representative of Israel. I invite him to take a seat at the Council table and to make his statement.
Mr. Lancry (Israel): ...
In our region, children have suffered terribly from decades of conflict and from the still-looming threat of terrorism. The Middle East has endured more than its share of wars, which have left scars on all people in the region, but particularly on children.
For these reasons, Israel has supported international initiatives aimed at protecting children from the devastation of armed conflict, including the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child. Israel’s accession to the Convention was followed by the adoption of “Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty”, a law that ensured that the rights of the child were guaranteed constitutional protection. The adoption of that law sparked a flurry of judicial and legislative activity that broadened and extended the commitment of Israeli society to the principles of the Convention.
The scars that war and terror inflict on children are immeasurable and can result in psychological problems and antisocial behaviour long after the conflict has ended. Children will be truly sheltered from the horrors of war only when terrorism comes to an end and they are no longer viewed as pawns in a larger struggle.
In this respect, I would like to express my regret that the Permanent Representative of Egypt, speaking about the plight of Palestinian children, did not find it necessary to utter a single word of concern about the dozens of Israeli children decimated by Palestinian terrorism this last year. The 23 Israeli children and adolescents savagely assassinated by a Palestinian suicide bomber last June in the Dolphinarium discotheque attack in Tel-Aviv were totally ignored by the Permanent Representative of Egypt, as if this horrific event had never occurred. That is only one dramatic example in a series of gruesome carnages in which scores of Israeli children met their deaths. The fact is that Israel deeply regrets any harm to civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian, but especially to children, who should be kept in school rather than on the front lines of conflict.
I should also like to remind the Permanent Representative of Egypt that those who incite others to violence, encourage extremism and tolerate the most vile anti-Semitic rhetoric in their official media also bear responsibility for the abuse of Palestinian children and the continued suffering on both sides.
The President : The next speaker is the representative of Malaysia. I invite him to take a seat at the Council table and to make his statement.
Mr. Hasmy (Malaysia): ...
My delegation commends the excellent work being carried out by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Offices of the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees and for Human Rights, as well as Ambassador Olara Otunnu, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, in drawing attention to the problem and improving the condition of children affected by situations of armed conflict. While we appreciate their enormous efforts in working with Governments to improve the lives of children everywhere, we are concerned with what we perceive to be gaps in the protection of children, particularly those in the Middle East.
We are of the view that in order to have any meaningful discussion of this subject, the issue of the Middle East must be addressed. Between the paralysis of the Security Council on the Middle East issue and the focus by the Special Representative on situations of armed conflict predominantly in Africa, the plight of Palestinian children and children under foreign occupation seems all but forgotten. It is a sad state of affairs indeed when we ignore the suffering of these children merely because we cannot find a political solution to the problem of the Middle East. Should the issue be one of lack of mandate, then my delegation suggests that this be looked into and remedied without delay.
One must not quibble over issues of mandate when children become victims of an ongoing conflict, as is clearly the case in the occupied Palestinian territory, where out of some 800 Palestinians killed and over 20,000 wounded since September last year, a very high proportion comprises children. According to a UNICEF official based in Arab Jerusalem, Israel has arrested more than 600 children since September last year, sometimes holding them in harsh conditions.
The meeting was adjourned at 6.25 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. The final text will be printed in the Official Records of the Security Council . Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-178.