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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Security Council
4898th Meeting* (AM & PM)
SC/7985
20 January 2004



DESPITE PROGRESS IN PROTECTING CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT, GENERAL SITUATION

REMAINS ‘GRAVE AND UNACCEPTABLE’, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD


Special Representative, UNICEF Executive Director Brief Council,
Say Outrages against Children Persist, Rights Violated with Impunity


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Background

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Children’s issues have been incorporated into peace negotiations and peace accords, and over the past years the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have conducted extensive public advocacy activities.  In efforts to end impunity for those involved in child-related war crimes, a framework has been developed for the protection and participation of children in judicial tribunals and truth-seeking processes.  Efforts to curb illicit exploitation of natural resources, which rob children of their birthright, have gained momentum.

In spite of those developments, according to the report, the general situation for children remains grave and unacceptable on the ground. In the course of 2003, this trend has been underscored by the particularly tragic experiences of terror, deprivation and utter vulnerability faced by children in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Indonesian province of Aceh, Iraq, Liberia, the occupied Palestinian territories and northern Uganda.

The report notes that women and girls are especially vulnerable to sexual violence in times of heightened armed conflict.  They are raped, abducted for sexual exploitation and forced into marriages and prostitutions.  Refugee and internally displaced women and children are especially vulnerable to sexual and other exploitation by armed forces and groups, and sometimes even peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.  When rape is used as a weapon of war, the consequences for girls and women are often deadly because of HIV/AIDS.

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Statements

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ARYE MEKEL (Israel) said that both Israeli and Palestinian children continued to be the greatest victims of the terrorism that plagued his region.  Over the last two years, Palestinian children had been increasingly used as human shields and had been mobilized for terrorist attacks, while the average age of suicide bombers had dropped significantly.

For an ever-increasing number of Israeli children, as well, growing up was becoming a painful experience.  Indeed, Israeli children were often the intended and preferred victims of terrorists.  Palestinian terrorist groups, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, had directed many terrorist attacks specifically against children, including attacks on school buses, discotheques, pizza parlors and other locations where large numbers of children were known to gather.

He recalled that during the recent General Assembly session, once the resolution on the situation of Palestinian children had been adopted, Israel had tried to rectify that imbalance by introducing a resolution drawing attention to the situation of Israeli children.  Unfortunately, a group of delegations sought to distort that resolution beyond recognition.  As a result, Israel was compelled to withdraw its text.  He hoped that Member States would see that unfortunate incident as a wake-up call to end the politicization and double standards in United Nations debates on issues of universal concern, such as the plight of children.

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FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said his delegation welcomed the progress made in the field of child protection as described in the Secretary-General’s report.  Syria had noted a strong will to face up to the challenges involved.  Nevertheless, little had been mentioned about any progress in protecting the children affected by the Israeli occupation of Arab lands, including Syrian territory.  In fact, their situation was deteriorating.  Palestinian children had been living a miserable life for decades and it had been hoped that the Secretary-General’s report would devote some ink to the denial of humanitarian assistance to them.

He emphasized the importance of avoiding politicization, selectivity and double standards regarding the monitoring and evaluation of children.  Syria emphasized the importance of the role of United Nations agencies, especially UNICEF, and that of non-governmental organizations.  Syria also attached the utmost importance to the issue of child protection and had been one of the first Member States to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said that for a number of years the Council had been paying particular attention to refugee children, internally displaced children, and those children forcefully recruited and sexually abused in the context of armed conflicts.  However, he drew the Council’s attention to a category that seemed to be forgotten, namely, children living under occupation, and particularly Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.  One need only look at the numbers of Palestinian children affected by the occupation to see the importance of that issue.  He called on the Council to take up the issue of children living under occupation and deal with it with the same attention with which it dealt with other groups of children in armed conflict.

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*     The 4897th Meeting was closed.
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For information media - not an official record