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Children and armed conflict
The President (spoke in Spanish ): I now give the floor to the representative of Yemen.
Mr. Alsaidi (Yemen) ( spoke in Arabic ): ...
The President (spoke in Spanish ): I give the floor to the representative of Israel.
Ms. Shalev (Israel): ...
We note the reference in the Secretary-General’s report to Israel’s concern that more information should be provided in order to enable the appropriate authorities to investigate and respond substantively, where appropriate. However, the continued reliance on allegations lacking supporting detail continues to undermine the credibility of the report. We therefore urge the Office of the Special Representative to give greater attention to the invaluable process of carefully documenting and vetting the various sources of the information it receives and uses in its reports, especially those aspects that rely heavily on uncorroborated allegations.
While we hope for and work towards peace, our region remains filled with dangerous threats against children from terrorists and extremists. We welcome the mention of Israeli children who have been victims of armed conflict — a sad reality that Israeli children have had to live with. We also take note of the instances of the exploitation of children and their use as human shields by the Hamas terrorist rulers in Gaza. Given the abundance of accounts and documentation of such incidents, we strongly encourage future reports of the Special Representative to further elaborate on this aspect, rather than mentioning it in passing.
One such well-documented incident took place just weeks ago when approximately 30 gunmen attacked and set fire to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) recreational facilities dedicated to use by children. The attack not only undermined the work of UNRWA and was condemned by the Secretary-General, but according to the UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza it was also “an attack on the happiness of children”. In addition, one abhorrent practice of Hamas is to gather civilians — notably children — to the location of a pending strike by the Israel Defense Forces on terrorists or weapons facilities, in the knowledge that Israel will refrain from intentionally attacking civilians.
While the incidents I have just described require the attention of this Council, the broader context in which children are used in armed conflict by terrorists must also be addressed. In this respect, the incitement of children is no less dangerous than terrorism, as hateful education fans the flames of conflict. Let me be clear — inciting children today provides them with the foundation for becoming the terrorists of tomorrow.
Accordingly, the international community has a duty to prevent such incitement in schools, camps, houses of worship, the media and elsewhere. Many children across the region, and in particular generation after generation of Palestinian children, have been taught to deny Israel’s legitimacy and to hate and kill Jews. Such incitement is only one element in a determined effort by many in the region to indoctrinate children to take up arms.
Although examples abound, I wish to share only one with this Council. A Hamas magazine for children reads
The President (spoke in Spanish): I give the floor to the observer of Palestine.
Mr. Mansour (Palestine): ...
The situation of children in armed conflicts, including foreign occupation, from which the children of Palestine continue to suffer, remains a matter of grave concern. We grieve for the millions of innocent children around the world whose lives have been taken violently and prematurely by armed conflict and for the millions of other children who continue to suffer the traumas of armed conflict.
The fact that the Secretary-General has had to appoint a Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and that the Security Council must continue, along with the General Assembly, Human Rights Council and other United Nations organs and agencies, to address this very serious matter year after year is a sad testament to the failure of the international community to live up to its commitments and legal obligations to protect children from the scourge of armed conflicts.
Children in situations of armed conflict continue to be the victims of appalling human rights violations, exploitation and grave crimes. Millions of children are forced to live in fear, hunger, poverty, isolation and despair among their devastated families and communities. Their rights to life, to health, to education, to food, to family, to development and to be nurtured and protected are grossly violated. Failure to provide them with the protection they are entitled to under international humanitarian and human rights law has deepened their suffering, with immense socio-economic, humanitarian, political and security consequences for their societies and nations.
Urgent action is required to uphold our commitment to protecting children from the horrors of armed conflict, among them children living under foreign occupation. We must ensure respect for their rights in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all other relevant legal instruments, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.
What is missing is not intention, as evidenced in the international declarations and positions reaffirmed time and again. What is missing is the political will to directly address the crises being faced by children in situations of armed conflict and to thus render the debating of this global dilemma unnecessary. This would require, among other steps, real measures to ensure the accountability of those found to be persistently committing grave violations against children in armed conflict. There must be zero tolerance for the perpetration of crimes against children in all cases, without exception. Excuses should not be made or accepted for violations of the rights, safety and innocence of children.
The lack of accountability for systematic human rights violations and war crimes against civilians in armed conflict has fostered a vicious culture of impunity that has only prolonged conflicts and compounded the vulnerability and suffering of innocent civilians. I can say without doubt that this has been the case in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where Israel, the occupying Power, has been permitted to act with impunity, in total disrespect of all norms of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, resulting in a heavy price being paid by Palestinian children.
Generations of Palestinian children have been traumatized by decades of human rights violations by Israel, the occupying Power. In this regard, we recall a telling reflection by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Coomaraswamy, to whom we express our appreciation for her tireless efforts to call attention to the plight of children in armed conflicts and to advocate for their protection and well-being. In a 2007 report after her visit to the occupied Palestinian territory, she noted that this ongoing conflict has created “a palpable sense of loss and a feeling of hopelessness that places the children of the West Bank and Gaza apart from all other situations”.
Tragically, the plight of Palestinian children has not improved since her last report on the situation there. Their situation has deteriorated in all respects, in particular in the Gaza Strip, where children — who constitute over half of the population, the majority of them refugees — continue to be tormented by the occupation policies, particularly Israel’s illegal and shameful blockade imposed in collective punishment of the entire population.
The critical situation of children in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is reflected in the Secretary-General’s recent report on children and armed conflict (S/2010/181). While that important report provides a brief, sterile glimpse into the pervasive and intense suffering of Palestinian children during the reporting period, particularly in the aftermath of the Israeli military aggression against the Gaza Strip in December 2008, it nevertheless conveys a grim picture of what Palestinian children continue to endure under Israeli occupation. This includes death and injury, as at least 374 children were killed and over 2,000 injured, the majority during the Israeli military aggression against Gaza. Children were also repeatedly used as human shields by the occupying forces. Children face homelessness and displacement as a result of the military aggression, the wanton destruction of homes in Gaza, the demolition of homes and eviction of Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem, as well as the continued confiscation of Palestinian land and property by Israel for its illegal colonization campaign.
Children also endure forcible and violent interrogation, detention, arrest and physical and mental ill-treatment and torture by the occupying forces, including threats of rape and sexual assault against children between the ages of 12 and 15. At least 305 children remain in Israeli jails, 42 of them under the age of 15.
There are grave violations of children’s rights to health and to education as a result of Israel’s destruction of schools and health centres, the blockade’s obstruction of necessary medical and school supplies, and blatant discrimination against Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem. At least nine children died in Gaza wile waiting for Israeli permits to travel outside the territory to receive life-saving medical treatment.
Children also continued to be victims of settler attacks, being shot, beaten and threatened while walking to school, tending livestock or playing outside their homes. Their right to food has been grossly violated in blockaded Gaza, where thousands have been afflicted by hunger, malnutrition, anaemia, stunted growth and other diseases as a result. The socio-economic conditions and overall well-being of children also continued to decline as a result of Israel’s intentional obstruction of livelihoods and impoverishment of the majority of the population.
As for the alleged Palestinian deficiencies referred to in the Secretary-General’s report, we continue to strive through our ministries and national, judicial and social institutions to redress all problems and abnormalities arising from the oppressive, dysfunctional foreign occupation we are forced to endure. We shall continue to exert the necessary efforts in this regard, with the assistance of relevant United Nations agencies and humanitarian organizations on the ground, as we strive to end the Israeli occupation and to prepare for the independence of our State, where our children will be able to enjoy their human rights in freedom, peace, dignity and security, free from fear and want.
Until that goal is attained, we reiterate that the rights and needs of children living in armed conflict cannot be withheld until more amenable circumstances somehow materialize and must be safeguarded and addressed without delay. Based on our legal, moral and global obligations, collective efforts must be exerted to protect these children, provide them with assistance and rehabilitation, give them hope and ensure their well-being and ultimate survival.
We reaffirm the central role of the United Nations in protecting children, particularly through UNICEF and, in the case of Palestinian children, through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, as well as through peacekeeping missions and the programmes of other United Nations agencies working with humanitarian and human rights organizations to protect and help children around the world.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): I now give the floor to the representative of Qatar.
Ms. Al-Thani (Qatar) ( spoke in Arabic ): ...
The report of the Secretary-General notes developments in the occupied Palestinian territory and indicates that 374 Palestinian children were killed and over 2,086 injured during the period covered by the report, including at least 350 killed and 1,815 injured in the Gaza Strip during the military operation launched by Israeli forces.
In Qatar, under the wise auspices of its Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, we are convinced that education is the best means to control violence and ensure peace and security. We reaffirm the importance of taking measures to implement the recommendations of the Secretary-General calling upon all parties to armed conflict to respect international standards guaranteeing the protection of students, teachers and schools against attack. We also note that, despite international appeals that the educational needs of children be met during conflict, a large number of children in many regions are still deprived of education because of armed conflict. Schools, including United Nations schools, continue to be targeted by some parties to armed conflict.
Today’s debate on this theme offers an opportunity to pose questions about the report of the Secretary-General’s board of inquiry into the direct attacks against schools in the Gaza Strip belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Those attacks were carried out by the Israeli army. The Security Council should determine responsibility for those crimes so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
At a number of international forums, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser al Missned, the wife of the Emir of Qatar, who is UNESCO Special Envoy for basic and higher education, has expressed her concern about the harmful impact of armed conflict and violence on education. She has supported the Al Fakhoora Campaign, a broad international movement that seeks to promote and ensure freedom and access to education for Palestinian students in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Among its far-reaching activities, Al Fakhoora has recently announced 60 grants to Palestinian students in Gaza out of the 100 grants that the organization provides, to the amount of $100 million.
In addition, Reach Out to Asia, an international non-governmental organization under the auspices of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, is working hard to increase educational opportunities for young people and children in many countries affected by crises and natural disasters. Before the Israeli war in Gaza, together with Save the Children, the Foundation implemented a welfare programme to promote areas safe for education in the Gaza Strip. Following the war, the Foundation opened 11 schools in Gaza out of the 22 that are being equipped and renovated jointly with the International Islamic Aid Agency. The project seeks to make a real change in the lives of 21,000 students and 126,000 families living in very difficult conditions in order to restore normalcy in the Gaza Strip.
The meeting rose at 8 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 U-506.