Thank you, Mr. President, for hosting today’s debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC). And thank you, Under-Secretary General Ladsous, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Brandt and Save the Children Associate Vice President Ramm for your remarks. We are also grateful to Ambassador Lucas for her leadership as Chair of the Security Council Working Group and deeply appreciate the devoted work of Special Representative Leila Zerrougi and her team to advance this agenda. And I thank her for her briefing this morning as well.
The United States remains determined to combat horrific acts committed against children in conflict-torn countries. As the Secretary-General’s report attests, there is no starker example of where children desperately need the international community’s help than Syria. As we speak, Syrian children are being tortured and murdered, used as human shields, and conscripted as fighters.
Syria is unfortunately not the only place where abuses are surging. In eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, armed groups, including the M23, have engaged in unlawful child recruitment as well as killing and maiming of children. We welcome the commitment of the Government of the DRC to address these horrors by signing an Action Plan last October. We call for expeditious implementation of this plan.
We have also seen welcome progress in Burma, where the government has shown a degree of commitment to the Action Plan signed in June 2012 by releasing 97 underaged military recruits last year. However, we remain concerned that there was an increase in complaints about unlawful child recruitment in 2012 – from 2011 – and urge Burma, in accordance with its commitments, to allow UN access to military units to conduct verification visits. Moreover, non-state armed ethnic groups in Burma continue to use child soldiers. More progress is needed on this front.
Indeed, the Security Council requires more effective ways to deal with the growing number of persistent perpetrators, especially among armed groups. In this regard, we appreciate the Working Group’s focus on this issue, its efforts to develop appropriate tools, and commend the Secretary-General’s proposals, which deserve this Council’s serious consideration.
The question of persistent perpetrators, however, raises a larger issue about the UN CAAC process itself. We can be proud of what it has accomplished, and we must strive to make it as effective as it can be. But it is only one tool among the many we should be using to protect children. Rather than attempting to make the Action Plan process a one-size-fits-all mechanism, we should promote CAAC Action Plans in tandem with other tools to comprehensively address the various contexts in which children are subjected to abuse.
A wider range of efforts is needed, from holding perpetrators accountable and preventing them from committing abuses to resolving situations of conflict that enable such heinous crimes. For example, the conviction of Thomas Lubanga for unlawful child soldiering by the International Criminal Court sends an important message that these crimes will not be tolerated. Furthermore, several African countries are cooperating, with the support of the African Union, the United Nations, the United States, and others, to end once and for all the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), one of the world’s worst perpetrators of crimes against children. As noted in the Council’s discussion on May 29, this effort has resulted in a substantial drop in LRA attacks, the removal of two top LRA commanders from the battlefield, and the defection of scores of LRA fighters. And finally, peacemaking efforts work to safeguard endangered children by ending the armed conflict itself. Connecting these efforts into a comprehensive approach will strengthen the ultimate goals of the CAAC Action Plan process and concretely advance the plight of children caught in harm’s way.
Thank you, Mr. President.