Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflicts
(New York, January 14, 2003)
Statement by Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso, Permanent Representative of Colombia
I am pleased, Sir, to see you representing France and presiding over this Security Council meeting devoted to an item that connects two important aspects of United Nations action in the world: the maintenance of international peace and the protection of children.
My delegation is grateful for the presentations made at the beginning of the meeting by the Secretary-General, by his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Mr. Olara Otunnu, and by the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Ms. Carol Bellamy. We acknowledge the commitment of these latter two officials in ensuring that peacekeeping operations focus on the special needs of children in conflict situations.
The needs of children are one aspect of the broad actions required to protect civilians in armed conflict. In this respect, I would like to recall that in the statement issued on 20 December 2002 on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts (S/PRST/2002/41), the Council encouraged United Nations agencies to cooperate with Member States in formulating a comprehensive, coherent and action-oriented approach to the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
The report of the Secretary-General (S/2002/1299), which is the basis for this debate, highlighted several special needs of children in conflict situations. It referred, among other things, to juvenile justice, education on the risks of landmines, and care for internally displaced children and for girls who are exposed to sexual abuse. Therefore, we encourage Council members to bear those needs clearly in mind when considering conflicts that are included in their programme of work.
The problem of child soldiers is so important that it has captured the attention of agencies, such as the World Bank, which in the past were quite remote from this topic. The report's list of military forces and rebel groups that recruit children alerts us to the need to resolve these conflicts and to counter the world trade in small arms and light weapons.
We call on the Council to consider establishing the origin of arms that are used by groups that recruit minors, and we call, in particular, on arms-exporting countries, for greater controls.