Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict
(New York, July 24, 2006)
Statement by Ambassador María Angela Holguín, Permanent Representative of Colombia
I would like to thank you for convening this debate on children affected by armed conflict. We are aware of the importance that France has attached to this issue and, as a country affected by this cruel problem, we thank you. Moreover, we would like to thank Mrs. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of Secretary-General, for her work and her statement today and also Mrs. Anne Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF for her participation.
We congratulate the Council for the implementation of Resolution 1612, which has begun to yield its first results. Colombia, as a country affected, reiterates its willingness to cooperate and welcomes the monitoring mechanism when it falls due for countries in Annex II, once the exercise in countries on the Council's agenda (Annex I) is completed, along with the independent review called for in the resolution.
Circumstances like the current conflict in the Middle East where hundreds of children are affected by armed conflict indicate the need for an even wider approach on the issue and we trust that the Secretary-General's Special Representative will act accordingly.
As a complement to the work of the Council, we believe that the work of the Office of the Special Representative at this new stage must go beyond formulating the problem and we consider it must, in a joint manner with States and relevant entities within the UN system, focus on preventing and finding lasting and specific solutions to each situation. In this regard, we would ask the Council that in addition to documenting the situation on the ground, monitoring must present strategies for long-term solutions to address the recruiting of minors by terrorist and illegal armed groups.
In studying this problem it is clear there is a need to create national strategies for the development and protection of vulnerable children threatened by the actions of terrorist and illegal armed groups that operate in various countries and regions of the world, strategies to be designed by countries themselves with the support of the UN system.
Though the Security Council has studied the issue and alerted us to the urgent need for solutions, these will only be found in the short-, medium-, and long-term, through support for national programs, or their establishment where they do not exist, that seek to permanently rescue children recruited by illegal armed groups. Likewise, as was stated by many Council members this morning, social and education programs focusing on vulnerable children must be strengthened and must be a priority. In the case of Colombia, we have 2600 demobilized children from illegal armed groups over the last four years and for their rehabilitation we have had the valuable support of UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration.
The reintegration and social and emotional rehabilitation of children affected by armed conflict is a priority, as are prevention programs. Both dynamics lead to the strengthening of education and employment systems that promote an atmosphere of opportunity for children both to prevent their recruitment and to favor their social and economic integration into the communities and societies to which they belong.
In this task, we believe the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Children's Fund have a key role to play and must consolidate their country programs and proposals to find lasting and sustainable solutions that will guarantee and protect a harmonious and productive life for these children. In this respect, it is important to study UNICEF's successful experiences as examples for implementation in affected countries.
The challenges of prevention, reinsertion, reintegration and rehabilitation are complex and there are no simple or single formulae. Solutions must be designed on a case by case basis keeping in mind the particular conditions of each situation. Dialogue and cooperation are, without a doubt, the best tools at the disposal of the United Nations to work in countries where there are children recruited by terrorist and illegal armed groups.
For prevention and rehabilitation policies to be successful, a great financial effort is required by affected countries, as well as the support of the international community through cooperation and technical assistance, since this situation presents itself in developing countries with economic and financial limitations.
While we thank the Council for its interest and its monitoring of this issue, we believe that the United Nation's social and economic development system must work together on this matter both within the system and with affected countries to find lasting solutions that benefit children affected by terrorist and illegal armed groups.