Statement delivered by Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, Deputy Director-General: Multilateral, at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa at the UN Security Council Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, 19 September 2012
We thank Germany for facilitating this important debate. We are grateful for the very useful statements by the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms Leila Zerrougui, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Hervé Ladsous, the UNICEF Executive Director, Mr Anthony Lake, and the President of International Centre for Transitional Justice, Mr. David Tolbert.
We congratulate SRSG Zerrougui on her appointment and we wish to acknowledge the significant contribution of the former SRSG, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, to the protection of children in armed conflict. We also welcome the resolution just adopted.
The plight of children in armed conflict remains an issue of deep concern to South Africa. Armed Conflict continues to disproportionally affect children who remain the most vulnerable to attacks, forced recruitment and the deprivation of basic human rights. Children involved in armed conflict are deprived of an opportunity to grow up in a secure environment where they can realise their full potential. The international community’s response to the plight of the most vulnerable in situations of conflict is a direct reflection of its commitment to protecting children caught up in armed conflict.
South Africa is pleased that the issue of children and armed conflict continues to receive the attention it deserves on the agenda of the United Nations in general and the Security Council in particular since the compilation of the first UN report by Ms Graca Machel in 1996, on children affected by armed conflict.
We have noted that the Security Council has identified six grave violations committed against children in armed conflict. South Africa believes that each require equal weight and attention by this Council. In this regard, we welcome the expansion of the trigger mechanism for punitive measures.
It is imperative that all parties to armed conflict refrain from any action that could violate the rights of children. We call on all parties involved in conflict to abide by international law including international humanitarian law and refrain from attacks against civilian targets, particularly those wherein children would be present.
We have noted that the efforts employed by this Council, including the threat of being listed in the reports of the Secretary-General have led to some actors modifying their behaviour. However, despite the commendable work of the Council and in particular the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and the SRSG, there remains state and non-state entities that continue to persistently perpetrate violations and abuses against children.
We should note that State actors in most cases have been cooperative and have worked constructively in preparing, and implementing a concrete, time-bound action plan to cease and prevent abuse and violations against children. The major challenge though has been bringing armed opposition and rebel groups into compliance. Thus when considering compliance measures, we need to ensure that they would be effective against non-state parties in particular.
Despite our efforts to address these persistent violators in a non-punitive way, there is a dramatic increase in the number from 13 to 32. We therefore need to assess whether the actions we have taken thus far are sufficient and effective to deal with these cases. Because clearly they are not, as the numbers bear testament.
We therefore share the concern of the Secretary-General about the “unacceptable, high and growing number of persistent violators of grave violations against children” and his call that “further decisive and immediate action is needed to halt these violations, and to ensure that the persistent perpetrators are brought to account.”
It is therefore imperative that we consider appropriate action; otherwise we would be rendered ineffective and unable to assist one of the most vulnerable victims of armed conflict. The Secretary-General’s report provides us with some concrete recommendations for addressing this matter. It is the responsibility of this Councilto take positive action in this regard.
Security Council Resolution 1612(2005) reaffirmed the Councils intention to consider imposing through, country specific resolutions, targeted and graduated measures against those in violation of applicable international law relating to the rights and protection of children in armed conflict.
The expansion of designation criteria for listing by some Security Council Sanctions Committees, including the DRC, Somalia, Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire of those committing grave violations against children is a welcome development. The expansion of these criteria should therefore be considered by the Council when considering sanctions measures.
In this regard, the Council could receive recommendations for listing individuals involved in gross violations against children in armed conflict from the Working Group. This would necessitate a closer working relationship between the Working Group and the country specific sanctions committees.
Another recommendation offered by the Secretary-General is closer cooperation with national and international court to address persistent perpetrators who continue to commit grave violations against children in conflict situations. In this regard, we welcome the recent decision by the International Criminal Court in respect of Mr Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and the decision of the Sierra Leone Special Court in respect of Mr Charles Taylor for their crimes against humanity which included violations related to children.
It is also regrettable that a larger number of persistent perpetrators are on the African Continent, with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in particular, continuing to devastate the lives and the livelihood of the communities including the security impact thereof. This should of course come as no surprise as most conflicts are on the African continent. It is vital for the United Nations to work with the African Union and sub-regional organizations on the African Continent in addressing this challenge. This will ensure effective co-ordination, monitoring and reporting mechanism as well as galvanizing political will.
It is vital that we do not forget the long-term needs of children that have been affected by armed conflict. South Africa therefore underscores the importance of adopting a broad strategy regarding conflict prevention. These should address the root causes of armed conflict in a comprehensive manner and create a conducive environment for the protection and promotion of children’s rights.
In conclusion, Mr President, South Africa commends the work of the Security Council Working Group, especially its role to review progress in the development and implementation of time-bound action plans by parties to conflict to halt the recruitment and use of children which are violations of international obligations. We would like to express our continued commitment to work with Council members and international community to ensure that the protection of children remains our priority.
I thank you.