|Statement by Ambassador Liu Zhenmin at the Security Council's Open Debate on "Children and Armed Conflict"|
First of all, the Chinese Delegation would like to thank SRSG Ms. Coomaraswamy and the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms. Veneman, and the representatives of UNDP and the World Bank for their briefings.
Children are the future and hope of mankind. The safety, survival and development of children are prerequisites for human progress and have a direct bearing on the future and destiny of a nation and its citizens. However, it is regrettable that, at present, children in more than 30 countries around the world are harmed in various ways by armed conflicts. Some of them are killed in merciless wars, while others are forced into armed conflicts as a means of war, still others are kidnapped or subject to various forms of physical abuse. These children rightfully belong in classrooms, studying and acquiring knowledge. Instead, they have become victims of armed conflicts. What needs to be pointed out in particular is that, the recent sudden escalation of the conflict between Lebanon and Israel has resulted in the death of many children in aerial and artillery bombardments, which is shocking to us. We strongly appeal to the parties concerned to strictly abide by international humanitarian law to avoid hurting the innocent, particularly children, and to provide every facility and help for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
All countries and parties have the obligation to do their utmost to protect children from being harmed in armed conflict. In recent years, the United Nations has taken a number of measures in promoting the protection of children in armed conflict, and positive results have been achieved. In the last seven years, the Security Council has adopted six consecutive resolutions, which provide a comparatively sound framework for the protection of children in armed conflict. Taking the protection of children as an important aspect of their operations, some United Nations peacekeeping missions have given full consideration to the special needs of children in helping the host countries in their disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs. Some peace agreements concluded with the facilitation and participation of the United Nations also include provisions for protecting children. Countries concerned have taken action to provide guarantees for the protection of children through legislation. These commendable developments have reduced the harm that armed conflict inflicts on children to a certain extent. China is very much concerned that armed conflict in different regions of the world causes harm to children. We support all efforts made by the United Nations, including the Security Council, in promoting the protection of children in armed conflict. I wish to emphasize the following points in this regard:
First, the Security Council should step up its efforts to prevent conflict and maintain peace. Stemming and reducing armed conflicts at their source would protect children by creating the objective conditions for it. The Security Council bears the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, and is irreplaceable by any other mechanism. As a vulnerable group, children are most susceptible to being harmed in various ways in any outbreak of armed conflict. The Security Council should, therefore, seek to resolve conflicts and take effective measures within its mandate to reduce the number of armed conflicts. At the same time, the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations should be strengthened in an effort to improve the humanitarian situation in conflict areas. Only when various groups including children and civilians enjoy a more secure living environment will it be possible to avoid many tragedies at their source.
Second, when dealing with the issue of "Children and Armed Conflict", we should always respect and support the role played by the governments of the countries concerned. Security Council Resolution 1612 "stresses the primary role of national governments in providing effective protection and relief to all children affected by armed conflict." The operative part of this resolution also repeatedly makes reference to the important role of the governments of the countries concerned. Conflict situations have their own specificities and complex causes. Therefore, it is imperative to cooperate with the governments concerned in using the monitoring and reporting mechanism to collect information and carry out work on the ground in a concerted effort to avoid harming children in armed conflict. At present, many national governments in conflict situations have adopted various strategies and plans prohibiting the recruitment of child soldiers and protecting children affected by armed conflict. All these factors have to be considered when carrying out international cooperation in this field.
Third, the work of the monitoring and reporting mechanism of the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict and that of the working group should be further improved and enhanced. Since its establishment in accordance with Resolution 1612 more than a year ago, some progress has been made in the functioning of the mechanism. We hope that the Secretary General can sum up the strengths and weaknesses of the mechanism so that improvements can be made in the next stage of our work. The primary objective of the mechanism is to collect information. It is up to the Working Group to discuss and agree on the specific actions. Under the coordination of the French chairmanship, the Working Group has carried out activities over the past year. Consensus has been reached on such areas as the terms of reference and the program of work. Substantive work has already begun. China expects the Working Group, through cooperation and constructive discussion, to utilize its expertise in this area and put forward effective suggestions on the protection of children in armed conflict.
Fourth, the protection of children in armed conflict is an endeavour on a large scale, calling for the collective efforts of all parties concerned. China appreciates the work done by the SRSG, including the cooperation she has engaged in with the governments concerned. At the same time, the UN specialized agencies, including UNICEF, and the resident offices of the UN system also have important responsibilities of their own in this field. China believes all parties concerned should strengthen their coordination and cooperation to provide concerted assistance to the countries involved to build up their capacity to protect children. In addition, some civil society organizations and humanitarian organizations have also participated in numerous efforts to protect children. They sometimes operate in very dangerous environments. We would like to recognize their hard work, and hope that they will abide by the principles of justice, neutrality and humanitarianism in helping to advance the local peace process.
Lastly, China once again urges parties to all armed conflicts to genuinely discharge their responsibilities to respect and protect the rights of children. While facilitating post-conflict reconstruction, the international community should give priority to solving such issues as the return of children to their families, to schools and to their society, and provide adequate resources for it. The protection of children has always been a focus in the work of the government of China, which has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts as early as in 2002. We call on more countries to accede to the Protocol, and hope that the protocol provisions concerning the age limit for conscription will be observed. China hopes that, with the efforts of all parties, a favourable environment will be created for children all over the world to live and grow and enjoy a bright future.
Thank you Mr. President.