Statement by Ambassador James Kariuki, UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, at the UN Security Council open debate on Children and Armed Conflict.

The Secretary General’s report is horrifying. Grave violations regarding children and armed conflict rose by 21% in 2023. 35% more children were killed and maimed. 32% more children were denied humanitarian access and 25% more children suffered sexual violence. These grave violations have risen on a shocking scale. The devastating impact of conflict on children demonstrates the need for this Council to come together, as former Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, to uphold international peace and security, resolve conflict and protect children.

The Children and Armed Conflict mandate is crucial, and its achievements are many. In the almost 28 years since its inception, up to 40 action plans have been agreed and over a dozen parties to conflict have been delisted by engaging constructively with the UN in the interest of child protection. In 2023 alone, over 10,600 children formerly associated with armed forces or groups received protection or support. The Children and Armed Conflict mandate must continue this vitally important work.

President, we have heard today about many grave violations against children from the DRC, to Sudan, to Myanmar. Let me highlight two contexts in particular. First, in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. On October 7, Hamas committed appalling acts of terror against Israeli children. 47 Israeli children were abducted on October 7, 36 of whom were held hostage and suffered ill-treatment by Hamas in Gaza. Babies have been separated from their mothers and fathers. Three children were killed in captivity. It is abhorrent that eight months on, children remain as hostages, and we reiterate our call for Hamas to release all hostages immediately. With the ongoing operations in Gaza, Palestinian children are suffering terribly, and children are paying the highest price for this conflict.

Israel must abide by obligations to protect children under applicable international humanitarian and human rights law, urgently improve humanitarian access, and increase the flow of life-saving aid. We need to see a stop in the fighting, to end the suffering of children. The fastest way to do this is for Hamas to accept the terms of the deal on the table.

Second, Russia’s illegal war continues to devastate the lives of Ukrainian children. This latest report highlights once again Russia’s appalling campaign of forced deportation and subsequent attempts to change children’s nationalities. We call on Russia to end its unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine, to cease the forcible transfer of Ukrainian children to the Russian Federation, and its efforts to force them to become Russian citizens. Russia should return these children to where they belong: Ukraine. We underline our determination to hold those responsible to account.

President, we call on all parties to adopt and implement concrete and time bound action plans to prevent and end these grave violations against children. As a Council we must uphold the specific rights and vulnerabilities of children and amplify their voices. Last month our Minister, Lord Benyon, convened our annual roundtable with children affected by conflict. He heard from girls from the DRC, South Sudan, Ukraine and the West Bank, about how conflict has impacted their childhood.

We must remember that children are not numbers. Every grave violation is a tragedy. Let us work today to deliver on the promise of the Children and Armed Conflict mandates and protect children, wherever they are.

Published 26 June 2024