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Zhang Jun: Violations against children must stop
July 01,2021   By:China Daily Global
Zhang Jun, China's ambassador to the United Nations. [Photo/Xinhua]
July 1, 2021 -- China's ambassador to the United Nations on Monday urged the international community to take practical measures to stop grave violations against children, reduce the harm of armed conflicts affecting boys and girls, and realize their comprehensive development.
Since the UN mandate on children and armed conflict was created 25 years ago, the international community has made great efforts in protecting children from the scourge of war.
Twenty-five years on, children sadly are still the most innocent victims of war, Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN, told a Security Council high-level open debate on children and armed conflict.
"Achieving peace is the best protection for children," Zhang said.
The ambassador urged parties to the conflict to actively respond to and implement the secretary-general's global cease-fire initiative and resolve their differences through dialogue and consultation.
The Security Council should continue to promote the political settlement of hot spot issues and promote the protection of children throughout the process of conflict prevention, conflict elimination and peacebuilding, and make it an important part of mediation, peace negotiations, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, he added.
"Grave violations against children must be stopped immediately. The six grave violations against children identified in the council resolutions break through the boundaries of international humanitarian law, challenge the bottom line of human conscience and should be a no-no for all parties to the conflict," Zhang pointed out.
China condemns all grave violations against children, including the killing of civilians and children in Afghanistan by foreign troops. Those who perpetrated such acts should be held responsible, he said.
China calls on parties to the conflict to sign and implement the child protection action plan with the UN, the envoy added.
The international community should also urge all countries to ratify and implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child and increase financial and technical support to help the countries concerned improve their child-protection capacity, Zhang said.
The envoy stressed that it's necessary to make greater efforts to achieve the comprehensive development of children, so that children caught in armed conflicts can enjoy a fair opportunity to extract themselves from difficulties and realize their potential, he said.
Unilateral coercive measures seriously violate children's right to survival and development and should be lifted immediately, Zhang said.
The ambassador said children threatened by terrorist forces should be given the same protection. Relevant UN agencies should step up their efforts to repatriate children of foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, he said.
In the context of the current global pandemic, special attention should be given to children affected by conflict, so as to ensure that they are not left behind in vaccination and remote learning, Zhang added.
Secretary-General António Guterres, who briefed the meeting, called on all parties to conflict "to prioritize the prevention of violations against children and to engage in dialogue, cease-fires and peace processes".
During 2020, almost 24,000 grave violations were committed against 19,300 children in the 21 situations covered by the UN mandate on children and armed conflict, according to Guterres.
The UN chief identified the most prevalent verified violations as the recruitment and use of children, their killing and maiming of children and the denial of humanitarian access to them.
There has also been an exponential increase in both the number of children abducted and in sexual violence committed against boys and girls, Guterres said.
In addition, schools and hospitals were constantly attacked, looted, destroyed or used for military purposes, with girls' educational and health facilities targeted disproportionately, he added.
"There is no place for children in conflict, and we must not allow conflict to trample on the rights of children," Guterres said.
The UN General Assembly created the mandate of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict in December 1996 to strengthen protection of children affected by armed conflict and to raise awareness about the plight of these children.
In 1999, the council adopted the first resolution on children and armed conflict, which placed the issue on the council's agenda.
The resolution identified and condemned six grave violations affecting children in wars, which included: the killing and maiming of children, recruitment or use of children as soldiers, rape and sexual violence against children, abduction of children, attacks on schools or hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access for children.
In 2005, the Security Council established a mechanism to systemically monitor and report on violations against children around the world.
According to the secretary-general's annual report covering 2020, the overall number of grave violations against children stood at 26,425. Of those violations, 23,946 were committed in 2020, and 2,479 were committed earlier but verified only in 2020.
The highest number of grave violations took place in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, the UN chief said in his report.