Holy See to UN: Children Exploited for War Need Help Reintegrating With Families

“While we witness barbaric acts beyond anyone’s imagination committed also by child soldiers, we must remember that these children are exploited and manipulated into what they have become”

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The Chargé d’Affaires of the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations, Msgr. Simon Kassas, addressed the Security Council on Tuesday at the Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict.
Here is his statement:
2 August 2016
Mr. President,
My  Delegation  wishes  to  thank  the  Malaysian  Presidency  for  convening  this  particularly important  Open  Debate  on  Children  and  Armed  Conflict,  and  conveys  to  Malaysia  its appreciation for all that it has done and will continue to do as Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.
The year 2014 was described as the worst year for children affected by armed conflict. But as the  Secretary-General’s  Report  on  Children  and  Armed  Conflict  covering  the  year  2015 illustrates, the 2014 horror-list has been surpassed by the number of children caught in armed conflicts and the scale and severity of violations in 2015. As the Secretary-General states in his  Report, “The impact on children of our collective failure to prevent and end conflict is severe,  and  the  present  Report  highlights  the  increased  intensity  of  grave  violations  in  a number of situations of armed conflict.”
No one can ignore this damning observation. Never in recent memory have so many children been subjected to such violent brutality: children used as soldiers, suicide bombers, sex slaves, and  disposable intelligence-gatherers  in  the  most  dangerous  military  operations.  The deliberate  destruction  of  their  schools  and  hospitals  in  total  disregard  of  international humanitarian  law  has  become  a  strategy  of  war.  These  crimes  must  be  condemned  in  the strongest possible terms.
As the Report  of the Secretary-General points out, while there has been progress in the overall protection of children caught in armed conflict, much more must be done. Governments must be  held  accountable  for  the  full  and  complete  implementation  of  action  plans  and commitments they have taken to end and prevent all recruitment of child-soldiers. In the fight against non-State armed groups and terrorism, States are urged to ensure that their responses to all threats  against  peace and security are conducted in full compliance with international humanitarian law,  to ensure that children are not victimized twice. My Delegation fully agrees with the  Report  that the use of airstrikes and explosive weapons  with wide-area effects in populated  areas  exacerbates  the  dangers  to  which  children  caught  in  armed  conflict  are exposed.
Moreover, double standards, or even a perception of double standards, in listing and delisting perpetrators must be avoided, since it encourages disregard for international humanitarian law, frustrates the implementation  of  commitments and action plans, and discourages Governments and other concerned  institutions from making stronger commitments and action plans.
Mr. President,
The Holy See has been a constant partner of the United Nations in opposing not only the use of children as combatants, but the many other forms of violence against children caught in armed conflict. Through  its  various  structures operating in most of the conflict zones, the Catholic Church is actively engaged in taking care of the victims of such violence.  Over  the years,  Holy  See  structures  and  numerous  Catholic  institutions  have  collaborated  with  UN Peacekeeping  Missions  and  Agencies  to  help  alleviate  the  sufferings  of  children  in  armed conflict  and  to  share  best  practices  to  address  this  ongoing  scourge.  Expressing  deep appreciation for all those who work in this area, the Holy See hopes that the plight of children caught in armed conflict  will awaken consciences, lead to a change of heart, and inspire all parties to lay down their arms and take up the path of dialogue.
Considering the best interest of children and the fundamental role of parents, my Delegation encourages  Governments to affirm and support families of  children who  are victimized in armed  conflict.  They  must  be  assisted  in  overcoming  prejudices  against  child  survivors  of armed  conflicts,  in  particular  against  women  and  girls  who  are  victims  of  rape,  and  in welcoming back children into the family fold.
Moreover, while the International Community plays an important role in supporting States in their primary responsibility to protect their citizens, it must  also interact with the local communities  affected  by  violence  against  children  in  armed  conflict  so  that  solutions  and programs can emerge organically, while fostering local ownership. A solution to the plight of children caught in armed conflict, in particular of child soldiers, requires sensitivity to  finding ways  to  reintegrate  these  children  back  into  their  own  communities.  While  we  witness barbaric  acts  beyond  anyone’s  imagination  committed  also  by  child  soldiers,  we  must remember that these children are exploited and manipulated into what they have  become.
Thus, while their reintegration into society requires that we recognize the atrocities they may have committed, we must  also  build pathways for counseling and reconciliation with a view to accomplishing fully that reintegration.
Mr. President,
The  obligation  to  put  an  end  to  barbaric  acts  against  children  caught  in  armed  conflict  is incumbent upon every one of us. In a particular way, it is incumbent upon this Council, as it calls  on  all  States  to  put  in  place  and  implement  stronger  measures  for  the  protection  of children in armed conflict, and as it ensures that UN peacekeeping operations strictly adhere to all laws and measures in this regard.
Thank you, Mr. President

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