|Security Council Debate on Children and Armed Conflict - Statement by Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations|
|Thursday, 17 July 2008 13:39|
This meeting provides an opportunity to refocus our efforts in addressing the scourge of recruitment and use of child combatants. The reports of the Secretary-General on specific situations, as well as his Annual Report, S/2007/757 are informative and illustrative in this regard.
This debate takes place three years into the adoption of Resolution 1612. The journey between 1612 and today, has been marked by the establishment of task forces for monitoring and reporting, the evaluation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism, the adoption of the Paris Principles and Commitments and the ten-year review of Graça Machel’s report. These initiatives, together with relevant international legal instruments, have helped strengthen the protection framework for children in armed conflict, in its practical and normative aspects. However, the menace of recruitment and use of child combatants continues unabated and remains as the major concern. Therefore, current efforts in the Council in taking measures against persistent violators of such crimes needs to be intensified in a more realistic and practically effective manner.
In this regard we compliment the efforts taken so far by the Working Group of the Council on Children and Armed Conflict, in recalibrating the monitoring and reporting mechanism. It is our hope that these efforts and measures adopted by the Working Group would eventually lead to the elimination of the pernicious offence of recruitment and use of children for armed hostilities. However, to achieve this end, it is important that the Council and the Working Group, at this point, remain essentially focused on this most urgent task in a more coherent manner, and not seek to broaden the canvas to include other issues, which are not of immediate practical benefit. Actions that make a difference on the ground should engage our attention in our effort for concerted international and national measures to bring perpetrators to justice. In this context, let me offer some views on this issue on Children and Armed Conflict for consideration of the Council, the Working Group, and the Secretary-General.
First, bringing in under the Security Council mandate other categories and sub-categories of violations against children without resolving the core issue of child recruitment would only render the Council process on children and armed conflict seem ineffective for “missing wood for trees”. Instead, the Council could, for instance, address more relevant issues to its work on peace and security, like how armed actors resort to new tactics of recruitment, to defy and confuse international attention based on existing norms. We have observed this discernible trend in the North of Sri Lanka, where the LTTE submits school children to compulsory weapons and combat-training, with a view to enlisting them for active combat as and when the need arises. This is a new form of recruitment and use of child combatants adopted by the LTTE.
Second, it is important to underline that, as compared to member States, non-state actors are not bound by internationally enforceable legal instruments, and therefore, should be subjected to stricter scrutiny and more rigorous and internationally enforceable punitive measures in order to make them accountable for grave abuses against children.
Third, since the primary responsibility for protection of children under national and international legal instruments lies with the State, a policy of zero- tolerance on recruitment and use of children by whosoever, assumes greater significance, as an obligation of a State. The Government of Sri Lanka has declared and followed this policy consistently, with its corresponding commitment to address all abuses identified by Resolution 1612 as well as other relevant national and international legal instruments.
Fourth, the Council and the Working Group must agree on how to deal with persistent and recalcitrant violators in respect of situations listed in the Secretary-General’s report, and evolve a realistic approach to address this issue. In this regard, we support the recommendation made by the Secretary-General in his report (S/2007/757), calling for increased pressure against persistent and recalcitrant violators, including through effective targeted measures.
Fifth, most important of all measures that underpin the effective implementation of 1612 is reintegration of child combatants. They need special protection for having surrendered to national authorities or having been rescued from armed groups. As the Secretary-General suggests in his report (S/2007/757), successful reintegration of child combatants requires resources as well as expertise. It is imperative, therefore, that current international concern in this important area moves beyond words of sympathy into sustained engagement and flow of necessary resources to facilitate effective reintegration. The Paris Principles, in this regard, provide guidance towards a long-term self-sustaining effort that can lead to peacebuilding and reconciliation as well.
Sri Lanka remains committed to working closely with the Council and the Working Group to rescue children trapped in situations of armed conflict for the cause of making the world safer for children. With our rich long-held traditions of promoting the welfare of children including provision of free healthcare and education from primary to tertiary level, we seek nothing less.