|Security Council Debate on Children and Armed Conflict by H.E. Prasad Kariyawasam|
|Tuesday, 12 February 2008 12:17|
At the outset, let me convey my sincere appreciation to you, Mr President, and members of the Council for convening this meeting, which provides an opportunity to focus our attention on the use of children in armed conflict.
This debate takes place on the eve of upcoming consultations on the 10 year review of the Graça Machel Report which brought this issue to the fore. Therefore it is time to take stock of action taken so far by the international community to address the detestable practice of the use of children for violent purposes in conflict situations. We recognize the role of the Secretary-General and the contribution of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, to this cause, which we believe can be more focused and result-oriented.
As Sri Lanka celebrates the 60th Anniversary of independence this month, we take pride in the remarkable strides we have made in the social sectors, especially in healthcare and education. For the past 60 years, Sri Lanka has invested heavily on children. Free compulsory primary education leading towards free university education, and free healthcare, have been hallmarks of our efforts. And we are determined that our children continue to reap the benefits of these measures. We do not want our children to succumb to the diabolical efforts of non-state actors who use our innocent children for violent purposes.
Recognizing the need to safeguard our children from non-state actors who recruit children as agents of violence and terrorism, the Government has unveiled specific measures to strengthen the existing regime of protection and welfare of children in its blue print for peace and development for the country.
We are conscious that primary responsibility for the protection of children and promotion of their welfare lies with the State, and that it is imperative for the State to ensure that children are not in danger, and prevent them from being used as accessories for violence. Therefore, just as we reject terrorism, we also continue to reject the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict as unjustifiable under all circumstances. We seek the support of the international community to eradicate this menace, and urge stronger international measures against those who perpetrate such crimes.
In this context, the Government of Sri Lanka reiterates its long held policy of zero tolerance towards the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. The Government believes strongly in addressing issues of children and armed conflict pursuant to Resolution 1612. And in this context, we reiterate our view that the Security Council must consider this issue on the basis of supporting the establishment of security and consolidating peace in conflict afflicted societies, to enable States to protect their children from non-state actors who violate children with impunity.
The Report of the Secretary-General, referring to the situation in Sri Lanka, calls upon the listed offenders in annex II of the Report to mend their despicable behaviour; and calls upon the Security Council to consider deterrent action against repeated violators. Specifically identifying the terrorist group, LTTE, as responsible for numerous repeated grave abuses, the Secretary-General has listed that group as a persistent violator, repeating its listing since 2003. The Karuna faction of the LTTE has also been listed as a violator. We look forward to the opportunity to soon consider the issue as relates to Sri Lanka, in depth, in all its aspects at the Working Group of the Security Council on children and armed conflict.
The Secretary-General, in Paragraph 149 of his Report, suggests that “increased pressure is required against persistent and recalcitrant violators of child rights” such as the LTTE by “further considering the need to impose targeted measures against those parties”. This suggestion of the Secretary-General is in accord with his recommendation in Paragraph 163 of his Report that welcomes “the Security Council’s continuing consideration of effective targeted measures against parties to armed conflict who continue to systematically commit grave violations against children in armed conflict in defiance of recommendations by the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and of Council resolutions”. This clearly singles out the terrorist group LTTE as deserving stronger targeted measures.
Almost a decade has now passed since the LTTE gave a public undertaking to cease recruitment and use of children as combatants, and to also release children within its ranks. This commitment was never implemented by the LTTE, which continues to recruit and use children as combatants even after the Council adopted Resolution 1612, in terms of which, parties to armed conflict that recruit or use children for armed hostilities must cease such practices forthwith, release children within their ranks, and enter into action plans with UNICEF or relevant peacekeeping missions.
Repeated violation of all undertakings given to the international community by non-state actors like the LTTE must stop. It is our collective responsibility to find ways and means to make such non-state actors fall in-line.
The initiative by the Security Council to address the issue of children in armed conflict, and subsequent efforts by the Security Council Working Group must be made to focus more on the real underlying core issue – which is the issue of recruitment of children. We must be cautious in considering the expansion of the mandate without addressing the core issue since such an approach may not usher a change on the ground, and will not inspire confidence in the process undertaken by the Security Council.
We agree with the views indicated in paragraph 132 of the Report of the responsibility of governments in relation to rehabilitative measures for children who seek special protection and surrender to government forces. Rehabilitation of children who have been used as combatants by non-state actors is as important as preventing children being recruited for armed conflict. However, rehabilitation efforts that will ensure the successful reintegration of children into society require resources as well as expertise. Tangible international assistance and support towards such efforts as opposed to mere declarations of concern will be invaluable not only to promote the welfare of children but for consolidating peace and peacebuilding efforts.
Collective will is required to take focused action on real issues of concern on the ground. Therefore, first and foremost, the Security Council needs to be more resolute in taking action to prevent children from being used as soldiers and accessories in all conflict situations.