Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations at the open debate of the Security Council on Children and armed conflict on 23 February 2005.
Iceland welcomes the Security Council’s decision to deliberate on the important issue of children and armed conflict. We are especially pleased to see you here at this meeting, Mr. Foreign Minister.
We would also like to thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict for his briefing and the representatives of UNICEF and ECOWAS for their statements.
The impact of armed conflict on children has fortunately been given greater attention by the international community in recent years. The ground-breaking study of 1996 laid the foundation for the United Nations consideration of this matter. The report concluded for example;
- The nature of intra-state conflict has drawn civilians, including children, to the forefront of battles. Children thus constitute a high proportion of the victims of war;
- Children are being deliberately recruited as combatants;
- Armed conflict leads to a breakdown in the family support systems so essential to a child’s survival and development;
- Government and community support systems collapse;
- Children remain, disproportionately, exposed to the dangers of land-mines;
- During armed conflicts there is a heightened risk of rape, sexual abuse and violence, prostitution and other forms of gender-based violence.
The authors of the report presented us with disturbing and often shocking reading and called for action. Some tangible results have been made in the course of the past years, as outlined in the report of the Secretary-General, dated 9 February 2005. There is increased awareness, norms have been put in place and protection of war-affected children has been placed on the international peace-and-security agenda.
In this context we acknowledge the valuable work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-general for Children and Armed Conflict, Mr. Otunnu. Various organizations and entities of the United Nations, such as UNICEF and DPKO, have also been pivotal in advancing the protection of children associated with armed conflict. Many non-governmental organizations have also played a vital role.
Despite the advances made, the report of the Secretary-General also clearly outlines our failures. "Widespread and unacceptable patterns of violations" against children is recorded in the report. Armed groups that recruit and use children in armed conflicts are named.
During last year's open debate in the Security Council on this issue there was unanimous support for establishing a monitoring and reporting system. Indeed, the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to devise an action plan to this effect. But, as the special representative pointed out in that debate, the monitoring and reporting system "is of little value unless the information compiled can serve as triggers for action".
The Secretary-General’s proposed action plan provides a basis for concerted action by the Security Council, the International Criminal Court, the Commission on Human Rights and regional organizations, triggered by monitoring reports. The Security Council should be a leader in this process.
Iceland supports the recommendation by the Secretary-General to the Security Council to take measures such as imposing travel restrictions on leaders, imposition of arms embargoes, a ban on military assistance and restrictions on the flow of financial resources to the parties.
We fully agree with the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General's report concerning the role of the International Criminal Court. Concrete steps should be taken to ensure prosecution of persons responsible for war crimes against children.
As regards the role of regional and sub-regional organizations, Iceland has actively contributed to the activities of the OSCE in its effort to combat trafficking in human beings. As we know, women and children constitute the majority of such victims.
The high and increasing number of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of local women and children by United Nations peacekeeping personnel around the world and, most recently, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo demonstrate an urgent need to review current methods in addressing this problem across all peacekeeping operations.
UN peacekeeping forces contribute courageously in their thousands around the world. It is, however, vital that they do not become part of the problem. The ramifications of such sexual misconduct both for the victims and in the international community at large will be extensive, longterm and require disproportionate efforts to counteract.
In conclusion Mr. President,
We hope this debate and the report of the Secretary-General will culminate in an action-oriented resolution by the Security Council that could serve as an effective mechanism in an "era of application" of the internationally agreed norms and standards for the protection of children in armed conflict.
Thank you Mr. President.