Today during a United Nations Security Council open debate on Children in Armed Conflict, a new resolution on the subject was unanimously adopted, widely supported by 98 co-sponsored countries. This resolution was the first one in three years concerning children in armed conflict.
The first debate on children in armed conflict was held in 1998 and since, the Security Council has adopted several resolutions to strengthen the protection of children affected by armed conflict and to raise awareness about how children are affected by war.
However, today’s resolution set new precedents to increase protection after seeing jarring increases in the number of children affected in warzones. As United States Ambassador Nikki Haley stated in her speech, more than 60% of people in conflict-affected countries are under the age of 25. Ambassador Haley went on to state the United States’ endorsement of the resolution: “The United States welcomes this discussion. We support the adoption of the resolution. And we urge our colleagues to do more to save new generations from being lost to the pain and trauma of armed conflict. Living through violence and conflict should not determine a child’s future. Every child deserves the opportunity to flourish.”
In addition, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba furthered the need to actively protect children in conflict zones: “We cannot further jeopardize our most precious resource through inaction, but must increase our efforts to develop preventive tools, utilize reintegration strategically to break cycles of violence and address the cross-border nature of violations through increased cooperation.”
Because Sweden currently holds the presidency of the Security Council, the nation called for today’s debate and resolution. Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven gave a compelling speech, highlighting that 350 million children are being affected by armed conflict today. The Prime Minister explained exactly how today’s resolution strengthens the Children and Armed Conflict agenda, while also furthering the prevention agenda: “The resolution stresses accountability for ALL violations and abuses against children – not just the gravest crimes – thereby setting a new standard for the prevention of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. There can be no exceptions to humanity, and there can be no exceptions to international humanitarian law.”
The new emphasis on enforcing accountability for all violators of the resolution was equally supported by the Italian Representative in their statement. Italy requested to speak in the open debate as it is not currently a member of the Security Council. Italy’s statement delivered during the debate centered around prevention, accountability, and reintegration. The Italian Representative remarked the importance of nations ratifying and implementing international instruments to enforce the protection of children. The Representative then followed by stating the nation “encourages the Security Council to include in its sanctions regimes specific listing criteria for grave violations of children in armed conflict” to ensure just accountability. Lastly, the statement highlighted the need for specific provisions on reintegrating children released from armed groups back into society, as this is “the unfortunate last and most forgotten link of the chain” to build long-term peace and stability.
The new rigor attached to protecting children in armed conflict from the resolution is a hopeful start after the Security Council’s three year hiatus on the issue. As Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said today, “We agreed on today’s resolution, now we must implement it.”