Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

Open Debate Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict

Statement on behalf of the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

By Karel J.G. van Oosterom, Permanent Representative

Open Debate Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict

New York, 7 March 2014


Mr. President,

The Netherlands aligns itself with the statement of the EU.  I would like to use this opportunity to thank Luxemburg for organizing this important debate, and to commend Special Representative Leila Zerrougui for the important role she plays in promoting and protecting the rights of children affected by armed conflict.  The Netherlands also highly values the work done by UNICEF in contributing to a world where the rights of every child are realized, including those who suffer from conflicts.

Since the adoption of SC resolution 1261 in 1999, thousands of children have been killed in conflicts and many more have been left disabled, homeless, or separated from their parents. The civil war in Syria stands out for its catastrophic scope and human cost. The images of widespread destruction and indiscriminate killing of civilians are a tragic reminder of the devastating effects of conflict and war. Especially on the lives of children. In Syria alone over 10,000 children have been killed and approximately 3 million children are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Let me underline the importance of the “No Lost Generation” initiative and other efforts to alleviate some of the suffering of Syrian children and offer them a future.

Wars are increasingly fought within states and increasingly involve non-state actors, such as rebel or terrorist groups, which are less likely to be aware of, or abide by, humanitarian laws providing for the protection of civilians. The changing tactics and technology of warfare have also magnified hazards to children.

In view of the continued violence against children in conflict and the use of child soldiers in conflict, more should be done by the international community. Let me address prevention, protection and prosecution.

First of all, we must strengthen the prevention of conflicts and the prevention of use of child soldiers in conflict. The further focusing of our common international norms in today’s SC resolution is of great importance to this effect. Establishment of legal frameworks, strengthening governance and rule of law in countries, age verification in recruitment mechanisms and raising public awareness are some examples of concrete action.  We therefore welcome the important report published by the Global Coalition to Protect Education recently, and the launch of the “Children, not Soldiers” initiative.

 Full implementation of the action plans by parties in conflict, as listed in the annual report of the Secretary General, is called for. It must be clear: children belong in schools, not in armies, as the SG this morning rightfully mentioned.

Secondly, together we should strengthen protection of children in conflict.  In this regard, the Netherlands is especially alarmed by the widespread and deliberate attacks against schools, teachers, and students as a tool of war. Nearly 50 million children and young people in conflict zones face enormous barriers to education every day, keeping them out of school and preventing them from reaching their true potential. The consequences are disastrous, and not just for the children themselves. It will affect the potential for growth and development of the country as a whole, long after peace agreements have been signed.

 My government is also alarmed by the rise in the use of school buildings for military purposes, including as barracks, fighting positions, detention centers, interrogation or torture sites, and weapons depots. We strongly oppose such practices, and in line with Security Council Resolution 1998 urge everyone to take steps both within their own legislation and military policies and doctrine, as well as internationally, to end the military use of schools and protect children’s rights to safety and education. schools are protected under international humanitarian law. Nevertheless, as Valerie Amos has told us, in Syria they are used for military purposes. This must stop.

Mr. President, 

And my third point: if prevention and protection have not had sufficient result, prosecution and fighting impunity are called for. Together we must bring perpetrators of grave violations against children to justice, as raised in your concept-note. It is the responsibility of every State affected by violence to do its utmost to prevent crimes against children. And if those crimes do occur, it is first and foremost the respective State that should be striving for perpetrators of human rights violations against children to be brought to justice.

But if a state is unable or unwilling to do so, the International Criminal Court should step in and investigate and prosecute violations and abuses against children in armed conflict that fall within its jurisdiction. The verdict of the ICC against Thomas Lubanga for recruiting and using child soldiers in hostilities was a welcome step in bringing justice to the tens of thousands of children forced to fight in conflicts. For children who were the victims of armed conflict it is important to see that justice will be done. In this respect, I refer to the conviction of Mr. Katanga by the ICC earlier today.

In short: Impunity is not only a denial of justice—it’s a denial of the truth. Fighting impunity therefore is a prerequisite for durable conflict solution and stable and peaceful societies. Something we all want for our children.

The preamble of the UN Charter opens by stating the goal “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. This is about our children, and their children. Let us engage in this task knowing that they are the promise for a more peaceful future.

 The Kingdom of the Netherlands will continue to be a partner in this endeavor for peace, justice and development.  

 Thank your Mr. President.