“Protecting children today prevents conflicts tomorrow,” according to Archbishop Bernardito Auza Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See.
His comments came July 9, 2018, during the United Nations Security Council Open Debate in New York.
“Children are the ones who suffer most from every war and conflict,” Archbishop Auza said. “For the children already trapped in armed conflict, it is never too late to act to save and rehabilitate them.”
The archbishop listed three areas for improvement in helping children in conflict area:
- “First, the grave responsibility to act in the face of attacks against children, such as reducing them to child soldiers, entrapping them in sexual slavery and subjecting them to mass abductions and other acts of violence against children.”
- “Second, the need to prioritize the effective reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces or armed groups.”
- “Third, the need to guarantee the right to education for children victimized by armed conflict.”
Here are the archbishop’s full comments:
My Delegation wishes to thank the Swedish Presidency for convening this special open debate on children and armed conflict, a theme to which the Holy See attaches critical importance.
Children are the ones who suffer most from every war and conflict. For the children already trapped in armed conflict, it is never too late to act to save and rehabilitate them. How we treat those affected by armed conflict has consequences not only for their future but for that of the world. Giving up on them means abandoning their communities and their countries. For those in danger of being ensnared in armed conflict, we must act now. We cannot lose this generation of children presently at high risk.
The Secretary-General’s report (A/72/685-S/2018/465) details the shocking scale and severity of violations and abuses against children in armed conflicts around the world. It is heartrending that children have been maimed and killed, and used as human shields and human bombs.
While we may not be able to solve now all the conflicts on the agenda of the Security Council, we can do better in protecting the children who suffer the devastating consequences of them. The Children and Armed Conflict agenda is an important framework for that. It gives us the tools to prevent all violations and abuses against children and to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable. There is a unique consensus within this Council, and indeed, within the entire international community, on this issue, and we should spare no effort to implement it fully.
Among the areas where there is ample room for improvement, my Delegation would like to mention three.
First, the grave responsibility to act in the face of attacks against children, such as reducing them to child soldiers, entrapping them in sexual slavery and subjecting them to mass abductions and other acts of violence against children. Sustainable Development Goal 16 commits us to “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.” The first step to achieve this target is to strengthen preventive measures against the human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law that are occurring against children.
Second, the need to prioritize the effective reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces or armed groups. Children caught in armed conflict must always be treated primarily as victims, even if, under the control of armed groups, they may have factually committed crimes. Successful rehabilitation and reintegration are in the best interests not only of the child but also of society as a whole. Children should always be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The care and rehabilitation of children saved from armed groups require adequate, long-term resources to provide them with the greatest chance for successful reintegration in their families and in society. We must assure that these children will not remain hostages of the horrors they survived.
Third, the need to guarantee the right to education for children victimized by armed conflict. A solid education is the best way to assure that the victims of today’s conflicts will work to prevent tomorrow’s conflicts and be peace builders. Sustainable Development Goal 4 underlines the important role of children’s education in reducing poverty and inequality. In this regard and through its various structures operating in most of the conflict zones, the Holy See and the Catholic Church are actively engaged through educational and rehabilitation institutions in taking care of the many victims of violence, both girls, and boys.
Protecting children today prevents conflicts tomorrow. For the children who have fallen victims to armed conflicts and have survived, let us do everything possible to give them back their future by helping them to realize their deepest aspirations and by enabling them to fulfill their dreams, whether as doctors, lawyers, teachers, social workers, parents or some other profession or role that contributes to the common good of every society, for the prevention of conflicts and the building of peaceful and sustainable communities.
Thank you, Mr. President.