Remarks at a UN Security Council Annual Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC)

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
August 2, 2019


Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. Minister, we congratulate Poland on the assumption of the Council’s Presidency for August and for holding this annual open debate as the first signature event of your presidency. Your presence today underscores the urgent need to collectively address the issue of children and armed conflict around the world.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Peru for their presidency and facilitating a productive month of July. And we would also like to welcome Ambassador Zhang Jun to the council, welcome. Mr. President, we also thank the Special Representative Gamba, and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore for their statements this morning. But I would like to join other colleagues in thanking Mariatu Kamara, and Majok Peter Awan for your incredible determination and your moving testimonies this morning that, as others have said, take us beyond the discussions, and compels us to act in a meaningful way. So thank you very much for being here and sharing your stories.

Your advocacy has helped focus the world’s attention to Children and Armed Conflict and reminds us of our responsibility as member states to protect civilians from harm, especially children. We are proud of the work of our partners to better protect children affected by armed conflict all over the world.

The United States strongly supports UNICEF in its mandate to protect and assist children all over the world, including specialized support for survivors of violence, and assured access for children to a range of life-saving assistance including nutrition, health, water, and sanitation.

Majok’s testimony as a former child solider and now a UN child protection officer is particularly inspiring for all of us here today. As the Secretary-General’s report this year starkly makes clear, the number of children killed, kidnapped, maimed, used, and abused is even more staggering today than it was when this Council began to collectively address Children and Armed Conflict more than a decade ago.

The United States remains fully committed to the UN’s and the Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict’s critical work in ending the impact of conflict on children wherever possible to prevent their future involvement in war, and to assist affected children in recovering from violent conflict. Our actions taken today to protect children from armed conflict will matter in the years ahead for future generations, as Mariatu said so eloquently.

Protecting children today means staving off future conflict and staving off the radicalization to violence of scores of young people. And we appreciate the particular focus on the needs of the disabled and making sure that they are reintegrated as well.

The United States remains deeply concerned about continuing violations and abuse against children, particularly in Burma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, and Syria.

The United States welcomes great progress achieved by the Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in recent days to adopt conclusions on Burma and Syria with the consensus of all fifteen Council members.

We commend Belgium’s leadership as chair of the working group in facilitating these important discussions. Moreover, the United States endorses the Working Group’s conclusions that reiterate that both the regimes in Damascus and Naypyidaw immediately address the Council’s calls to take steps to halt the recruitment and use of children.

While we acknowledge that the Working Group has achieved progress with the adoption of its recent Burma and Syria conclusions, much more remains to be done. The United States is committed to better integrating the Children and Armed Conflict agenda when we discuss conflict situations in the Security Council. The United States will continue to address ways to strengthen the protection of children across all of the Security Council mandates.

We further welcome the SDF signing of an action plan to end and prevent recruitment and use of children in Syria. We also commend the government of Yemen and the coalition’s effort to strengthen child protection issues.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, efforts by the UN child protection specialists to work with the government resulted in 14 armed group commanders renouncing the recruitment of child soldiers, releasing all child soldiers from their ranks, and allowing the UN to verify this commitment. In the Central African Republic, MINUSCA’s engagement with armed groups on action plans to protect children appear to offer the same inroads for education and change.

In both of these cases, the immediate goal is to protect children from violations and abuses in the context of armed conflict. By engaging with armed groups, building trust, and offering alternatives to violence, UN actors on the ground are able to open up new possibilities for sustainable peace.

For our part, the United States continues to prioritize child protection programming that is life-saving and essential for survival as well as longer-term recovery, resilience and healing, and we will continue to invest in preventive and responsive programming to protect children from violence. We know that the resumption of familiar, safe, and nurturing routines, particularly within a family, helps children heal, build resilience, and better cope with stress.

The United States calls on all countries to join our efforts and increase contributions to do their part to help children in need of safety, food, and other life-saving interventions.

Thank you, Mr. President.