Thank you, Madam President, and thank you, Special Representative Gamba, for your informative briefing today. The United States remains fully committed to your mandate.
We’d also like to thank all the briefers for sharing their perspectives here today. Your experiences will certainly make a difference in how we move forward on this issue.
We also commend Poland, France, Sweden, and Cote d’Ivoire for convening today’s Arria. Today’s gathering is a useful opportunity to highlight the positive achievements countries have made to prevent and respond to violations of children’s rights in armed conflict and sharing some best-practices.
Each of the countries highlighted deserves credit for taking steps to stem the suffering faced by children in armed conflict settings.
Over the last five years, Sudan has come a long way from the dire situation of child recruitment and protection practices. I know, Special Representative Gamba, you just returned from Sudan, including visiting Darfur and Southern Kordofan, conflict areas where children comprise about 60 percent of all displaced persons, and we are grateful for your impressions of the situation there and for your commitment to working with Sudanese officials to make progress.
We share your praise for the major steps the Government of Sudan has taken in recent years to end unlawful child soldier recruitment and use and provide better protection for children in conflict settings. Sudan’s significant actions have in turn, led to more subtle, albeit still critical developments, including improved capacity within the Sudanese police to identify child trafficking victims and to investigate and prosecute perpetrators.
While the work is far from over, actions taken by the government in Sudan over the past several years serve as concrete examples of how a government’s political will and expert support from the United Nations can best combine to make a difference.
We also appreciate the update on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 2016, the government has taken many positive steps in terms of institutional and structural reforms and has made considerable gains in ending the recruitment of child soldiers by the national armed forces. The UN de-listing in 2017 of the DRC from countries that use child soldiers is a testament to those efforts. However, we do remain concerned about the broader situation surrounding children in the DRC.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s story of progress with regard to recruitment and use of child soldiers and protection of children is undermined by the concerning lack of progress to address reports of sexual violence against children.
We urge the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government to redouble its efforts to address those areas beset by brutal conflict and do more to allocate its resources to care for and protect those children.
Chad is another great example of how a country’s political will helped to end the scourge of recruitment and use of children as soldiers in conflict. We commend Chad’s efforts to stem unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers.
We note especially the revised penal code signed into law by President Déby in May 2017 that aligned Chad’s law with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. We urge the government to enforce the law and hold traffickers accountable. We also urge, at the same time, Chadian officials to prosecute traffickers, proactively identify victims, and work with NGOs and international organizations to provide services once victims are identified.
And finally, we are glad to have the opportunity to highlight the progress made by the Government of Cote d’Ivoire in ending unlawful recruitment of child soldiers and their commitment to rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers. Cote d’Ivoire’s commitment serves as a prominent example to countries working through the challenges posed by ending child participation in armed conflict.
Rehabilitation and reintegration of such children is more critical than ever in a world where destabilizing forces would exploit those ostracized from society, as former child soldiers often are. Cote d’Ivoire’s programs and policies for reintegration are examples to be replicated, and we urge you, Special Representative Gamba, to study them and help other countries develop comparable efforts.
I just have one quick question for you, Special Representative Gamba. Given the successes outlined here today, how do you plan to leverage these examples to replicate progress in other places struggling with unlawful child soldier recruitment and protecting children in conflict?
Thank you very much, Madam President.