Remarks at a UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on the Impact of COVID-19 on Violations against Children in Situations of Armed Conflict

Trina Saha
Deputy Political Coordinator
New York, New York
May 7, 2021


Thank you to Estonia for convening us to discuss this important issue. I’d also like to thank SRSG Gamba and her team, who’ve been working to finalize the CAAC report, and for sharing the challenges they faced in their work.

While we’ve all been impacted by this pandemic, the work of the Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting has faced particular challenges. Their work tracking human rights violations and abuses against children has always been difficult, sensitive work. As we heard from the briefers, health precautions, teleworking, and changing dynamics on the ground have all affected the ability to collect vital data this past year. We applaud the CTFMRs in their efforts to work around these challenges and use innovative solutions to complete their work, particularly to track attacks on schools and hospitals, and to identify trends regarding violations and abuses despite missing data.

Unfortunately – as is so often the case with the second order effects of this pandemic – it’s the most vulnerable children, who pay the biggest costs. This year, we will have an incomplete understanding of how armed conflict has impacted children, with abuses and violations occurring in the shadows. While the world continues to battle COVID-19, we must consider how we can simultaneously protect children, despite communication and access challenges. We urge states to take greater ownership for providing child protection services and demand that parties to conflict abide by their international legal obligations. This pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to violate human rights, unlawfully deny humanitarian access, block information sharing, or avoid transparency. Children in communities struggling with violence already struggle to access educational and medical facilities. The impact of the pandemic has only further deepened the divide between those with means and those without. This is especially true of children belonging to minority groups, such as children with disabilities.

In addition to ongoing CAAC concerns in armed conflicts on the UN Security Council agenda, we also urge the international community to focus on emerging conflicts in which children face acute protection challenges, and how child protection efforts can be activated quickly in these crises. In the Tigray region of Ethiopia, for example, thousands of children have been forced from their homes, separated from their families, and have even fallen victim to sexual violence.

The United States remains fully committed to the UN’s work in ending the impact of armed conflict on children whenever possible. The United States, under the Biden-Harris administration, has prioritized global COVID-19 relief, with over $4 billion pledged to COVAX over this year and next. We know that our global COVID-19 assistance program will be a critical element in addressing the multitude of factors impacting children in violent conflict.

I’ll end with a question for the briefers. What do you see as the most crucial need for children who are facing unprecedented challenges this year, and what more can the Security Council do to enable the UN to overcome these difficult challenges?

Thank you.