Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Children and Armed Conflict

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 12, 2020


Thank you, Mr. Minister. And on behalf of the United States, and as the host nation of the United Nations, we warmly welcome His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians to the UN and to New York. We also warmly welcome you, Mr. Minister, and thank you for presiding today. As well as the Vice Foreign Ministers of Estonia and Indonesia for being here with us today.

There is perhaps no group of people harmed more by the absence of peace and security than children. In most cases, they are the most vulnerable among us. And so, we deeply appreciate the efforts of Belgium to highlight global child protection, including through leading consensus on conclusions on Syria, Burma, and Sudan, and by chairing the Security Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict since last year.

We also thank Secretary-General Guterres, and Commissioner Chergui, and Ms. Becker, for your briefings today. Yesterday, Ambassador Craft noted how we allocate our time defines what we believe is important, and your presence here today affirms the importance of integrating the Children and Armed Conflict agenda into our discussions on peace processes and conflict prevention, and we thank you. The importance of doing so was also reaffirmed by the Council this past August, as it has been by members in numerous resolutions and presidential statements since 1999. In August, we reiterated that those who suffer the most in war are often children and that our discussions about armed conflict cannot ignore the devastating impact it has on them. We are hopeful that both the frequency of the Council’s Working Group meetings and SRSG Gamba’s engagement and advocacy with parties to armed conflict will increase. Continued meetings, signed action plans, and briefings like today will all help generate needed progress.

We should see the Council’s unity on this issue as an opportunity to better protect children from armed conflict. By engaging with armed groups, building trust, and offering alternatives to violence as allowed by our mandate, the UN and other regional organizations – including the AU and the EU – can create new possibilities for sustainable peace. Today’s adoption of a Presidential Statement recognizes just that. As we see in countries around the world, conflict prevents children from achieving their potential and saddles them with burdens that no young person should have to carry. For example, in South Sudan, most children have never known peace – only the threat of violence, abduction, and abuse. A pause in political violence has created space for advocacy, including the Action Plan signed last week. But the best protection for children in South Sudan will not come from an action plan. It will come from President Kiir and Dr. Machar sitting down and negotiating a lasting peace. Today, we call on South Sudan’s leaders to finally put aside their differences and prioritize the hopes of their nation’s children.

In Colombia, the United States is dismayed by continuing violations and abuses against children. Yet recent trends give reason for optimism, as the Final Peace Agreement and the demobilization of the FARC are clearly improving circumstances for the nation’s young people. Amid the regional fallout of the crisis in Venezuela, we also applaud President Duque’s efforts to protect the children of Venezuelan refugees, including by granting citizenship to those born in Colombia. Additionally, in the DRC, UN efforts to extricate child combatants from armed groups have led to the signing of agreements to disarm and demobilize. And in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA’s engagement with armed groups appear to offer the same inroads for education and change.

Beyond country situations on the Children and Armed Conflict agenda, we are deeply concerned that at least 600,000 children in Cameroon have not been able to safely attend schools in the country’s English-speaking regions for more than three years. This is a stark reminder that mediation requires follow-through to prevent children from once again falling prey to the deadly cycles of violence. This Council has a duty to speak out on behalf of children, for they are our future, and our hope. But to realize a future of greater safety and prosperity for all children, there must be meaningful action. This is what makes the Children and Armed Conflict agenda so critical, and we are grateful for the opportunity to discuss its implementation today.

Thank you.