Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (via VTC)

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 23, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President. As I begin my remarks today, I’d like to offer my thanks to Special Representative Gamba and UNICEF Director Fore for your efforts to spotlight and address child protection around the world. These efforts are noble and consequential. And Ms. Fore, one of the most powerful lines that you made in your opening statement just now is that “children are not pawns and it must stop.” We fully agree and it is so true.

Fifteen years after the Council established its working group on Children and Armed Conflict and the UN-led monitoring and reporting mechanism, the United States remains fully committed to supporting this critical work – because the impact of conflict on children remains all too real around the world. Far too often, and sadly, we still see the six grave Children and Armed Conflict violations being committed globally. This tragic fact is starkly illustrated – on a scale that is really hard to imagine – in this year’s Secretary-General’s report.

These violations include the continued killing and maiming of children, the recruitment and use of child soldiers, sexual violence and abduction, attacks against schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access. These acts must end, and perpetrators must be held to account.

Even though many of us have taken steps to both help reduce the impact of armed conflict on children and support reintegration efforts around the world, our collective efforts, work on this issue is far from over, as so many have said already. Children continue to suffer in numerous places, including in Burma, Mali, Syria, and Somalia. An added challenge, as others have highlighted, is the onset of COVID-19, including in countries where violations and abuses against children continue to take place with impunity.

Mariam, I want to thank you for your bravery in speaking with us today. Your testimony inspires us to work towards further support for reintegration and education – as Ms. Fore so passionately pleaded for – for children who have had similar experiences. The United States is horrified by reports of terrorists forcibly closing schools and killing teachers in Mali, depriving children and exposing them to trauma in truly awful ways. An entire generation of Malian children are impacted by these heinous tactics; the psycho-social effects alone will last for years.

For our part, the United States has launched the Sahel Diplomatic Engagement Framework to focus on state legitimacy. As part of the “Girls Leadership and Empowerment Through Education” program in Mali, the United States has contributed $23 million to address gender disparities and gravely impacted women and girls in Mali. The provision of basic services such as schooling is essential for stabilizing not only Mali, but the entire Sahel region.

Effective recovery from conflict also requires ensuring that the children impacted by conflict have the tools that they need to succeed later on in the workforce. This includes accounting for their emotional and physical well-being, while also providing access to education, age-appropriate vocational training, and job opportunities.

These opportunities are the same ones the children that have spoken to Ambassador Craft and so many of us on trips, but especially on Ambassador Craft’s visit to South Sudan, where they told us they wished for all of this in their own lives. And what I hope this Council sees is that investing in young people is a primary, cost-effective means of achieving sustainable human, social, and economic development. In the long run, investments in the future of young people are vital if we wish to ensure international peace and security.

Additionally, in the wake of conflict, many children continue to experience trauma, rejection, and social isolation from their communities; they require support for their long-term health and well-being as well as their future contributions to peaceful societies. The United States is committed to ensuring that children affected by conflict have the opportunity to thrive. We place a priority on life-saving child protection programming as well as support for longer-term recovery, resilience, and healing. As a notable example, the United States has contributed $30 million to the “Education Cannot Wait” global fund, and we call on other international partners to do their part.

The United States will continue to invest in preventative and responsive programming to protect children from violence. This will help empower children by creating the safe and protective environments they need and deserve, facilitating their access to essential social services, working with their families and other caregivers, and ensuring their participation in peace processes that will positively shape their futures for generations to come.

Thank you, Mr. President.