Ambassador Michele J. Sison
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
February 8, 2017
Thank you, Special Representative Zerrougui, and thank you to all of the speakers representing the United Nations and civil society with us here today. We greatly respect all of your commitment and all of your efforts. And I want to recognize UNICEF’s special role here as well.
As we gather in this chamber to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, we have rightly reflected on our successes over the past twenty years. But unfortunately, despite the passionate advocacy, tireless energy, and terrific work of Madam Zerrougui and the very important efforts of civil society organizations, individual advocates, the international community, and the UN, we are still far away from bringing an end to the killing, rape, abduction, and recruitment of children as armed combatants – all of this in violation of international law. Nor have we yet figured out how to address the terrible scars, psychological and otherwise, the victims and their families suffer in the aftermath. Rather, as we know from SRSG Zerrougui’s reporting, from human rights advocates, and from the dedicated voices of civil society representatives around the world, the impact of armed conflict on children is as tragic today as it was 20 years ago.
The threat has also evolved, with terror groups using new media tools and propaganda tactics to reach and recruit children. Right now, there are approximately 250,000 children involved in over twenty conflicts worldwide, as we’ve heard this morning.
The Secretary-General’s 2016 annual report identified 62 parties as committing violations against children in over 14 conflicts. But this term, “violations,” doesn’t even come close to capturing the horrors it represents. That term – “violation” – means that 62 parties have killed and maimed young boys and little girls, raped them, abducted them, forced them to fight and kill, denied them food to survive.
But our presence here today – all of us – it’s proof that the situation, of course, is not hopeless, that we can work together to do better for these children. Concerted efforts by the international community have helped countries like Chad, the DRC, Colombia, and Burma take strong steps to eliminate child soldiers.
And we also recognize the work of UNESCO in combatting terrorists’ efforts to recruit and entrap youth online by developing “A Teacher’s Guide on the Prevention of Violent Extremism,” which helps educators teach critical thinking skills that enable our young people to resist the siren call of terrorist organizations.
Now these are just a few of the steps that we must continue to take to protect children – children who cannot protect themselves. But we recognize that these steps, while important, are not yet enough.
The United States remains committed to working with the countries impacted by conflict, with civil society, and with the UN to identify, address, and end the involvement of children in armed conflict.
Thank you Madam Zerrougui.