Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism – The disregard for children’s rights amid war and upheaval “is shocking and heartbreaking”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday during a high-level open debate in the Security Council, held virtually.
Mr. Guterres urged warring parties to prioritize the prevention of violations against boys and girls, and called on countries to support their protection at all times.
“There is no place for children in conflict, and we must not allow conflict to trample on the rights of children”, he said.
The Secretary-General presented his latest report on Children and Armed Conflict, which was published last week.
It revealed that last year, grave violations were committed against some 19,300 youngsters affected by fighting in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Recruitment and use in hostilities remained the top violations, followed by killing and maiming, and denial of humanitarian access.
“Moreover, new and deeply concerning trends emerged: an exponential increase in the number of children abducted, and in sexual violence against boys and girls”, Mr. Guterres said.
“We are also seeing schools and hospitals, constantly attacked, looted, destroyed or used for military purposes, with girls’ educational and health facilities targeted disproportionately”.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for children worldwide, the crisis has magnified the challenges faced by those caught up in conflict, according to Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“We had hoped that parties to conflict would turn their attention from fighting each other, to fighting the virus”, she said, underlining why the agency supported the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire. “Sadly, as this annual report shows, this call went unheeded”.
Instead of laying down their arms, Ms. Fore said warring parties continued to fight, making it difficult for the UN and partners to reach children in need.