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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake emphasizes the role of national governments in protecting children in conflict

By Chris Niles

NEW YORK, 19 September 2012—The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution designed to end impunity for those who abuse children during armed conflict.

19 September 2012: UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake addresses the United Nations Security Council on the subject of child protection.  Watch in RealPlayer


In recent years, the Security Council has been working to end violations against children in armed conflict. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon publishes a list of the worst offenders as part of the annual Secretary-General’s report to the United Nations Security Council on children and armed conflict.

In his most recent report, published in April, he said that, while significant progress has been made, he remains gravely concerned about the growing number of persistent violators.

Today’s resolution passed with 11 votes. Azerbaijan, China, Pakistan and the Russian Federation abstained.

Protecting children from conflict

The resolution emphasizes the importance of national governments’ role in protecting children from conflict, and also in helping to reintegrate and rehabilitate children once the conflict has passed. And it stresses the need for national, as well as international, justice systems.

Addressing the Security Council, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said its nine resolutions passed since 1999 represent a clear commitment to action.

“The world is making progress in holding perpetrators of such acts accountable,” he said, citing recent verdicts against Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga by the International Criminal Court and against former Liberian President Charles Taylor by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

But he said accountability runs in many directions.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-1151/Markisz
United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui speaks at the United Nations Security Council meeting on ‘Children and armed conflict’ at United Nations Headquarters, New York, 19 September 2012. Ms. Zerrougui stressed the importance of accountability.

“Just as perpetrators need to be held accountable for the fate of children in conflict zones, so do governments, and so do we,” he said.

Mr. Lake said UNICEF works closely with governments and communities to rehabilitate children affected by conflict.

“The responsibility of governments to their citizens and of citizens to each other is most fully measured by their accountability to the most vulnerable in their societies. They must therefore support efforts to monitor, report and respond to grave violations against children and their rights. Governments and others must allow UN involvement to help them establish national systems to prevent and sanction violations and deliver the right response services to those who need them without delay,” he said. 

Violence against children

The newly appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui outlined some countries in which violence against children is of particularly pressing concern, including Libya, Mali and the Syrian Arab Republic.

“The situation in Syria is dire,” she said, citing violence by government and rebel armed groups. Ms. Zerrougui told the Security Council that she was ready, as a sign of good faith, to establish an open dialogue with Syrian authorities.

“Accountability is an integral element both to address and prevent violations against children. Though imperfect, the preventive aspect of accountability is real,” she said.



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