STATEMENT BY Mahmoud Saikal Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict
“ Protecting Children Today Prevents Conflicts Tomorrow”
Check against delivery)
9 July 2018
At the outset, I would like to thank the Secretary-General and his Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict Ms. Virginia Gamba for their report. I would also like to thank Swedish Presidency for convening such a timely debate and initiating the resolution on the protection of children in conflict zones, which was adopted today. We are honoured to be a cosponsor for this resolution.
The ever-changing nature of armed conflicts in today’s increasingly complex world pose a serious challenge for the international community to protect civilians’ most defenseless victims, children. As the future of every society, children need to be protected, nourished, educated, and ensured of their fundamental rights. However, today nearly 250 million children are affected by armed conflicts globally. The impact of terrorism and violent extremism on children is devastating – it robs them of their childhood, basic rights such as good health and education and inflicts lasting trauma that hinders their psychosocial development. Above all, it undermines their ability to live peaceful and dignified lives and the chance to prosper and realize their aspirations.
Afghanistan has faced externally imposed conflict for four decades, and our people, including our innocent children, have suffered tremendously from the resulting violence over this period of time. Tragically, in the context of our security challenge, children are among the scores of innocent victims whose precious lives are taken away by terrorist and extremist groups, imposed on us from abroad to prevent our stabilty. As a result of this, last year alone, 3,179 children were reportedly killed and maimed. Moreover, in what amounts to one of the gravest forms of abuse and violation, children have been recruited and brainwashed in religious schools in our region to carry out suicide attacks in their teenage on adult lives. This must be addressed on an urgent basis.
The Afghan Government stands firm in its strong commitment to safeguarding and advancing the rights of all children. To this effect, we have taken tangible measures, including enactment of national legislation, by which we are implementing commitments under various international instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and its Optional Protocol. The Government is also implementing various measures and programs, in line with our national and international commitments aimed at protecting our children from the horrific effects of armed conflict. Furthermore, we are dedicated to strengthening our concerted efforts with the international community to further the implementation of the Joint Action Plan, a comprehensive framework aimed at ensuring the physical and psychological well-being of Afghan children.
In the last year alone, through the joint action plan, we have taken great strides towards preventing the recruitment of child soldiers and speedily reintegrating delinquent juveniles into Afghan society through vocational training programs. To preserve these gains, we will continue to enforce the new penal code that criminalizes the sexual abuse of children, regulate the Juvenile Rehabilitation Centers, expand the presence of the Child Protection Units in the Afghan National Police recruitment centers and continue our campaign of promoting children rights within the Afghan National Police. We have had high level meetings with the office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF, and other partners, which have led to increased coordination of our joint efforts to ensure safe, dignified and prosperous lives for Afghan children.
For Afghanistan, the protection of children and the advancement of their rights remains a central focus in the work of the National Unity Government. We are working to build on and consolidate recent progress, knowing that children provide for a stable and prosperous future for our country.
We believe the rights of children can best be protected and promoted in an atmosphere of peace. To meet this end, we have taken new measure aimed at achieving a lasting settlement to the current conflict imposed on our country. The three-day cease-fire with the Taliban, enforced last month, offered a glimmer of hope that peace can be possible. We are working with regional and international partners for a successful outcome to our peace efforts and hope that the coming months will witness more tangible progress on this front. It is our sincere hope that this time around, we can achieve a sustaining peace for our future generations and create a society where our children can live in peace and free of fear and violence.
In conclusion, Afghanistan reiterates its firm commitment to ensuring the full protection and well-being of all children, world-wide. It is only through our shared values and objectives that we could alleviate the suffering of children and build sustainable, peaceful societies. Let us strive to collectively achieve more tangible progress on this moral imperative.
I thank you.