STATEMENT BY H.E. Mahmoud Saikal
Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict
(Check against delivery)
31 October 2017
Let me thank the Mission of France for convening this open debate on the urgent issue of Children and Armed Conflict. I would like to extend my gratitude to other distinguished speakers for their statements. I would also like to welcome Ms. Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and commend her work on ending the suffering that children face globally due to conflict.
Children suffer tremendously worldwide due to war, violence, and armed conflict. This is especially true in the case of Afghanistan, where so many childhoods have been compromised and impacted by imposed violence and conflict for almost four decades. But the question remains: why are our children suffering on a daily basis? And for how long we are to avoid the fundamental factors that threaten the lives and well-being of children in armed conflict? Child protection can best be ensured by addressing the root causes of the conflicts. Regardless of what we do, as long as insecurity and violence persist, the physical and psychological well-being of children will always be in danger, as we are experiencing in Afghanistan. Terror, violence, and insecurity in our country are rooted in factors that lie outside Afghanistan, with regional and global dimensions. Hence the goal should be to overcome the structural drivers of conflict and violence worldwide. This Council has a fundamental role to play in that regard, as the main UN body entrusted to maintain international peace and security. We expect the Council to respond appropriately to ensure the protection and well-being of Afghan children, and the world at large.
The Government of Afghanistan, in its own part, is fully committed to working closely with the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict to improve the lives of Afghan children. We also seek to build upon this relationship, as reflected by the constructive and positive meeting between the new Special Representative Ms. Gamba and our National Security Advisor on the sidelines of the UNGA, whereby both sides agreed to facilitate increasing engagement on the issue.
The protection of children and promotion of their rights stand high among the priorities of the Afghan Government. To this end, our efforts for their empowerment continue unabated within the framework of various international instruments, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We are implementing various measures and programs, in line with our national and international commitments aimed at ensuring that our children live in peace, security, and dignity.
To that effort, we have adopted a number of policies to ensure that no child is recruited in our national defense and security forces:
- In 2010, we established an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict.
- In 2011, that Committee developed a National Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment of children in our defense and security forces.
- Among other reforms, we established 21 Child Protection Units with the Afghan National and Local Police recruitment centers that have prevented over one hundred underage voluntary enlistment.
- We have appointed high level focal points in our National Army to promote child protection.
- The Prevention Law of Underage Recruitment in Afghan National Security Forces based on Article 79 of the Constitution was signed by the former President of Afghanistan and ratified by the Parliament in November 2014.
- Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have endorsed a 15-points road-map towards compliance with the support of the UN. Among these measures, the Government has agreed to screen all National and Local Police units to release all underage recruits and establish a system to investigate, prosecute, and take disciplinary action against those responsible for the recruitment of children.
- On 21 December 2014, “Age Assessment Guidelines to Prevent and Respond to Child Recruitment in the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF)” was adopted by the CAAC Steering Committee in Kabul, which are used for volunteers who want to join the National Army to prevent underage recruitment in the security forces.
Since these new reforms, 35 underage children serving in the armed forces have been reunited with their families, and 289 instances of children recruitment have been prevented within the eight Regional Recruitment Centers. Notably, the directives of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education in 2016, which instructed the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to stop using schools for military purposes is commendable.
The Afghan Government has established a committee to investigate instances of sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the armed forces, and has welcomed the Independent Commission on Human Rights and the office of Attorney General’s investigation of these crimes committed by the Afghan National Police force. Additionally, the Afghan Government has recently renewed the Penal Code and adopted the child protection law in 2016, which also seeks to criminalize various forms of mistreatment and abuse, including the practice of Bacha-Bazi.
Afghanistan faces tremendous challenges in our effort to secure lasting peace and stability, which inextricably affects the potential of the country’s youth. We will continue to advocate the implementation of current policies so that we can end the practices that put the lives and future of our children at risk. My delegation is thankful to our international partners for supporting us in this endeavor. Afghanistan looks forward to a bright future, away from violence and terror, in which all children live in freedom and in peace.