I have the honour of speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
I would firstly like to thank you, Mr. President, for convening today's debate, and to congratulate Poland on taking up the presidency of the Council. I must also pay particular tribute to our two civil society briefers, Ms Mariatu Kamara and Mr. Majok Peter Awan.
Children in situations of armed conflict are subjected to appalling violations and abuses of their human rights and to violations of humanitarian law. They face an unacceptable risk of killing, maiming, recruitment and use, sexual violence and abductions, and suffer as the result of attacks on schools and hospitals and the denial of humanitarian access.
We thank the Secretary-General for his annual report for 2018, which identifies some positive developments in 2018, but it is troubling to note that the total number of grave violations, which was already quite significant, has further increased in comparison with 2017.
These violations include over 12000 cases of killing and maiming, the highest recorded figure to date. In two days' time we will mark the tenth anniversary of the adoption of resolution 1882, which added killing and maiming to the list of grave violations that warrant inclusion in the annex to the Secretary-General's report. It is clear that we must do more to address this particular violation, in a context where the use of indiscriminate and excessive force, notably in urban areas, is leading to increased numbers of child casualties. Many of these children suffer long-term disabilities, and we welcome the adoption in June of resolution 2475, co-authored by Poland and the United Kingdom, which addresses the specific needs of children with disabilities in situation of armed conflict.
Resolution 1882 also designated rape and other forms of sexual violence against children in conflict situation as a grave violation. The Secretary General's report indicates that there were nearly 1000 verified cases of this violation in 2018 alone, but we are aware that the true figure is almost certainly far higher. We therefore welcome the adoption in April of Resolution 2467, at the initiative of Germany, which acknowledges that women and girls are disproportionately affected by sexual violence in armed conflicts, and includes important new commitments on the protection of girls and boys from sexual violence, as well as children born of sexual violence.
The UN system is equipped with a range of tools to protect children in conflict situations. Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting play an essential role, and we salute the work of UNICEF and other UN child protection staff working in countries affected by conflict. We are carefully monitoring the so-called consolidation process of protection functions in peace operations and would welcome a Secretariat briefing on this at a later time.
We welcome the signature of new Action Plans, and the SRSG's continued efforts to secure further agreements and to introduce commitments on prevention within them. Of course, the signature of an Action Plan is not an end in itself, and we must maintain a focus on implementation — the true measure of success is the impact on children in the countries concerned. The SRSG and other UN actors, as well as the Security Council Working Group on CAAC, all play an important role in following up on action plans and encouraging their implementation.
In this respect we like to stress the importance of child and family-focused mental health and psycho-social support services. Exposure to conflict and violence in childhood or adolescence gravely disrupts the development of children and their communities.
The annual report on Children and Armed Conflict plays a crucial role by providing us with verified and impartial information on such violations, collected through the monitoring and reporting mechanism. The lists in the annexes of the annual report are an essential tool in holding the listed parties accountable. It is vital to maintains the integrity and objectivity of both the monitoring and reporting mechanism and the listing process. The EU remains very supportive of the Annexes to the SG report and hopes that the subdivision into two sections within each of the Annexes will be a basis for maintaining the high level of requirements for de-listing and create incentives for listed parties to swiftly take effective measures to protect children.
The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, currently chaired by Belgium, continues to make a vital contribution, and we welcome the recent adoption of conclusions on Syria and the clear condemnation of the Syrian regime for its actions, as well as the adoption of conclusions on Myanmar. We look forward to the adoption of conclusions on other country situations, and we encourage all actors to carefully examine the recommendations of the Working Group and to publicise them.
The ACT to Protect campaign, launched by the SRSG in April, should make a valuable contribution to awareness raising and strengthen efforts to end and prevent the six grave violations against children. The EU Delegation was happy to co-sponsor the launch event jointly with the African Union. As recognised in Resolution 2427, adopted in July 2018, regional and sub-regional organisations have a vital role to play, and we welcome the SRSG's continued engagement with a range of regional bodies.
Accountability is an essential element of prevention, and those responsible for grave violations must be brought to justice. The recent conviction by the International Criminal Court of Mr. Bosco Ntaganda, who was found guilty of a range of crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including the conscription and enlistment of children and their use in hostilities, sends an important signal to those who might perpetrate grave violations in the future. The EU reiterates its continued support for the ICC.
In resolution 2427, the Security Council stated that children formerly recruited by armed groups should be treated primarily as victims of violations of international law. This includes children formerly associated with violent extremist groups, whose human rights must be fully respected in line with international law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Unfortunately, in some areas of the world, we see prosecution of minors or their parents for alleged association with armed groups without the required due process and safeguards. This is an issue of grave concern for the EU.
This year we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which enjoys almost universal ratification. Next year we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the two Optional Protocols to the CRC, including the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. This Optional Protocol has now been ratified by 168 States, including all EU Member States. I take this opportunity to urge all States who have not yet done so to sign and ratify this Protocol. We also call on all States who have not yet done so to endorse the Paris Principles and Commitments. We welcome other initiatives that build on the existing framework in a complementary manner, such as the Safe Schools Declaration and the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers.
The Children and Armed Conflict agenda remains a priority for the EU. In 2003, the EU adopted the Guidelines on Children in Armed Conflict, which were later updated and supplemented by an implementation strategy. EU-funded projects provide vital assistance to children in a range of conflict situations and humanitarian contexts. We support efforts to prevent recruitment and use, to secure the release of children recruited or used by an armed force or armed group, and to ensure their comprehensive and successful reintegration, through long-term interventions that follow a rights-based approach and incorporate a gender perspective. Education is central to preventing recruitment and use, and to reintegration efforts and the EU is a global leader in the field of education in emergencies, with 10% of our humanitarian funding now dedicated to education activities.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.