INTERVENTION BY THE HOLY SEE
AT THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL OPEN DEBATE ON "CHILDREN AND ARMED
H.E. ARCHBISHOP BERNARDITO AUZA,
APOSTOLIC NUNCIO AND
OBSERVER OF THE HOLY SEE TO THE UNITED NATIONS*
Thursday, 18 June 2015
Mr President, At the outset, my delegation wishes to congratulate Malaysia
for its Presidency during this month and, in particular, for scheduling this
debate on Children and Armed Conflict.
One of the saddest developments in the evolution of armed conflicts is that
more and more victims are civilians. In the early 1900s, around 5% of fatalities
were civilians, while in the 1990s, over 90% of the fatalities were civilians,
so many of them children.
A disproportionate number of children are killed and injured. Countless
others grow up deprived of their material and emotional needs. The entire fabric
of life and society is torn, as homes, schools, health systems and religious
institutions are no longer safe from attacks and military operations; indeed,
these institutions have become frequent targets in armed conflicts.
The year 2014 has been touted as the worst year for children affected by
armed conflict. An estimated 230 million children currently live in areas
affected by armed conflicts. New levels of violence have been inflicted on
children namely using them as suicide bombers and as human shields. The
Secretary General’s 2015 Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict provides a
horror list of the forms of violence to which children have been subjected in
2014: killed, maimed, abducted, enslaved, recruited as soldiers, displaced,
trafficked, sexually abused. We can safely affirm that never in recent memory
have so many children been subjected to brutality.
Mr President, it is very important to highlight the issue of abduction of
children in armed conflict, because it is often the “gateway” to greater abuses
against children and graver violations of international humanitarian law. The 24
April 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls by Boko Haram exemplifies the horrors of
this specific crime and highlights the added challenge of bringing non-state
armed and terror groups to justice and to compliance with national and
international human rights laws, especially those related to child protection
There has been progress in combating violence against children in armed
conflict. The “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign has strengthened the commitment
of governments concerned. Already many times, this Council has focussed its
efforts and resources on the question. However, the gap between legislation and
implementation remains very wide and the emergence of new challenges requires
Thus, my delegation believes that we must strengthen our response to the
crime of abduction and its trail of further crimes against children in armed
conflict. This Council can still and must do more. For instance:
1. Specific child-protection commitments aimed at children’s rapid release
from armed forces and armed groups should be incorporated in peace-building
efforts. The Council should consider expanding Resolution 1612 (2005) to include
abduction as an additional issue to be specifically monitored in peacekeeping
2. Considering the increase of cases of abduction, there is a need for the
Security Council to request the Secretary-General to include in the Annexes to
his Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict those parties to conflict that
engage in abductions of children.
3. The care and rehabilitation of children saved from armed groups must have
adequate and long-term resources to provide them with the greatest probability
of successful reintegration in their families and in society. We must assure
that these children would never remain hostages of the horrors they survived.
4. Putting an end to impunity must be a key part of the healing process.
Without justice, children and their communities can never completely heal.
Without the certitude of punishment, there is no deterrent for future potential
5. The prohibition to use schools, hospitals and other institutions for
children for military purposes and armed attacks must be strictly implemented.
Mr President, I would like to assure this Council that the Holy See and the
Catholic Church have been and continue to be actively engaged in providing
specialized support to child victims, including many forms of trauma healing
services, spiritual accompaniment, and reconciliation with families. I wish to
mention in particular the Saint Monica’s Center in Gulu, Uganda, which has
dedicated itself to the rehabilitation of the child victims of the Lord’s
Resistance Army. Numerous initiatives are fostered to raise public awareness on
this plague and to help child victims reunite with their families.
In areas of armed conflict, faith communities have demonstrated that they are
essential in the recovery and reintegration of child victims into normal life.
In addition, faith communities are a key part in an “early warning system” to
Mr President, horrendous as they are, the crimes committed against children
in armed conflict are just one manifestation of a violent world. We must combat
all forms of violence, especially those that breed crimes against children in
armed conflict. We must not cease to foster education that promotes peaceful and
harmonious co-existence among peoples.
Thus, the Holy See exhorts the international community, and this Council in
particular, to engage in a more vigorous diplomacy in order to put an end to all
situations of violence that rob many children of their present and their future.
The protection of children is a serious moral and legal obligation. To protect
children from violence is to protect our future.
Thank you, Mr. President.
* L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly ed. in English, n.
26, 26 June 2015.