I would like to thank the President for having organized today’s debate. I would also like to thank the briefers and other speakers. I congratulate the delegation of Luxembourg on the way it has conducted the chairmanship of the Working Group, and I reiterate France’s support.
The United Nations approach to protecting children in armed conflict has made it possible to demobilize tens of thousands of children. Action plans are the cornerstone of that approach. Thanks to them, in 2012 two States were taken off the list of shame.
Taken together, the approximately 20 action plans that have been signed are a sign of progress made in protecting children in armed conflict. The implementation of those actions plans must be carried out as soon as possible for them to be fully effective. In that way, our credibility can be ensured. In order to do that, the international community and the United Nations must deploy all the material and human resources they have at their disposal.
Action plans are based on cooperation between States, and progress has been made in that area. In that connection, we are encouraged by the cooperation and political will shown by Chad to finalize its action plan.
The United Nations approach on the ground has been strengthened over the years. Let us consider, for example, the child protection sections in peacekeeping operations, which play a crucial role and whose deployment must continue. Nevertheless, countless violations continue to occur, and each conflict shows us that reality. Children are the first victims of conflict.
That is the case in Syria, where the regime and the militias have been responsible for the worst atrocities against children. Children are tortured and subjected to sexual violence in detention. They are killed without pity by elite snipers, who target them by design in order to terrorize the people. Schools are being bombed incessantly, to such an extent that only 6 per cent of children have access to education in the region of Aleppo. Since the beginning of the crisis, more than 6,500 children have been killed in Syria, and that figure is probably lower than the actual figures.
Violations against children in Syria must be condemned, whatever their source. The Syrian opposition says that it is prepared to open a dialogue with the United Nations on the issue. We would therefore encourage the Special Representative to launch, as soon as possible, discussions for the signing of an action plan with them.
In Mali, armed groups in the north have mutilated and tortured children. They have used children as human shields and recruited them by force. The situation has improved since the beginning of the year but remains fragile. The deployment of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali will help to stabilize the country and provide better protection for children.
In the Central African Republic, Séléka armed groups have been engaged in looting, rape and summary executions, and they have not hesitated to attack UNICEF disarmament, demobilization and reintegration centres in order to re-recruit children who had recently been demobilized, reversing the progress achieved last year. The chaos caused by armed groups has led to the closing of half of the schools in the country, thus increasing the vulnerability of children left to their own devices.
In the Kivus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Mouvement du 23 mars rebels know where to find children to fuel their war against Congolese sovereignty. We count on the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its strengthened mandate to protect children and make it possible for them to return to their families.
While new crises provide new challenges for the protection of children in armed conflict, the long list of persistent perpetrators continues to affect the credibility of our action. It calls upon us to pursue our efforts. In addition to the States that have already signed an action plan, which should be our priority, we should also improve our response to the armed groups that want to engage in dialogue with the United Nations but for whom access is impossible. The States concerned have the responsibility to do everything in their power to ensure and facilitate access for those groups, because we are convinced that, in order to ensure the protection of children trapped in conflict, political considerations should give way to humanitarian imperatives.
France is also in favour of authorizing the Working Group to set itself up as an ad hoc sanctions panel to deal with armed extremists who refuse all dialogue with the international community and who continue their violations with full impunity.
Indeed, the fight against impunity should be central to our action. Recently, the transfer to the International Criminal Court of Bosco Ntaganda sent out a strong signal on the criminal consequences of the recruitment of child soldiers, which is considered to be a war crime. That is why we are in favour of strengthening dialogue with the International Criminal Court, which could, in the first phase, include an invitation to Ms. Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the Court, to brief the Council on the issue.
France is also involved on the ground in improving the protection and sustainable reinsertion of children caught in armed conflict. Since 2008, we have led a programme in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa that has made it possible to reach 13,000 children, 2,000 of them child soldiers.
We continue to call on all States to endorse the Paris Principles and Paris Commitments, which complement the action of the Security Council and provide a solid framework for the action of the international community to protect children in armed conflict. We are going modify the format of the annual meetings, which will take on a regional and technical slant as we approach the tenth anniversary of the Paris Principles in 2017. With our partners from the Secretariat and from UNICEF, I renew our call to join, without any further delay, the one hundred States that have already ratified the Principles. Let us not forget that we are talking about the lives of children and teenagers who are at risk.
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