Baltic statement at UNSC open debate on “Children and Armed Conflict: How to Advance Our Collective Norms towards Protecting Children and Ending All Grave Violations”

UN Security Council Open Debate on “Children and Armed Conflict: How to Advance Our Collective Norms towards Protecting Children and Ending All Grave Violations”

Statement by the Republic of Lithuania on behalf of the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Lithuania

26 June 2024, New York

Thank you, Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the three Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and my own country, Lithuania. We also align ourselves with the statement of the European Union.

We appreciate the valuable insights shared by the 8th UN Secretary General and Deputy Chair of The Elders H. E. Ban Ki-Moon, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict Ms. Virginia Gamba, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF Mr. Ted Chaiban.

Every year, we hold onto the hope for progress in alleviating the devastating situation of children caught in armed conflict. Yet, year after year, the situation grows increasingly grim. The Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict delivers a deeply troubling view of the suffering inflicted upon children in Burkina Faso, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and other conflict affected countries.

The persistent increase in child suffering calls for renewed dedication to protecting children in conflict zones, reinforcing the importance of our collective responsibility to safeguard their futures.

For the second year in a row, Russia remains the only Permanent Member of the UN Security Council ever to be listed in the annexes of the report for carrying out grave violations against children in Ukraine. The report states that in 2023 UN verified 938 cases. It is widely acknowledged that this statistic significantly underrepresents the actual numbers due to Russia limiting access to conduct monitoring in territories of Ukraine temporary occupied by Russia. At the same time, we express our confusion regarding the report welcoming Russia’s supposed engagement with the Special Representative when Russia has not signed the Action Plan aimed to address grave violations the aggressor committed against children nor have Russian armed forces stopped committing those violations.

We commend international efforts, especially those led by Qatar, to mediate the return of Ukrainian children who have been unlawfully deported or forcibly transferred by Russia. We also urge UNICEF and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to actively engage in return of the unlawfully deported Ukrainian children. Their involvement is crucial in ensuring that the rights and well-being of these children are prioritized and that effective mechanisms are in place to facilitate their safe and swift reunification with their families. It is also important to highlight the formation of the International Coalition for the Return of Ukrainian Children, which is open for countries to join.

We also like to draw attention to Russia’s extensive passportization campaign in Ukraine. Since the beginning of full-scale war, Russia has issued over 1,5 million Russian passports to persons living in the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories, including children. This violates international law and complicates identifying missing persons, creating legal grounds for mass deportation of children and facilitating the erasure of Ukrainian identity.

Mr. President,

The numbers of children affected by the situation in the Middle East are shocking. Out of all grave violations committed against children globally in 2023, a quarter of them were committed in Israel, occupied West Bank territory and Gaza Strip. We urge all parties involved in the conflict to implement immediate actions to adhere to IHL and international human rights law. It is crucial to promptly and without delay agree to a humanitarian pause in hostilities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The dire situation that children face worldwide is compounded by the denial of humanitarian access, recognized as one of the six grave violations. This denial significantly intensifies the suffering experienced by children caught in conflict zones. It is imperative that all parties involved in these conflicts immediately grant unrestricted humanitarian access to both international and local organizations for delivering essential aid and support to alleviate the severe humanitarian crises affecting vulnerable children and their communities.

That being said, we would like to reaffirm our steadfast support for the Office of the Special Representative, UNICEF, and other dedicated organizations working tirelessly to protect and uphold the rights of children globally.

I thank you.