We must bring what is happening in Belarus to the world’s attention and hear from those on the ground. Briefers on #BYHumanRights: UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Anaïs Marin; Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; Vice-Chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Center, Valiantsin Stefanovic; Legal Expert for the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Volha Siakhovich. The meeting is chaired by Urmas Reinsalu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia. The meeting was initiated by Estonia and co-sponsored by UN Security Council members the United States and United Kingdom, as well as Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine.

Estonia’s Statement at the Security Council VTC meeting on Children and Armed Conflict

We thank all briefers for sharing their views today.

We also thank France for organising today’s debate, which addresses the key building blocks of the Security Council’s work on children in armed conflict.

The report of the Secretary-General before us confirms the continuing immense need for the Council’s attention to children and armed conflict – and not only today. The protection of children is relevant for every situation on our agenda and should be included in all our discussions on peacekeeping and special political missions’ mandates as well as the work of the sanctions committees.

The conclusions and discussions of the Council Working Group provide valuable input for this and should be drawn upon systematically.

The continued high level of verified violations against children also points to the continued failure by parties to comply with international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

We support the Secretary-General’s call for strong national accountability measures for grave violations against children and for cooperation with relevant international accountability mechanisms, including the ICC. As a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Estonia calls on countries who have not yet done so to ratify the Protocol.
Likewise, we welcome all initiatives that aim to strengthen the protection of children in armed conflict. Estonia joined the group of over 100 countries endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration earlier this year.

We are deeply concerned about the high number of child casualties – over 10 000 children killed or maimed – with the number of attacks climbing in Afghanistan, Mali and Myanmar. We are alarmed by the increase in the denial of humanitarian access to children, and unlawful attacks against schools and hospitals, among others in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Afghanistan and Somalia.

We are deeply concerned about the continued under-reporting of cases of sexual violence, and the lack of accountability and access to services, including sexual and reproductive health services, in this regard.

The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on children and armed conflict is a unique and valuable mechanism created by the Council for the collection of timely, objective, accurate, and reliable information. This data along with the consistent application of the criteria laid out in the SG report S/2010/181 to guide the Secretary-General’s annual reporting provide an essential tool for the Council for addressing and preventing violations against children in conflict.

The mechanism cannot deliver without sufficient human and financial resources. We strongly support ensuring continued dedicated child protection capacity in the UN missions, including in situations of transition and drawdown. Estonia continues to support UNICEF and the Office of the Special Representative through voluntary contributions.

We are concerned about the increased vulnerability of children in armed conflict due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including recruitment and the denial of humanitarian access. We reiterate our strong support to the SG’s call for a global ceasefire, aimed to protect the most vulnerable among us.

We extend our deep appreciation to all actors on the ground ensuring the continued work of the monitoring and reporting mechanism. We note with concern the potential gaps in reporting due to the limitations posed by the pandemic and the possible impact on the implementation of the Council’s mandate on children and armed conflict.

Finally, we express our strong appreciation for Belgium as Chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict for ensuring the continued functioning of the working group despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.