Switzerland expresses its gratitude to France for organising this virtual debate and to all participants for their valuable contributions. 

Switzerland is deeply concerned by the continuation of armed conflicts in various parts of the world and their devastating impact on children. Switzerland reiterates that in situations of armed conflict, children should be regarded primarily as victims and treated as such, including those associated with an armed group or born to their members. We call on the Security Council to strengthen its commitment to protecting children in armed conflicts. The Secretary-General's appeal for an immediate global ceasefire is important and must be supported by the Council. 

This year we celebrate the 15th anniversary of resolution 1612 and the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. In this regard, Switzerland would like to encourage the Secretary-General to continue providing a complete, impartial and accurate list of all parties committing grave violations of children's rights. The Council’s Working Group is important to review the reports of the mechanism and make recommendations to the Council on possible measures to promote the protection of children affected by armed conflict. 

In addition, Switzerland would like to emphasise the following three points: 

First, Switzerland is concerned by the aggravating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the situation of children in armed conflicts, especially girls who are particularly exposed to the risks and consequences. Wherever humanitarian access is restricted, the well-being of children is at risk. Switzerland therefore calls on all parties to conflicts to guarantee unimpeded humanitarian access to the affected populations. 

Second, Switzerland urges the Council to take concrete steps to end the attacks targeting schools. We deplore the increase in such attacks observed over the past year. Without the protective environment of schools, children are at greater risk of exploitation in the form of recruitment to armed groups, child marriage and forced labour. We encourage member states to deter military forces and armed non-state actors from occupying schools left empty by the COVID-19 pandemic and to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration.

Third, the protection of children in armed conflicts must be integrated into all activities related to conflict prevention. In this regard, we welcome the publication of the 'Practical guidance for mediators to protect children in situations of armed conflict'. The protection of children is integral to lasting peace. This is why Switzerland is committed to ensuring that children who have participated in armed conflict or have lived in conflict zones are granted special care and are closely supported in their reintegration into a safe environment. Protecting children means empowering them to build peace.