Madam President,

Switzerland thanks Estonia for organising this debate and the speakers for their contributions.

"The number of grave violations against children remains unacceptably high," the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict warned the Human Rights Council in March, an alarming observation reaffirmed in the annual report that has just been published. The respect for children's rights continues to erode and Switzerland is deeply concerned by the continuation of armed conflicts in the world and their devastating impact on children.

We would like to stress three points to improve the protection of children:

First, children in armed conflicts must first and foremost be considered victims and treated accordingly. Children, especially those associated with an armed group or whose parents are affiliated with such a group, including designated terrorist groups, are still children and therefore entitled to special protection. This is why child protection capacities on the ground, prevention of recruitment, rehabilitation and reintegration need to be strengthened. We call on the Security Council to include strong language on respect for children's rights and international humanitarian law in its resolutions in order to ensure that peace operations are staffed with the necessary specialized personnel. This is particularly important in the context of mission transitions.

Second, the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to stop the spread of the virus have increased children's – particularly girls' – vulnerability to violence and psychosocial distress. Despite these extraordinary circumstances, protection staff have been there on the ground to continue to protect many thousands of children around the world. Member states must ensure that all responses to the pandemic comply with international law, that all measures to combat the virus are lawful, necessary and proportionate and that children in armed conflicts are given the assistance and protection they need. Moreover, the Secretary-General's call for a global ceasefire during the pandemic is the most immediate measure to minimise the risks to children. We call on the Security Council to support the swift implementation of resolutions 2532 (2020) and 2565 (2021) in all situations on its agenda.

Third, we must strengthen the instruments available to prevent and stop violations against children. The Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, as well as the Secretary-General's annual report, including its annex, are crucial in this regard. Switzerland, for its part, is engaged in advocacy efforts as co-chair of the Group of Friends in Yemen and Syria, and also supports the work of the Mechanism in Syria in collaboration with UNICEF. We reiterate our call on the Secretary-General to continue to provide, on the basis of the Mechanism's data, a comprehensive, impartial and accurate list of parties committing grave violations of children's rights.

Madam President,

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the mandate of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. Her work remains essential. The UN, including the Security Council, has all the necessary tools to mark this anniversary with strengthened commitment. As a candidate for the Security Council, Switzerland will continue to work for the protection of children – because by protecting children, we are empowering them to contribute to a more peaceful world.

I thank you.