On 5 July, the topic of "Children and Armed Conflict" was at the heart of an open debate of the UN Security Council. The annual report of the UN Secretary-General on this topic was presented. The Council has so far adopted 13 resolutions that provide a framework and important instruments for the protection of children. Since 2005, more than 150,000 children have been liberated from armed groups or forces as a result. But more needs to be done. In 2022, over 27'000 serious violations of children's rights were verified in various armed conflicts. These include killings and mutilations, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access. The report includes a list of warring parties that systematically commit such grave violations of children's rights.
At the open debate, Switzerland underlined areas where progress is needed to better protect children in armed conflicts. First, the instruments developed by the Security Council to strengthen accountability for serious violations of children's rights must be applied in a credible, independent and transparent manner. In this context, for example, the mention of Myanmar's armed forces and the inclusion of Russia's armed forces in the list of the latest report is important. Switzerland also advocated for more measures to monitor and prevent serious violations of children's rights. Second, Switzerland condemned attacks on schools and hospitals as well as their military use. After all, access to education is a cornerstone of sustainable peace. Third, Switzerland stressed the importance of long-term reintegration programmes for children who were formerly associated with armed groups or armed forces. Such programmes would also have to offer economic prospects and address the needs of girls in order to enable sustainable integration of the affected children into civilian life and to prevent recruiting again.
"Children, with their inherent creativity, ambition and dreams, can change the world. In a world of diversity and disparity, children are a unifying force capable of bringing people to common ethical grounds," Switzerland's UN Ambassador Pascale Baeriswyl underlined at the open debate in New York.