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Interactive Dialogue with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict
September 14, 2010

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Mark Cassayre

Human Rights Council 15th Session
Geneva, September 14, 2010

Thank you, Mr. President,

The United States believes strongly in the protection of children from abuse and exploitation in armed conflict. We are dismayed at the continuing reports of children being killed, maimed, raped, sexually abused, forced to bear arms as child soldiers, forced into sexual slavery, used for exploitative labor purposes, and other deplorable acts at young ages. We deeply appreciate the Special Representative’s work on behalf of children who are subjected to and made vulnerable to these horrific acts.

In the ten years since the adoption of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we are hopeful by the progress that has been made. We welcome efforts by the international community to recognize the importance of protecting children as they face the trauma and uncertainty of armed conflict. We note in particular the progress – as reported in the Special Representative’s report – made by parties in the Philippines, Nepal, and Sudan in committing to action plans to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by Burundi in the complete cessation of such recruitment and the release of all children associated with the Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL). Although we recognize that there is still a long way to go, the United States also commends Sri Lanka for establishing a family tracing and reunification unit, and Afghanistan for appointing focal contact points in the army and police to investigate underage recruitment.

As the Special Representative notes, children are made even more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation in situations of displacement. The United States remains concerned that, without access to basic necessities such as food, clean water, health care, and education, children struggle to survive and thrive while they are displaced. We are particularly alarmed at the vulnerability of these children to sexual and gender-based violence in these settings. The United States looks forward to the working paper being prepared by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the Human Rights of IDPs, the UN High Commission for Refugees, UNICEF, and NGOs to draw attention to the particular vulnerabilities and risks faced by children displaced in armed conflict. We hope that this paper not only discusses the risks but also includes recommendations on what actions to take to better protect these particularly vulnerable children.

Also, more needs to be done to protect children from violence and exploitation by parties to armed conflict. We are particularly concerned by ongoing reports in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) of military commanders in government security forces operating in eastern DRC who continue to threaten and actively obstruct international child protection workers from accessing and liberating children. We encourage these parties who have not yet done so to immediately release and repatriate children within their ranks.

The United States supports the Special Representative’s recommendation that parties listed in the Secretary-General’s report for the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming of children, and/or rape and other sexual violence against children, in contravention of applicable international law, prepare and implement concrete time-bound action plans to halt those violations and abuses. We support the taking appropriate measures against any participants within their ranks that fail to comply with these plans and international human rights and humanitarian law.

We also express our concern at the Special Representative’s recent reports that children were among the hundreds of victims of rape last month in the North Kivu province of the DRC. We echo the calls by other delegations for the Council to have an urgent discussion about these mass rapes of women and children.

The United States welcomes and appreciates efforts by the international community to protect the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society and hopes that these initiatives will engender further progress in keeping children safe in the throes of war.

Thank you, Mr. President.