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Dialogue with UN Experts on Violence Against Children and on Children in Armed Conflict
March 13, 2014

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children (Marta Santos Pais) and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (Leila Zerrougui)

United Nations Human Rights Council

As Delivered by Lisa Brodey

Geneva, March 12, 2014

Thank you Vice President.  The United States would like to thank both the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, Marta Santos Pais, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, for their informative reports and their continued efforts to protect children against all forms of abuse and exploitation and to accelerate our progress in doing so.

All states have a responsibility to keep our children safe.  Child protection is of paramount importance to all states in this chamber, and we believe the work of both Special Representatives continues to strengthen efforts to prevent and respond to violence against children internationally.

We commend Special Representative Zerrougui’s efforts with member governments and non-state actors to develop and implement action plans, which have resulted in the release of thousands of children from armed forces and armed groups.

The United States remains deeply concerned about the situation in Syria.  Since the civil war began, more than ten thousand boys and girls have been killed; more than 1.2 million have become refugees; and more than 3 million are unable to attend school.  The Syrian government and extremist groups have inflicted direct and unspeakable violence against children, including kidnappings, torture, maiming, and murder.  We thank Special Representative Zerrougui for helping to establish the UN country task force for monitoring and reporting on violations and abuses against children and for continuing to carry out this work in the face of persistent security and access limitations.   In spite of the Syrian government’s adoption of a series of legislative reforms, we have yet to see reform carried out.   What remains imperative now is prompt and complete implementation of these laws.

We are also concerned about the accuracy of characterizations in the report on children and armed conflict regarding provisions of the recently adopted Arms Trade Treaty, but agree its implementation could help mitigate effects of illicit international arms transfers on children in conflict.

The United States remains deeply troubled by the use of child soldiers in Somalia, particularly by Al-Shabab.  We are pleased the Government of Somalia recently signed standard operating procedures for the reception and handover of children associated with armed groups in Somalia.  However, we urge the government to speed up the implementation of its action plan by establishing child protection units within the Somali National Army.

Our concerns remain regarding the violence in the Central African Republic, which continues to gravely affect the nation’s children.  Numerous reports indicate all parties to the conflict have committed acts of killing, maiming, torture, rape and sexual violence against children, and UNICEF estimates that over 6,000 child soldiers may be involved in the conflict.  The people of the Central African Republic are suffering from massive internal population displacement as a result and the United States remains disturbed over reports of hundreds of unaccompanied minors fleeing across the border into Chad and Cameroon.

The United States applauds Special Representative Pais for her report and supports several of her recommendations, particularly regarding restorative justice programs for child offenders.  Rehabilitation for young people through alternative restorative justice programs can help facilitate conflict resolution, rehabilitate and reintegrate young offenders into their communities and provide appropriate protection to children involved with the justice system.  We thank Special Representative Pais for citing the United States’ domestic efforts to implement restorative models to rehabilitate youth offenders.

Across the United States, communities are developing and implementing promising approaches to support our young people on paths to success and help prevent the actions that may lead to their involvement in the justice system.  One of the ways the United States is trying to help enhance positive outcomes for youth is through the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, recently launched by President Obama.  This initiative serves as a preventative measure to help ameliorate negative outcomes for boys and young men of color by addressing challenges and increasing opportunities to help these young men reach their full potential.

More can and needs to be done by all member states to protect vulnerable children, and we look forward to continuing our work together to create a safer world for our children – one that both protects them and helps them thrive.