by Ambassador Stephen Evans, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Operations at the United Nations Security Council
Thank you, Mr. President, for giving me the opportunity to take the floor on behalf of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
NATO recognises that protecting children from the effects of armed conflict is a moral imperative. The nature of contemporary warfare has created significant threats against children, who are used and abused by unscrupulous armed forces and armed groups. They are frequently the victims of indiscriminate attacks. And they are subjected to sexual violence. In my intervention, I will describe the substantial measures that NATO, supported by its operational partners, has taken to implement Security Council Resolution 1612.
The protection of children in NATO-led operations and missions was addressed by NATO at our 2012 Summit in Chicago. At that meeting, NATO’s Heads of State and Government tasked NATO to develop practical, field-oriented measures to address violations against children.
Following that Summit, the North Atlantic Council approved NATO Military Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict. These guidelines seek to integrate UNSCR 1612 into NATO’s operational and exercise activities, and to educate and train our troops on the obligations stipulated in the resolutions.
Another important step was the launch in 2013 of an online course, jointly developed between NATO and the United Nations. This course aims to raise awareness among NATO-led forces before deployment. This was recorded in UNSCR 2143, adopted just a year ago.
But we didn’t stop there.
At NATO’s Summit in Wales, in September last year, NATO’s Heads of State and Government expressed their deep concern about the damaging effects of armed conflicts on children, and reaffirmed their commitment to the further implementation of UNSCR 1612.
They decided we should assess how to ensure that NATO is sufficiently prepared whenever and wherever the issue of Children and Armed Conflict is likely to be encountered. We are doing so in close cooperation with the United Nations.
We are basing much of that work on our experience leading the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. This mission came to an end last December and has provided many lessons for future operations. The ISAF experience has laid the groundwork for our efforts in relation to the protection of children.
We are continuing this important work in our current mission in Afghanistan, Resolute Support. This mission aims to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and Afghanistan’s security institutions with a view to ensuring their durability and ability to sustain themselves. The protection of children is an important thing in this programme of assistance. For the first time, the position of ‘Child Protection Advisor’ has been included in a NATO-led mission. This Advisor will focus on further implementing UNSCR 1612 with the aim of engraining the ethos of child protection in the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.
We are assisting UNAMA in its efforts to help Afghanistan to take the steps required to justify its removal from the list annexed to the United Nations Secretary General’s annual report of Children and Armed Conflict.
Building on the Wales Summit tasking, the North Atlantic Council has just this week issued a policy paper entitled The Protection of Children in Armed Conflict – Way Forward. This seeks to enhance the effectiveness of the NATO Military Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict in all future NATO-led missions and operations.
The paper provides NATO’s Military Authorities with additional guidance on the further integration of UNSCR 1612 and related resolutions into the Alliance’s military doctrine, education, training and exercises. This will ensure that the imperative to protect children affected by armed conflict is included in the planning and preparation stages of all NATO-led operations. This guidance will result in more robust reporting during operations. A robust reporting procedure will help provide timely and reliable information on the violation of children’s rights – particularly the six practices identified by the UN Secretary General as “grave violations”.
In short, our Commanders and deployed personnel have better, more precise guidance on how to proceed whenever and wherever they encounter such violations.
In developing this guidance and integrating UNSCR 1612 into NATO’s military doctrine - NATO regularly consulted the UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Children and Armed Conflict, Ms Zerrougui, and her excellent staff. I would like to take this opportunity, on NATO’s behalf, to thank her for her leadership and support.
I now conclude. Every day, we see horrifying reports on the news about atrocities committed against children. Such as mass kidnappings, sexual violence, and forcing child soldiers to commit unspeakable acts.
But I believe it is possible through the concerted efforts of all international actors to help make such barbarity a thing of the past.
It goes without saying that there remains a long way to go. But let me assure you that NATO and our Partner Nations place the highest importance on fulfilling our responsibilities under UNSCR 1612 and related resolutions. We will continue to work conscientiously and seriously to ensure we meet the goal set out by our leaders at the Wales Summit. And through our continued engagement on this issue, I am confident that NATO can make a lasting contribution to the wider international effort to help protect children affected by armed conflict.
Thank you, Mr President.