Minister Katherine Zappone addresses UN Security Council
‘Children in Armed Conflict’
Monday July 9th 2018
Thank you for convening today’s debate on this extremely important subject. I would also like to thank today’s briefers, and welcome the Secretary General’s report for 2017 on Children and Armed Conflict, which provides many valuable recommendations.
Children are at the frontline of armed conflicts across the world.
While their vulnerability in times of crisis has been recognised since the early days of international humanitarian law, our common efforts to protect all children from aggression and violence fall short of where we need to be.
Ireland welcomes a greater focus on interlinking the Children in Armed Conflict agenda with strategies of conflict prevention and sustainable peace.
As the Minister responsible for Children and Young People I want to define security not merely as the condition of peace, but a recognition that in order to flourish we need to live in a just and equal society where our states protect us from interpersonal violence and persecution.
In his Nobel Speech, Ireland’s Sean McBride reminded us that “there can be no peace without justice.”
I believe inequality—in all its forms—is a driver of conflict.
Gender based violence is amongst the most damaging and perilous types of injustices towards children in armed conflicts.
Young girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
Empowering young girls and prioritising their protection from gender-based harms in conflict is absolutely vital.
Under Ireland’s Chairing of the Commission on the Status of Women earlier this year, the Conclusions of the priority theme ‘Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls’ were agreed.
Ireland also promotes the protection of girls in conflict through its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.
This is reflected in our humanitarian action, and is a priority for our Defence Forces.
When violence erupts, children are frequently denied education, leaving them open to indoctrination or exploitation and without positive economic opportunities for the rest of their lives.
Ireland’s development assistance programme, Irish Aid supports a number of NGO partners at community level to establish safe learning spaces for boys and girls.
In November 2017, Ireland was one of 65 Member States to endorse the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers, which raises awareness of the recruitment and use of child soldiers by armed groups.
It commits to addressing issues of trauma and lost childhood.
Far beyond being solely the victims of conflict, children and young people can play a crucial role in promoting long-term peace across the globe. This is why Ireland is a strong supporter of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda, including providing funding to the recent Progress Study on YPS.
We introduced a UN Youth Delegate Programme in 2015, a clear commitment to greater engagement with young people on development, human rights and global citizenship.
They represent the future. They represent the values of Ireland—and the values which established the UN and this Security Council.
It is for them that we must together be a global vehicle for developing and promoting sustainable security – a security which allows all our people to flourish.
In conclusion, I invite the Council to imagine a child who is allowed to flourish – and then one who is not.
As Minister I am particularly proud that half of the 1,883 persons accepted into Ireland under resettlement and relocation programmes are children fleeing war and conflict.
In addition Ireland is providing care for 79 children who arrived alone at our ports and airports.
All of these children, from countries experiencing conflict such as Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea, are making Ireland their home.
They speak for themselves in a collection of stories and art created by Syrian and Palestinian children now living in Mayo in the West of Ireland.
Through the book ‘A Strong Heart’ they tell of the beauty of their new home-towns, the local rivers, mountains and even the world famous salmon.
They express their passion for Irish sport, their sense of fun and their hopes and dreams.
12-year old Khaled in Claremorris writes, “My Dream for the future is to be a footballer first and play for Ireland. When I’m thirty-three I will be a teacher and go back to Syria to teach English.”
Khaled and his classmates, Irish, Syrian and Palestinian, are flourishing. They are our future.