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Holy See: International Community must intervene to protect children

2015-03-31 Vatican Radio

 

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See has urged the International Community to “intervene” when  national  governments are unable or unwilling to protect their populations.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, was speaking at an open debate on “Children in Armed Conflict” at the United Nations Security Council.

“In the case of non-State  actors  forcibly  recruiting  and  using  child  soldiers  around  the  world  or  committing  brutal violence  against religious and ethnic minorities, when a State is  unwilling or unable to confront such atrocities, it is the responsibility of this body to  provide,  when all other tools and means are exhausted, military means necessary to  protect citizens from such inhumane aggressors,” he said.

Archbishop Auza cautioned that solutions to children in armed conflict cannot be limited to the use of  force alone.

“Rather the first step requires a renewed commitment to addressing the  humanitarian, social, political and economic situations  that  drive conflicts in which  child soldiers are used,” he said.

“In this regard, faith-based communities can play a vital role in  serving the communities impacted, reintegrating former child soldiers and providing  a means for  dialogue,” he continued.

The Archbishop said a solution to the plight of child soldiers also requires sensitivity to finding ways  to  reintegrate  these  children  back  into  their  own  communities. 

“While  we  witness  barbaric acts beyond anyone’s imaginations also committed by child soldiers, we must  remember  that  these  children  are  exploited  and  manipulated  into  what  they  have  become,” he said. “Thus, while their reintegration into society requires  that we recognize that  they  have  committed  atrocities,  we  must   at  the  same  time  build  pathways  for  counseling and reconciliation with a view to accomplishing fully that reintegration.”

The full text of Archbishop Auza’s intervention is below

Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza,

Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN

United Nations Security Council

Open Debate on “Children in Armed Conflict”

New York, 25 March 2015

Mr. President,

At the outset, I would like to congratulate you for your Presidency during this month and for scheduling this Open Debate on children in armed conflict.  Today’s debate comes at a time when the international consensus of the evils  of using children as soldiers in armed  conflicts is not only morally condemned but  also being more vigorously challenged on the ground by various actors around the  globe. The increasing use by terrorist groups and other non-state actors of children in  armed conflicts  demonstrates the urgent need for a new international consensus to  confront this crime and to renew the will of the  International Community to address  this scourge.

The year 2014 marked the worst year in the modern era of children being used  as soldiers in armed conflicts. In Syria  and Iraq alone, we have seen more than 10,000  children forced and coerced into becoming child soldiers. While the world searches  for solutions, we must all take the first step and uniformly affirm that the recruitment  and use of children in armed conflicts  is not only a grave violation of international  humanitarian and human rights law but is an abominable evil to be condemned. This  affirmation must not be done by governments alone, but by all social, political and  religious leaders.

Mr. President,

The  rising  influence  of  non-State  actors  in  regions  across  the  globe  has  presented this Council and the global community with a growing challenge which  requires new tools and new efforts to confront.  It is  for  this  reason  that the founders  of the United Nations gave to this Council the “responsibility for the maintenance of  international peace and security.” This primordial mission does not and must not  allow the  International  Community  to turn its back  on  conflicts in the name of national  political  interests  or  geopolitical  disagreements  with  other  countries.  This  responsibility  is entrusted  to this Council  by all the Members of the United Nations,  so that the foundational notion of governance is preserved  and the responsibility to protect is upheld.

This  responsibility  not  only  requires  national  governments  to  protect  their  citizens,  but  also  urges  the  International  Community  to  intervene  when  national  governments are unable or unwilling to protect their populations. In the case of non-State  actors  forcibly  recruiting  and  using  child  soldiers  around  the  world  or  committing  brutal violence  against religious and ethnic minorities, when a State is  unwilling or unable to confront such atrocities, it is the responsibility of this body to  provide,  when all other tools and means are exhausted, military means necessary to  protect citizens from such inhumane aggressors.

However, solutions to children in armed conflict cannot be limited to the use of  force alone. Rather the first step requires a renewed commitment to addressing the  humanitarian, social, political and economic situations  that  drive conflicts in which  child soldiers are used. In this regard, faith-based communities can play a vital role in  serving the communities impacted, reintegrating former child soldiers and providing  a means for  dialogue.  Faith-based communities also have a responsibility to ensure  that  those organizations which seek to justify the use of child soldiers in the pursuit of ideological goals driven by distorted understandings of faith and reason are rightly  condemned and denounced.

While the International  Community  plays an important role in  supporting  States  in their primary responsibility to protect their citizens, it must also be sure to interact  with the local community so that solutions to child soldiers and conflicts can  also emerge  organically  and  local  ownership  be  fostered.  Building  peace  requires  the  willingness to dialogue even when conflict has sown hate and distrust.  A solution to the plight of child soldiers also requires sensitivity to finding ways  to  reintegrate  these  children  back  into  their  own  communities.  While  we  witness  barbaric acts beyond anyone’s imaginations also committed by child soldiers, we must  remember  that  these  children  are  exploited  and  manipulated  into  what  they  have  become.  Thus, while their reintegration into society requires  that we recognize that  they  have  committed  atrocities,  we  must   at  the  same  time  build  pathways  for  counseling and reconciliation with a view to accomplishing fully that reintegration.

Mr. President,

The  International  Community  already  has  many  of  the  tools  necessary  to  confront  the  use  of  child  soldiers.  However,  it  lacks  the  political  will  and  moral  courage to take the steps  needed  to address the challenge. As children are abducted  from their schools to be enslaved, as children are  forced to become suicide bombers  and as children are drugged and tortured into becoming child soldiers, what will it  take before we no longer avert our eyes?

Thank you, Mr. President.