|A Syrian refugee baby (Source: UNICEF)
In her speech, Anh stressed that ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is deeply concerned over the alarming increase in grave violations against children, which is reflected through the fact that the number of verified violations by government forces drastically increased from 4,000 to 6,000, and by non-State armed groups from 11,500 to 15,000 in 2017.
Thousands of children are killed, maimed, abducted, sexually abused or recruited, she said, adding that attacks on schools, students, education personnel are alarming as children are put at risk, and depriving their opportunities to learn and grow for a better future.
She called for greater consensus and stronger actions by the international community to bring about substantial impact for children on the ground.
More coordinated and responsive strategies at national, regional and global levels are urgently needed, ranging from bringing an end to and preventing the use and recruitment of children, as well as reintegration, rehabilitation and perpetrator accountability.
ASEAN supports the integration and inclusion of child protection into peace processes and looks forward to a process to develop practical guidance in this regard, while emphasising the importance of constructive engagement among the relevant partners, including concerned member states, non-state armed groups, UN agencies and communities involved, in line with the principle of the primary responsibility and authority of States in protecting their civilians, including children.
The bloc encourages those countries that have yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child to do so, as proof of their unwavering commitment to child protection issues, she added.
For ASEAN, the protection of children is always high on its agenda. In 2016, the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children adopted a Work Plan for the period 2016-2020 with 16 thematic areas, including the elimination of violence against children and the right of children to participate in all affairs that affect them.
The group commits to and is willing to coordinate with its partners in ensuring a better future for children all over the world, she affirmed.
Addressing the debate, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Virginia Gamba stressed that over 10,000 children were released from armed groups and forces, while more than 12,000 children were reintegrated into the community last year.
Participating countries all expressed their profound concern over increases of serious violations, especially murder, kidnapping, sexual abuse and the use of children in armed forces.
They called on all parties involved to obey international law, law on human rights and international humanitarian law, solve root reasons of armed conflicts, and implement preventive measures and those helping children who used to join armed forces to reintegrate into the community.
Some proposed sending experts on child protection to participate in the UN’s peacekeeping missions and boost the role and contributions of regional and sub-regional organisations.