On the occasion of the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, Belgium is organizing an informal session of the UN Security Council on the important role the United Nations can play in liberating and reintegrating child soldiers into society. They are recruited worldwide by armed groups or government forces.
Stopping the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts has long been a priority of Belgian foreign policy. With this session, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense Didier Reynders wants to put this issue back on the map, including through testimonies and concrete examples from the Central African Republic. Even in situations of extremely difficult access, it is important to convince the parties to constructive dialogue and the release of children.
More than twenty years after the Machel report on the impact of armed conflict on children, attention and action remain crucial. Tens of thousands of children are not only used as combatants today, they are often also abused by their employers. Many of them, especially girls, are victims of sexual violence.
The involvement of children in armed conflict is not inevitable. Children are involved in warfare as a result of conscious and unconscious decisions by adults. The flagrant abuse and exploitation of children during armed conflicts can be eliminated but requires thorough action and sustained political pressure. Belgium is committed to achieving this goal.
Our country has played a leading role in this field for years. In the framework of our Security Council mandate in 2019 and 2020, Belgium chairs the UNSC Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. In the coming months, we will conduct negotiations in the on tackling children’s rights violations in Myanmar, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Central African Republic.
Belgium is active on many fronts in the fight against children’s rights violations, also outside the UN Security Council. In that regard, Belgium is making an important financial contribution to UNICEF’s so-called ‘monitoring and reporting mechanism’ (MRM), which collects information about children’s rights violations in armed conflicts. Highlighting children’s rights violations and exposing the perpetrators are crucial steps towards tackling the problem. Belgium is also a member of a group of like-minded countries that fight together against violations of children’s rights in armed conflict. In Geneva, our country is co-chairing that group. Belgium is also committed to the issue of children and armed conflicts within the EU and NATO.