On June 10th, 2019, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflicts, presided by Belgium since 1 January, has adopted conclusions on the situation of children in the armed conflict in Syria. For the first time in a long time, the UN Security Council sent such a strong message on the situation in Syria, more in particular on the violations of children’s rights. The Security Council calls the ones responsible for those violations to order. Our country has led the negotiations on the recommendations that should prevent such violations.
In the upcoming months, Belgium will lead the negotiations within the Security Council on how to deal with children’s rights violations in Myanmar, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Central African Republic.
The fight against impunity has been one of Belgium’s longstanding foreign policy priorities. The Belgian presidency of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflicts is an illustration of this engagement. Belgium has taken a leading role in the fight against the children’s rights violations in armed conflicts, also outside of the Security Council, and is engaged on several fronts.
Over the past few years, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders has organized several events on children and armed conflicts in Brussels and in New York. He also participated regularly in debates on this issue. Besides our strong political engagement within the international fora, Belgium also contributes operationally on the ground. Our country contributes to the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) for example, which collects information on the children’s rights violations in armed conflicts. Shedding light on such violations and unmasking their perpetrators are crucial steps to tackle this problem.
Belgium supports the role of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflicts, Mrs Virginia Gamba. The close collaboration with her office promotes continuous attention for this issue and contributes to the effective protection of children in armed conflicts.
Belgium is also a member of a group of like-minded countries that fight against the violations of children’s rights in armed conflicts. In Geneva (Switzerland), our country co-presides this group. Also within the EU and NATO, Belgium is dedicated to this cause.
More than 20 years after the Machel report on the impact of armed conflicts on children, attention and action remain essential. Tens of thousands of children suffer from the direct negative impact of armed conflicts on a daily basis. Their involvement in those conflicts is however not inevitable. They get involved in wars caused by conscious or unconscious decisions made by adults. We can combat the abuse and exploitation of children in armed conflicts by continuous action and sustained political pressure. Belgium remains fully engaged on that front.