Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
Human Rights Council 21st Session
September 10, 2012
The United States thanks Special Representative Zerrougi for her comments and also wishes to recognize former Special Representative Coomaraswamy for her excellent report and her tireless efforts to protect children from the devastating effects of armed conflict. The United States is deeply committed to protecting children from violence, exploitation, abuse, and the terrible suffering caused by armed conflict.
We greatly appreciate the success achieved by the Children and Armed Conflict process over the last six years under former Special Representative Coomaraswamy, including the signing of numerous Action Plans, the freeing of over 10,000 child soldiers and the abolition of child soldiering by almost all national authorities, and the strengthening and expansion of monitoring and reporting mechanisms.
The SRSG’s report notes that the Governments of Afghanistan, Chad, Somalia and South Sudan have now made child protection commitments to stop unlawful recruitment of children and to secure the release of those already unlawfully recruited into their armed forces. We are pleased that the Government of Burma has also signed an action plan to end the recruitment of children into its armed forces. We call on parties that have not signed an action plan to do so as soon as possible.
The United States is concerned about deeply disturbing information the Special Representative has presented regarding the use of explosive weapons by governments and non state actors, which leads to unlawful killing and maiming of non-combatants and other civilians not directly participating in hostilities. It is also cowardly and unacceptable to use improvised explosive devices attacks on schools and hospitals in situations of armed conflict.
The March judgment of the International Criminal Court convicting Thomas Lubanga of the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into the Congolese Forces and using them to participate actively in hostilities highlighted this issue of paramount international concern. The conviction puts perpetrators and would-be perpetrators of unlawful child soldier recruitment on notice that their crimes will not go unpunished. More, however, needs to be done.
The United States would like to engage with incoming Special Representative Zerrougi and ask for her perspective on how we can improve the situation of children in armed conflict. We would like to solicit her views on how best to seek action against persistent perpetrators of offenses and abuses against children in armed conflict. Ambassador de La Sablière, the former French Permanent Representative, noted in his report on the Children and Armed Conflict process that this is the next important issue for those working in this area. We look forward to working with SRSG Zerrougi and all who are committed to this process to address the issue more effectively.
"…the coming months will be a dynamic time for Afghanistan. The Afghan people, the international community, the UN and UNAMA have been unfaltering in their commitment to Afghanistan. I want to underscore the enduring importance of the United Nations and UNAMA’s work, from its good offices to promote regional cooperation and co-chairing of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board to its humanitarian assistance and support for refugees and internally displaced persons. The United Nations has remained steadfastly committed to the Afghan people, and we are grateful."
I welcome Special Representative Kubis and thank him for his comments. Mr. Special Representative, you have our support in carrying out your challenging assignment. I also thank the UNAMA staff for the important work they do each day under very difficult conditions.
And I welcome Ambassador Tanin and thank him for once again addressing the Council.
Mr. President, Afghanistan has made great progress, and I want to underscore our support for Afghan leadership and Afghan sovereignty. The United States is committed to backing Afghanistan and continuing our partnership through 2014 and beyond.
I will focus today on two areas: the progress Afghan authorities have made in taking over responsibility for security; and efforts to reduce the corrosive effect of narcotics.
In the past few months we have seen several significant steps.
Last November, President Karzai announced the second tranche of areas that will begin the transition to an Afghan security lead. This tranche includes five provinces in their entirety and various districts and cities in 13 other provinces. Parwan province became the first area from Tranche Two formally to begin the transition process last December. All but one have followed since. Now, approximately 50 percent of the Afghan population lives in areas that are transitioning to Afghan security lead.
The Afghan government’s increased domestic success has been complemented by its diplomatic leadership in the Istanbul Process on regional security and cooperation and at the Bonn Conference. Afghanistan’s neighbors had the foresight to recognize that economic development in the region will take root only when there is security and stability. At both Istanbul and Bonn, Afghanistan’s neighbors and the broader international community pledged their support to the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process. This support is critical.
Since then, regional and international partners have helped solidify Afghanistan’s progress. After Istanbul, the United Nations played a key role in supporting regional efforts to implement the commitments and confidence-building measures agreed there. In Bonn, 15 international organizations and 86 countries joined with Afghanistan to reiterate mutual commitments and to deepen and broaden our historic, global partnership in support of Afghanistan.
The NATO Summit in Chicago in May and the foreign ministers’ meeting in Tokyo in July will be particularly important for clarifying plans for supporting Afghanistan into the future. At the NATO summit we will determine the next phase of our commitment to Afghanistan. This includes shifting to a support role in 2013, in advance of Afghanistan taking full responsibility for security in 2014. As President Obama reiterated last week, we are going to complete this mission responsibly.
Mr. President, I also want to re-emphasize President Obama’s message that we are deeply saddened by the events last week in Kandahar. This incident was tragic and shocking. U.S. Secretary of Defense Panetta has expressed our commitment to get the facts as quickly as possible and to hold accountable anyone responsible.
Mr. President, on the issue of narcotics, we welcome the discussions that took place in Vienna in February at the third Paris Pact Ministerial Meeting on controlling the flow of opiates from Afghanistan. This was the first such meeting in five years, and brought the Paris Pact’s 57 partner states together to discuss how best to combat narcotics trafficking from Afghanistan.
The problem before us is complex and entrenched – one that funds terrorism and violence, blocks the emergence of legitimate livelihoods, and ruins lives. Yet we know a better future is possible, freeing Afghanistan and its neighbors from the curse of drug addiction and economic dependence on this illicit trade. On the ground today in Helmand province, the Afghan government is driving forward an innovative Food Zone program that, with international support, has reduced poppy cultivation by over 36 percent since 2009. The eradication program sponsored by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics expanded into 18 provinces in 2011. More Afghan provinces than ever lead their own anti-narcotics efforts. Across Afghanistan, the U.S. Agency for International Development has invested $541 million over the past three years in encouraging alternative livelihoods, including through agricultural and agribusiness training, agricultural credit, and promotion of high-value alternative crops. These programs serve over 300,000 rural households each year.
While the Afghan drug trade begins in Afghanistan, its causes and consequences extend far beyond its borders. So must our responsibility for solving it. This is a global problem that demands a common response.
Mr. President, security and narcotics are just two of the obstacles Afghanistan faces in building a strong economy, ensuring the health of its citizens, and asserting full sovereign control over its fate. The United Nations plays an essential role in supporting the Afghan Government and the Afghan people in addressing the challenges that Afghanistan faces in developing a secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. For this reason, the United States supports the extension of the UNAMA mandate for a further twelve months. UNAMA’s role will continue to evolve during this period of transition, but there can be no doubting the continuing importance of its contributions. From the use of its good offices to promote regional cooperation and its work as co-chair of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, to humanitarian assistance and its work with refugees and internally displaced persons, the UN has shown, beyond any doubt, its commitment to the people of Afghanistan. We commend the organization for its vision and tenacity. We also thank the delegation of German for their leadership in negotiating the mandate.
Afghans are taking responsibility for their own security, pursuing reconciliation, and planning for a stable economic future. And as they do, the United States will continue to stand by their side.
Thank you, Mr. President.
"We can start by asking what’s missing from most peace talks and the agreements they produce. One answer to that question is women. In the past 20 years, hundreds of peace treaties have been signed. But a sampling of those treaties shows that less than 8 percent of negotiators were women. Now, there is a clear moral argument – after all, women do represent half of humanity and they have, we have, a fundamental right to participate in the decisions that shape our lives. But the moral argument has so far failed to change behavior on the front lines, where it matters most. So we need to move the discussion off the margins and into the center of the global debate, and we frankly have to appeal to the self-interest of all people, men as well as women. Because including more women in peacemaking is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. This is about our own national security and the security of people everywhere. Tonight I want briefly to examine the growing body of evidence that shows how women contribute to making and keeping peace – and that those contributions lead to better outcomes for entire societies."