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Statement by the Women’s Refugee Commission on the Occasion of the UN Security Council’s Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

New York, NY – The United Nations (UN) Security Council today held its annual open debate on children and armed conflict. Sweden, which holds the Presidency of the Council in July, focused the open debate on the theme “Protecting Children Today Prevents Conflicts Tomorrow.” The debate was chaired by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. Among the briefers were: Virginia Gamba, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict; Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF; and Yenny Londoño, a civil society representative from Colombia. Part of the debate is the new UN Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict.

On the occasion of the debate, Joan Timoney, senior director of advocacy and external relations at the Women’s Refugee Commission, issued the following statement:

“We welcome Sweden’s leadership in hosting today’s United Nations (UN) Security Council open debate on children and armed conflict titled ‘Protecting Children Today Prevents Conflicts Tomorrow.’ Among the millions of people fleeing conflict, over half are children who require our utmost protection. We call on UN member states to consistently implement the Council’s resolutions on children and armed conflict and on the Secretary-General to apply equal scrutiny to all parties committing child rights violations—including in Yemen where the conflict has resulted in an alarming increase of sexual and gender-based violence against women and particularly adolescent girls.

“Sweden’s call to shield children from the worst effects of war and respect their right to education—in particular for girls—and health care, including psychosocial support, could not be more timely. In light of ongoing negotiations at the UN on the global compacts on migration and refugees, we also remind member states that children do not stop being children when they become refugees or cross borders. In line with basic principles of child welfare and international law, governments should do anything in their power to protect children and recognize that the separation or detention of families impedes access to asylum and causes irreparable economic harm and emotional trauma to both children and parents. Such practices should never be used to punish or deter individuals or families who are seeking protection.”