Heads of State and Foreign Ministers Discuss Children in Conflict in UNGA 74 Side Session: How Will We Stop the War on Children

UN Headquarters, New York, NY (September 23, 2019) – In a side session of the UN General Assembly today, heads of state and foreign ministers came together to discuss the immediate and lasting impacts of war on children, and how world leaders can help protect children in conflict.

Co-hosted by the Governments of Belgium, Cote d’Ivoire, France, Germany, Indonesia, South Africa, and the European Union, as well as the international NGO Save the Children, the session is the only one during UNGA 74 to address the issue, even though there are more than 420 million children living in conflict—nearly 1 in 5.

The event was led by Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, an organization founded 100 years ago to protect children suffering in the wake of World War I. “As we sit here today, innocent children are being bombed, starved and denied access to lifesaving care,” Miles said. “These children dream of growing up safe, and trust that there are people in the world – the people in this room – who can protect them and help them realize those dreams.”

The session’s participants included Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium; Marlene Schiappa, Secretary of State for Gender Equality of France; Jackson Mthembu, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa; Puan Maharani, Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Cultural Affairs of Indonesia; Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany and Christos Stylianides, Commissioner of Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management of the European Union.

An interactive session was led by Virginia Gamba, Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Department of Peace Operations, and Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF.

The session included two children- Huthaifa, a 14-year-old Syrian refugee, and Islam, a 15-year-old Palestinian refugee, who spoke on behalf of their peers. Huthaifa closed the session by saying: “As a child who witnessed war in Syria, I want to ask you to not just protect children, but to protect our right to education. This might get lost during war because everyone is focusing on food and medicine, but our priority is education. Please, protect our education because it is our future.”

Miles offered three steps Member States could take to protect children in conflict:

First, States should take every effort to prevent the outbreak of violent conflict, so that children’s security and rights are not placed at risk. Use mediation to negotiate peaceful solutions, and include children in the negotiations to ensure sustainable peace for future generations.

Secondly, ensure that no crime against children goes unpunished. Support efforts to prevent, monitor, and document violations against children and hold perpetrators to account.

And third, provide support to every child pulled into conflict to ensure their recovery and secure their future. Do this in the form of providing basic services for health, including mental health, and opportunities for education and protection.

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding 100 years ago, we’ve changed the lives of more than 1 billion children. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share. Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.

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