On behalf of the United Arab Emirates, I congratulate France on its Presidency of the Council, and I thank Secretary-General António Guterres, Special Representative Virginia Gamba, and Mr. Mubin Shaikh for their briefings today.
The UAE believes our collective priority must be to promote peace and stability to ensure a better future for younger generations. That is why this debate is critical because it is our children who suffer the most from the crises in our region caused by extremism, terrorism and the continued interference by states in each other’s internal affairs.
We welcome the focus of this debate on violations committed by non-state actors. We are extremely troubled by the gravity of abuse of children by extremist and terrorist groups – supported by rogue states across our region – in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. For these groups – especially Da’esh – the killing, recruitment, abduction and sexual abuse of children, as well as their use as human shields, are deliberate tactics at the core of their modus operandi.
Violations against children also extend to the longest, most entrenched of the crises in our region: the Occupied Palestinian Territories. There, children continue to be affected by the occupation, and are being detained, killed and maimed, particularly in the West Bank.
In all these crises, we firmly believe that comprehensive political solutions can be achieved, and we support the efforts of the United Nations in this regard
Allow me to address the situation in Yemen. The UAE is a member of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, formed at the legitimate Yemeni Government’s request to protect civilians, including children, from the unlawful takeover by the Houthis. Since its inception, the Coalition has consistently worked to implement and reinforce a framework for a political solution in Yemen, based on Security Council Resolution 2216, the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, and the outcomes of the national dialogue conference.
The UAE condemns the egregious violations committed by the Iran-backed Houthis, including the recruitment and use of children as child soldiers and as human shields, the use of civilian hospitals and schools for military purposes, the laying of landmines, as well as the attacks on the border of Saudi Arabia resulting in civilian casualties, internal displacement and the destruction of civilian infrastructure.
The Coalition has sustained efforts to minimise the impact of the conflict on children because we believe that every child casualty is one too many. To that end, in addition to developing general protective measures, the Coalition has taken specific measures to address child recruitment by the Houthis, including rehabilitating child soldiers and securing their safe and expedited return to the custody of the Government of Yemen to be reunited with their families, in coordination with UNICEF.
The UAE’s commitment to the protection of children extends beyond Yemen. Our efforts, which aim to both address the immediate medical needs and ensure the long-term wellbeing of children affected by conflict, have included establishing a dedicated hospital and specialist medical centres for women and children and a shelter for orphans and children separated from their parents because of the war in Iraq, as well as providing education and occupational training for displaced children in shelters in Iraq and Jordan.
Any discussion of violations against children by non-state actors must address the subjugation and exploitation of girls by terrorist and violent extremist groups, who use sexual and gender-based violence, including human trafficking, sexual slavery, forced marriage and forced pregnancy, to terrorize communities and generate revenue. The international community must remain steadfast in ensuring that the full implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, with its emphasis on conflict prevention and the meaningful participation of women, is integral to its response.
To conclude, the UAE would like to offer a few suggestions to strengthen the impact of future reports on the protection of children in armed conflict:
- Ensure that the report and its monitoring mechanism are based on independent and reliable sources that address – in a balanced manner – the violations committed throughout the entire armed conflict.
- Guarantee continuous and full consultations with states, as mandated in Security Council Resolution 1612, so as to avoid misinformation and enable accurate and comprehensive assessments.
The UAE welcomes, in this regard, the cooperation and consultation with Member States that Special Representative Virginia Gamba and her office have undertaken, and welcomes their visits to the Coalition’s headquarters. We reiterate our support and deep appreciation for her just, necessary and universal mandate.