On behalf of the UAE, I congratulate Malaysia on its Presidency of the Council.
We recognize the critical importance of this debate and honor the 20th anniversary of the Children and Armed Conflict report. We are participating in today’s debate because of our long-standing dedication to children in need worldwide.
Nowhere is securing children in conflict more urgent than in our region, where the abuses against children are especially heart wrenching as we have heard throughout the day and in the SRSG’s report.
In Syria, children have now been out of school for six years, while thousands have been killed. In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, generations of children have been deprived of basic fundamental freedoms for decades. Daesh and other terrorist groups’ widespread recruitment and use of children as tools of war is equally abhorrent and must be ended.
The subject of Yemen has also been raised in today’s debate, and my remarks will focus there given the UAE’s involvement in the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, formed at the request of President Hadi. To date, 79 Emiratis have paid the ultimate price in service in Yemen.
In light of that sacrifice, the UAE, and all the members of the Coalition, take extraordinary measures to protect children’s rights anywhere we are engaged. The UAE regrets the initial listing of the Coalition in the Annex of the 2016 Report, but appreciates the Secretary-General’s decision to remove the Coalition from the Annex, and to engage in a forward-looking review to protect the integrity of the report and strengthen its mechanisms.
As committed, accountable members of the international community, the Coalition is currently investigating all allegations and findings will be submitted to the UN in a responsible and transparent manner.
But based on our experience, we also offer some procedural and substantive suggestions to strengthen the impact of future reports in the shared interest of protecting children in conflict zones.
Specifically, we advocate the adoption of the following policies:
- Consult regularly with National Governments – as mandated in guidelines set forth in Resolution 1612. This is key to ensuring information on which the report is based is accurate and verified, with Member States and the UN working together in good faith.
- Reconsider the utility of the Annex list, specifically, the listing of responsible Member States alongside non-state actors and terrorist groups. The Annex must be connected to specific outcomes to protect children. And in this regard, the listing of a Coalition of countries is problematic legally AND practically, and it should not become a practice.
- Establish clear, transparent mechanisms for measuring criteria within the report in a systematic, equitable manner that is apparent to all.
We do not bear the risk of engagement in any military theatre lightly. And we continue to strive to minimize the impact of operations on civilians.
We’ve therefore engaged directly with the Secretary-General and the Special Representative, and have communicated details of the Coalition’s rules of engagement, which are in full compliance with international law, as well as the review mechanisms, preventive systems and corrective measures in place. Furthermore, the UAE and its Coalition partners welcome further communication through a joint review to exchange information and lessons learned. Moreover, we reiterate the Coalition’s invitation to the UN’s team of experts to visit its headquarters in Riyadh to further engage in the review process.
Allow me to remind this Chamber, Madame President, that the Coalition itself was created to protect civilians – including children – from Houthi rebels, externally backed, and other extremist groups. At the request of the legitimate Yemeni Government, the Coalition’s aims were to protect the welfare of the Yemeni people; and provide regional stability and security by reinstating the legitimate government and in parallel – halt the expansion of extremist groups, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Daesh.
We all know however that durable solutions for stability are not gained militarily alone. That is why, the UAE and its international partners are building long-term institutional capacity in Yemen by developing the country’s government, social support infrastructure, rule of law, and economy.
Furthermore, we continue to address the urgent humanitarian need on the ground by providing and facilitating the delivery of aid. UAE contributions have totaled 900 million US dollars since operations started in March 2014.
Ultimately, the UAE and all members of the Coalition are strongly committed to intra-Yemeni negotiations as part of the ongoing peace process. The UAE fully supports the efforts of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen to bring the parties to a political resolution to this conflict.
Madame President, in closing, let me note the UAE’s deep appreciation for the work of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, and other relevant UN agencies – particularly UNICEF with which we have a strong, global partnership – to protect children around the world.
For us, and other responsible members of the international community, we are not engaging to protect our image. The mandate of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict is just and universal one, for which the UAE offers its full support.