UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake addresses the United Nations Security Council about Resolution 1998, which aims to protect schools and hospitals from armed attacks.
By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, 12 July 2011 – UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake has welcomed a United Nations Security Council resolution aimed at increasing efforts to protect schools and hospitals from armed attack.
“These horrific attacks are not only a violation of international and humanitarian law, they are a violation of our common humanity,” said Mr Lake. “Today, the Security Council has taken a major step toward ending the culture of impunity and protecting children at their most vulnerable.”
The Security Council, currently chaired by Germany, unanimously adopted the resolution during its Open Debate on Children and Armed conflict at UN Headquarters in New York.
The ruling means that attacks on schools and hospitals will be listed in the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict. The Security Council says it will also impose targeted measures on those who violate children’s rights through such attacks.
UN Security Council President Guido Westerwelle and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy address the council prior to a vote on protecting schools and hospitals in armed conflict.
“This is a big step forward,” said Security Council President and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. “Attacks on schools and hospitals are barbaric acts.”
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, told the council that schools and hospital are increasingly targeted by armed groups.
“The promise of this resolution is very real,” she said. “During my visits to conflict areas, I have personally seen the devastation – schools completely destroyed, bombed or burnt to the ground. Attacks on hospitals are two-fold atrocities. Not only do they kill and wound girls and boys, but they leave children without access to treatment.”
‘Zones of peace’
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the measure adopted today, Resolution 1998, would send a clear message that schools and hospitals should be spared from violence, building on seven previous Security Council resolutions dealing with children in armed conflict.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon describes Security Council Resolution 1998 as an important next step in preventing attacks on schools and hospitals.
Resolution 1998 acknowledges the growing number of attacks against schools, hospitals and health-care facilities, as well as teachers and medical personnel, and calls on all parties to immediately cease these violations.
“Today’s resolution takes us one step further,” said Mr. Ban. “It not only emphasizes that schools and hospitals should be zones of peace respected by all parties to conflict, it adds attacks on schools and hospitals as listing criteria in my annual reports on children in armed conflict.”
In the last two years, five armed groups have signed special Action Plans with the UN, the first step in being de-listed from the Secretary-General’s annual report.
Support for children
But Mr. Lake said monitoring, denunciation and sanctions – though necessary – were insufficient to achieving lasting change.
“We also have to find practical new ways to prevent these acts from occurring,” he said. “Action Plans are an important part of this. The UN should have access to all governments and other groups which want to pursue them.”
Mr. Lake urged that the Security Council, while it strengthens the legal framework to protect children in conflict, not consider children as mere victims but as resilient, resourceful and brave.
“They have hopes and dreams like children everywhere, even when virtually everything has been taken from them. They don’t need our pity. They need practical support,” he said.