2005 Statement



Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan

At the Open Debate of the Security Council On Children and Armed Conflict

23 February 2005

Mr. President,
It is my honor to participate in today’s open debate in the Security Council under your chairmanship. The fact that Your Excellency is presiding over the debate demonstrates the importance that your country attaches to this issue. My Foreign Minister unfortunately could not come to New York this time as you requested, but has instructed me to join the debate on his behalf.

Mr. President,

I wish to thank the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Children and Armed Conflict, Mr. Olara Otunnu for presenting the Secretary-General’s report.

It is encouraging that the international community is paying greater attention to the suffering of children caught in armed conflict. This has resulted in achieving positive development in some situations. Yet, the stark fact remains that in numerous cases, children are still facing dire conditions. This is unacceptable and the international community needs to take more vigorous action to improve this unconscionable situation.

However, to be effective in our action, we first need to have a clearer grasp of what the reality is. As the Secretary-General’s report shows, we have only limited information on the actual situations concerning the recruitment and use of children for soldiers, as well as other violations committed against children. Access allowed for aid workers is often limited in conflict situations. Communication with the outside world is also difficult as vital infrastructure is often destroyed. Also, armed groups keep their activities secret. All these factors make the gathering of information and its assessment extremely difficult.

This is why Security Council resolution 1539 requested the Secretary-General to devise an action plan for a systematic and comprehensive monitoring and reporting mechanism in order to provide timely, objective, accurate and reliable information on the recruitment and use of child soldiers. My government welcomes the Secretary-General’s action plan contained in his. report, and extends its support to the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism. At the same time, upon setting up such a mechanism, my country believes that it is important to take the following points into account.

First, a collaborative and coordinated approach will be needed for such a mechanism to function effectively. As stated in his report, there are many bodies and actors that possess relevant information, which range from UN entities, such as PKO missions, UNICEF, OCHA, UNHCR, and OHCHR, to national governments, local authorities, and to local and international NGOs operating on the ground. Therefore, the focal point of a monitoring and reporting mechanism should ensure collaboration and coordination, utilizing the resource base and the expertise of all these bodies and actors concerned.

Second, such a mechanism will need to ensure that the voices on the ground are adequately reflected in the compilation of information and evaluation and assessment of situation. For example, we understand that the Government of Myanmar has established a committee for the prevention of military recruitment of under-age children and has drawn up an action plan to be implemented by this committee. This is to be regarded as a positive step in itself. Therefore, the mechanism should establish ways to reflect such information, which is to be assessed and reflected in the Secretary-General’s future reports. In this process, the UN country team’s assessment of such an action will also need to be reflected with regard to its actual effectiveness in preventing the recruitment of child soldiers.

Third, a monitoring and reporting mechanism, when it is established, should be improved on a continuous basis. It should be subject to a full review after its first report is submitted to examine the timeliness, accuracy, objectiveness and reliability of the information gathered and contained in the report. And efforts should be made to identify the ways and means to further improve the workings of such a mechanism.

Objective viewpoints and reliable information in specific situations will prepare the basis for appropriate actions that need to be taken. We share the view expressed in the report that all relevant actors should be encouraged to consider appropriate action to address any given situation; however in most cases the most important actor will be the national government itself. Among the UN bodies, the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council, as well as the Security Council, should also come in, as appropriate, to consider actions according to their respective mandates.

Mr. President,

In discussing the problem of children in armed conflict, we must refer to the recent reported incidents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where some UN peacekeeping personnel actually became abusers of children. These misconducts are unacceptable and reprehensible. Needless to say, such misconducts cause suffering to children and, they seriously damage the
credibility of the UN and its entire efforts, not only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but also elsewhere. My government strongly supports the United Nations’ zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse and believes that robust measures need to be taken to achieve the actual compliance of this policy. We welcome the efforts by the Secretary-General to this end. In considering such measures, Japan, as chair of the PKO Working Group of the Security Council, stands ready to work with interested Member States.

Mr. President,

Let me briefly mention some of the concrete programs that Japan has participated recently in helping children caught in armed conflict. Last March, my government contributed US$ 3.64 million to UNICEF to help implement its disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration project for child soldiers in Liberia. This project aims to help return an estimated fifteen thousand children to their homes and communities. We also supported the “Back to School” campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, run by UNICEF, which help rehabilitate local communities, while at the same time help alleviate the trauma of children afflicted by long armed conflict. All these programs are based on the concept of “human security,” which Japan upholds. We will continue to work closely with the relevant UN agencies, funds and programs to promote the welfare and empowerment of the general public based on the concept of “human security”, with particular emphasis on children and women.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, we would like to underline the importance of strengthening international cooperation toward the shared goal of helping children in armed conflict. As the theme of today’s open debate suggests, the suffering of child soldiers in Africa is particularly grave and of serious concern to all of us. Yet the problem is not limited to Africa. We must change the tragic reality around the world, of twelve-year-olds running around with Kalashinikovs, without any access to education and, without ever knowing that a different lifestyle that they have a right to exists.

For that reason, I commend you, Mr. President, for convening an open debate to also listen to the views of non-Security Council members. Their views expressed today should be duly taken into account in our deliberation at the Council. I am confident that our collective wisdom will help us find effective ways for the United Nations to better address the issue of children and armed conflict. The time for advocacy is over and the time is on us now for concrete action. We should all strive to implement concrete plans for the benefit of our children around the world.

Thank you, Mr. President.