H.E. Mr. Toshiro Ozawa
Ambassador of Japan
At the Open Debate of the Security Council on "Children and Armed Conflict"
20 January 2004
My delegation expresses its gratitude to you and to the Security Council for providing us with an opportunity to address the issue of children and armed conflict. It comes at an opportune time, as new post-conflict situations are emerging in Africa and new action, in the form of the creation of political missions or peace-keeping operations, may be taken by the Security Council.
Currently, a major newspaper in Japan is running a series of feature articles on the real experiences of child soldiers in Sierra Leone and in Liberia, with pictures of them carrying Kalashinikov rifles. For many of us living in peace, the concept of "child soldier," of eleven-year-old girls and ten-year-old boys, is almost surreal, almost incomprehensible. Yet, they are real. We need to help, and we can do so more effectively once conflicts end.
Japan believes that the "Back to School" campaigns run by UNICEF are among the most important ongoing efforts to rebuild societies in post-conflict countries. We are proud to be supporting these programs in Afghanistan, and now in Iraq. They help alleviate the individual traumas of children who have endured so much during armed conflict and to give hope to their communities for a better future. As a nation promoting the concept of "human security", Japan will continue to work together with relevant UN agencies, funds and programs to promote the empowerment of communities, with an emphasis on children and women.
We have seen a number of international instruments that aim to protect children in armed conflicts. Needless to mention the historic significance of the comprehensive framework of the Geneva Convention, the international community has strived for improving the level of protection of children in armed conflicts. Two additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention, to which we intend to obtain parliamentary approval this year, include specific provisions concerning the protection of children, and the basic principle behind such provisions evolved into the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute, the establishment of which Japan has consistently supported, stipulates that the use of children as soldiers in an armed conflict is a war crime. In line with such development on a legal front concerning the protection of children, Japan signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the child on the involvement of children in armed conflict in May 2002, and intends to obtain parliamentary approval for ratification this year. We sincerely hope that other nations that have not yet ratified this important instrument will do so soon.
My delegation wishes to thank Mr. Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, for the exemplary work he has done over the last six years in raising the awareness of the international community on the issue of children and armed conflict. Child Protection Advisers are now appointed to relevant peace-keeping operations, and UN agencies are now better prepared to deal with this issue.
At the same time, the issue of children and armed conflict is becoming more and more complex. In order to better tackle those complexities, a more comprehensive approach and better collaboration among the UN agencies are necessary. In this context, we welcomed the decision of the General Assembly at its fifty-seventh session to request the Secretary-General to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the UN system response to this issue. This report is yet to be submitted. We hope that it will be forthcoming in the near future, and that it will provide us with useful guidance in our discussions of this issue.
We believe that on the issue of children and armed conflict, the time has come for us to move from advocacy to implementation.
Thank you, Mr. President.