I would like to express my appreciation for France’s initiative in convening today’s open debate. Let me also thank His Excellency Mr. António Guterres, and the distinguished briefers for their insightful briefings, especially Mr. Mubin Shaikh for sharing his experiences. I welcome the adoption of the Presidential Statement on Children and Armed Conflict earlier this morning.
Japan associates itself with the statement to be delivered by Canada on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict.
The latest report of the Secretary-General says that the situation of children in armed conflicts continues to be grim. According to the report, in 2016, there were at least 4,000 verified violations against children by government forces and more than 11,500 verified violations by a range of non-state armed groups. These numbers would be much greater if we count those cases which are not verified.
Japan is of the strong belief that the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism is the key to improve the situation. Without the analysis of the information by the office of SRSG, member states are prevented from understanding the situation on the ground and taking appropriate measures. Japan will continue to support the activities of the office of the SRSG and the child protection officers in the field.
Ten years ago, 58 countries, including Japan, adopted the Paris Principles under the initiative of France, showing our collective commitment to end child recruitment, release child soldiers and bring former child soldiers back into society. Today, regrettably, we still see children fighting on the front lines of armed conflicts. In fact, the number of child soldiers is increasing due to the rise of violent extremism and of non-state armed groups.
Children can never recover the time which they have spent as soldiers. It is a regrettable reality that the reintegration of former child soldiers to society is difficult due to social stigma, as children who have been forced to participate in fighting are often treated as perpetrators. Those children often lack psychosocial support they need to successfully reintegrate themselves to society. Programs to support these children must address their unique needs, as these vulnerable children often lack the knowledge and experience to make appropriate decisions on their own.
In most cases it is difficult to expect the states affected by armed conflicts to cope with the reintegration of children by themselves. It is indispensable that the whole of international community support conflict-affected states through funding and sharing good practices.
In this context, Japan has been contributing to international organizations working in Africa, the Middle East and Asia to support the social reintegration of child soldiers and protect and empower children. In the Central African Republic for instance, approximately 6,000 to 10,000 children were part of the armed forces in 2013. By 2016, thanks to the efforts of UNICEF, 4,000 child soldiers had been liberated. Japan provided 2 million USD in 2015 to provide assistance to those children. Employment training was provided to approximately 1,000 former child soldiers and around 10,000 children affected by conflicts had taken psychological therapy. A campaign to stop sexual violence against children was carried out as well.
In the past 20 years since the mandate of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict was set, various frameworks and guidelines have been established to improve situations of children affected by armed conflicts and prevent the influence of conflicts to children. It is with great regret that I am obliged once again to stress the importance of implementation on the ground. No child should live in fear of attacks nor should fight on the front lines of armed conflicts. Together with other member states, international organizations and civil society, Japan will continue to make efforts to implement the commitments, to the betterment of the future of children all over the world.
I thank you.