Statement by Deputy Permanent Representative Gennady Kuzmin at an open Arria-formula VTC of UNSC members “Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on violations against children in situations of armed conflict”
I thank you for organizing today’s Arria. Many thanks to our briefers.
No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected those, who are the most vulnerable and need special protection. National governments play a paramount role in protecting and rehabilitating children in armed conflict, while the actions undertaken by the bodies of the United Nations system must seek to support and complement national efforts.
My congratulations to the Office of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict for work done with the generous support, as I understand, of the United Kingdom. The Study on the Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on violations against children, prepared by the Office, can be very helpful. The Study will be thoroughly studied.
The document, as I understand, focuses on five countries on the CAAC agenda: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Colombia, DRC, and Sudan. But I'll tell you what struck me couple days ago.
On May 4, next day after publishing the Study, the spokesman of the Secretary-General Mr.Dujarric gave some update on COVID situation in Syria with specific emphasis on the northeast area, outside the Government control. In particular, he expressed serious concern about the situation of the estimated 60.000 people who remain living in Al Hol camp. He said “more than 31.000 children live in Al Hol camp – that’s over half of the camp population – and are under the age of 12”. Six deaths due to the COVID have already been reported at Al Hol. A wider outbreak could be devastating to the already vulnerable camp population.
We appeal to international community to undertake practical measures to defend lives of innocent children. Let me remind that states have the duty under international law, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to repatriate their nationals and to take steps to prevent children of their nationals from becoming stateless. States should assume primary responsibility to protect these children and ensure their safe return home.
Russian authorities are actively engaged in returning children from countries in armed conflict, including those that were recruited or from families, where parents were recruited by terrorists. Despite restrictions and additional challenges posed by COVID-19, 145 minors were repatriated from Middle East within a year. While since 2017 in total 274 children aged from 2 to 16 years old have been returned to motherland from Iraq (122) and Syria (152).
When we are talking about children, we do not have a right to politicize agenda, we do not have a right to draw a line between to-say our children and other people's children; children having good and bad parents; children living in Syria government controlled territories and thus subjected to unilateral sanctions and other young Syrians. We need to do more to protect our children, much more. And we are committed to work together with our colleagues at the Council towards a better fate for children in armed conflict.