UNITED NATIONS: India on Thursday called on the UN member states to demonstrate a greater political will to ensure perpetrators of terrorism, especially those sanctioned by the Security Council, are held accountable for abusing child rights, saying children are worst affected as terror networks spread their tentacles across the borders and threaten peace.
"Terrorist outfits and individuals proscribed by the Council are directly or indirectly responsible for abusing child rights," India said in a statement to the UNSC open debate on Children and Armed Conflict Attacks against Schools as Grave Violation of Children’s Rights’.
In order to advance child protection agenda of the Council, its synergies with counter-terrorism need to be translated into action, it said. India said that the member states need to demonstrate a greater political will to hold the perpetrators of terrorism and their collaborators and sponsors, especially those sanctioned by the Council, to account to fulfill the Council’s child protection obligations.
India underscored the importance of a greater recognition and comprehensive action to counter threats to children posed by terrorist groups in different parts of the world. In a thinly-veiled reference to Pakistan, India said that terror networks spread their tentacles across borders, threatening peace and stability. Children are worst affected as they live with looming sense of fear and uncertainty and are often deprived of their right to education.
In the statement, which will be included as an official UN compilation, India emphasised that the UNSC needs to factor in the stark reality that non-state parties to armed conflicts have little regard for upholding their obligations under the international law. "This creates asymmetric dynamics in the field vis-a-vis the states or the UN peace operations, the country said, adding that the Council needs to ensure that those who are engaged in the protection of children on its behalf have the necessary resources, pre-deployment and in-mission training to operate and deliver in extremely challenging situations."
The country noted with concern that lack of access to schools and treacherous learning environments make children vulnerable to exploitation and recruitment by terrorists and other non-state actors. "Education facilities are often used as vehicles for radicalisation and indoctrination to violent extremist ideologies. Much of these happen in the absence of opportunity for quality formal education for children," India said.
With schools providing a crucial place of learning as well as a social safety net, India said the absence of safe school environments have a multifold impact on protection challenges. These could include young women and girls becoming vulnerable to various forms of subjugation including sexual and gender-based violence, falling victims of forced and child marriages and human trafficking.
India also took note of the prevailing situation in the Sahel region of Africa, where attacks on schools are increasing due to the complex regional conflict. India said the challenges in the region call for a greater attention of the Council.
"The terrorists and armed groups are increasingly targeting education facilities leading to school closures. Occupation of schools for military purposes in violation of international humanitarian law is also a contributing factor in this crisis. This has set in motion a range of negative impacts on children, especially girls," India said. Given the complex situation in the Sahel region, India said a military response to the situation can only bear desired results if these are integrated with inclusive regional and national strategies towards security, governance, development, human rights and humanitarian issues and ownership by the governments, especially in upholding the rule of law.
Sahel must continue to remain a clear priority for the peacebuilding commission. The Council on its part also should remain engaged in implementation of the military and political missions as well as promoting dialogue and intercommunal harmony in the region, India said, adding that the Council must keep up its engagements with the regional bodies and child protection priorities must be integrated to the core of such engagements. The COVID-19 pandemic has also further compounded the already existing child protection challenges, India said, adding that the crisis has demonstrated the power of technology, especially education technology to provide learning opportunities to children affected by armed conflicts.
The international community must cease this momentum to use the full potential of technology to fulfil hitherto unkept promises to the children, it said, emphasising the need for more objective reporting by the UNSC mandated officials based on complex dynamics of the situations and obligations of different parties to the armed conflict. The tendency of mandate creep’ must be checked to maintain efficacy and sanctity, it added.