Practice Relating to Rule 135. Children
In 2005, during a debate in the UN Security Council on children and armed conflict, China stated:
Children are the future of the world, and they represent humankind’s hopes for tomorrow. However, as the most vulnerable group, they are often adversely affected by armed conflict. All countries and parties have an obligation to try their best to protect children from the harm of armed conflict. In recent years, the United Nations adopted a series of measures to promote the protection of children in armed conflict. It has also achieved positive results in this area. The Security Council has adopted a series of resolutions – namely, resolutions 1261 (1999), 1314 (2000), 1379 (2001), 1460 (2003) and 1539 (2004) – that provide a very important legal framework for the protection of children. Some United Nations peacekeeping operations have also taken the protection of children very seriously, including by appointing child protection advisers and by assisting countries emerging from conflict to give full consideration to the special needs of children as part of their disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes. In addition, some of the peace agreements that the United Nations has promoted or participated in contain provisions on the protection of children. And some of the countries concerned have taken active steps to provide legislative safeguards for the protection of children. All of that has, to a certain degree, reduced the harm that armed conflict causes children, and such steps should be affirmed.
But despite that progress in the protection of children in armed conflict, countless children continue to suffer from the effects of such conflict. The situation of encroachment upon children's rights by parties to armed conflicts has not improved a great deal. The international community must make sustained efforts to truly change the situation. In that connection, we agree that, in the context of the maintenance of international peace and security, the Security Council should intensify its efforts to prevent and curb conflicts and actively address the root causes of the phenomenon of child soldiers in order to achieve our goal of protecting children. The United Nations should collect its experience in the area of protecting children during peacekeeping operations and give it special treatment so that future peacekeeping operations can benefit from that experience. At the same time, all parties to armed conflicts should strive to meet their obligations under relevant international law and to respect and safeguard the legitimate rights of children. Post-conflict reconstruction should solve the problem by prioritizing the return of children to their families, schools and communities and by providing sufficient resources to that end.
We appreciate the fact that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, the United Nations Children's Fund, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other United Nations agencies are playing an active role in protecting children in armed conflict. We agree that coordination and cooperation between the United Nations and the relevant regional organizations and among United Nations agencies should be strengthened. We must adopt an integrated strategy in joining efforts to help countries in conflict to increase their ability to protect children. China will continue to work with the international community in making its due contribution to the protection of children.
In 2006, during a debate in the UN Security Council on children and armed conflict, China stated:
… it is regrettable that, at present, children in more than 30 countries around the world are harmed in various ways by armed conflicts. Some of them are killed in merciless wars, while others are forced into armed conflicts as a means of war, still others are kidnapped or subject to various forms of physical abuse. These children rightfully belong in classrooms, studying and acquiring knowledge. Instead, they have become victims of armed conflicts. What needs to be pointed out in particular is that, the recent sudden escalation of the conflict between Lebanon and Israel has resulted in the death of many children in aerial and artillery bombardments, which is shocking to us. We strongly appeal to the parties concerned to strictly abide by international humanitarian law to avoid hurting the innocent, particularly children, and to provide every facility and help for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
All countries and parties have the obligation to do their utmost to protect children from being harmed in armed conflict. In recent years, the United Nations has taken a number of measures in promoting the protection of children in armed conflict, and positive results have been achieved. In the last seven years, the Security Council has adopted six consecutive resolutions, which provide a comparatively sound framework for the protection of children in armed conflict. Taking the protection of children as an important aspect of their operations, some United Nations peacekeeping missions have given full consideration to the special needs of children in helping the host countries in their disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs. Some peace agreements concluded with the facilitation and participation of the United Nations also include provisions for protecting children. Countries concerned have taken action to provide guarantees for the protection of children through legislation. These commendable developments have reduced the harm that armed conflict inflicts on children to a certain extent. China is very much concerned that armed conflict in different regions of the world causes harm to children. We support all efforts made by the United Nations, including the Security Council, in promoting the protection of children in armed conflict. I wish to emphasize the following points in this regard:
First, the Security Council should step up its efforts to prevent conflict and maintain peace. Stemming and reducing armed conflicts at their source would protect children by creating the objective conditions for it …
Second, when dealing with the issue of “Children and Armed Conflict”, we should always respect and support the role played by the governments of the countries concerned. Security Council Resolution 1612 “stresses the primary role of national governments in providing effective protection and relief to all children affected by armed conflict.” The operative part of this resolution also repeatedly makes reference to the important role of the governments of the countries concerned … At present, many national governments in conflict situations have adopted various strategies and plans prohibiting the recruitment of child soldiers and protecting children affected by armed conflict. All these factors have to be considered when carrying out international cooperation in this field.
Third, the work of the monitoring and reporting mechanism of the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict and that of the working group should be further improved and enhanced …
Fourth, the protection of children in armed conflict is an endeavour on a large scale, calling for the collective efforts of all parties concerned. China appreciates the work done by the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General, here: Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict], including the cooperation she has engaged in with the governments concerned. At the same time, the UN specialized agencies, including UNICEF, and the resident offices of the UN system also have important responsibilities of their own in this field. China believes all parties concerned should strengthen their coordination and cooperation to provide concerted assistance to the countries involved to build up their capacity to protect children. In addition, some civil society organizations and humanitarian organizations have also participated in numerous efforts to protect children. They sometimes operate in very dangerous environments. We would like to recognize their hard work, and hope that they will abide by the principles of justice, neutrality and humanitarianism in helping to advance the local peace process.
Lastly, China once again urges parties to all armed conflicts to genuinely discharge their responsibilities to respect and protect the rights of children. While facilitating post-conflict reconstruction, the international community should give priority to solving such issues as the return of children to their families, to schools and to their society, and provide adequate resources for it. The protection of children has always been a focus in the work of the government of China, which has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts as early as in 2002. We call on more countries to accede to the Protocol, and hope that the protocol provisions concerning the age limit for conscription will be observed. China hopes that, with the efforts of all parties, a favourable environment will be created for children all over the world to live and grow and enjoy a bright future.