The Security Council today, recognizing schools and hospitals as safe havens for children, called for all parties to conflict that attack such facilities to be held accountable and that they be added to the list published annually by the United Nations of those who commit grave violations against children.
The list, contained in the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, already names those parties which commit violations such as the recruitment of child soldiers, killing or maiming of children, and rape or other forms of sexual violence against children.
In the resolution adopted unanimously today, the Council – which has adopted seven previous resolutions on children and armed conflict – recognized attacks on schools and hospitals as a grave violation of children’s rights, and called for perpetrators of such violence to be listed in the annual report.
“Places of learning and places of healing should never be places of war,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his remarks to the Council, as it began a day-long debate on the issue of children and armed conflict during which it was expected to hear from over 50 delegations.
“It has sent a consistent and clear message: Protecting children in armed conflict is a peace and security issue, and the international community will not tolerate grave violations of this principle,” he said.
“Today’s resolution takes us one step further,” he added. “It not only emphasizes that schools and hospitals should be zones of peace respected by all parties to conflict, it adds attacks on schools and hospitals as listing criteria in my annual reports on children in armed conflict.”
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict hailed the action taken by the Council to expand the criteria for listing parties in the report. “The promise of this resolution is very real,” Radhika Coomaraswamy told the 15-member body.
“During my visits to conflict areas, I have personally seen the devastation – schools completely destroyed, bombed or burnt to the ground… Attacks on hospitals are two-fold atrocities. Not only do they kill and wound girls and boys, but they leave children without access to treatment.”
According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), schools have become the target of violent attacks or threats by both State security forces and non-State armed groups in at least 31 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
“These horrific attacks are not only a violation of international and humanitarian law, they are a violation of our common humanity,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “And today, the Council has affirmed that attacks on schools and hospitals are attacks on children – and must be treated as such. For these grave violations are alarmingly common.”
He said such attacks have devastating consequences on children’s lives and on their communities, weakening education and health systems and potentially deepening deprivations and disparities.
“Today, the Security Council has taken a major step toward ending the culture of impunity and protecting children at their most vulnerable,” he told the meeting.