I would like to thank the delegation of France for its excellent performance as the Presidency of the Security Council and express our appreciation for convening these debates.
We are deeply concerned over the alarming scale and severity of violations committed against children as documented in the report. There is an urgent need to intensify efforts of the international community to ensure enhanced protection of children in armed conflict.
Ukraine has always been consistent in its policy regarding ensuring protection of children in situation of armed conflict.
We were among the first states to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as to endorse the Paris Commitments and Paris principles. This is a strong evidence of our commitments and pledges in this sphere. It is important to have more and more countries joining the efforts to achieve universal acceptance of these documents.
We also attach great importance to the Safe School Declaration. This September Ukraine’s Education Minister announced firm support for the initiative to endorse this document, thus underscoring our commitments to promote and protect children’s rights.
Para 3 of the report reads as follows: “the present report documents situations in which apparent violations of international norms and standards for protection of children affected by conflict are considered to be of such gravity as to warrant international concern”. So let me give examples of what the experts who offered the text of the report to the leadership believed as such that did not warrant international attention.
According to the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine 90 boys and 47 girls have lost their lives after the beginning of the Russian aggression. 80 children were killed as a result of downing of MH17 plane by a Russian missile. 68 children were maimed in the conflict zone due to mines and UXO (unexploded ordnance). Overall, some 15 thousand children living in the “grey zone” are at risk of being maimed or killed due to fighting, mines or UXO. There are 19 periodic reports produced by the UN mission. Practically each of them indicates that the children are the most affected by the armed conflict.
We should also not forget that there are thousands of children in Ukraine, whose lives were severely affected as a result of the war brought to our soil by a neighboring country, who is ironically a permanent member of this Council. According to the state’s authorities data, 240 thousands out of around 1.7 million internally displaced persons are children. Almost 200 thousand boys and girls live in the 15 km zone along the line of contact on both sides.
Moreover, according to NGO data, in over 80 cases children were recruited in the non- government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The OSCE, not Ukraine, reports that irregular armed formations in the east of Ukraine are preventing young men from leaving Donetsk and forcefully recruiting them to join their ranks, which could amount to human trafficking.
More than a year ago, terrorists in Yasynuvata, in the occupied area of the Donetsk region, detained 6 young boys, teenagers, accusing them of sabotage activities. These children have been held captive until this day. I also wish to express our utmost dismay that representatives of the Red Cross Committee as well as the UN and OSCE continue to be denied access to them. This is indeed unacceptable and represents a flagrant violation of these children’s rights.
There have also been reports from various sources that children as young as 15 years old were being recruited to armed youth groups and taking part in active combat as full-fledged members of combined Russia-backed militant forces, including as youth reconnaissance and sabotage groups operating in the government-controlled territory.
Ukraine has undertaken a number of steps at the legislative and executive levels to enhance protection of the rights of displaced children who were forced to leave their homes due to the aggression of the permanent member of the Security Council.
These internally displaced children have unhindered access to education in their current places of residence. For those children, who remain in the temporarily occupied territories, the Government has introduced special programs to give them an opportunity to receive higher education at Ukrainian universities. This year, over fifteen hundred students enrolled in our universities through special educational centers “Crimea-Ukraine” and “Donbas-Ukraine”.
It is worth highlighting that children in the occupied areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and in Crimea are deprived of the right to receive education in Ukrainian language or even to study it. To illustrate this point, the number of classes with Ukrainian as the primary language of instruction plunged by 31 times in Crimea in last two years.
I would like to recall, in this regard, that the International Court of Justice in April this year issued an order regarding the request of Ukraine for the indication of provisional measures in the case concerning the Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Court order demanded that Russia must “ensure the availability of the education in the Ukrainian language”.
Moreover, children living in proximity of the line of contact in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and those, who were forced to leave their homes, regularly suffer from symptoms consistent with the post-traumatic stress disorder. In this regard, we highly value the practical assistance of UNICEF to provide training for psychologists who work on the daily basis with children, students, teachers and other education personnel to address this problem.
In this light, I wish to reiterate: we deeply regret that the UN Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict does not contain any reference to the situation of Ukrainian children affected by the conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine. This is a clear omission that should be corrected.
In closing, let me reiterate Ukraine´s commitment to make our utmost to ensure the protection of children in armed conflict.
I thank you, Mr. President.