UNITED NATIONS- Pakistan has emphasized focused efforts to end the use of children and drone strikes in armed conflicts since they infringe the rights of children to life and education.

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Masood Khan noted in a Security Council’s debate on ‘Children and Armed Conflict” that children are often coerced to take part in active hostilities.

“Pushing children into combat situations is inhuman. As a soldier, a child becomes both the subject and object of crimes. This scourge can be, and must be, stopped,” said the diplomat, adding that the testimony by Alhaji Babah Swaneh, a former child soldier, “has touched our hearts.”

Ambassador Khan reaffirmed Islamabad’s support for the mandate, reporting and monitoring procedures to protect the rights of children in armed conflicts.  “We want to strengthen the political consensus around this mandate,” said Khan. “ For that purpose, the legal parameters of the mandate must be respected. Focus should continue to remain on the situations of armed conflict and those threatening international peace and security”. He added that drones strikes must end as they violate the rights of children to life, education and development. 

He noted that tens of thousands of children continue to be recruited, killed or maimed, sexually abused or deprived of their right to education and healthcare when schools and hospitals are attacked.  Appreciating the Council’s determined efforts of the last fifteen years, he said significant progress has been made to reduce the number of child soldiers. 

 “We should all support the Special Representative’s “Children, not soldiers” initiative by creating greater awareness through media campaigns, by conducting dialogue with the mothers and families of the affected children , by bringing all parties in the conflict to this initiative, and by mobilizing resources for capacity building.”

Establishment of legal frameworks, age verification mechanisms, and universal birth registration systems prevent child recruitment and reinforce accountability. Investigative and prosecutorial capacity building helps in combating impunity and punishing perpetrators, he added.

He advocated that persistent perpetrators must be identified and brought to justice under national judicial systems and, where applicable, through the use of international criminal justice mechanisms.

“Education is an enabler, an emancipator and by far the most effective answer to armed conflicts, " he added.

Attacks on schools endanger students and teachers, destroy the premises and deprive children of their right to education. Such attacks are perpetrated by terrorists and other armed groups who do not respect national laws and international norms, the diplomat said.

“The international community should strengthen the hands of national governments to deal with these groups and to protect seats of education and learning. In any case, military use of schools should be strictly prohibited.”

On the role of peacekeeping missions, he said, they can play a vital role in the protection of children in situations of armed conflict. They are often the first line of defense.

“It is therefore essential that peacekeeping missions receive the necessary training and resources to effectively perform this critical task. As the largest contributor of peacekeeping troops, Pakistan welcomes the recommendations of the resolution on specific operational pre-deployment and in-mission training of peacekeepers. Let me assure you that Pakistan takes this responsibility very seriously.”

He called for continued encouragement of closer involvement of regional and sub-regional organizations in protecting the rights of children in armed conflicts. The African Union’s intercession in Somalia, DRC, Chad, Sierra Leone, and Mali, for instance, has been quite successful. These experiments are worth replicating.