Mr. Guterres urged warring parties to make the prevention of breaches against boys and girls a top priority, and he urged countries to always support their protection.
He said that “There is no place for children in conflict, and we must not allow conflict to trample on the rights of children”.
The Secretary-General gave a presentation on his most recent report, Children in Armed Conflict, which was released last week.
It was found that around 19,300 children were subjected to grave violations last year as a result of the conflict in Afghanistan, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The top infractions remained recruitment and use in hostilities, followed by death and maiming, and denial of humanitarian access.
According to Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund, while the COVID-19 pandemic has been terrible for children around the world, the crisis has exacerbated the obstacles encountered by those caught up in war (UNICEF).
The UN had anticipated that conflicting parties would shift their focus from battling each other to combating the virus, which is why it backed the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire. Unfortunately, as this yearly report demonstrates, this call went unanswered.
Ms. Fore added that rather than laying down their arms, warring parties continued to fight, making it harder for the UN and its partners to reach children in need.
“And lockdowns and travel restrictions made the already difficult work of supporting these children even more difficult,” she continued, “affecting our ability to reach children with lifesaving support, limiting our work to release children from the ranks of armed groups, and slowing our efforts to trace and reunify children with their families and begin the long process of reintegration.”
According to Academy Award-winning actor and activist Forest Whitaker, the violations these children have experienced have long-term “invisible consequences,” including months or years of lost schooling.
According to him, such gaps may result in endangered careers and diminished opportunities, and, in many circumstances, their chances will be constrained as a result of a second, unseen consequence of the grave violations: social stigma.
Mr. Whitaker is the founder of a peace and development programme that has spent the last decade working in South Sudan, Uganda, and other countries to rekindle the connection between conflict-affected children and their communities.