India on Monday voiced concern over the "dangerous and worrying" trend in global terrorism of increase in number of children being recruited for terror-related activities, particularly amid the pandemic-induced school closures, and called for ending impunity for all actors responsible for inciting and perpetrating grave violations against children.
"We are witnessing a dangerous and worrying trend in global terrorism and that is an increase in the number of children that are being recruited and involved in terrorism-related activities,” Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said at the Security Council open debate on Children and Armed Conflict on Monday.
Shringla said terror groups take advantage of the fact that children are the most susceptible to manipulation. School closures due to the pandemic have provided an even greater opportunity to these terrorist groups to target children, including through online avenues, for radicalisation and indoctrination in violent extremist ideologies, he said.
"We believe that there is a need for a more coordinated approach in implementing the child protection and counter terrorism agendas. States need to demonstrate greater political will to hold the perpetrators of terrorism and their sponsors to account, and to fulfill the Council’s child protection obligations," he said.
Shringla said also called for ending impunity for all actors responsible for inciting and perpetrating grave violations against children. "There must be greater accountability and sincere efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice by governments from whose territory such entities operate."
Addressing the Council, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said conflict devastates societies and hits children particularly hard.
He said during 2020, almost 24,000 grave violations were committed against 19,300 children in the 21 situations covered by the UNSC mandate.
"The disregard for children’s rights at times of conflict and upheaval is shocking and heartbreaking. The most prevalent verified violations continued to be the recruitment and use of children, the killing and maiming of children, and the denial of humanitarian access to children," Guterres said.
Shringla noted that the Covid-19 pandemic has further negatively impacted children in situations of armed conflict, including by hampering their access to education, health and social services. The pandemic has made them susceptible to grave violations, particularly through recruitment and abduction.
"It is, therefore, important that States keep child protection concerns at the core of their pandemic response measures and recovery plans," he said.
He added that national governments have the primary responsibility for protecting the rights of the child as mandated by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
India encouraged Member States to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and to adopt robust legal frameworks for protection and promotion of child rights. "The aim should not be merely protecting children from child-related crimes but also to provide them with holistic development opportunities, including free and compulsory education."