A UN Security Council (UNSC) virtual meeting organized by Estonia Friday focussed on the protection of children in armed conflict during the COVID-19 pandemic and in conflict in general.
Estonia's ambassador to the UN, Sven Jürgenson, who chaired the meeting, said: "The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges of those who have already been put in a vulnerable position by conflict. These include, above all, children. For Estonia, an elected member of the UN Security Council, the protection of children is of utmost importance."
Estonia is in its second year of a two-year non-permanent stint on the UNSC.
"We must continue to deal with violations against children regardless of the pandemic. We must also remember that the protection of children in conflicts and human rights in general are closely linked to the work of the UNSC in ensuring peace and security," Jürgenson went on, according to a foreign ministry press release.
Children often bear the brunt of warfare, the meeting found, with atrocities ranging from child conscription to attacks on schools and hospitals to sexual violence all being reported.
A study by Virginia Gamba, from the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, was also launched Friday.
Gamba, who was a keynote speaker at the meeting, said: "The UN's capacity to monitor and verify grave violations has been impacted by the pandemic, as well as its capacity to engage with parties to conflict which is key in ending and preventing grave violations against children."
"Most importantly, what the study further demonstrates is the importance of strong and resilient United Nations child protection teams on the ground, for ensuring the protection of conflict-affected boys and girls in the face of additional challenges such as pandemics is more than ever essential. I thank the International Community for its support and encourage it to continue to prioritize the protection of boys and girls in armed conflict," Gamba went on.
Khassim Diagne, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Protection and Operations (MONUSCO); Fiona Frazer, Chief of Human Rights Service (UNAMA); a representative of UNICEF, and Philippe Adapoe, Regional Director for West and Central Africa of Save the Children were the other keynote speakers, while fellow permanent and non-permanent UNSC members France, Ireland, Kenya, Norway, Niger, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, United States, Tunisia, Vietnam, United Kingdom, and Belgium, Canada, Sweden and Germany co-organized the meeting, the foreign ministry says.
Estonia is planning another meeting on the topic for June, Jürgenson said.
The meeting can be viewed here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte