India calls for action against terror groups to protect children

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UNITED NATIONS: India has called for action against terrorist groups by countries in order to meet their obligation to protect children and schools as required by the Security Council.

“Member States need to demonstrate the greater political will to hold the perpetrators of terrorism and their collaborators and sponsors, especially those sanctioned by the Council, to account, to fulfil Council’s child protection obligations,” India said in a written statement to the Security Council on Thursday.

“Terrorist outfits and individuals proscribed by the Council are directly or indirectly responsible for abusing child rights,” India said. Although India did not name any country, the remark appeared to be directed against Pakistan, where Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which are proscribed by the UN operate openly.

“In order to advance child protection agenda of the Council, its synergies with counter terrorism need to be translated into action,” India said. It noted that as “terror networks spread their tentacles across borders,” it is children who “are worst affected as they live with looming sense of fear and uncertainty and are often deprived of their right to education.”

“There should be greater recognition and comprehensive action to counter threats to children posed by terrorist groups in different parts of the world,” India said. India called on Council to “do all that is possible to support efforts of governments to protect schools and other learning spaces, students and teachers to ensure uninterrupted education for children.”

UN peace operations, both political and military, should be given clear mandates to protect children and educational institutions and be provided the resources needed to meet the challenges, India said.

Although the Council resumed limited in-person meetings under the presidency of Niger, direct participation was limited because of the Covid-19 precautions to its members during its debate on “Children and Armed Conflict: Attacks against Schools as Grave Violation of Children’s Rights.”

Other countries had to submit written statements that were placed on the record of the Council proceedings. India expressed concern that “education facilities are often used as vehicles for radicalisation and indoctrination to violent extremist ideologies.” It said that a “lack of access to schools and treacherous learning environments lend children vulnerable to exploitation and recruitment by terrorists and other non-state actors.”

Speaking to the Council through a video link, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that last year there were 494 verified attacks on schools. “These attacks are seemingly designed with one purpose in mind — to rob children, communities and countries of any semblance of safety, optimism or hope for the future,” she said.

Schools in the Sahel region of Africa were highly vulnerable. She said that one-fifth of the verified attacks took place in that region. The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, said that the terrorist attacks on schools “are seemingly designed with one purpose in mind – to rob children, communities and countries of any semblance of safety, optimism or hope for the future.”

India took note of the Sahel situation and said in its statement that given the complex situation in the Sahel, “we believe that a military response to the situation can only bear desired results if these are integrated with inclusive regional and national strategies towards security, governance, development, human rights and humanitarian issues and ownership by the governments especially in upholding rule of law.”