India on Wednesday cautioned the United Nations against initiating any dialogue with armed groups, bypassing national governments, as it would amount to giving "political legitimacy" to non-state actors. Any access to the UN for non-state armed groups should be through a cooperation framework between the UN and the concerned government, it said.
"It is important that access of the United Nations to non-state armed groups be through the cooperation framework between the United Nations and the concerned national government," India's deputy permanent representative to the UN Bhagwant Bishnoi said on Wednesday.
"We must be cautious that the UN's actions should not be such as to bypass national governments and give political legitimacy to non-state actors. It is this legitimacy that they seek the most and which may also, to some extent, be a motivating factor," Bishnoi said.
As the Security Council met to discuss the myriad horrors faced by children caught up in wars worldwide, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the international community to act ''collectively and expeditiously'' to thwart the growing number of children affected by armed conflicts.
''We agree that we cannot tolerate a world in which children are killed and maimed, where they are abducted, subject to sexual violence, forced to become soldiers, and where schools and hospitals are attacked,'' Moon said.
Nonetheless, he added, ''increasingly, children are snatched from a normal life of school and family, abducted by armed groups and thrown into a life of violence and horror.''
Ban noted that since he last addressed the Council on the issue in 2014, hundreds of thousands more children had been suffering from the intensification of conflict. UN agencies have come across more and more cases of child abductions by armed groups, he added.
Participating in a Security Council debate on 'Children and Armed Conflict', he said that 2014 was reported to be the worst year as far as children and armed conflict is concerned.
India, he said, has pointed to the need for military operations, including peace operations against non-state armed groups, should integrate child protection issues into their operational planning in order to minimise and prevent child casualties.
Bishnoi said it is "most distressing" that the pattern continues. "Children are innocent and they should not be victims of what is not of their making," he said.
The real solution lies in achieving durable peace and the UNSC's actions should focus on achieving this, he said.
"Drafting up such an important mandate would require the Council to have the full cooperation of the host government of the peacekeeping operation, as well as the member states not represented in the Council who are contributing troops for such operations," he said, adding that it is unfortunate that such consultation is not the practice in the Council.
A concept note circulated for the debate in the Council referred to the need to encourage states to adopt legal measures to prohibit and criminalise the use of children under the age of 18.
"We are not clear how this would help. Illegal armed groups operate outside the law. They kill, torture and maim the innocent. It seems most doubtful that those who resort to illegal armed conflict and terrorism would be deterred from recruiting children if they were prohibited from doing so merely by the law," he said.
Further, Bishnoi said that the possibility of sanctions and questions of accountability should not lead the international community to be "blindsided".
"There are references in the concept note to putting more pressure on non-state armed groups, to holding commanders of such groups accountable for their actions and of raising the normative and political costs for them. We should not end up in a situation of missing the woods for the trees," he said.
He also stressed the need for the international community to address the broader issue of economic and social marginalisation that drives millions of children into a childhood that makes them part of the problem.