Human Rights Council 46th Session – INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE with Ms. Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict – 8 March 2021 – Nordic-Baltic Intervention byH.E. Ambassador Katrin Saarsalu-Layachi, Estonia

Madame President,

I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and my own country Estonia.

We thank the Special Representative for her presentation and for a comprehensive report.

The Nordic and Baltic countries remain strong supporters of your mandate. We commend you and your office for upholding the tireless work on ending and preventing grave violations and strengthening the protection of children affected by armed conflict, including continued monitoring and reporting mechanism in accordance with the verification standards; despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic.

We are deeply concerned about the increased vulnerability for children living amid hostilities as well as the adverse effects of the pandemic, and the measures to contain it, have on these children. Reduction of family incomes and closing of schools have affected access to education and made children more susceptible to recruitment and use by parties to conflicts and increased sexual and gender-based violence against children. Reduced presence of protection and humanitarian actors in conflict-affected areas increase the risks of grave human rights violations committed against children. Travel restrictions and mitigation strategies have seriously affected humanitarian access. Attacks against hospitals and health workers have been particularly horrific considering the fragile state of health-care systems in many places.

Madame Special Representative, how can the Human Rights Council best contribute to end and prevent grave violations against children in conflict contexts, strengthen their protection, and – in particular – how could progress be achieved despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Thank you!