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UN Condemns Attacks on Schools, Hospitals in Armed Conflict

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle speaks with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon before a Security Council meeting on Children and Armed Conflict at the UN headquarters in New York, July 12, 2011

The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution on children and armed conflict, particularly condemning groups that attack schools and hospitals.

The Security Council instructed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to include groups that attack schools and hospitals in his future reports on children and armed conflict. Around the United Nations, the document is known as the “name and shame list,” and includes groups that recruit children as fighters, or kill or maim children.

Ban said the Security Council has been sending a consistent and clear message that protecting children in armed conflict is a peace and security issue.

“Today’s resolution takes us one step further. It not only emphasizes that schools and hospitals should be zones of peace respected by all parties to conflict, it adds attacks on schools and hospitals as listing criteria in my annual reports on children in armed conflict. I welcome this advance,” said Ban.

The Security Council meeting was chaired by Guido Westerwelle, foreign minister of Germany, which holds the Security Council presidency this month. He described attacks on schools and hospitals as barbaric and called the council resolution a big step forward.

“Societies should be judged by the way they treat their children," said Westerwelle. "Our attitude toward our children is a testament to our attitudes towards our future. We will continue to try and protect children from the effects of war and conflict. We will continue to listen to their stories as long as it takes.”

The U.S. representative at the United Nations, Susan Rice, pointed to continuing abuse of children in armed conflict, including child soldiers in the ranks of Burma’s government forces and armed groups, and abuses against children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Overall, we remain deeply concerned that persistent perpetrators continue their violations against children with impunity," said Rice. "Sixteen parties to armed conflict listed in the Annexes of the Secretary-General’s report have been listed for five years or more. This is plainly unacceptable.”

Rice said the Security Council’s decision to consider options to increase pressure on persistent perpetrators is an important step to holding them accountable.