Tal av Sveriges ambassadör för barn och väpnad konflikt i Demokratiska Republiken Kongo

Publicerad

Kinshasa, 22 maj 2018. Det talade ordet gäller.

"They came to our house. Six armed men. They pushed their way into our home with their guns [...]. The men grabbed [...] me by the arm and forced me out of the house. We walked a little way and then they pushed me into the forest. They forced me to have sex with them many times. I felt like I was watching from the outside. Like I was watching a bad film. Then I don't remember anything. For the next three months I was held as their prisoner at their military camp. During that whole time, I felt I was going crazy. I was like a person unconscious. I was alive but not living. Every day they raped me. I stayed there for a long time – more than one year. I was like a dead person."

This story was told by Safi, aged 17. She describes how armed forces entered her home, killed her parents, kidnapped and sexually abused her. During her ordeal, Safi became pregnant and wanted to take her own life. Tragically, Safi's story is not unique. Seven million children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) live with the risk being subjected to violence because of armed conflict.

In the DRC, more than 45 per cent of the population, or approximately 36 million children, are under the age of 15. Last year, serious abuses against children increased. During a single three-month period (July–Sept), Global Horizontal Note documented 745 cases of children being recruited and used as soldiers, and 29 verified cases of children being killed and maimed as a result of armed conflict. There were 27 documented cases of child abductions, and 21 verified cases of rape and sexual abuses of children. In 2018, 7.9 million children in the DRC are believed to be in need of humanitarian assistance and 4.5 million children are suffering acute malnutrition.

Displacement, death, injury, mutilation, kidnappings and starvation are just some of the horrors that have become commonplace for many children in the DRC. This has resulted in children who are harmed, both physically and mentally, orphaned and displaced. The conflict is robbing many children of their childhood, and returning their childhood to them is a challenge. But it is a challenge that we must take on.

It is positive that the DRC has made progress with regard to the FARDC, and its recruitment and use of children. This resulted in the United Nations last year removing the DRC from the list of countries whose state armed forces recruit and use child soldiers. However, much work remains to be done, and there are worrying signs of the continued abuse of children, including within the FARDC. Sweden's engagement for children in armed conflict is strong. The work we do at international level is based on child protection, respect for international humanitarian law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

As Chair of the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, Sweden has an opportunity to work actively to ensure that children's voices are heard, that children are seen, and that abuses against children come to an end. During Sweden's two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, four Swedish focus areas have been identified: implementing the children and armed conflict agenda, children's right to have their voices heard, children's right to education, and children's right to health, including mental health. We have chosen these priorities because children are in need of our protection and, not least, our attention. But also because children are agents of change.

That's why we are here today. To try to understand children's experiences of conflict and the support they need to return to their communities. As adults, we need to understand children's perspectives, thoughts and concerns. We need to understand their dreams, visions and hopes for the future.

Thank you.