ISIS, terrorism, children and conflict

Joint Communiqué by Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
June 28, 2021

The following statement was released by United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and the Foreign Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS following today’s meeting.

Begin text:

The Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS, reconvening in-person after two years, met today in Rome at the invitation of Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio and U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. The Ministers reaffirmed their shared determination to continue the fight against Daesh/ISIS, and to create conditions for the enduring defeat of the terrorist group, which remains the Coalition’s sole purpose, through a comprehensive, coordinated, and multifaceted effort. The Ministers welcomed new members joining the Coalition – Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritania, and Yemen. Together the Ministers emphasized the protection of civilians as a priority and affirmed that international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as applicable, as well as relevant UN Security Council resolutions, must be upheld under all circumstances.

The Ministers committed to strengthening cooperation across all Coalition lines of effort in order to ensure that Daesh/ISIS Core in Iraq and Syria, and its affiliates and networks around the world are unable to reconstitute any territorial enclave or continue to threaten our homelands, people, and interests. The Ministers remain firmly united in our outrage at atrocities perpetrated by Daesh/ISIS and in our determination to eliminate this global threat, and stand alongside survivors and families of victims of Daesh/ISIS crimes working for accountability.

Daesh/ISIS no longer controls territory and nearly eight million people have been freed from its control in Iraq and Syria, but the threat remains. The resumption in Daesh/ISIS activities and its ability to rebuild its networks and capabilities to target security forces and civilians in areas in Iraq and Syria where the Coalition is not active, requires strong vigilance and coordinated action. This includes allocating adequate resources to sustain Coalition and legitimate partner forces’ efforts against Daesh/ISIS, and significant stabilization support, both to address the drivers that make communities vulnerable to recruitment by Daesh/ISIS and related violent ideological groups, as well as to provide support to liberated areas to safeguard our collective security interests. In this regard, the Ministers noted the 2021 Pledge Drive for Stabilization as an important means to help sustain the recovery of areas liberated from Daesh/ISIS and prevent its resurgence. The Ministers reaffirm that Daesh/ISIS will continue to be pressured by curbing its ability to raise revenue, enhancing information sharing on terrorists through bilateral and/or multilateral channels like INTERPOL, and fighting against Daesh/ISIS’ toxic propaganda and denying the group space to exploit social media online.

The Ministers acknowledged Iraq’s efforts to counter Daesh/ISIS’ remnants and prevent its resurgence, and commended the increased capacity of the Iraqi forces to combat Daesh/ISIS. Appropriate measures to enhance the operational efficiency and coordination of our collective efforts to maintain the necessary pressure on Daesh/ISIS remain essential. The Coalition operates in Iraq at the request of the Government of Iraq in full respect of Iraq’s unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and to the benefit of the Iraqi people. The Ministers firmly condemned the continuing attacks against Coalition personnel and convoys, and diplomatic facilities, emphasizing the importance of the Government of Iraq protecting Coalition assets. The Ministers welcomed the incremental expansion of NATO’s non-combat advisory, training and capacity building mission in Iraq based on the requirements and consent of the Iraqi authorities and complementing the Coalition’s efforts. The Ministers also welcomed the EU’s support to the Iraqi authorities through the EUAM Iraq Mission.

In Syria, the Coalition stands with the Syrian people in support of a lasting political settlement in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. The Coalition must continue to be vigilant against the threat of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, to build on the success it has achieved and continue to act together against any threats to this outcome and to avoid security vacuums that Daesh/ISIS may exploit. The Coalition continues to support inclusive local recovery and stabilization in areas liberated from Daesh/ISIS and reconciliation and reintegration efforts to foster conditions conducive to a Syria-wide political resolution to the conflict under the parameters of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

In a session of the meeting focused on the security situation in other continents and regions, particularly Africa, the Ministers noted with grave concern that Daesh/ISIS affiliates and networks in sub-Saharan Africa threaten security and stability, namely in the Sahel Region and in East Africa/Mozambique. The Coalition is committed to working with affected countries to address the threats posed by Daesh/ISIS in Africa to ensure the enduring global defeat of the organization upon the request and prior consent of the countries concerned, and in full respect of international law and in close coordination with existing initiatives, notably the Coalition for the Sahel and the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum. The Ministers welcomed the presence of delegations from several African nations as observers to this ministerial meeting. The Ministers discussed that reinforcing civilian state institutions and consolidating the rule of law, including law enforcement capacity, will be an essential component of combatting Daesh/ISIS, and that the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS will seek to have effective engagement on the African continent. The Ministers tasked the Coalition Working Groups to assess ways in which they can contribute to counter Daesh/ISIS efforts in the affected regions. The Ministers also welcomed Afghanistan’s efforts to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-Khurasan (ISIS-K).

Recognizing the challenge posed by foreign terrorist fighters who are in custody, as well as their family members who remain in Syria and Iraq, the Ministers committed to pursuing existing effective justice and accountability mechanisms in close coordination with the countries of origin. This also includes accountability for fighters who have used sexual violence as an instrument of terror. The Coalition remains committed to promoting efforts to ensure that accused terrorists, including those of foreign nationalities, are treated appropriately and tried consistently with applicable international law obligations, including fair trial guarantees, and urges the custodians of the detained Daesh/ISIS terrorists to treat them humanely at all times, in accordance with international law.  The Ministers further recognized that the situation for Daesh/ISIS detainees and family members in northeast Syria is of grave concern and recognized the importance of finding a comprehensive and long-term solution to this serious issue.

The Coalition reaffirmed its belief that a comprehensive and collective effort remains necessary to achieve a full and enduring defeat of Daesh/ISIS worldwide. The Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh/ISIS has proven that it is a cohesive, responsive tool that has achieved notable successes through military, political, stabilization, counter-messaging, financial, and law enforcement lines of effort.

The Ministers also reaffirmed their intent to hold the next ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition by June 2022 and to hold a Small Group Political Directors Meeting in Brussels in the fall of 2021, circumstances pending.

End text.

The Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS

Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesperson
June 28, 2021

At the Global Coalition Ministerial in Rome on June 28, the U.S. Department of State wishes to reaffirm its commitment to the Coalition and its goals. The 83-member Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS has worked diligently since 2014 to reduce the threat ISIS poses to international security and our homelands. The Coalition’s combined efforts have diminished ISIS’ military capability, territorial control, leadership, financial resources, and online influence. Members are united in common cause to defeat ISIS through a robust approach, including working by, with, and through local partners for military missions; supporting the stabilization of the territory liberated from ISIS; and enhancing international cooperation against ISIS’ global objectives through information sharing, law enforcement cooperation, severing ISIS’ financing, countering terrorist recruitment, and neutralizing ISIS’ narrative. The Coalition is also engaged in efforts to provide needs-based humanitarian aid assistance to communities suffering from displacement and conflict, and supporting stabilization efforts in territory liberated from ISIS.

The Ministerial

Secretary Blinken will join Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio in co-hosting a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. It will be the first in-person Ministerial of the Global Coalition since February 6, 2019. This will be an opportunity for the Foreign Ministers of the Coalition, led by the United States, to discuss ways to sustain pressure on ISIS remnants in Iraq and Syria, and to counter ISIS’s global networks, primarily in Africa. The Coalition will also assess priorities for its five lines of effort: stabilization, foreign terrorist fighters, counter-ISIS financing, political-military consultations, and counter-messaging efforts.

Fast Facts

Since 2014, the Coalition has carried out a comprehensive strategy to destroy and degrade ISIS. Milestones include:

  • Removing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019 and scores of ISIS leaders;
  • Destroying 100 percent of ISIS’s fraudulent territorial “caliphate;”
  • Liberating over 42,000 square miles and supporting the safe and voluntary return of nearly 8 million people from ISIS’s brutal rule;
  • Addressing the root causes of support for ISIS through targeted justice and accountability assistance to local communities and survivors of ISIS atrocities;
  • Expanding the Coalition’s global reach to 83 members, adding 4 partners since the last Ministerial – Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritania, and Yemen.
Africa
Cameroon
Central African Republic
Chad
Democratic Republic of Congo
Djibouti
Egypt
Ethiopia
Guinea
Kenya
Libya
Mauritania
Morocco
Niger
Nigeria
Somalia
Tunisia
Americas
Canada
Panama
United StatesInstitutions
Arab League
CEN-SAD
EU
INTERPOL
NATOAsia Pacific
Afghanistan
Australia
Fiji
Japan
Malaysia
New Zealand
Philippines
Singapore
South Korea
Taiwan
Europe
Albania
Austria
Belgium
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Italy
Kosovo
Latvia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Moldova
Montenegro
Netherlands
North Macedonia Norway
Poland
Portugal
Romania
Serbia
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Turkey
Ukraine
United Kingdom
Middle East
Bahrain
Iraq
Jordan
Kuwait
Lebanon
Oman
Qatar
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
Yemen

Coalition Members: 83 members, 78 nations, 5 institutions

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Opening Remarks at D-ISIS Meeting Opening Session

Remarks
Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Fiera Roma
Rome, Italy
June 28, 2021

FOREIGN MINISTER DI MAIO:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Mr. Secretary of State, dear Tony, dear colleagues, dear guests, welcome.  Welcome to Italy.  (Via interpreter) I’m delighted to welcome you here to Rome, to the ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which I have the privilege of co-chairing with Secretary of State Blinken.  I wish to thank my colleague and friend Tony and the State Department for the excellent teamwork and the partnership with the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation which has brought us here.  The pandemic has shown us that only if we focus on multilateralism and international cooperation that we can adequately tackle the challenges ahead.

And this coalition is an example.  It brings together different continents.  It capitalizes on the contribution of each member.  It is flexible enough to take into account different viewpoints.  We have a good track record but a lot more remains to be done.  Daesh was defeated in its territorial dimension, but it hasn’t been uprooted, and that is why Italy, with over 800 units between Iraq and Kuwait, will continue to – while respecting Iraqi sovereignty and in agreement with the Baghdad agreement – will continue to keep its presence in support of local institutions so as to enable the country to tackle this threat autonomously.

We are also ready to increase our participation in the NATO commission in Iraq and to take over the command after Denmark.  Having consolidated our victory is important – consolidating it in Syria is essential in order to bolster the country’s stabilization.  That is why we support the 2254 resolution and the UN-guided operation.

The attacks in these recent months show that Daesh can still be a threat and attract certain segments of the population.  In order to consolidate the results achieved and limit the recruitment possibilities of Daesh and avoid its resurgence, we have to include civil initiatives to de-radicalize and stabilize the freed areas, giving social, economic conditions and opportunities to the local population so as to make them less vulnerable.  We are promoting these initiatives bearing in mind the key principles of our international approach, safeguarding human rights and the rule of law being our topmost priorities.

Despite the financial context, which has been worsened due to the pandemic, Italy is unswerving in its commitment in 2021.  We have planned to increase the resources earmarked for these activities.  Furthermore, we believe it is important to assess (inaudible) initiatives in favor of unaccompanied minors in (inaudible) camp, and to this end we are also in touch with players in the field.

Given the complexity and comprehensive nature of this problem, we need to work together in a joint approach.  We have to also take a comprehensive and targeted approach to dry up financial resources in the areas of activity of ISIS and in other parts of the world.  This is the aim of the Counter ISIS Finance Group, which Italy co-chairs with the United State and Saudi Arabia.

Although the Daesh threat in Iraq and Syria is key in our coalition’s commitment, we must also take into consideration its global presence in the African continent and in the Sahel in particular.  The stability of this region is crucial for Europe and the broader Mediterranean.  I would like to thank the representatives from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mozambique who have accepted our invitation to attend today’s meeting as observers.

Italy will do its part.  It will be committed to promoting peace and sustainable development in this area which is a priority for our foreign policy action.  As I confirmed in our – my recent missions in the region, we will continue to reinforce our diplomatic presence, take part in main international missions, and make a contribution for a sustainable approach to migration via capacity building.

Given the growing threat stemming from Daesh in Africa, I would like to propose to my coalition partners to take into account the possibility of creating a working group or a platform that can focus specifically on Africa.  Such an initiative would also enable us to involve all African countries interested in making a contribution to our mutual benefit.

In concluding, I would like to renew my warm welcome to all in Italy.  I am confident that your remarks will be extremely helpful in bringing forward the discussion, and I would like to now call on the co-chair of the meeting, Antony Blinken. Secretary of State, over to you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Mr. Foreign Minister, Luigi, my friend, thank you so much.  And thank you for the extraordinary job in bringing us all together, and it’s wonderful to be with so many colleagues today.  Mostly, thank you for hosting what is a very important meeting.  And to all of the members of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS or Daesh, thank you for being part of this endeavor today, but also every day.

Since this coalition was created in 2014, our joint efforts by, with, and through our local partners have been a critical element in achieving ISIS’s territorial defeat in Iraq and in Syria.  Millions of civilians have been able to return to their homes.  The movement of foreign ISIS fighters from – into Syria and Iraq has virtually ceased.  And key ISIS leaders have either been captured or killed.  These achievements are significant and a reflection of what’s possible when we come together in common cause with a shared commitment.

But there is still more work to be done, and let me briefly outline what the United States sees as our top priorities now.  I think it will sound very familiar because it’s very much on track with what Luigi just said.  First, remaining ISIS elements in Iraq and Syria, though severely depleted, still aspire to conduct large-scale attacks, as we saw with January’s twin suicide bombings in Baghdad.  To sustain our military gains, we must reaffirm our commitment, including to Operation Inherent Resolve, the complementary NATO mission in Iraq, and to civilian-led counterterrorism capacity building.

Second, we must renew coalition support for stabilization assistance across Iraq and Syria, as Luigi said, to ensure that ISIS doesn’t have a resurgence in these countries.  Our stabilization assistance will address critical needs that the Syrians themselves have prioritized, deal with vulnerabilities previously exploited by ISIS, close gaps in local authorities’ capacities.  Those needs are particularly acute given the drought and economic downturn in Syria, which ISIS is seeking to exploit.

We’ve made good progress toward our 2021 fundraising goal for stabilization efforts in Iraq and northeast Syria.  We set out to raise $670 million.  I think we’re at close to $507 million now, so let’s keep going till we meet our goal.  Additionally, I can announce today that the United States will provide another $436 million in humanitarian assistance to Syrians and the communities that host them, bringing the total U.S. humanitarian assistance in response to the Syria crisis to nearly $13.5 billion.  Together we must stay as committed to our stabilization goals as we did to our military campaign that resulted in victory on the battlefield.

Third, 10,000 ISIS fighters remain in SDF detention in Syria.  This situation is simply untenable.  It just can’t persist indefinitely.  The United States continues to urge countries of origin, including coalition partners, to repatriate, rehabilitate, and, where applicable, prosecute their citizens.  Several countries have done good work on these fronts.  Kazakhstan has repatriated more than 600 fighters and family members and has enrolled many returnees in rehabilitation programs.  Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic have repatriated foreign terrorist fighter family members from Iraq, and in the case of Uzbekistan, from Syria and Afghanistan as well.  Several Balkan countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia have also repatriated foreign terrorist fighters.  And Italy, of course, has distinguished itself as one of the few Western European countries willing to return nationals from the region.  Most recently, they repatriated a female foreign terrorist fighter and her children.  Finland has also shown leadership in its repatriation of multiple families from Finland originally.

Fourth, ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS also means effectively confronting ISIS threats outside of Iraq and Syria, in the place where ISIS – places where ISIS has recently focused its efforts.  In particular, we’re grateful for support from coalition partners for expanding counterterrorism capacity building efforts for countries on the front lines of the ISIS threat in Africa.  And again, I strongly support what the foreign minister said in that regard.  Let’s use today’s discussion to try to expand on coalition plans for effectively dealing with the threat in Africa, as well as how we’ll synchronize our efforts with national, regional, and international partners.

To recap some recent steps the coalition has taken very briefly, last November the United States and Nigeria convened a coalition meeting with representatives of West African states to discuss countering the ISIS threat in West Africa and the Sahel.  We’ve also held informal discussions among coalition partners on the pressing ISIS threat in northern Mozambique and the steps that we could take there.  Several of the coalition’s working groups are expanding their focus to include Africa.  For example, the Communications Working Group recently proposed an Africa framework paper to guide the coalition’s approach to countering ISIS in Africa in the information space by undermining the brand, exposing the recruitment narrative, increasing opportunities for dialogue, sharing positive alternative narratives to ISIS.

This is a vitally important effort.  We are seeing – I know you all know this – we are seeing fighters of 13 and 14 years old take up weapons to kill people, and we have to get at this from every possible angle.  And information work is vitally important.  We urge more coalition working groups – for example, the Counter-ISIS Finance Group – to follow suit and pay additional attention to ISIS and its – the problem it poses in Africa.

And recent coalition expansion efforts have focused on African nations, with the Central African Republic and Mauritania joining as our 82nd and 83rd members.  We’ll continue to encourage key frontline states and regional leaders in Africa to consider becoming members of this coalition.

On a final related note today, the United States is announcing the designation of Ousmane Illiassou Djibo as a specially designated global terrorist. Djibo is a senior leader and key lieutenant in ISIS Greater Sahara.  This designation is part of our continuing effort to counter ISIS financing in Africa.

Let me just conclude by saying how grateful the United States is for your partnership and commitment to defeating ISIS in Iraq, in Syria, everywhere in the world.  We’ve made great progress because we’ve been working together.  So we hope to keep our eye on the fight, to keep up the fight against this terrorist organization until it is decisively defeated.  Thank you very much.

Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the Second UN Counterterrorism High-Level Conference

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 28, 2021

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Secretary-General Guterres, for your invitation to speak at this opening session of the Second UN Counterterrorism High-Level Conference. This year’s conference theme, “Countering and Preventing Terrorism in the Age of Transformative Technologies,” captures both the threat and the opportunity. The threat of terrorism has evolved with technology. But so has the opportunity to harness technology to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism from taking root in our communities.

The timing is also apt. In a few months, we’ll mark the 20th anniversary of the most lethal terrorist attack in history. We will pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 people who were killed in Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, and here in New York, on that Tuesday morning. The memory of September 11, and so many other tragedies caused by terrorism around the world – before and since – are eternal reminders of our collective responsibility to prevent acts of terror.

Over the past 20 years, the United Nations has played a pivotal role in those efforts. From the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1373 after the 9/11 attack to the capacity-building efforts of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, our collective efforts have shown that when we work together, we can protect our citizens from terrorism and violent extremism. And as the UN has organized itself over the last two decades to support the fight against terrorism, the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism has played an important coordinating role in those efforts.

Together, we’ve made real progress on counterterrorism since 9/11, but the terrorist landscape continues to evolve. Terrorists and racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists have adapted: they use communication technology to enhance their networks, recruit and inspire supporters, disseminate propaganda, and challenge our ability to prevent acts of terrorism. And increasingly, they’re using advanced technology to actually perpetrate criminal acts. For example, terrorists are taking advantage of commercially available unmanned aerial systems, using them as surveillance platforms, and weaponizing them for both on and off the battlefield.

Just as the terrorism landscape is evolving, so too should our approach. On June 15, President Biden released our first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. That strategy recognizes the importance of international cooperation to counter domestic terrorism. That means sharing more information, so law enforcement and intelligence services can fully understand the international dimension of the threat. That’s part of our broader approach. We need to fight terrorists where they are; and increasingly, that’s online. Through our partnerships, the United States is countering the narratives of terrorists across the platforms on which they communicate. We are also looking for innovative ways to foster digital literacy and build resilience to terrorist recruitment and mobilization.

To that end, the United States recently joined the Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online. The goal is to develop new approaches to prevent terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting the Internet while safeguarding human rights and fundamental freedoms.

As our counterterrorism approaches evolve, we cannot waiver on human rights and free expression. Because ultimately, our steadfast commitment to those rights and freedoms are our most powerful counterterrorism tool of all. The more we elevate people’s lives – the more we treat people with dignity and respect and honor their rights and freedoms – the more we discourage and even prevent terrorism.

So together, let’s promote peace. Let’s harness technology to adapt to the evolving threat of terrorism. And let’s work as partners, share our ideas and information, and ensure a more secure future for us all.

Thank you.

###

State Department Terrorist Designation of Ousmane Illiassou Djibo

Press Statement
Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
June 28, 2021

Today, the United States is designating Ousmane Illiassou Djibo – also known as Petit Chapori – as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under section 1(a)(ii)(B) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.

As a result of this designation, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with Djibo.  His property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked.

Ousmane Illiassou Djibo, a native Nigerien, is an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS) leader operating in the Menaka Region of Mali. Djibo is a close collaborator and key lieutenant of ISIS-GS leader, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi. Djibo directed subordinate ISIS-GS members to develop a network to kidnap or attack westerners in Niger and surrounding areas. Djibo has also taken part in numerous assaults on local forces. He led ISIS-GS fighters in the July 1, 2019 attack on the Nigerien Armed Forces (FAN) base in Inates, Tillaberi Region, Niger, and also provided the order for ISIS-GS fighters to take six Nigerien soldiers hostage during an ambush on Nigerien soldiers near Tongo Tongo on May 14, 2019.

ISIS-GS, which was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and SDGT in May 2018, continues to threaten the peace, security, and stability of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. ISIS-GS emerged when Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi and his followers split from Al-Mourabitoun, an al-Qa’ida splinter group and U.S.-designated FTO and SDGT.  Al-Sahrawi first pledged allegiance to ISIS in May 2015, and ISIS acknowledged the pledge in October 2016.

Today’s designation notifies the U.S. public and the international community that Ousmane Illiassou Djibo is a leader of a terrorist organization.  Terrorist designations expose and isolate entities and individuals, and limit their access to the U.S. financial system.  Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of U.S. agencies and other governments.

Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 28, 2021

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Madam President, and thanks so much to Estonia for hosting this important debate today. I also would like to thank the Secretary-General for his presentation. I want to thank Director Fore for her presentation and everything that UNICEF does around the world to protect children. Mr. Whitaker and Mr. Onisimus, thank you also for your briefings today.

Over the course of my nearly four decades serving as an American ambassador and American diplomat, I have visited countless refugee camps, and I’ve met with so many victims of armed conflict. Of all the tragedies you see, those involving children break your heart the most. Children will tell you stories that no child should be able to recount. Of being conscripted at gunpoint. Of being raped. Of being forced to murder their own siblings, their own parents. These children are often no taller than the guns they actually carry. They are taught to commit war crimes before they even know how to count. To choose just one example, earlier this month, in the village of Solhan in the Sahel region, a non-state armed group killed more than 130 civilians – many of whom were children. That armed group? Mostly 12- to 14-year-olds. Children killing children – children killing children.

I also recall, more than 20 years ago, meeting a young 15-year-old who had been abducted in Sierra Leone from her family at age 12. And she was taken to the bush, she was gang raped, she was married to a combatant, and she was trained to fight. And when she finally escaped and found her way home to her family, she was rejected. I still recall her dark eyes, and I still hear the sound of her hollow voice, ringing in my ears, saying, “All I want is my mommy.” And in certain countries, where the majority of populations are under 18, this is more than a tragedy. It is the decimation of an entire generation. It’s murdering the future. From Sierra Leone to Colombia, Somalia to Afghanistan, countless boys and girls are facing violence, or being forced to commit violent acts themselves.

We established the Children and Armed Conflict agenda 25 years ago. A quarter-century later, we have not done enough. And as a result of the pandemic, this year has been one of the worst. Because of the pandemic, countless schools shut down. I visited a UNICEF exhibition in early March on the UN compound displaying empty chairs and backpacks, showing that 214 million children had missed three-quarters of their in-person learning, and more than 880 million continued to face disruption. Without schools, children became much more vulnerable to domestic violence in isolation. Girls in particular face systemic discrimination and their communities are at higher risk of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation both during and after conflict. Even the fear of attacks on schools are often enough for parents to keep their girls home, disrupting their education and stifling their futures.

Imagine if you were a parent now in northern Nigeria, as we heard from Onisimus, where schools are regularly attacked and children abducted for ransom. Those descriptions that we heard were chilling. Just last month, we saw a horrific attack in Afghanistan on schools in which at least 90 girls were killed. This can no longer be a side-issue for us. This is a generation-defining crisis. And we need to act now. At a minimum, the UN must ensure that where child protection advisors are mandated and funded, they are trained and deployed immediately. We must be deliberate and thoughtful – and acknowledge the unique and distinct risks faced by girls and boys and make certain that our approach is informed by gender-disaggregated data.

In addition, we need to focus on some of the hotspots where children are facing the most dire threats, like in Syria, in Burma, in Cameroon, and now in Ethiopia. In Burma, we’ve seen the Tatmadaw unlawfully recruiting children and subjecting them to violence. The Syrian regime continues to have no regard for the welfare of vulnerable children or youth. In the Cameroon Anglophone region, we are deeply concerned by the impact of the continued violence on children. Children have been threatened, and in some cases killed, for attending school. This is a generational loss, my colleagues. And it is truly unacceptable. We need to deploy every diplomatic tool we have to advance dialogue and end the violence. Hold accountable perpetrators and get kids back in school.

Similarly, we must focus on emerging conflicts where children face acute protection challenges, like in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. It is high time the Security Council met publicly on this issue. So, again, I thank you again, Madam President, for Estonia hosting this important debate. And it is past time we take the immensity of children’s’ suffering more seriously.

Around the world, if we want to give the future a fighting chance, we need to act now. The United States is the leading donor to UNICEF. We’re a strong believer in its core mandate. And we urge others to generously contribute. Because this is not some small subset of the population. In many places, particularly in countries facing conflict, children are most of the population.

I once had the great honor and fortune of a lifetime to meet Nelson Mandela. And I think of his far-seeing leadership often and I believe his mighty words should steer our vision now. Madiba once said, and I quote, “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Today the world’s soul is at stake. Let us avert our eyes no longer. Let us protect our children. Let us treat them right. And let’s right this wrong, now.

Thank you, Madam President.

###

Heroes of U.S. Diplomacy Recognizes Locally Employed Staff Honoree Jenkins Vangehn

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
June 28, 2021

U.S. Department of State’s “Heroes of U.S. Diplomacy” initiative will recognize Locally Employed Staff honoree, Jenkins Vangehn of Liberia, in a conversation with Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Belinda Jackson Farrier and Ambassador John Blaney (retired), who served as U.S. Ambassador during the second Liberian civil war. Ambassador Joan Polaschik, Acting Deputy Director of the Foreign Service Institute, will provide introductory and closing remarks.

On Tuesday, June 29 at 11 a.m. ET, “Heroes of U.S. Diplomacy” honoree Jenkins Vangehn, who served for 19 years at U.S. Embassy Monrovia, will discuss the selflessness and courage he demonstrated during his country’s civil war years – and the all-out effort he made to aid his country and support the U.S. Mission in 2003.

Since September 2019, the Department of State has recognized “Heroes of U.S. Diplomacy.” These heroes display sound policy judgment, as well as intellectual, moral, and even physical courage while advancing the mission of the Department of State and U.S. foreign policy goals on behalf of the American people.

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