The abduction and forcible deportation of children in armed conflict areas are global problems. These brutal abuses occur in all regions of the world, including Nigeria, Yemen, Colombia, and Ukraine.
Ambassador Robert Wood, U.S. Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs, spoke at a recent UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on the issue.
“The impact of these actions is devastating and long-lasting,” he said. “It deprives children of their childhood, education, and healthy social development.”
Measures must be taken, said Ambassador Wood, that would help ensure the safe release and return of abducted children, including legal frameworks that prioritize the protection of children and accountability measures for those who abduct or forcibly remove children.
Ambassador Wood pointed out that these human rights violations against children are perpetrated by non-state actors and state actors alike. “We need to recognize the role of state actors…and hold them to account for their actions,” he said.
Russia’s abduction of Ukrainian children during its full-fledged invasion of Ukraine stands out as a horrible example of a state actor’s abuse. “Russia’s forces have unlawfully deported thousands of Ukraine’s children from Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation,” Ambassador Wood noted. “Recent reports document the Russian government’s efforts to sever communication between these children and their relatives in Ukraine, prevent the children’s return to Ukraine, and ‘re-educate’ them. In doing so, the Russian Federation is attempting to rob Ukraine of its future.”
Ambassador Wood noted that Russia has refused to provide access and information about the number or whereabouts of abducted Ukrainian children to the government of Ukraine. “These abuses against Ukraine’s children are the result of decisions made and actions taken at all levels of Russia’s government,” he declared. “Relocated children should be identified to the Government of Ukraine to support family reunification efforts.”
Ambassador Wood said it is “crucial” that the international community take concrete action to address the terrible human rights violation of abducted and forcibly deported children throughout the world, including through support to affected communities, promotion of access to education, and strengthening of relevant accountability mechanisms.
“We must act urgently and collectively to end the abduction and deportation of children during armed conflicts,” declared Ambassador Wood. “We owe it to these children to promote their protection, ensure their safety and well-being, and prevent them from being subjected to brutal treatment.”