Morocco's ambassador to the UN Omar Hilale stressed that "states that harbor, arm, finance and train armed groups recruiting children bear the same criminal liability as these groups and must be accountable before the international community."
"The primary responsibility rests with member states to protect all children, especially those who are refugees on their territory, without distinction of any kind," Hilale said at a virtual meeting marking the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, organized by Canada, Rwanda, Uruguay, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Canada-based Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security.
"Unfortunately, we are still witnessing serious violations of children's rights in many contexts, including several refugee camps, where armed groups recruit children and separate them from their families, in total disregard of their fundamental rights," the diplomat deplored.
"As we speak, thousands of children around the world are forced to take part in conflicts," Hilale said. "Child victims who are forced or trapped in armed groups suffer a wide range of violations and abuses of their human rights, including their right to life, the right to be free from sexual violence and other forms of torture, the right to education and the right to freedom of thought," he regretted.
The Moroccan diplomat also noted that as the largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations, the Kingdom has "always given priority to the welfare and protection of children."
In that regard, he recalled that Morocco endorsed the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers shortly after the November 2017 Vancouver ministerial meeting.
"Child protection has always been part of the pre-deployment training of Moroccan peacekeepers" participating in UN peace operations, Hilale said.
The ambassador also highlighted "the special attention given to developing the capacity of Moroccan peacekeepers to detect early warning signs of recruitment and use of child soldiers" in the missions in which they are deployed and to commit to protecting children at risk.