Luise Amtsberg, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement on today’s World Children’s Day (20 November 2023):
It is often said that children are our future: in speeches and political statements – especially today on World Children’s Day. Yet for far too many children in the world, this is nothing more than an empty promise. Their reality is marked by poverty and hunger, by violence, war and destruction. They have few prospects for the future, no chance of growing up in peace and freedom, no chance of an education and a life in dignity.
Children are often the first to suffer in wars and conflicts. We are currently witnessing this yet again in Israel and Gaza.
Hamas’ brutal terror did not spare children and babies. Many children are still among Hamas’ hostages, while children in Israel regularly have to seek shelter from missile attacks from Gaza. Hamas must free these hostages, especially the children, immediately!
In Gaza, meanwhile, many children have fled – alone or with their families – to humanitarian facilities such as schools or hospitals. But there is a shortage of everything in the completely overcrowded buildings. There is not enough water, not enough to eat and hygienic conditions are appalling.
Too many children have already been killed in this war – even though international humanitarian law obliges all parties to a conflict to grant children special protection. Israel has the right, indeed it has a responsibility, to protect its people from Hamas’ terror – just like any other country in the world. However, it also has an obligation to protect the civilian population as well as it can and to uphold international law. This is particularly challenging, especially as Hamas is hiding behind the people in Gaza.
In order to alleviate the pressing hardship of the civilian population in Gaza, particularly that of the children, and to ensure that Hamas’ cynical strategy does not succeed, the German Government is urging humanitarian pauses and access for humanitarian relief goods to Gaza. Moreover, the Federal Foreign Office is providing an additional five million euro from its humanitarian assistance specifically for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Palestinian territories. We have increased overall humanitarian assistance for Gaza by 87.97 million euro since the start of the war. Humanitarian assistance from Germany in 2023 thus now totals 161 million euro.
Yet it is not only in the Middle East that children are suffering from the impact of war and violence. In our immediate neighbourhood, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has been raging for almost two years. Many thousands of Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia and Belarus, torn away from their families, abducted from children’s facilities, homes and schools, subjected to brainwashing in Russian re-education camps and, in some cases, released for adoption in Russia. Those children suffering as a result of Russia’s aggression have been robbed of their childhood. This applies to far too many brutal wars, whether it be in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Syria, Somalia, Yemen, the Sudan or Mali, where – according to the United Nations – children are deployed as child soldiers and forced to fight.
It is therefore all the more important that today, on World Children’s Day, we remember that children have inalienable rights: human rights laid down in the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the UN General Assembly 34 years ago this very day. Safeguarding and implementing these rights in Germany, in Europe and worldwide is a duty and obligation for this German Government – especially in the 75th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.