Omar Hilale Outlines Morocco’s Vision, Strategic Choice for Protection of Children’s Rights in Armed Conflicts

Morocco’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), Omar Hilale, outlined in Oslo, Morocco’s committed vision and irreversible strategic approach to the protection of children’s rights in times of armed conflict.

Intervening at the opening of the plenary session of the Oslo International Conference on “Protecting Children in Armed Conflict,” Hilale highlighted Morocco’s “committed vision to protecting and promoting children’s rights, under the Wise Leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, and the personal involvement of Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meriem, President of the National Observatory for the Rights of the Child (ONDE), United Nations (UN) Ambassador for Children, and winner of UNICEF’s “Champion Generation Unlimited” award.”

On this occasion, the Moroccan diplomat noted that the Kingdom has undertaken several measures to uphold its national and international commitments, adding that Morocco has adopted the full legal arsenal of international human rights law and international humanitarian law relating to the protection and promotion of the rights of the child.

The Moroccan ambassador also emphasized that Morocco was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the three additional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the one on children and armed conflict, noting that the Kingdom is committed to systematically harmonizing its national legislation with international human rights law.

Regarding soft law, Hilale underlined that Morocco has signed and ratified the Paris Principles, the Vancouver Principles, and the Safe Schools Declaration, noting that Morocco’s national legislation regulates military enlistment in the armed forces, a voluntary service set at the age of 18 in line with international law.

In terms of advocacy, the Moroccan diplomat stressed that Morocco is actively working to ensure that children’s rights are respected and promoted both in the Kingdom and internationally.

In this context, Hilale underlined that Morocco advocates the protection of children in all situations, including humanitarian ones, recalling that the Kingdom hosted, on March 22, 2022, in Rabat, the International Symposium on “Protecting children during humanitarian crises,” which was crowned by the “Rabat Appeal” that includes concrete recommendations and calls on the international community to takes action to protect children and prevent and combat the military recruitment of children and all other forms of child exploitation in crisis zones, in the light of international humanitarian and human rights law.

The Moroccan diplomat also noted that Morocco organized, on November 21, 2022, on the occasion of World Children’s Day, a meeting in Geneva on “the recruitment of child soldiers by armed militias,” with the participation of government representatives, United Nations (UN) agencies, and civil society.

In addition, Morocco’s permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) recalled the establishment, on February 12, 2022, in Rabat, of the Civil Advocacy Coalition for the Protection of Children in Refugee Camps, especially in Tindouf, noting that Morocco is an active member of the Geneva-based “Group of Friends on Children and Armed Conflict.”

At the institutional level, Hilale pointed out that the National Observatory on the Rights of the Child (ONDE), chaired by Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meriem, is a leading institution tasked with monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to promote children’s protection on a permanent basis, in all instances, fields, and situations.

Hilale also noted that the Children’s Parliament in Morocco plays a major role in the participation of children as partners in development, stressing that this inclusive institution highlights the importance of dialogue and communication among children, and between children and stakeholders, and raises awareness among future generations of the imperative of protecting and promoting children’s rights.

Recalling the establishment of the International Research Center for the Prevention of Child Soldiers in Dakhla on March 31, 2022, the Moroccan diplomat indicated that this center’s mission is to collect and provide accurate, qualitative, and quantitative data to expand research and knowledge on the issue of child soldiers in armed conflicts and find targeted and effective solutions to eradicate this phenomenon.

At the regional level, Hilale highlighted Morocco’s active involvement in regional organizations to reinforce the prevention and fight against the military recruitment of children.

The Moroccan ambassador added that the Council of the Arab League (AL) adopted, at Morocco’s initiative, a resolution in March 2022 on combating the military recruitment of children and a “comprehensive Arab plan to minimize the recruitment of children in armed conflicts and by terrorist groups.”

Referring to the African Union (AU), and during its presidency of the Peace and Security Council (PSC), Hilale stated that Morocco had adopted in October 2022 a declaration on the “prevention of the recruitment and use of children in conflict situations,” noting that this declaration strongly condemned the ongoing recruitment and use of children by armed forces and terrorist organizations in Africa and highlighted the importance of comprehensive national action plans to reinforce efforts to eradicate the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups, and support demobilization, family reintegration, and compulsory education.

The Moroccan diplomat added that the declaration also stressed the imperative of integrating child protection into early warning mechanisms and intervention processes for conflict prevention and resolution, peacemaking and peacebuilding, and post-conflict reconstruction and development.

Morocco’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations concluded that the Kingdom is committed to “investing all its efforts in ensuring the protection of children in armed conflict and safeguarding our future.”

The Moroccan delegation to the Oslo International Conference includes, in addition to Hilale, Morocco’s Ambassador to Norway and Iceland, Nabila Freidji, and Minister Plenipotentiary at Morocco’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations (UN) in New York, Majda Moutchou.

Organized by the Norwegian government, the Oslo International Conference brings together government representatives, United Nations (UN) agencies, and civil society to discuss ways and means of mobilizing concrete international action to protect children, prevent their illegal recruitment in militias, and ensure that their fundamental rights are not violated in times of war.

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