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Statement on missing persons

Statement by Political Coordinator Klemen Ponikvar at the Arria-formula meeting titled “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: prevent and respond to persons going missing across the globe”

Thank you, Madam Chair,

We would like to begin by thanking you for organizing this Arria-formula meeting and thank the presenters for their very insightful and informative contributions.

With the rising number of armed conflicts, we face unprecedented numbers of missing persons each year. The anguish of parents, siblings, spouses, and children of those missing in armed conflict is indescribable. The ambiguous loss, the uncertainty of not knowing whether your loved ones are dead or alive, not being able to grieve, not being able to say goodbye or get the closure is something most of us in this room cannot even comprehend. Sadly, this is a reality for families of countless of missing persons worldwide, with 40,000 newly reported missing persons in armed conflicts in last year alone – the highest ever number of annual registrations.

It has been over five years since the adoption of the first-ever Security Council resolution 2474 addressing the situation of missing persons in armed conflict. Nonetheless, with each passing year the number of missing persons rises to unprecedented levels contributing to the already alarming situation. We remain deeply concerned over the situation of missing persons in Ukraine, Syria, Sudan, and most recently in Gaza. In other parts of the world, such as Colombia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Iraq, families are still searching for their loved ones  even long after the conflict has ended.  Today, we have heard powerful testimonies, and I would like to acknowledge the pain and courage of families of missing persons. They enrich our understanding on what needs to be done.

First and foremost, respecting international humanitarian law and international human rights law, containing obligations to prevent missing persons in armed conflict, is of utmost importance. Strengthening legal and institutional frameworks against enforced disappearances and ensuring accountability for state and non-state actors is critical for prevention and responding to the situation of missing persons. States that have not yet ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances should do that as soon as possible.

For the legal frameworks to be effective, we also need to enhance cooperation and coordination between international organizations, national authorities, and local communities to prevent and ensure a cohesive response to incidents of missing persons. Robust systems for documenting and reporting, which utilize new technologies and community networks, are crucial for tracking missing persons’ cases. Providing comprehensive support to survivors, families, and communities affected by missing persons must be at the forefront of our efforts. Particular attention should be given to the cases of missing children.

Conflict prevention is always the most efficient and most cost-effective way to alleviate the impacts of armed conflict, including the issue of missing persons. Early warning systems and early detection of the vulnerability of the population at risk of going missing are essential for the prevention of missing persons in armed conflict.

Madam Chair,

With the world in turmoil, it is high time we strengthen our collective political will towards preventing and resolving conflicts. Sparing another child from growing up without their parents, another spouse from losing their life story with a loved one, and another parent from missing their child’s aspiration should be enough of a reason.

I thank you.

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