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During her visit to New York for the UNGA78, the 78th General Assembly of the United Nations, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib will chair a number of ministerial side-events on behalf of our country, in collaboration with European and international partners. Belgium is invited to co-organise a number of events because of its high profile as a defender of children's and women's rights.
For this reason, the Minister for Foreign Affairs will be taking part today, Tuesday, in the ministerial meeting on gender-based discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan, alongside Afghan ministers, women and women's rights activists. More than two years after the Taliban took power, Belgium must note that women and girls have been completely excluded from political and public life, and there is little hope of a turnaround. This is why Belgium remains active on the issue of women's rights in Afghanistan with financial support in recent years, notably through UN Women, the Women's Peace and Humanitarian Fund, the Protection Centre For Women Rights Defenders Afghanistan and the Afghanistan Monitoring Hub project. Afghanistan is still a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and should be made to face up to its responsibilities under the Convention.
The Minister will also be present today, at Ukraine's request, at the event co-organised by Belgium "Fighting for the future: Ukrainian children at war", which focuses on concrete actions needed to alleviate and end the suffering of Ukrainian children.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib: "Since 24 February 2022, almost every child in Ukraine has been affected by Russia's illegal and illegitimate war. Whether their homes and schools have been bombed, whether they have had to flee or, worse still, whether they have been forcibly deported to Russia. More than 500 children have been killed. We cannot and must never accept this. We must therefore act urgently to deal with the immediate and long-term consequences and put an end to the suffering of these children."
Minister Lahbib will also attend on Wednesday the event "Working for Sustainable Peace and Development: Putting Children at the Centre" organised by Malta, a current member of the United Nations Security Council, which focuses on the broader issue of children in armed conflict. Belgium is co-organising this event because of its commitment to the subject, but also because it is under the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU, at the beginning of next year, that new EU guidelines on "Children and Armed Conflict" will be adopted.
In addition, Belgium has for several years paid particular attention to the interconnection between the political, security and humanitarian aspects of crises, in collaboration with ECHO - the European Commission department responsible for civil protection and humanitarian aid operations. This year's theme is "Bridging the gap: accelerating climate action in vulnerable and fragile contexts". The side-event will focus on the impact of climate change on security, particularly in fragile contexts such as island states. We are already looking ahead to COP 28, the next United Nations climate conference in December in the United Arab Emirates. Our country and the European Commission are also working with the United Arab Emirates on this side-event.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib: "Climate change can lead to crop failure or the drying up of natural water resources, resulting in food insecurity, tensions between population groups or conflicts. Climate change is undoubtedly a risk factor that aggravates social, political, economic and specific causes of conflict. We need to find solutions to this problem together. That's why this issue is high on the agenda of both our country and the European Commission”.
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