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UN expert on children, armed conflict fends off criticism about 'silence' on Gaza

June 13, 2024 at 9:10 pm

Press briefing by Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba at UN Headquarters [Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images]

UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, pushed back Thursday against criticisms about the “relative silence” on the crisis in the Gaza Strip, asserting that she has “publicly spoken” about it several times, Anadolu Agency reports.

Gamba held a news conference at the UN in New York that focused on the latest “Children and Armed Conflict Report,” which contains 2023 data and was previously obtained by Anadolu.

Responding to Anadolu’s question about “why you have not been more outspoken about the horrific situation of children in Gaza after the seventh of October” and her “relative silence” on the matter, Gamba said: “I heard a lot about this business of mine not being outspoken or not, on the issue of Gaza. Frankly, I think those remarks are a cause of concern to me because clearly, I’ve spoken publicly more than seven times about it, with issuing public statements that do not seem to register anyway.”

Gamba said that, during the Security Council session regarding “children and armed conflict” on 3 April, she was requested by Malta, the organiser, to address the issue in general terms.

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She said all Council members were informed about the session’s content one month in advance. Thus, the criticisms directed at her for not mentioning Gaza were “unkind”.

She argued that the criticisms cast a shadow over her objectivity and impartiality, “which I really do not accept,” she said.

The UN expert later thanked Anadolu for pointing out that official information on Gamba mentioning Gaza seven times in her remarks is nowhere to be found. “Because sometimes it’s good for me to know that,” she said.

Emphasising that her office has 12 staff members working on more than 100 conflicts, she said they do not receive “extra-budgetary funds for any of the needs” that they have requested.

Responding to a question about why she has never been to Gaza, Gamba said this issue is a priority for UN humanitarian units. “It was not my decision not to go to Gaza. I go when I’m asked to go,” she said.

Asked if she was moved by images she encountered from Gaza, Gamba said: “If I was moved by each one of those pictures, I resigned my job today. I am moved. I keep it to myself, because someone has to do the job, and you cannot do the job if you’re in a heap of tears on the floor,” she said.

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