The UMKC Truman Center hosted guest speaker Sharon Riggle last Friday for a special student session in honor of the United Nations Day Dinner hosted by Mayor Sly James.
Sharon Riggle serves as the Chief of Office at the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC). She is currently the Senior Policy Advisor to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and facilitates pragmatic and administrative oversight for the office. Riggle also maintains an array of expertise in Africa, Europe and the Asian-Pacific.
Riggle spoke to UMKC students about the ongoing violence and systematic violations of UN mandates mostly occurring in Syria and the Gaza Strip, but also in other regions around the world. In regions with ongoing conflict, children often become the most vulnerable in society.
The CAAC monitors and reports violations ranging from child recruitment, sexual abuse, killing and maiming, abduction and attacks on hospitals and schools as the most dire abuses by countries in conflict zones. The office then releases an annual report to the U.N. Security Council highlighting the atrocities being committed by states and non-state actors in hopes of placing responsibility and accountability on violators. Although her office does not deal directly with the refugees, the CAAC works closely with UNICEF and other organizations on the ground to develop programs and initiates to help children caught in conflict reclaim a path to normalcy. By providing and promoting education and job service programs, the CAAC works to limit the children most vulnerable in falling into the hands of terrorist organizations like ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
“A child who knows how to use a gun won’t be begging in the streets,” explained Riggle.
She described the modern slave trade of women and children by ISIL to that of the Atlantic slave trade, in its organization and effectiveness.
“Hundreds of women and children are currently being stored like goods in large buildings and warehouses just waiting to be sold as commodities.”
The state of Palestine and Israel is another “hot area” for the CAAC with its escalating violence in recent weeks. Riggle spoke softly and sympathetically about 600 children killed last year in the Gaza Strip and worried about the future of the region.
Oct. 24 marks the anniversary of the creation of the United Nations charter and is celebrated as United Nations Day across the world. Iconic monuments, buildings, and statues all over the globe will be lit up with blue lights to celebrate the formation of the United Nations and their message of peace.
Kansas City massed its own celebrations this year at the U.N. Day Dinner hosted by Mayor Sly James on Friday, Oct. 23 at the InterContinental Hotel in the Plaza. Among guests was Congressman Emanuel Clever who talked about Kansas City’s special relationship with the United Nations.