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Kamala Sarup: Threats To Children's Security

Threats To Children's Security


By Kamala Sarup

''There a better way to promote communal harmony and peace. Even recently, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers said that children are fighting in almost every major conflict, in both government and opposition forces. They are being injured, subjected to horrific abuse and killed,'' journalist Anup Thapalia said.

"Children should be protected from warfare not used to wage it. Instead generations are having their childhoods stolen by governments and armed groups," said Casey Kelso, head of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.

"A world that does not allow children to fight wars is possible, but governments must show the political will and courage to make this happen by enforcing international laws," he further said.

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 reviews trends and developments since 2001 in 196 countries. Despite some improvements the situation remained the same or deteriorated in many countries. Wars ending in Afghanistan, Angola and Sierra Leone led to the demobilization of 40,000 children, but over 25,000 were drawn into conflicts in Cote d'Ivoire and Sudan alone.

Thapalia said "The UN Security Council has condemned child soldiering and monitors those using children in war. The Coalition said that the Security Council should take immediate and decisive action to get children out of conflict by applying targeted sanctions and referring child recruiters to the International Criminal Court for prosecution".

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 also argued "Armed groups, both government-backed paramilitaries and opposition forces, are the main culprits in recruitment and use of child soldiers. Dozens of groups in at least 21 conflicts have recruited tens of thousands of children since 2001, forcing them into combat, training them to use explosives and weapons, and subjecting them to rape, violence and hard labour. The Coalition said that all armed groups should protect children from conflict or be held legally accountable".

Even, INSEC general secretary Subodh Raj Pyakurel, recently says "We are collecting exact data on the number of children involved in the conflict. However, our estimate shows that more than 100,000 have been affected. As the conflict zone expands, more than 500,000-600,000 children are living in stress," he says.

Even recently, UNICEF has urged all Nepali people to act seriously to protect children from being victimised in the ongoing conflict.

"Childhood should be a time of growth, of playing, learning, exploring and developing. It should not be a time of hunger, illness or ignorance," In a statement issued on the occasion of the 15th International Child Rights Day, Dr Suomi Sakai, representative of the UNICEF Nepal Country Office said.

And, a child does not stop being a child just because she is married off at 12 and a mother at 13. She is still a child, as is a boy or girl recruited as a combatant. Such children, are children at high risk, and thus in even greater need of care and support.

The cost of this conflict is becoming a bitter harvest – it is damaging our children, the future of the country." She also argued recently.

Anup further said "Nepal has already expressed its commitments to international child rights norms by ratifying the UN Convention in 1990. Nepali Children want peace. The whole country wants the war to end. There is a strong expression of peace in the community so children are very hopeful about the talks".

Even, UN child soldiers treaty refers to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. This prohibits the participation of children under the age of 18 in hostilities and all forced recruitment of children. It calls on states to raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment.

"Scores of armed political groups in most regions of the world continued to recruit children, force them into combat, train them to use explosives and weapons, and subject them to rape, violence, hard labour and other forms of exploitation," said the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers.

By August 2004, 77 states had signed an optional UN protocol setting 18 as the minimum age for the direct participation in hostilities.

Now we have questions why armed political groups in most regions of the world still continued to recruit children, force them into combat, train them to use explosives and weapons, and subject them to rape, violence, hard labour and other forms of exploitation?. Why still everyday countless innocent victims including children die in Nepal?.

Why still the war-affected children in Nepal have no opportunity for education, and eat one meal a day?

"More than 1,500 children have lost their parents and 3,000 children are displaced along with their parents. This is the direct effect of the conflict. The indirect effect is much larger". Anup said.

Yet, in order to build an international consensus among governments and armed political movements on the need to inure child populations from the impact of war, precise documentation of its real life impact on children in different parts of Nepal needed to be compiled.

Nepali children are also facing discrimination in access to health, education, and other areas. The peace-loving Nepalese want a safe future for their children.

It is true, majority of the Nepalese people wish the talks to resume in order to restore normalcy in the country. It is time that all peace-loving people in Nepal sit together and agree on a cease-fire at least for the time being. Failing to do this, might invite untold sufferings to the people and the children. We can not forget how the political conflict in Nepal has hurt business there greatly. Most obviously in the tourist industry, but also in exports, manufacturing and other areas of business.

"This is a power struggle which won't be resolved until all sides see that they are going to lose and win. Furthermore, an agreement won't take place until all parties see that they have as much to gain through negotiation as they have to to lose from negotiation. Outside forces for the good can provide positive and negative incentives to the conflicting sides. Once a balance of power is accepted by all sides is when the conflict will be over". Thapalya said.

Today, we recognise that many other threats to children's security may also be a source of conflict. The intimate relationship between social justice, material well-being and peace must also be taken into account, if action is to be pursued far enough to prevent conflicts from escalating.

*************

(Kamala Sarup is editor to http://peacejournalism.com )


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