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Protection of Children in War Must Be Strengthened

Protection of Children in Wartime Must Be Strengthened, Security Council Told

New York, Jul 24 2006 5:00PM

With over 250,000 boys currently exploited as child soldiers and tens of thousands of girls subject to sexual violence, it was time for the United Nations Security Council to step up its efforts to protect such children by acting against their violators, UN officials told the 15-member body today.

“The initial phase of the monitoring and reporting mechanisms is now over,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan for children and armed conflict, said, referring to measures put in place, through a landmark 2005 Council resolution, to report on violations of children’s rights by either Government or rebel forces during conflicts. “It is now time for the Security Council to take action against repeat offenders.”

Resolution 1612 takes account of recruitment of child soldiers, killing and maiming children, rape and other sexual violence, abduction and forced displacement, denial of humanitarian access to children, attacks against schools and hospitals, as well as trafficking, forced labour and all forms of slavery.

It calls for such crimes to be monitored in the pilot countries of Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nepal, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Sudan.

Ms. Coomaraswamy thanked numerous actors at the local, national, regional and international level for their assistance in putting such monitoring mechanisms in place and noted that the first country report, on the DRC, had been submitted in June.

However, recounting the story of a Sierra Leonean boy she called “Abou” who, since being abducted at the age of 11, had fought with rebels in his own country, in Liberia and in Côte d’Ivoire, she said that the monitoring had served to confirm “that there are far too many Abous out there, and we are compelled to protect them.”

Ann Veneman, head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) drew attention to the fact that over the past decade some two million children have died as a result of war, while countless others have had to flee their homes.

“For centuries, children have been victims of conflict and their tragedy has been largely unrecorded and unnoticed,” Ms. Veneman said. “Now, with the support of the Security Council, we are finally able to monitor the true scale of the impact on children so we can act.”

In a report released today, UNICEF said that every day 1,200 people, half of them children, are killed in the DRC because of violence, disease and malnutrition.

Also making a statement to the Council today, Ad Melkert, Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), said strong policies needed to be put in place that make young people active agents for peace. As an example, he said youth could be trained as election observers or peace monitors.

In the open meeting that followed those presentations, 36 speakers, representing Council members and other nations, affirmed that protecting children from abuse during conflict was a responsibility of each State and the entire international community, with many proposing mechanisms to follow up on resolution 1612.

The Security Council’s July President, Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière of France, stressed the importance of the issue for his country and for the Council as a whole, speaking to reporters outside the meeting.

“The debate we have today is to take stock of everything we have done and to also boost the work in the Council,” he said, welcoming the fact that national ministers were attending, particularly from the DRC, which had recently presented its report.

ENDS

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