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Legal Protections For Children Caught In War

UN Report Urges Action To Enforce Legal Protections For Children Caught In War

New York, Oct 5 2005

A higher level of commitment and more effective collaboration between the United Nations and civil society will be needed to enforce the rights of war-affected children in a world where 2 million have been killed, 6 million injured and 250,000 brutally exploited over the past decade, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict said in a new report.

"We have as never before the legal instruments for protecting children in armed conflict, but the situation on the ground is getting worse," Tonderai Chikuhwa, Programme Officer of the Special Representative said today in discussing the report. "Now the challenge is to move from the formal commitments we have made to children to actually changing the situation on the ground," he told the UN News Service.

Abductions are becoming more systematic and widespread, and since 2003 over 14 million children have been forcibly displaced within and outside their home countries. The Special Representative's mandate now will be to ensure "an era of application of child protection standards and norms," against violators of the rights of children, Mr. Chikuhwa said.

Since 1999 more than five important protocols were adopted or strengthened globally for the protection of war-affected children, including the criminalization of recruitment and use of child soldiers under the age of 18 by governments or irregular groups. Security Council resolution 1612 adopted this year is one way in which the Council has committed to taking "concrete and targeted measures" against people who continue to commit grave violations against children, he said.

Going forward, the Special Representative is hoping to put greater muscle behind the laws, and counts four major elements towards that objective, one of the most important among them a Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict that will be coming out with its first set of recommendations this month. Along with a specific, high-level focus, the Working Group will be better able to respond to situations as they evolve on the ground, Mr. Chikuhwa said.

The Working Group will likely be looking at whether it can adopt measures similar to the anti-terrorism steps of freezing financial assets and preventing travel by abusers, he said. Such a measure would probably be targeted at the 54 insurgents and government actors who were named in Secretary-General Kofi Annan's 2005 Annual Report as "grave" abusers of children's human rights, Mr. Chikuhwa added.

The Special Representative named more than 30 "situations of concern" in its report, in addition to the 11 situations of "grave concern," named by Mr. Annan, where the most offending parties, while not necessarily belonging to the governments, were geographically located: Burundi, Côte D'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, the Sudan, Colombia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Uganda.

"Grave violators" of children's rights include those who have killed or maimed children, recruited or used child soldiers, raped or committed sexual violence against children, attacked schools and hospitals, abducted children or blocked relief aid from reaching them.

"Unless we prioritize this issue as one of the most important issues, there is no possibility for durable peace and security into the future," Mr. Chikuhwa said. "The future lies in the hands of children who are being brutalized during armed conflict. These are the same people who will be community leaders in the future. We must act now to break the cycle of abuse and violence."


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