12 February 2009

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

UN determined to stamp out use of child soldiers, one of world’s ‘most appalling

human rights abuses’, says Secretary-General at New York ‘red hand day’ event

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the culminating event of “The Red Hand Day Campaign” in New York, 12 February:

I want to extend special thanks to these young people for their statements.  They have undertaken truly impressive efforts to engage youth around the world in ending the recruitment and use of children as soldiers.  It is a privilege for me to accept, on behalf of the United Nations system, the red hands that have been collected through this global campaign.

The forced recruitment and use of child soldiers is one of the most appalling human rights abuses in the world today.  Many thousands of children are being exploited.  Every day, they are compelled to endure and inflict violence that no child should ever have to experience.

This is unacceptable.  The recruitment and use of children in warfare violates international law.  It also violates our most basic standards of human decency.  The entire United Nations system and I are determined to stamp out such abuse.

Seven years ago today, the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force.  Today, 126 United Nations Member States have ratified the treaty ‑- more than two thirds of the world’s countries.  Many have made changes in their legislation or their practices to end the use of children in hostilities.  This is a significant accomplishment.  But as the youth representatives have pointed out today, all too often these legal obligations are ignored.

Ending the use of child soldiers requires concerted action by all of us.

We need Member States that have ratified treaties prohibiting the use of children in armed conflict to implement their obligations.  We need Member States that have not yet ratified these important agreements to do so.

We need the efforts of UNICEF and its partners to prevent child recruitment and to attend to the rehabilitation and reintegration needs of children who have been used as soldiers.  We need our United Nations country teams to monitor and report on child recruitment, and to respond when it takes place.

We need the United Nations Security Council and its working group on children and armed conflict to press Governments and armed groups alike to uphold their international obligations.  We need my Special Representative on children and armed conflict to negotiate agreements with those armed forces and groups that persist in using child soldiers to stop their recruitment and to release children from their ranks.

We also need the efforts of young people like those represented here today, and the thousands of others who have participated in the Red Hand Day Campaign.

Our collective work on child soldiers has brought progress in changing laws, protecting children and helping those who have been affected by war.  But we must do more.  Too many children are being taken from their homes and families and sent into battle.  We must not rest until all children who have been recruited or used in violation of international law have been released, and until all children feel safe in their homes, schools and communities, without fear that they will be forced into war.

As Secretary-General, I will do what I can, and I promise that this effort will remain a high priority for the United Nations.

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For information media • not an official record