UN expert launches action plan for systematic worldwide reporting of child abuse

Olara Otunnu

9 February 2005 – United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for children and armed conflict (CAAC) today launched an action plan for systematically monitoring and reporting child abuse in situations of armed conflict, or in "situations of concern," with a view to triggering a strong international response.

In the past several years, CAAC issues had benefited from increased visibility and advocacy, while key regional and multilateral organizations had adopted many CAAC norms as their own, Special Representative Olara Otunnu told a news conference at which he discussed Mr. Annan's report to the Security Council.

The estimated number of child soldiers had declined to 300,000 from 380,000 in the last 18 months, Mr. Otunnu said.

"In spite of these advances, the situation for children remains grave and unacceptable on the ground," he said. "The key to overcoming this gulf lies in instituting an international compliance regime."

The regime would list all offending parties, whether from the government or rebel side, in all situations of concern, "whether or not those situations are on the agenda of the Security Council," Mr. Otunnu said.

He noted that his mandate did not define the term "armed conflict," adding that being listed in the report "should not be construed as a legal determination that there exists a situation of armed conflict within the meaning of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols."

Violations included recruiting children as soldiers, abducting, maiming, or killing them, subjecting them to rape and other sexual violence and attacking schools and hospitals, he said.

For widespread and unacceptable patterns of violation, the Security Council should take such measures as imposing travel restrictions on leaders, excluding them from future governance structures or amnesties, arms embargoes and military assistance bans and restrictions on the flow of financial resources, Mr. Otunnu said.

Other "destinations for action" would be the General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights, the International Criminal Court, regional organizations and, as the first line of response, the national governments within whose borders the children are endangered.

The report updates developments in nine countries on the Security Council's agenda, including Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Iraq, the occupied Palestinian territory and Sudan.

Eight others were either not on that agenda or were in other situations of concern. They are Colombia, Myanmar, Nepal, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka and Uganda.

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