Security Council calls for greater effort to protect children in wartime

Amb. Jean-Marc de La Sablière

24 July 2006 – After hearing presentations from United Nations officials about the 250,000 boys currently exploited as child soldiers and tens of thousands of girls subject to sexual violence, the Security Council today called for a “reinvigorated effort” to protect children in areas of armed conflict.

Through a statement read out by its July President, Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière of France, the 15-member body praised the implementation of its landmark 2005 Council resolution that called for the monitoring of violations of children’s rights and well-being in seven conflict zones.

The mechanism has already produced results in the field, but more must be done, including the pursuit of efforts to reintegrate child soldiers into their societies, the Council said, and it called on national governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to contribute to that effort.

In the preceding Council discussion, UN officials and delegations had also called for greater efforts to protect children, including measures to prevent impunity on the part of government forces and rebel groups who persist in exploiting and abusing them.

“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, “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.

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