29 September 2006 The new United Nations Human Rights Council should make it a primary duty to protect civilians during armed conflict, an independent UN rights expert urged today, highlighting in particular the suffering of children caught up in warfare across the globe.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, said in a report to the 47-member Council that this had been a terrible year for children affected by war.
In the past, all combatants would create the humanitarian space for the protection of children but today there was an uphill battle to ensure that these principles remained entrenched, she said.
Next month Ms. Coomaraswamy said that her office, working alongside various partners including the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), will launch a two-year strategy aimed at ending grave violations against children in armed conflict by promoting protection, raising awareness and making the issue central to peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
Representatives from almost 20 countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) spoke during the debate before the Council moved on to discuss a report on Liberia.
Charlotte Abaka, Independent Expert on technical cooperation and advisory services, said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Liberia, which was inaugurated on 20 February 2006, had made slow initial progress, particularly over the issue of hiring suitable staff, while authorities should also do more to tackle corruption.
She commended Liberia’s people for last year’s elections and also pointed out that the new Government had acceded to over 100 international agreements, including a range of human rights treaties.
In response, McKinley Thomas said Liberia acknowledged there was a lot that needed to be done in specific areas but the Government had made progress despite the devastation caused by years of war.
He also stressed there was an immediate need for technical assistance relating to reporting on human rights treaties and follow-up and called for the Council to help with this request. Six countries spoke in the interactive debate after the report was presented.
Later on Friday, the Council discussed a follow-up report to that given earlier in the week by John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. It also debated various decisions and resolutions made during its first session in June. This second session of the Council, set up to replace the much-criticized Commission on Human Rights, opened on 18 September and will run until 6 October.