CENTRE FOR THE CULTURE OF PEACE AND NON-VIOLENCE "MALI KORAK"
 

Maja Uzelac,

NGO speaker from Croatia

at

General Assembly Special Session on Children,

8 -10 May 2002

NO MORE CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT - PEACE IS EVERY CHILD'S RIGHT!!!

COULD WE CHANGE OUR GLOBAL CULTURE OF WAR INTO CULTURE OF PEACE
The call of Global Movement for Children is to change the world WITH& FOR children

At the beginning of the 20th century legal efforts were put in place for protection of children in wartime. At the end of 20th century in Europe, in the region of former Yugoslavia, as the consequence of war activities, children's rights were violated in disastrous proportions. Children were killed, wounded or forcibly displaced and separated from their families.

It is assumed that 10.000 unaccompanied refugee children from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were either forcibly displaced or sent outside war zones by their parents in order to save their lives.

Conflicts throughout the world have caused unacceptable suffering to children. Around the world, there are tens of thousands of children who, because of wars, are denied their right to life, right to safety, right to education. War destroys everything, our schools, our homes, our families, our communities, our bodies and lives, our jobs, our physical and mental health. War destroys the childhood. War-affected children are at greater risk to grow into generation of adults more committed to violence than to peace. One of the tragic impacts of war in the region of former Yugoslavia was distortion of values - the culture of peace had turned into the culture of war.

World leaders must make strong commitments to their children's well being and, more importantly, follow through on these promises with concrete and immediate actions. It is, as Executive Director of UNICEF, Carol Bellamy said, "Investing in children is investing in a more prosperous and stable world." Or, as Gracia Machel said in her Report in 1996 and her current review document from 2000 "the children should be considered 'the zones of peace"'. O as a 16 year old girl, one of the 4000 of unaccompanied refugee children who fled from Bosnia and Herzegovina and found refuge in Croatia, said: » I am not a prophet, I can't foresee the future, but I hope for future without war, illness, hunger and powerlessness». This powerful message addressed to the world of adults has to be respected by all of us.

In the new Millennium we should be able to do more for the protection of children's rights. The Global Movement for Children in the next decade should be taken as a powerful tool for making changes in our cultural paradigm of the world, but most importantly in the strategies of protecting children's rights more effectively.

"Power and greed can never be an excuse for sacrificing children. No one - not the United Nations, not regional organisations, not governments, nor civil society groups - has moved quickly enough or done enough. The international community, in all of its manifestations, must adopt a new sense of urgency." (Gracia Machel, September 2000)

The Global Movement for Children is a force fro change involving each and every one of us. Every citizen of every nation. Every public and private entity. Every national leader. Every child and every adolescent.