|UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson co-chaired the side event to the UN 62nd General Assembly aimed at promoting the ‘Paris Principles’ and ‘Paris Commitments’ on ending the use of child soldiers, along with French Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Rama Yade.|
By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, 1 October 2007 – Seven more nations have joined an international commitment to stop the recruitment of children in armed conflict.
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson chaired today’s meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York to build support for the ‘Paris Commitments’ and ‘Paris Principles’ on ending the use of child soldiers.
The guidelines were agreed by 58 countries – plus the host country, France – during the Free Children from War international conference held in Paris in February of this year.
“We are not gathered here today to point fingers at countries where unlawful recruitment is taking place,” said Ms. Johnson. “Instead we aim to promote good practice for the fulfilment of the rights of all affected children.”
|Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy (centre) spoke at the UN General Assembly side event following up on commitments made in February 2007 during the Free Children from War conference.|
‘Moving in the right direction’
Today’s meeting, co-chaired by French Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Rama Yade, was attended by a number of high-level delegates and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.
“We didn’t expect such a turnout today, so that’s a clear sign that things are moving in the right direction,” said Ms. Johnson.
The ‘Paris Principles and Guidelines on children associated with armed groups’ establish two ways to address the issue of child soldiers: One is to build a serious international commitment to abolish the practice; and the other is to make sure that commitment is translated into real, ongoing protection for children and their families as they resume civilian life.
The additional nations that have agreed to these principles and commitments are Argentina, Croatia, Guatemala, Laos, Mauritania, Morocco and Ukraine.
Making a difference on the ground
“There was an enormous show of strength at a very high level by governments on these issues, so we’re very pleased,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy. “More than most other areas of international standard-setting, we’ve done very well. Now we really need to get programmes on the ground to make sure that the children feel the actual effects of these norms.”
Hundreds of thousands of children are drawn into conflict against their will, and the traumatic after-effects can last years. But Ms. Johnson is optimistic that UNICEF, backed by the Paris Principles, can implement changes that will make a genuine difference on this issue.
“It is possible – we’ve seen that,” she said. “The question is getting that commitment and getting the necessary assistance to deliver.”
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