More needed to protect children from exploitation and armed conflict
NEW YORK, 25 May 2010 – United Nations experts called for universal ratification of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) - on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on protection for children in armed conflict - at a special event to be held at UNICEF House today.
Campaigns aimed at getting all countries to ratify and implement the protocols by 2012 will be announced at the meeting, which will be addressed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, and Special Representative on Violence Against Children, Marta Santos Pais.
The two protocols provide stronger protections to those already enshrined in the CRC, and the event commemorates the tenth anniversary of the original adoption.
“The Optional Protocols represent a promise made to the world’s most vulnerable children - children born into extreme poverty and despair, children in countries torn apart by conflict and children forced into unimaginable servitude by adults who regard them as commodities,” said Mr. Lake. “Two thirds of the world's nations have ratified the protocols, but to fully honour the promise they represent, we need universal ratification and implementation.”
The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict has been ratified by 132 States; 25 States have signed but not ratified it and 36 States have neither signed nor ratified it.
“We know from the situation on the ground that much remains to be done. Violence against children in all its forms remains a challenge for societies in the world,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy. “There are a multitude of conflicts where children are used as soldiers, spies, human shields or for sexual purposes. Every additional ratification of the Optional Protocol would therefore bring us closer to a world in which no child is participating in hostilities and forced to serve the national military or irregular armies.”
The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, is a few steps closer to universal ratification, as 137 States have ratified it, 27 States have signed but not ratified it and 29 States have neither signed nor ratified it.
“The Optional Protocol is an important tool for tearing through the mantle of invisibility surrounding the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography and other forms of sexual exploitation, to mobilise societies and to translate political commitment into effective protection of children from all forms of violence,” said Ms. Pais. “It has led to significant law reforms to criminalise such crimes against children and safeguard the rights of child victims, and has also become the source of international agreements to fight impunity within and across borders.”
An increasing number of countries have abolished voluntary recruitment for persons below the age of 18 year for use in armed conflict, noted Ms. Yanghee Lee, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the body that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Protocols. She also noted that States are stepping up measures and international cooperation to combat child prostitution, child pornography and sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism.
“However, a lot remains to be done, including tougher criminal sanctions for perpetrators and rigorous enforcement of the law, to ensure full protection of children,” she said.
In addition to calling on all countries to ratify the Optional Protocols and to effectively implement them by incorporating them into national legislation, policy and planning, and providing victim protection and rehabilitation programs; the UN is calling on governments to comply with reporting obligations to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
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