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Bellamy urges Security Council to consider children in all its deliberations

"We must recognize that when it comes to the suffering of children in conflict, all of us are accountable."

New York, Wednesday 14 January - UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy today urged the United Nations Security Council to establish a "culture of accountability" by holding those who use children in armed conflicts responsible for their actions.

Ms. Bellamy spoke today before a special session of the Security Council addressing the issue of children and armed conflict. The session follows a written report by the Secretary-General that "names and shames" those State Parties to conflict that recruit and use child soldiers.

"Can there be a more persuasive reason to act than the anguish of these children?" Bellamy asked the Council. "If so, it is hard to imagine." She added: "It is children who represent the succeeding generations that the UN was founded to save - and it is we who have the power to halt the suffering that is endured by so many children in so many countries."

Bellamy urged Council Members to refer to the Secretary-General's list in all their deliberations, as well as to update it regularly, expanding its scope to include armed conflicts not now on the Council's agenda.

Bellamy said UNICEF would use the list to intensify its own advocacy efforts at the global and national levels. She said the demobilization of child soldiers is a top priority for UNICEF and its partners, noting that reintegrating children back into their communities is a challenging process but one which is essential to breaking the cycle of recruitment. She added that peace agreements must always include specific commitments to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate children used in hostilities.

At any given time, an estimated 300,000 children across the globe are serving as child soldiers, Bellamy said. "They are living proof of the world's systemic failure to protect children. And they explain why UNICEF's work is focused on building a 'protective environment' for children, one that safeguards them from exploitation and abuse before it happens."

Bellamy said a "protective environment" for demobilized child soldiers must include effective strategies to prevent their re-recruitment, including long-term investment in education, vocational training, and support for families and communities. She added that reintegration programs must take into account the specific needs of girls, who are rarely used as combatants but nonetheless suffer from extraordinary violence as sex slaves, porters, and servants.

Bellamy thanked the Council members for their important work, but said that "much more is required if we are to make the protection of children an explicit priority in our efforts to build peace and resolve conflict."

"Over the years, responsible adults the world over have made good-faith promises to children. Promises to ease suffering and end exploitation - and to protect children from the loss of childhood, from rape and mutilation and recruitment as child soldiers," Bellamy said. "Yet time and time again - in such places as Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Colombia and East Timor - cruelty and indifference has prevailed. We need to do more about accountability and impunity. We must find effective ways to promote peace building and conflict prevention. And we must recognize that when it comes to the suffering of children in conflict, all of us are accountable."


Background

UNICEF works in some 25 countries affected by war. The organization focuses on strengthening the protective environment for children by restarting schools, supplying immunizations, reuniting children with their families, operating clinics and hospitals, supporting traumatized children, campaigning against child recruitment and promoting demobilization and disarmament.

In the Great Lakes area of central Africa, UNICEF is taking a regional approach, working in partnership with the World Bank, other UN agencies, donor governments and regional officials to develop a Multi-Country Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme (MDRP).

In Angola, there is an urgent need to provide support to an estimated 8,000 children who were recruited during the civil war and have been released without a formal demobilisation exercise. In response, UNICEF is working to build support for these children's reintegration into communities, and to provide health care and schooling.

Ms. Bellamy will visit Sri Lanka at the end of January. UNICEF continues to be very active in efforts to end the use of child soldiers in that country's conflict and will focus on demobilization during her three-day stay.

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For further information, please contact:

Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF Media, New York,
(212) 326-7269 jsedky@unicef.org


 

 

 

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