By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, USA, 28 September 2010 – UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake has called for an extra commitment from all governments to end the use of children in war.
|VIDEO: 27 September 2010 - UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake calls for renewed commitment to ending use of children in war.|
“We are here today to reaffirm our collective commitment to protect the most fundamental right of a child: To be a child,” said Mr. Lake at a high level conference at United Nations Headquarters in New York, hosted by the French Government.
Eleven nations have newly endorsed the Paris Commitments, which form an international agreement to end the use of children in war. More than half of all nations have now committed themselves to this goal.
|VIDEO: 27 September 2010 - UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War Ishmael Beah discusses why it's important to provide practical options for children at risk of being recruited into armed conflict.|
Strides and challenges
At the high-level meeting, known as the third Ministerial follow-up Forum to the Paris Commitments, Cape Verde, Gabon, Georgia, Iceland, Latvia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Korea, Togo and Uruguay endorsed the Commitments, raising the number of supporting countries from 84 to 95.
But the practice of forcing children into armed conflict remains widespread. All over the world hundreds of thousands of children are suffering this gross violation of their rights.
|UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War Ishmael Beah speaks at a panel discussion on the Paris Commitments and Paris Principles on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups. Beside him is UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.|
Significant progress has been made in ending the use of children in war. But while UNICEF and its partners have released about 20,000 children from this fate in the past two years alone – including some 5,000 girls – the needs remain considerable.
United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy said the changing nature of armed conflict is mounting considerable challenges. “Protracted conflicts, cross border abductions, recruitment from IDP and refugee camps and use of children in terrorism and counter terrorism activities are emerging trends that need to be addressed,” she said.
Call for support
UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War Ishmael Beah, responding early in a conflict would give children an alternative to going to war, especially as many join armed groups out of dire economic need.
|(Left to right, foreground) Human Rights Ambassador of France François Zimeray and UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake participate in a panel discussion on ending the use of child soldiers.|
“If I had known when I was running from the war in Sierra Leone that there was a place that I could go instead of going to fight in the war I probably would have gone there. But my chances were limited. I had nowhere to go,” he said.
Constance Thomas, Director of the International Programme on Child, a body of the International Labour Organization (ILO), made a plea for long-lasting and relevant job opportunities for children who have been released from armed conflict. “Economic reintegration has been, and remains, a major challenge,” she said. “Indeed it is one of the weakest components of release and reintegration.”
Mr. Lake said that early, sustainable, and flexible funding was the only way to ensure that the Paris Commitments are honoured by action. He asked for active and generous support.
“It’s time to finish the job,” he said. “Even a small investment can yield huge benefits in the lives of these children, and they desperately need our help.”