Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

Five more nations sign international accord to stop children from being forced into conflict

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© OSRSG-CAAC
The panel at the Fourth Ministerial Follow-Up Forum to the Paris Commitments and Paris Principles, at which it was announced that five new nations have signed the Paris Commitments, designed to end the use of children in armed conflict and bringing the total number of signatories to 100.

By Chris Niles

NEW YORK, 27 September 2011 - Five more nations have officially committed to ending the phenomena of children in armed conflict by signing the Paris Commitments. The inclusion of Angola, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica and San Marino means that 100 nations have now pledged to do everything they can to protect children from being forced into conflict. 

The announcement was made during a Ministerial Follow-Up Forum  which builds on the work of the Paris Principles, and the Paris Commitments.

A grey area

“I am happy to announce that we have reached 100 states that have signed the Paris Commitments, and significant progress has been made,” said France’s Human Rights Ambassador François Zimeray, whose government co-hosted the event with UNICEF at UN Headquarters. 

The Ambassador went on to pledge France’s on-going support, stressing that the so-called ‘infamy’ list of countries which ignore international standards regarding children in armed conflict is still too long. “Children would never be in armed conflict without the cowardice of adults,” he said.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy  presented a working paper “Children and Justice During and in the Aftermath of Armed Conflict” which focuses on the grey area in which children are brought before the courts, either as victims, witnesses or perpetrators. 

Ms. Coomaraswamy pointed out the potential negative ramifications to placing children on trial. “If they testify will they be able to withstand a vigorous cross examination which often results in an attack on their character and the reliving of horrific events?” she asked.

Need for reparations

The Special Representative went on to highlight the need for reparations, pointing out that victims should be compensated for their loss of childhood, family and education. “Governments and donors play a key role in providing sustainable resources to make such initiatives work,” she said.

During 2010, UNICEF and its partners contributed to the release of approximately 10,000 children associated with armed conflict.

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah emphasised the need for flexible funding to design programmes that help children to recover from their ordeal and to lead empowered lives.

“Sustainable, inclusive and community-based approaches to child reintegrated in conflict affected areas recognize that these children often bear a burden of shame and tremendous stigma,” she said.

‘Beyond human understanding’

Grace Akallo a former child soldier who in 1996 was kidnapped from her boarding school, described her seven months in the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda

“What we saw was beyond human understanding,” she said. “As girls we were given to commanders as wives and we were told if we refused we would be beaten or killed.”

Ms Akallo, who is now associated with the Network of Young People Affected by War, urged countries to do all they could to protect children. “If we don’t protect the children how are we going to stand before them as leaders, as friends, and answer the question of injustice committed against them?” she asked.


 

 

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