|(Second-from-right) Human Rights Ambassador of France François Zimeray participates in a panel discussion on the Paris Commitments and Paris Principles on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups. With him are (left-right) Child Soldiers International Director and Paris Principles Steering Group Representative Richard Clarke; UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Martin Mogwanja; and International Peace Institute Senior Advisor for External Relations and Moderator Warren Hoge.|
By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, United States of America, 4 December 2012 – On the fifth anniversary of a landmark agreement designed to protect children from becoming involved in armed conflict, UNICEF and its partners have called for more stringent measures to address the root causes of the issue.
Progress made, more work ahead
The Paris Commitments and Paris Principles on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups were adopted by 59 countries in France in 2007.
Five years in, 105 countries have signed the agreements. The latest are Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Kuwait and Yemen.
A follow up forum held at United Nations Headquarters in New York celebrated the progress made in releasing children from armed forces or groups and helping them to reintegrate into civilian society, but acknowledged that greater effort, and more funds, were needed.
|(Right) United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui participates in a panel discussion at the meeting. Beside her is Mr. Hoge.|
One of the highlights of the battle to end children’s involvement in conflict came in March of this year when the International Criminal Court convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of recruiting and using child soldiers.
“Convictions send a strong message to persistent violators. Those responsible are no longer out of reach,” said French Ambassador for Human Rights François Zimeray. “France would like to see increased pressure on persistent violators.”
“A call to action”
Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui said political will and support to countries dealing with the issue were necessary to tackle the many social and economic factors that draw children into armed conflict. The risk of recruitment is reduced when children have caring families and scholastic and work opportunities.
“Only a holistic approach can address the problems,” she said.
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Martin Mogwanja said the fact that half of all members of the United Nations had signed the agreements marked a moral consensus. And he said that UNICEF is working with communities to address the full range of root causes, although the issue is underfunded.
He urged United Nations Member States to make a renewed financial commitment to stamping out the scourge of child soldiers.
“This is a call to action, an opportunity that none of us can afford to miss,” he said. “We must be here to act. This is a vital investment in global peace and security.”