Armed conflict: ‘The world must do more for children!’
© UNICEF video|
Olara Otunnu is Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
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NEW YORK, 7 March 2005 - The world needs to do more to transform words into actions in order to protect children during armed conflicts, says the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu.
“On all continents - Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East - wherever there is conflict, children are disproportionately affected,” Mr. Otunnu said in an interview with UNICEF, during the Beijing +10 conference on the status of women and women’s empowerment.
Appointed by Secretary General Kofi Annan in 1997, Mr. Otunnu has served as an advocate for the rights of children worldwide in the context of conflict. He promotes measures for the protection of children in times of war and for healing and social reintegration of children in the aftermath of conflict.
Mr. Otunnu agreed that girls are particularly vulnerable. “There are a lot of girls who are abducted, recruited, and used as child soldiers. They are used as cooks, combatants, and sex slaves. When we look at rape and other sexual abuse, girls are especially targeted.”
“At the moment, there is a big gap. We’ve got all the standards, initiatives, condemnation, resolutions, and conventions; but the reality on the ground remains grave and unbelievably ugly for children,” adds Mr. Otunnu. “We must fill this gap. We are at a turning point for transforming words into deeds, standards into enforcement, and condemnation into accountability.”
Mr. Otunnu feels that agencies like UNICEF play a crucial role in protecting children during armed conflicts. “UNICEF is the mother of all children. It’s the main UN agency for the protection of children on the ground.”
He also emphasized the central role of national governments for the protection of children. “They have the primary and legal responsibility for the protection of children within their territories. That responsibility they must take seriously!”