9 April 2008 - official remarks to the Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Round Table
Since the signing of the CPA, nearly 1,200 children formerly associated with armed forces and groups in Southern Sudan, and nearly 300 in the eastern states, have been able to reclaim their childhood thanks to the efforts of the North and South Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commissions. For each of these children, the future is now one filled with opportunity and renewed prospects.
In 2007, UNICEF and the North Sudan DDR Commission also made breakthroughs in negotiating the release of children associated with signatories to the Darfur Peace Agreement. The DDR Commission and the Darfur Regional Transitional Authority have agreed on modalities for child DDR in Darfur; and we are set to launch the programme in the coming months. To ensure uniformity of programmes in all these areas, UNICEF is also supporting the two DDR Commissions to finalise a National Reintegration Policy for children.
The sustainable reintegration of children is one of the biggest challenges we face. A study commissioned with the support of UNICEF in 2006 clearly indicated the importance of an inclusive approach to reintegration, to reduce stigmatization and future recruitment. It also highlighted the need for an effective social work structure that provides a platform from which children can reach a wider range of services.
The report also called upon the Commissions to use their “convening power” to bring to the table key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Welfare whose participation and resources are critical to the success of reintegration programming.
I am confident that we can move forward together and seize the opportunities before us. While DDR is a complex process, let us remember that the release of children should always be the first step in that process. UNICEF is calling for 2008 to be year in which all remaining children associated with armed forces and groups covered by the CPA and the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement are demobilized; I believe that this is achievable.
It is estimated that there are approximately 8,000 children associated with armed forces and groups in Sudan – 1,500 in Southern Sudan and the remainder in northern states. UNICEF estimates that just US$ 30 million would be sufficient to support the release and reintegration of these children over the next five years, including support to social work, psychosocial support, education and training opportunities. The inclusive approach to reintegration programming will additionally benefit 200,000 other conflict-affected children.
Today, as all of us have come together to plan for DDR in the years ahead, such collective leadership, commitment and resourcing is essential to ensure Sudan can declare itself a country free of child soldiers, and where every child fully enjoys their right to childhood.