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Press release

UNICEF welcomes new Special Representative for children and armed conflict

NEW YORK, 8 February 2006 – UNICEF today congratulated Radhika Coomaraswamy on her appointment as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

Ms. Coomaraswamy succeeds Olara Otunnu, who completed his term in July 2005. Mr. Otunnu was the first person to serve as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and was appointed one year after the groundbreaking 1996 report by Graça Machel focused global attention on the devastating impact of armed conflict on children.

“Ms. Coomaraswamy has a long record in defending the rights of women and children,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah. “UNICEF looks forward to working closely with her to ensure that the pressing issue of children being abused and exploited in armed conflict remains high on the global agenda.”  

A native of Sri Lanka, Ms. Coomaraswamy is an internationally known human rights advocate. She is currently the Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission and served most recently as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women.

The chaos of conflict, including the breakdown of social services and population displacement, leaves children extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Girls are routinely targeted in campaigns of sexual violence and exploitation. Hundreds of thousands of children are recruited and used by armed forces and groups as combatants, messengers, spies, porters and cooks and for sexual services.

The appointment comes at a critical juncture in the history of advocating for the protection of these children. In 2005 the Security Council unanimously adopted a landmark resolution that obligates the United Nations system to establish a mechanism to monitor and report on grave violations of children’s rights during war by both governments and armed groups.

Ensuring the resolution is enforced is critical to ending the impunity that surrounds these egregious violations, which include the killing or maiming of children; the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups; attacks against schools or hospitals; rape and other forms of sexual violence; the abduction of children; and denial of humanitarian access.

UNICEF’s work to protect children affected by armed conflict includes advocating for the ratification of the Optional Protocol on Children Involved in Armed Conflict, supporting disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes for children who are used by armed forces and groups, and protecting children from violence, particularly sexual violence that targets girls.  

For further information, please contact:

Allison Hickling, UNICEF Media, NY
(+1 212) 326-7224, ahickling@unicef.org




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