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Ishmael Beah Appointed UNICEF Advocate, on the Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

NEW YORK, 20 November 2007 - On the occasion of the 18th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, author and former child soldier Ishmael Beah was today appointed UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War.

The appointment was made by UNICEF’s Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman, at a launch at UNICEF’s New York headquarters.

“Ishmael Beah speaks on behalf of young people around the world whose childhoods have been scarred by violence, deprivation, and other violations of their rights,” said Veneman. “He is an eloquent symbol of hope for young victims of violence, as well as those working to demobilize and rehabilitate children caught up in armed conflict.”

“As a child soldier, your rights are constantly violated,” said Beah, who was forcibly recruited in his native Sierra Leone when he was only 13.  More than two years later UNICEF negotiated with warlords for the release of Beah and other child combatants and placed him in a reintegration programme.

Eventually, Beah found his way to New York and finished his education. His childhood memoir, A Long Way Gone, became an international bestseller and through the book, lectures and speaking engagements, he has given the world a better understanding of the life of a child soldier.

“For many observers, a child who has known nothing but war, a child for whom the Kalashnikov is the only way to make a living and for whom the bush is the most welcoming community, is a child lost forever for peace and development. I contest this view,” Beah said. “For the sake of these children it is essential to prove that another life is possible.”

The announcement of Beah’s appointment coincides with the 18th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), an international treaty created to help prevent the kind of suffering that he endured. Today is also the day when the first of the generation of children born after the creation of the treaty reach adulthood.

The Convention was approved by the UN General Assembly on 20 November 1989. It sets the ground rules for a better life for all children, and is the most widely ratified human rights agreement in the world. The rights it identifies include the right to survival, the right to be protected from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation, and the right to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.

The CRC has become a universally accepted measure of global responsibilities regarding children and an effective tool for promoting conditions and circumstances favourable to children’s survival and development.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, contact:
Geoffrey Keele, gkeele@unicef.org, +1-212-326-7583
Saira Khan, sskhan@unicef.org, + 1-212-326-7224





20 November 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the appointment of Ishmael Beah as UNICEF’s first Advocate for Children Affected by War.
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19 November 2007:
The Director of UNICEF’s Regional Office for Europe, Philip O’Brien, discusses progress and challenges on child rights.
 VIDEO high | low

19 November 2007:
Joel Semakula, 17, and Nandita Kaza, 13, talk about the CRC after attending an inter-generational roundtable discussion in Geneva.
 VIDEO high |low

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