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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

UNICEF joins call to end impunity for violators against children in armed conflict

UNICEF Image: NYC, Executive Director Ann M. Veneman
© UNICEF/HQ08-0680/Markisz
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman addresses the Security Council meeting on children and armed conflict. UNICEF is working with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to compile a manual of best practices on the reintegration of child soldiers.

By Elizabeth Kiem

NEW YORK, 17 July 2008 – On the tenth anniversary  of the statute classifying child recruitment as a war crime, members of the United Nations Security Council were urged today to take measures offering greater protection for children in conflict zones and ending impunity for violators of children’s rights.

During the open meeting on children and armed conflict, speakers including UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman reminded Council members that children continue to be violated, sexually abused, conscripted and targeted in areas of conflict, while the adults responsible for these crimes are not held accountable.

“The Security Council is the UN body of action on issues of peace and security,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy. She urged that the Security Council consider “imposing targeted measures” against persistent violators on the so-called ‘shame list’, an annex compiled by the Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict in the latest Secretary-General’s reports.

Conflict and child mortality

Supporting Ms. Coomaraswamy’s call for accountability, Ms. Veneman added that “the best protection for children is to prevent the outbreak of conflict in the first place.”

© UNICEF/HQ08-0678/Markisz
UN Special Representative Radhika Coomaraswamy addresses the Security Council meeting on children and armed conflict. She said recent trips to Iraq, Afghanistan, Chad and CAR have convinced her "that the nature of warfare is changing."

Ms. Veneman noted that in addition to the physical crimes and family losses imposed upon children by violence and warfare, armed conflict takes a grave toll on children’s health. In conflict and post-conflict areas, there is often a resurgence of preventable diseases such as malaria, measles and diarrhoea.

In the 33 countries most affected by armed conflict from 2002 to 2006, 20 have made little or no progress in reducing mortality among children under the age of five, according to Ms. Veneman.

Sexual violence as ‘trigger for action’

Speakers also urged that the rampant use of sexual violence in conflict situations be addressed by the Security Council, recalling the recent adoption of Resolution 1820, which classifies rape as a war crime.

© UNICEF/HQ08-0675/Markisz
The UN Security Council meeting on children and armed conflict convenes at United Nations headquarters in New York.

During the meeting, Kathleen Hunt of Watchlist, a coalition of non-governmental organizations, called for expanding the scope of the UN monitoring and reporting arm to include sexual violence as a “trigger for action” by the Special Representative.

Such an expansion of the current annex, which is limited only to parties who use and recruit child soldiers, was supported by representatives of member states Belgium, France, the United States and Italy.

Furthering Resolution 1612

Today’s extraordinary debate was called by the Government of Viet Nam, whose Minister of Foreign Affairs is the current President of the Security Council. Past debates on the topic of children in armed conflict have resulted in statements, but no new Security Council resolution since the 2005 resolution enabling the monitoring and reporting of child recruitment.

The meeting will conclude with a Presidential Statement reaffirming the role of monitoring and reporting mechanisms to protect child rights and the need to further improve the Working Group.



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