Joint News Release: First Open Session of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union on Children Affected by Armed Conflict: Pledges for Stronger Collaboration to Better Protect Children From War

Addis Ababa, 8 May – During the first ever Open Session of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) dedicated to children affected by armed conflict, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF highlighted the importance of a strong collaboration between the African Union and the United Nations as vital to end the recruitment of children and better protect them from the impact of conflict.

“Today’s meeting represents a milestone in Africa’s commitment to protect children in situations of armed conflict and I urge everyone to work together to make sure that children are protected from the scourge of war,” said Ms Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, during the Open Session of the Peace and Security Council of the AU on children affected by armed conflict.

Both the Special Representative and UNICEF stressed the key role of the African Union to lead or support efforts to end recruitment and use and protect children in times of conflict.

“The African Union can play a vital role in supporting Member States, as the primary duty bearers, to live up to their obligations,” said Ms Gharagozloo-Pakkala, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. “We must seize this historic moment of collaboration and commitment to firmly protect children affected by armed conflict in Africa.”

Children, Not Soldiers

Special Representative Zerrougui asked the Peace and Security Council of the AU to become a champion of the campaign Children, Not Soldiers she launched jointly with UNICEF in March.

The campaign aims to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by Government security forces in conflict by 2016.

“All African countries agree that their security forces should be child-free,” said Ms Zerrougui. “To reach our goal, we need to mobilize attention and support for the countries who have, or will, commit to action plans with the UN and help them turn the page once and for all on the recruitment of children in government forces.”

Ms Gharagozloo-Pakkala said that UNICEF and its allies must reinforce existing efforts to end and prevent recruitment, ensure the protection of children is a priority in all peace talks and agreements, and in advocacy with all actors involved in a conflict.

“We also need more information and evidence that children exiting forces and groups are receiving the longer term opportunities they need and to ensure they are not re-recruited,” added Ms Gharagozloo-Pakkala.

The UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF reaffirmed that cooperation is crucial to achieve the common objective of building a more secure and prosperous future for our children.

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Note to editors:

A Declaration of intent between the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict and the Peace and Security Department of the African Union Commission was signed in 2013. The agreement, implemented jointly with UNICEF, aims to ensure that the protection of children is included in all policy and operations of the regional organization.

For additional information, please contact:
Stephanie Tremblay, Office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict
+1 212 963 8285, Mobile, +1 917 288 5791, tremblay@un.org

Anthony Mwangi, Public Affairs Manager, UNICEF Liaison Office to the AU and UNECA, amwangi@unicef.org +251 91513058