NEW YORK, 23 May (Office of the Special Representative) — The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara A. Otunnu, has called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to follow its strong political commitment to the protection of war- affected children with concrete activities.

Addressing an OSCE Human Dimension Seminar in the Polish capital, Warsaw, on Tuesday, Mr. Otunnu said the protection of children should be a central concern in the organization’s peace and security agenda, as well as OSCE-mandated field operations and post-conflict programmes.

In conflict areas within the OSCE region, the protection of children constitutes a major issue , Mr. Otunnu said. In the Balkans, the safe return of refugees and the situation of internally displaced – the majority of whom are children and women – is a priority for the international community. In the Baltic States, issues of citizenship, language and judicial reform – which all directly impact on children – are key to ensuring peaceful co-existence. In Chechnya, a return to peace will necessitate enormous efforts directed at rebuilding basic services for children, ensuring the return of the displaced populations and dealing with the trauma of war.

The Special Representative elaborated on a series of proposals outlined in his 10-point agenda for dialogue with the OSCE during the OSCE Review Conference in Istanbul in November 1999. The proposals include:integrating the protection of children in the work of the organization s Permanent Council; making children a zone of peace within the OSCE region; curbing the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict; and addressing systematically the situation of internally displaced populations.

This seminar – which builds on the firm commitments of OSCE leaders – will serve as a first step to realize the potential within the organization to act on behalf of children who are being abused in the context of armed conflict”, Mr. Otunnu said.