UNITED NATIONS, NY (7 May 2002) – In an effort to galvanize the world against the growing use of children in armies and militia, Secretary General Kofi Annan and key UN actors are calling for swift action to help bring the despicable and damaging practice of using child-soldiers to an end. The recruitment of child soldiers, in Secretary General Annan’s words, must be moved from “the regrettable to the intolerable”.

In a strong show of UN solidarity on this issue, on the eve of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict Olara A. Otunnu, calls on the soon-to-be created International Criminal Court to vigorously pursue those who recruit children and use child soldiers. This is considered a war crime under the Rome Statute.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said: ” I call upon all – states, non-state actors, the private sector, the UN family, NGOs, religious and community leaders, parents, communities, children themselves – to take up the challenge to end the use of child soldiers. The Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees all girls and boys the right to live in safety, to be protected from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation. Child soldiers deserve nothing less.”

In a forum entitled: “Reclaiming Our Children: The UN Responds to the Plight of the Child Soldier”, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Olara A. Otunnu, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown and Chief of UN Peacekeeping Department Jean Marie Guehenno, will pledge to form a solid front against the global practice. “Together, we must abolish this abominable practice and ensure that child recruitment does not and cannot take place,” Guehenno said.

Reclaiming Our Children also featured a short film prepared for this event and narrated by Robert De Niro, entitled, “Armed and Innocent”. Two former child soldiers – Ugandan China Keitesi and Sierra-Leonean Ishmael Beah – shared their experiences, and Judy Collins closed with a musical tribute.

WHEN: TUESDAY May 7, 2002 3-4pm

WHERE: Conference Room 2, the United Nations Secretariat

For Immediate Release