UNITED NATIONS, New York – Under-Secretary-General Olara A. Otunnu, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, has been invited to address the 26th ordinary Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Dakar, Senegal, on 31 January, on the issue of the protection of children affected by armed conflict in the West African sub-region.

Children and youth in the sub-region have been particularly victimized during the civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and more recently Côte d’Ivoire. They have been abducted and forcibly conscripted by armed groups and have suffered from displacement and deprivation of education and basic health care, and from sexual exploitation and abuse. They have also been used as forced labour in the extraction of natural resources.

The Office of the Special Representative has worked to bring the issue of children affected by armed conflict to the forefront of concerns in regional and subregional organizations. An initiative promoted by Under-Secretary-General Otunnu to integrate child protection concerns in the work of ECOWAS, proposed during the Accra Conference on War-Affected Children in April 2000, resulted in the establishment in April 2002 of a Child Protection Unit in the ECOWAS Secretariat – the first such office to be set up in a subregional organization.

In his address to the ECOWAS Heads of State, the Special Representative will highlight the situation of war-affected children in the subregion, assess progress made in their protection, and propose concrete actions for further integrating the issue at the sub-regional and national levels.

The Special Representative serves as international advocate for children affected by armed conflict by promoting standards and measures for their protection in times of war as well as their healing and social reintegration in the aftermath of conflict.

For further information, please contact:

Jean-Victor Nkolo, Communications Officer, OSRSG-CAAC

Telephone: +1-212-963-9879, Fax: +1-212-963-0807; nkolo@un.org

Or in Dakar (29-31 January 2003)

Margaret Novicki, Chief, Outreach OSRG-CAAC

Mobile: + 41-79-2026987; Hotel Méridien Président: +221-8201515; Fax: +221-8203030; novicki@un.org

OSRSG/PR03/12 21 March 2003