Beirut, 12 April 2007 – After her visit to Bint Jbeil, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict stated that she was shocked to see the destruction caused by the recent conflict in Lebanon and its considerable impact on children.
The UN Official expressed her solidarity with the people of Lebanon at a press conference wrapping-up her three-day visit. She said that she felt very encouraged by the response of the Lebanese authorities, civil Society, the NGOs and the international community to the crisis with regard to children.
Ms. Coomaraswamy welcomed the commitment made to her by the Prime Minister Mr Siniora on behalf of the Government of Lebanon and by Parliamentary Deputy Mohamed Raad on behalf of Hizbollah to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. She stressed that children should not be used in political mobilization or armed violence.
During her discussions she also raised the issue of cluster bombs and unexploded ordinance and asked Lebanon to take a leading role in the development of and advocacy for an International Protocol on Cluster Munitions.
Having visited the Shatilla Camp, Ms. Coomaraswamy expressed her concern about the situation of Palestinian refugee children. She recognized the efforts of the Government to address the issue of the living conditions in the camps and called for better access to social services, education and access to better employment.
The Special Representative noted the very high school drop-out rate and said that she appreciates that the authorities are ready to redouble efforts with regard to education and to providing psycho-sociological support to children. "It is crucial for the future of the country to encourage children to continue to go to school especially the most vulnerable and marginalized ones", she declared.
"All parties should respect International Humanitarian Law with regard to the protection of children and ensure that schools are zones of peace. For the sake of future generation, a framework for a permanent peace should be negotiated with Israel", she added
* The objective of this field visit was to ascertain first hand the situation of children and to report to the Un Secretary General, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. As a moral independent voice, the UN Special Representative held constructive meetings with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Social Affairs as well as with Deputy Mohammed Raad, Representative of the Hizbollah in the house of Parliament. She also met with members of theUN Country tem, civil society, NGOs and children affected by conflict.
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Beirut – Mr. Nabil Abu-Dargham (UNIC OIC, 961-3-428438, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Ms. Pascale El-Kassis (Office of the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, 961-3-295255, email@example.com).
New York– Laurence Gérard, Office of the Special Representative for Children & Armed Conflict. Office: +1212-963-0984 – Cell: +1347-967-8606 firstname.lastname@example.org – (travelling with Ms. Coomarasawamy)