“Internally displaced children are not second class citizens” – Ms. Coomaraswamy presenting at the Human Rights Council in Geneva Geneva, 14 September 2010 – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, presented her annual report to the Human Rights Council during its 15th session in Geneva today in order to guide the Council’s future work in matters related to war-affected children. After praising improvements in the situation of children in Nepal, Sudan and Burundi including the discharge of 3000 children from Maoists cantonments in Nepal and the progressive release of girls and boys by the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, the Special Representative addressed remaining challenges on the children and armed conflict agenda. “There is no child in the world today more vulnerable than a child internally displaced by armed conflict, forced to leave home and community behind,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy referring to the more than 13.5 million internally displaced children. These children are often denied documentation and access to basic services and infrastructure, face restricted freedom of movement as well as at increased risk of being recruited or sexually abused. Addressing delegates and civil society representatives, Ms. Coomaraswamy said, “We must work with Governments to stop all practices that reduce internally displaced children to second class citizens, aliens in their own country.” A Working Paper launched by her Office yesterday entitled – “The Rights and Guarantees of Internally Displaced Children in Armed Conflict” – will serve as a comprehensive legal guide and advocacy tool for Governments and humanitarian actors when addressing the many dilemmas faced by internally displaced children. Ms. Coomaraswamy also expressed her compassion for the many victims, including children, in the recent mass rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and joined her colleague, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms. Margot Wallström in declaring the protection of women and children in armed conflict a collective responsibility. She called on the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the assistance of the international community, to hold those responsible for the committed crimes. “Without accountability, there is no justice and without justice there is no deterrent.”In her speech before the Human Rights Council, she urged the 56 UN Member States not party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict to ratify the treaty and the 136 parties to the Optional Protocol to become champions of the universal ratification campaign called “Zero under 18”. “Universal ratification will move the international community toward ensuring that the prohibition against child soldiers becomes an international norm which would be recognised by international customary law,” she said.# # #For further information, please contact:Timothy La Rose, Communications Officer, Office of the SpecialRepresentative of the Secretary-General for Children and ArmedConflict+1 917-346-3404 – larose@un.orgMuriel Gschwend, Associate Communications Officer, Office of the SpecialRepresentative of the Secretary-General for Children and ArmedConflict+1 917-367-3562 – gschwend@un.org