New York – During a mission by Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the Afghan Government reiterated its commitment to fully implement its Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the national security forces.

“The political will and progress I have seen on the ground are encouraging. The Government’s commitment will be instrumental to turn the page on the recruitment and use of children in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF),” declared the Special Representative.

Zerrougui travelled to Afghanistan from 13 to 17 February to assess the situation of children affected by the armed conflict and to engage with authorities and partners on the protection of boys and girls. She met with President Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah, Vice President Danish, and key ministers, as well as with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, NATO, the diplomatic community and UN and NGO partners.

The Special Representative commended the launch of national age assessment guidelines as well as the Presidential decree criminalizing the recruitment and use of children in the ANSF, and stressed that effective implementation and enforcement of these tools are critical to prevent recruitment and use. Zerrougui recognized progress made to end underage recruitment in the Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan National Army (ANA), but raised concern regarding the lack of oversight of recruitment processes for the Afghan Local Police (ALP). Further, noting the large increase in the number of UN verified cases of child recruitment in 2015 – mostly by the Taliban and other armed groups – she called for a general prohibition of underage recruitment and use.

In Herat, Zerrougui visited a child protection unit located in the ANP recruitment centre and heard about its positive impact to prevent underage recruitment. Welcoming the recent establishment of two new child protection units in Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad, the Special Representative called for support to set up such units within ANP recruitment centres across the country’s 34 provinces.

Ahead of key donor conferences this year, she urged the Government and its international partners to dedicate resources to support the full implementation of the Action Plan, including reintegration programmes, and to address root causes such as lack of opportunities for young people.