Tunis/New York– Municipal leaders in Libya are taking action to better protect children from the impact of armed conflict.

In February, the Municipal Council of Al Zintan, a city located about 130 km southwest of Tripoli, and one of the largest in the region, agreed to work with UNICEF to facilitate the release of children under 18 involved in the armed conflict and to establish a reintegration centre. The centre will provide services to children and also to adults who were involved in the conflict when they were still children.

The mayor of Al Zintan, Mustafa Al Baroni, described the centre as the city’s contribution “to support reconciliation, stability, peace, and security in the country to build a state of justice, law and welfare. The modern state that we all dream of.”

“The future generations should inherit development and prosperity,” he added. “We should leave our children an environment of stability and security instead of hatred and grudges”.

Dr Ghassan Khalil, UNICEF Special Representative in Libya, welcomed the opportunity to work with the municipality and to strengthen the protection of children.

“UNICEF is ready to provide the necessary support for the release, rehabilitation and reintegration of all children and we look forward to working with Al Zintan and all other municipalities who are interested in promoting children’s rights and protection,” said Dr Khalil. He urged all parties in Libya to end and prevent the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Dr. Khalil encouraged the municipality of Zintan to develop community-based services and to provide psychosocial support and mental health services for children formerly associated with armed groups. In addition, he stressed the importance of providing educational and vocational opportunities for these children to help them find their place and engage positively in their communities.

UNICEF will support the town by providing technical assistance and expertise to develop a comprehensive workplan for the release and reintegration of children affected by the armed conflict.

In March, Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, addressed the participants of the initial training workshop via teleconference. She welcomed the initiative, which will create a protective space to release children recruited and used by all parties to the conflict.

“In the past few years, it has not always been easy to provide the services children affected by the conflict so desperately need. Initiatives such as this one in Al Zintan should be supported by the international community and replicated throughout the country,” concluded Leila Zerrougui.