21st Anniversary of OPAC – 25 May 2021
A growing number of States have pledged to end and prevent grave violations against children in armed conflict and became parties to international instruments and commitments to protect them in the last 12 months, highlights the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.
The International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour achieved universal ratification in 2020, meaning that all children now have legal protection against the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use by armed forces and armed groups.
At least 14 countries became parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC), the latest of which was the Republic of Fiji in March 2021, or joined the Paris Principles and Commitments on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, the Safe Schools Declaration, or the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers over the course of the last 12 months, widening the consensus to protect children from recruitment and use and education from attacks.
“I would like to congratulate these countries for their commitment to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children and attacks on schools in armed conflict by joining these international instruments, standards, and political agreements,” stated Virginia Gamba. “These additional ratifications and endorsements demonstrate the international consensus on the urgent need to end children’s rights violations in times of conflict,” she added.
These complementary tools are critical to convey the necessary concrete change in attitudes to protect boys and girls affected by conflict. By joining them, States reaffirm their commitment to ensure that children are prevented from being recruited and used in armed conflict, are reintegrated in their families and communities upon their release from armed forces and armed groups, that schools are protected, and peacekeeping actors protect children. “These measures are not only essential to help children overcome the horrendous experiences they have been through, but also to break the cycles of violence and ensure long-lasting peace”, she said.
Nevertheless, endorsing and ratifying international instruments is not enough to bring substantial change. “Despite progress in building international norms for the protection of children worldwide, the provisions contained in the international commitments are far from being effectively implemented,” emphasized Virginia Gamba. Tens of thousands of children continue to be recruited and used in protracted conflicts around the globe, attacks on schools and the military use of schools are still rampant, depriving millions of children from an education and a future – with girls being particularly impacted as they are the least likely to return to school after an attack.
“I encourage all state parties to OPAC, to the ILO’s Convention No. 182, and signatories of the Paris Principles, the Vancouver Principles, and the Safe Schools Declaration to translate their commitments into concrete and meaningful actions, and I call upon all the countries that have not yet done so to join these important international instruments and commitments,” she concluded.
Note to editors:
States who became parties to international commitments and instruments in the last year:
- Fiji (March 2021)
Paris Principles and Commitments on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups (endorsed by 111 states)
- Jordan (February 2021)
Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers (endorsed by 102 states)
- Togo (April 2021)
- Ghana (March 2021)
- Comoros (February 2021)
- DRC (November 2020)
- Benin (November 2020)
- Qatar (October 2020)
Safe Schools Declaration (endorsed by 108 states)
- Mexico (May 2021)
- Algeria (February 2021)
- Ghana (November 2020)
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (September 2020)
- Antigua and Barbuda (May 2020)
- Estonia (April 2020)
International Labour Organisation’s Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour (universal ratification)
- Tonga (August 2020)
For additional information, please contact:
Fabienne Vinet, Communications Officer, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
+1-646-537-5066 (mobile) / firstname.lastname@example.org
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