UNITED NATIONS, New York – In a major development, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has submitted a report for consideration by the Security Council listing parties to conflicts on the Council’s agenda that continue to recruit and use child soldiers. The list, says the Secretary-General in his report, represents “an important step forward in our efforts to induce compliance by parties to conflict with international child protection obligations.” It clearly demonstrates “the will of the international community” that those who violate standards for the protection of children “cannot do so with impunity.”
In response to a request from Council, the Secretary-General’s third Report on Children and Armed Conflict contains a list of 23 parties, including both governments and insurgents, in five conflict situations – Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Somalia – that recruit or use children. The list is confined to situations currently on the agenda of the Security Council.
This report breaks new ground, said UN Under-Secretary-General Olara A. Otunnu, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. “For the first time in an official report to the Security Council, those who violate standards for the protection of war-affected children have been specifically named and listed.”
The Security Council, Special Representative Otunnu said, is sending a message to governments and insurgent groups alike that the international community is watching and that they will be held accountable for the welfare of children in conflict and post-conflict situations.
This is the beginning of a systematic effort in a new era of monitoring and reporting on the conduct of parties and how they treat children during conflict, Mr. Otunnu noted.
The report also highlights other conflicts not on the agenda of the Security Council – including Colombia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Sudan, northern Uganda and Sri Lanka – where children are recruited and used as combatants, as well as conflicts that have recently ended – Angola, Kosovo, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau – where demobilization and/or reintegration programmes for child combatants are under way.
Impressive gains made to protect children
The Secretary-General’s report indicates that in recent years, “impressive gains” have been made to codify international norms and standards protecting children during conflict, including three Security Council resolutions (1261, 1314, and 1379).
Particularly important are two landmark international treaties that entered into force this year. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict sets an age limit of 18 years for compulsory recruitment and direct participation in hostilities, and requires States parties to raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment to at least 16. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court classifies conscription, enlistment or use in hostilities of children below the age of 15 as a war crime in both international and internal armed conflicts, as well as attacks on schools and hospitals and grave acts of sexual violence.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict has sought and obtained important commitments for the protection and well-being of children in conflict and post-conflict situations in several countries. These have included commitments not to use landmines, not to attack schools or hospitals, to release abducted children and not to recruit or use children as child soldiers. During the 2002 Special Session on Children, the General Assembly also renewed its commitment to the protection of war-affected children.
The challenge today, according to the Secretary-General’s report, is in ensuring the implementation of the standards on the ground. More also needs to be done to promote and disseminate the standards and norms and to raise awareness about them on the ground, the report states. “Strengthened monitoring and reporting mechanisms to identify and take measures against the violators” are needed – all key components that must encompass an “era of application.”
The Special Representative serves as international advocate for children affected by armed conflict by promoting standards and measures for their protection in times of war as well as their healing and social reintegration in the aftermath of conflict.
For further information, please contact:
The Office the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
OSRSG/PR03/07 24 February 2003