Press briefing by special representative for children and armed conflict

11-Apr-00

HR/4466

HR/CN/981

NEW YORK, 11 April (Office of the Special Representative) — The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara A. Otunnu, has proposed that the international community call on all warring factions in all ongoing conflicts to adhere to a simultaneous week-long ceasefire each year for the sake of children.

The proposal for a systematic “week of tranquillity” was among a series of activities and initiatives outlined by Mr. Otunnu in an address to the Commission on Human Rights, meeting in Geneva. Those initiatives, he said, would help to build a worldwide social and political movement that would not only repudiate, but also reverse the present trends of widespread abuse and brutalization of children in armed conflict.

This week devoted to child protection would be more than symbolic; it would enable the international community to provide relief and vaccinations to war- affected children, Mr. Otunnu said. “This should also be a period to undertake various activities to promote peace, in particular activities that engage young people. “

The Special Representative said the international community had had some success, on an ad hoc basis, in negotiating temporary ceasefires with warring parties for various humanitarian purposes. In particular, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) had undertaken a number of successful vaccination campaigns during such “days of tranquillity”.

Other activities and initiatives outlined in the Special Representative’s address included:

— Promoting the active participation of children as advocates on behalf of their peers in war-affected countries;

— Systematic development of radio stations and programmes devoted mainly to the needs and interests of children and young people in situations of armed conflict;

— Appeal to the international business community to assume its social and corporate responsibility by refraining from doing business that fuels war economies and by developing voluntary codes of conduct within their industries;

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— Mobilization of international pressure on parties in conflict that abuse children as combatants;

More effective monitoring of and enhanced adherence to commitments made by parties to conflict to improve the protection of children.

Mr. Otunnu also recommended in his address that, in order to bring an end to impunity for egregious violations of children s rights in times of armed conflict, all aspects of peace processes involving amnesty, truth or justice should highlight the abuses perpetrated on children, as well as the circumstances that enabled those abuses to occur.

He added that, when amnesty legislation is contemplated in transitions from war to peace, peacemakers should ensure that the perpetrators of child rights violations were not exempted from legal responsibility.

In this connection, I urge all States to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which is a powerful tool that considerably reinforces advocacy for children. I have been working with UNICEF and key NGOs to help ensure that the Court s rules of evidence and procedure protect the interests of child victims and witnesses involved in eventual ICC proceedings , Mr. Otunnu said.

The Special Representative urged the Commission to make the rights of children affected by armed conflict a central concern throughout its activities and outcomes, including in its monitoring actions, requests for reports from Rapporteurs, experts, representatives and working groups, as well as in its resolutions.