UNITED NATIONS, New York – The Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, has today submitted to the Security Council, a far-reaching report to ensure the protection of children exposed to armed conflict around the world. For the first time, a comprehensive monitoring and compliance mechanism is being put in place for this purpose.
"This is a very big day for millions of children who are being brutalized in situations of armed conflict," Under-Secretary-General Olara A. Otunnu, stated. "With the launch of this international compliance regime, which records chapter and verse the conduct of parties to conflict relative to the protection of children, the international community is finally getting serious about ensuring compliance on the ground with agreed standards. This report marks a turning point in the campaign for the ‘era of application' – – for transforming words into deeds, standards into enforcement, and condemnation into accountability."
The report indicates that the efforts deployed over the last several years have yielded significant advances and created a strong momentum for the protection of children. These include: greatly increased global awareness of and advocacy for child protection; an impressive and comprehensive body of protection instruments and norms; the protection of war-affected children has been firmly placed on the international peace-and-security agenda; the protection and well-being of children is increasingly reflected in the mandates of peacekeeping missions and the deployment of Child Protection Advisers; and children's concerns are being incorporated in peace negotiations, peace accords, and in post-conflict programmes for rehabilitation and rebuilding. And, the situation for children has improved considerably in several situations, including in Afghanistan, Angola, the Balkans, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Timor Leste.
The report systematically names and lists all offending parties, both insurgents and governments, which are responsible for committing the following five grave violations: killing or maiming of children; recruiting or using child soldiers; attacks against schools or hospitals; rape and other grave sexual violence against children; abduction of children.
The report documents grave and widespread violations against children in 11 situations of concern, namely in Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Colombia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uganda. Altogether there are 54 offending parties specifically named and listed in the report.
The report recommends that the Security Council "take targeted and concrete measures where insufficient or no progress has been made" by the offending parties which have been named. The targeted measures proposed include the imposition of travel restrictions on leaders and their exclusion from any governance structures and amnesty provisions, the imposition of arms embargoes, a ban on military assistance, and restriction on the flow of financial resources to the parties concerned.
In a major and groundbreaking development, the report sets out a concrete plan of action for establishing a comprehensive on-the-ground monitoring and reporting mechanism to provide for the gathering of objective, specific, reliable, and timely information – – "the whom, where and what" – – on grave violations being committed against children in situations of armed conflict. In turn, this information is compiled into monitoring reports.
Otunnu emphasized that, "The information compiled and transmitted in monitoring reports is only useful if it serves as trigger for action", on the part of key decision-making bodies, such as the Security Council, the International Criminal Court, the Commission on Human Rights, regional organizations and national governments, to take necessary and concrete measures to end these grave violations against children.
The action plan sets out international instruments and standards that constitute the basis for monitoring – – the yardsticks for judging the conduct of parties to conflict. It specifies the entities that should undertake the gathering, scrutiny and compilation of information at various levels. Much of this work will be undertaken by a Secretariat-level task force, working with similar monitoring and reporting bodies at the country-level. The Special Representative, UNICEF, UN peacekeeping missions and UN country teams will play the key roles in the implementation of the mechanism.
The report also expresses grave concern about one of the most disturbing incidence of abuse and exploitation of children and women: the recent allegations of sexual misconduct by United Nations peacekeepers, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The report calls for swift action to punish those responsible and to bring these violations to an end in all peacekeeping missions. Otunnu stated, "The United Nations is welcomed into war-torn communities to end abuse and impunity, and the notion that some UN personnel would use their entrée and influence to take advantage of vulnerable local children and women is particularly disturbing and unacceptable."
In the last decade, 2 million children have been killed in situations of armed conflict, while 6 million children have been disabled or injured. Over a quarter of a million child soldiers are being used today in situations of armed conflict around the globe. Since 2003, over 11.5 million children have been displaced within their own countries, and 2.4 million children were forced to flee conflict and take refuge outside their home countries. Thousands of children continue to be subjected to rape and other grave sexual abuses in situations of conflict. The scourge of landmines results in the killing or maiming of between 8,000 to 10,000 children every year.
In conclusion, Otunnu stressed that, "The time has come for the international community to redirect its energies from the normative task of the elaboration of standards to the compliance mission of ensuring their application on the ground." He added that, "Today, as never before, we have the necessary norms, institutions and means to realize the ‘era of application' for the protection of all children exposed to armed conflict."