Joint Statement On The Occasion Of Universal Children’s Day By Special Representative Of The Secretary-General Radhika Coomaraswamy And Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy

New York, 19 November 2010 – Tomorrow, 20 November is Universal Children’s Day, a day to celebrate youth and to demonstrate our universal belief that childhood is sacred for all girls and boys. Millions of children around the world, however, are denied a safe home and community, a functioning school and a protected playground. Growing up in conflict, their innocence is stolen when they are abducted from schools, recruited to fight, wounded or killed, separated from their families and emotionally as well as physically scarred for life. We remember the needs of the children in Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nepal, Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, Somalia, Sudan, and all other countries in conflict and we reaffirm our commitment to be their voices and protectors. In 1996, Graça Machel – an international advocate for the rights of children – reported for the first time on the nightmares that these children experience. Since then we have come a long way as the protection of children in armed conflict has been firmly secured as part of the international peace and security agenda. Through a systematic monitoring and naming of child rights violators by the Secretary-General the UN is acting as one and has secured the demobilization of thousands of children associated with armed forces and groups over the past ten years. Moreover, in June 2010 the Security Council expressed its readiness to impose sanctions against those persistently listed as violating the rights of the innocent. Over the past ten years, we have continually strengthened the partnership between our two offices as the role of child protection in Peacekeeping developed. In 2001, the first child protection advisor was deployed to the mission in Sierra Leone. Nearly ten years later, child protection advisers and focal points are posted in ten missions led by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, where they negotiate the release of children and ensure that UN blue helmets are sensitized to the vulnerabilities of war-affected children. Today, every single peacekeeper receives training on child protection and hence serves as the eyes and ears of the Office for Children and Armed Conflict in the field. In a joint effort by our offices, UNICEF and other UN partners, we have achieved notable success in protecting children affected by conflict. In 2010 alone, with the assistance of UN peacekeepers from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), armed forces and groups in the country freed over 1000 girls and boys from their ranks. The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and UNICEF facilitated the demobilization of over 200 children and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) played an important role in the release of close to 1000 children over the last year. In Afghanistan, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, three agreements for the release of child fighters are currently being prepared.While we celebrate these achievements, the Universal Children’s Day also reminds us that we still have to address many more challenges that children face during conflict. As long as schools become targets of attacks and children once freed are re-recruited or abused in the absence of rule of law, we pledge to carry on this important work. We will use the synergies of our two offices, along with UNICEF and all UN partners to secure the dream of childhood everywhere, even in the darkest corners of conflict. For further information, please contact:Ann Makome, Child Protection Focal Point Department of Peacekeeping Operations+1 917-367-2788 – makome@un.orgTimothy La Rose, Communications OfficerOffice of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict+1 917-346-3404 – larose@un.org
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