Khartoum, 1 February 2007 – Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, accompanied by the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms. Rima Salah, has concluded a 7 day visit to Sudan. The objective of the visit was to assess first hand the situation of the war-affected children and to address the pertinent issues with the Authorities of Sudan and various stakeholders.
The visit was carried out following the recommendation of the Security Council in the framework of its resolution 1612 (2005), which establishes a mechanism to monitor and report on grave violations against children in armed conflict. The United Nations delegation focused particular attention on recruitment and use of children as soldiers by all parties to the conflict; rape and other grave sexual violence against children in Sudan, and especially in Darfur; and, safety of humanitarian personnel.
The United Nations delegation engaged in a series of consultations with the Government of National Unity, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence as well as with the Vice President and other officials of the Government of Southern Sudan, the Deputy Governor of North Darfur and non state parties to the conflict. They also met with UN partners, the African Union Mission in Sudan, community leaders, NGOs, academics, representatives of the civil society, women and children themselves.
Ms. Coomaraswamy and Ms. Salah urged all the parties to commit to ending child recruitment and to immediately release all children associated with their forces. They emphasized the importance of ensuring adequate resources and programmes for the reintegration of these children into their families and communities.
The Special Representative welcomed the commitments of the Government of National Unity, the Government of Southern Sudan and non state parties. "Children should be seen as a bridge-head in the dialogue for peace. Protecting them is crucial to building a durable peace in this country", she said.
The Government of National Unity committed to:
- Timely adoption and implementation of national legislation to criminalize recruitment of child soldiers, and to allocate adequate resources for reintegration in their communities. The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and allied armed forces agreed to identify and to release any children in their ranks and to allow the UN to monitor compliance.
- Establish, with the UN, a joint Task Force on Sexual Violence and Abuse Against Children and to undertake a major public campaign to combat sexual and gender-based violence.
The Special Representative welcomed the initiative of the Government of National Unity to establish Child and Gender Units in the National Police. She called for the allocation of adequate resources and for expansion of the initiative beyond Khartoum State.
The Government of Southern Sudan committed to:
- Undertake an audit and a monitoring mechanism of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) and allied armed forces to identify and release children associated with their forces, in collaboration with the UN.
- Increase the budget for child disarmament, demobilization and reintegration
- Establish a Task Force on Sexual Violence and Abuse Against Children and to organize a major awareness raising campaign, in collaboration with the UN.
- Continue to advocate for children and women to be among the highest priorities in the context of the peace negotiations between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda.
Non-signatories to the Darfur Peace Agreement, Sudan Liberation Army (G19, Wahid, Shafie, and Abu Kassim) and the Justice and Equality Movement; Signatories of the DPA, Sudan Liberation Army (Minnawi, Freewill), Justice and Equality Movement (Peace Wing), agreed to:
- Cooperate fully with the UN in the preparation of action plans to identify and release children associated with their forces and to institute a system for monitoring and verification.
The delegation commended the efforts of National Authorities on the legislative reforms in the north and south of the country and urged them to accelerate the process of adoption of critical child protection legislation such as the Child Rights Bill and the Armed Forces Act. Ms. Coomaraswamy and Ms. Salah called for the Authorities to undertake rigorous investigation and prosecution for crimes against children, especially rape and other grave sexual violence against girls.
The recent allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation of children by peacekeepers were also addressed during the visit: "such abuses are absolutely unacceptable and the Secretary-General's Zero Tolerance policy must be vigorously enforced".
Ms. Salah reiterated the commitment of UNICEF to supporting national authorities in addressing the protection and wellbeing of all children in Sudan, saying that "the children of this country dream of being free from a culture of war and fear and we are ready to walk hand-in-hand with the people of Sudan to achieve this goal".
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For further information, please contact:
Luca Solimeo, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict – Cell (+249) 912 178 250
Laurence Gerard, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, New York. Phone: +1 212 963 0984 – firstname.lastname@example.org – Website: www.un.org/children/conflict
Radhia Achouri Spokesperson United Nations Mission in Sudan – Khartoum
Office: (+249) 187 086 029 – Cell: (+249) 912 392 270 – email@example.com