Universal Day Of The Child – Don’t Let War Destroy Their Childhood

New York, 20 November 2008 To mark Universal Children’s Day, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict together with UNICEF and the Italian Ambassador to the UN drew the attention of the international community to the impact of conflict on children, particularly on the issue of child soldiers.

“From the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Gaza Strip and from Afghanistan to Somalia, too many children are suffering from the consequences of conflict. War violates every right of the child. Everybody has a role to play to stop these violations. We cannot let war continue to destroy childhood”, said Ms. Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict at a press conference in New York.

It is estimated that some 250,000 children are unlawfully recruited to participate in armed conflicts around the world as soldiers, messengers, spies, porters, cooks or to provide sexual services. Many are pressed into combat where they may be forced to the front lines or sent into minefields ahead of older troops. Some children are also used as suicide bombers.

Speaking on the role of the international community, H.E. Ambassador Giulio Terzi, Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN, underlined that the role of the United Nations in this field is destined to grow in the coming years. “Much work needs to be done. We must direct our efforts not only toward ongoing conflicts, but especially to post-conflict situations, where the success of child reintegration and rehabilitation programs is a prerequisite to the internal stabilization of their respective countries”, Ambassador Terzi said.

Ambassador Terzi and Special Representative Coomaraswamy welcomed the creation of the new global network of children formerly affected by war which has as its members Ismhael Beah, Grace Akallo, Kon Kelei, Emmanuel Jal, China Keitetsi and author Zlata Filipovich. During the press conference, members of the network called on all parties to stop using and recruiting children. “Through the network and based on our experiences, we would advocate and demand accountability, push for rehabilitation, and empower young people affected by armed conflicts and violence”, stated Ishmael Beah, international best selling author.

“The power of resilience of these children should give us the strength to continue to mobilize the international community to do more to stop this terrible phenomenon”, concluded Ms. Coomaraswamy.

A photo exhibit on child soldiers “Children of War: Broken Childhood takes place in the Secretariat building of the United Nations in New York until 30 January 2009.

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