New York, 12 June 2013 – The annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict highlights progress made in 2012 to protect children living in countries affected by conflict, but also documents how the evolving character and tactics of war are creating unprecedented threats for them.
“In 2012, boys and girls from several countries had better protection from the effects of conflict, but new and ongoing crises in Mali, Central African Republic and Syria for example had –and continue to have– a devastating effect on children,” declared Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
Children released and new action plans
Thousands of children have been separated from armed forces and armed groups in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Myanmar, Sudan and South Sudan.
The annual report covers 22 situations taking place in 21 countries where children are victims of violence. Mali is included in the annual report for the first time.
This year, the list of shame of the Secretary-General includes 55 armed forces and groups from 14 countries, including 11 new parties in Mali, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria.
In 2012, five new action plans were signed in South Sudan, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia (2 action plans). Action plans act as roadmaps to end violations and prevent the recruitment and use of children as soldiers. They include measures such as allowing access to military barracks and bases for UN monitoring teams, issuing military orders banning the recruitment and use of children, as well as training for military personnel and developing programmes to reintegrate former child soldiers and prevent future recruitment.
New and ongoing crises
The absence of clear frontlines, identifiable opponents, as well as the increasing use of terror tactics by some armed groups make children more vulnerable. We have seen boys and girls used as suicide bombers or human shields. Children captured during military operations have been detained, sometimes without due process. In certain cases, they have been mistreated or tortured. Children have also been affected by the use of drones in military operations.
Throughout 2012, the office of the Special Representative has received and continues to get verified reports that Syrian children are killed or injured in indiscriminate bombings, shot by snipers, used as human shields or victims of terror tactics. Children as young as 10 years of age have been recruited by armed groups to work as combatants, porters, messengers and to perform other support tasks. They are detained and mistreated. Their schools are under attack, they are displaced and access to lifesaving humanitarian assistance has been limited at best.
“Everyone involved in the conflict needs to take urgent measures to protect children,” said Ms. Zerrougui. “Allowing access for lifesaving humanitarian assistance is essential. We cannot allow innocent children to continue to die because they can’t see a doctor, or because they can’t fulfill their basic needs.”
The Special Representative calls on all parties in Syria to work towards a political solution to end the violence.
In Mali, the conflict has made children extremely vulnerable and we have confirmed that violations against them have been, and continue to be, committed by all armed groups operating in Northern Mali.
“I am working to make sure that the deployment of a peacekeeping mission, in conjunction with the work of UN agencies and partners already on the ground, will allow us to improve our collective response to children’s needs,” declared Ms. Zerrougui.
In the Central African Republic, the wave of violence that begun in December 2012 erased all progress made earlier in the year. Children are the main victims of this conflict. Reports indicate that there is ongoing recruitment of child soldiers and other violations. Half of the country’s schools are closed and access to humanitarian assistance is extremely limited. More than 2 million children do not currently have access to basic services.
Cooperation with regional organizations
As regional and sub-regional organizations take on a larger role in mediation, peacekeeping operations and peace building missions, the Special Representative is developing partnerships between the United Nations and these organizations to promote adequate protection for children affected by conflict.
Ending impunity for grave violations against children is crucial. Bosco Ntaganda’s transfer to the International Criminal Court sent a clear signal that recruiting child soldiers is a war crime and that perpetrators will be held accountable.
“International justice must step in when national courts lack the capacity or willingness to bring alleged perpetrators to justice,” said Ms. Zerrougui. “But it’s essential that we support Governments to reduce the accountability gap.”
For additional information, contact:
Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict
+1 212 963 8285 (office)
+1 917 288 5791 (mobile)
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