SECURITY COUNCIL: Plight of Children in Armed Conflict Reaches Watershed Stage [press release]
[NEW YORK, 20 January 2004] – The battle to uphold the rights and well-being of children exposed to armed conflict “has reached a watershed moment,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the issue told the Security Council today.
During the annual Council debate on children and armed conflict, Under-Secretary-General Olara Otunnu said that while there has been significant progress on many fronts for children, too many parties go unpunished despite continuing to violate their rights.
“The general situation for children remains grave and unacceptable,” Mr. Otunnu said, citing the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Indonesian province of Aceh, Iraq, Liberia, the occupied Palestinian territories and Uganda as areas where children have particularly suffered over the past year.
Mr. Otunnu’s recommendations to redress the situation include setting up a monitoring and reporting mechanism to track violations of children’s rights during conflicts. But he said there has been some progress in recent years, including greater advocacy for children, the development of international norms for their treatment, and the increasing integration of child protection into UN peacekeeping operations.
Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told the Council debate that many children suffer more because humanitarian access is often restricted or banned outright during wars.
Ms. Bellamy said child soldiers were not the only victims of wars, adding that girls were especially vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation.
“Another devastating consequence of today’s wars is that they create and exacerbate conditions that lead to HIV/AIDS,” she said. “The impoverishment that accompanies conflict often leaves women and girls so destitute that trading sex for survival becomes the only option for many.”
A number of the more than 40 delegates who spoke at the meeting said the most effective way to help children affected by armed conflict was to strike at the root of the problem by preventing war from breaking out in the first place.
[Source: United Nations]
– SRI LANKA: Call to Increased Action for Sri Lanka’s War Affected Children [report]
[COLUMBO, 22 January 2004] – A call for more commitment to make lasting improvements in the lives of Sri Lanka’s most vulnerable children has been made in a report that details progress by partners to the Action Plan for Children Affected by War.
It gives an overview on the situation of children affected by war, and details what was done in 2003 to help address urgent needs. The report follows the Oslo, Berlin and Hakone peace talks where the parties asked UNICEF to develop an Action Plan for Children Affected by War to monitor, report on and address child rights violations in the North East. Partners implementing the Action Plan include the Ministry of Social Welfare, Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), ILO, Save the Children in Sri Lanka, UNDP, UNHCR, and UNICEF.
Despite the two year old cease-fire there are still many children suffering the effects of twenty years of conflict. The Action Plan is a combined agency effort that links Government, LTTE, donors, Non Governmental Organisations and UN agencies in a united approach to address the health, education, and protection needs of children affected by war. It is estimated that 50,000 children in the affected region are out of school, around 140,000 have been displaced from their homes while landmines have killed 20 and maimed 17 children in 2003 alone. In the North East there is a serious deficit of education and health staff. More than 5,800 additional Tamil medium and 200 Sinhala medium teachers are needed.
Of particular concern is the use of children as soldiers. New UNICEF figures in the report state that during 2003, 709 children were recruited by the LTTE. In the same period, a total of 202 children were released, either to the recently established transit centre at Kilinochchi or directly back to their families. From reports submitted by families, UNICEF knows of at least 1,301 children who may still be in the LTTE. In a three month period during August, September and October, recruitment increased with reports of 304 children taken into the LTTE. In the last two months of the year, reported recruitment fell with 17 reported cases in November and 14 in December.
In 2003 systems to address the immediate needs of children affected by war, including children released from the LTTE, have been established. For the first time in the Sri Lankan conflict there is now a formal mechanism for assisting the release and reintegration of child soldiers. The 49 children released to the Kilinochchi Transit Centre in October have been either returned to their homes or, in the case of 8, to appropriate alternative care facilities. At a meeting last week-end between the UNICEF representative to Sri Lanka, Mr. Ted Chaiban and the leader of the LTTE