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UNICEF calls on small arms forum to adopt measures to protect children

UNICEF calls on small arms forum to adopt measures to protect children

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today urged the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons to adopt specific measures geared towards shielding the young from the dangers of these armaments.

"The Conference offers just the right opportunity to deepen the debate on the impact of proliferation of small arms and light weapons on children… measures to protect them ought to figure prominently in your deliberations and in the outcome document," UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam told the forum, which entered its third day today.

In issuing his appeal, Mr. Gautam described the grave suffering of the youngest victims of small arms and light weapons. "The misuse of these weapons causes deaths, injuries, and displacement and very often destroys the life of children," he said. "Immense human tragedies occur when children are shot, forced to use arms themselves as combatants, lose a parent, or when they are permanently traumatized by witnessing violent conflict."

"UNICEF's objective is - and we want it to be the collective resolve of all of us attending this Conference - to keep weapons out of the hands of children, as well as out of the hands of those who violate and neglect children's rights," Mr. Guatam explained. He said the forum must urge an end to the recruitment of child soldiers and the demobilization of those already conscripted. In addition, he said the Conference must "recognize the supply side of the small arms equation, and adopt measures that target manufacturers and those trading and benefiting from the sale of small arms."

The UNICEF official was one of some 30 participants who took part in today's plenary discussion. Meanwhile, negotiators continued talks behind closed doors on the draft programme of action slated for adoption at the conclusion of the two-week Conference.