Global perspective Human stories

Security Council calls for protection of children from war and its consequences

Security Council calls for protection of children from war and its consequences

Responding to the harmful and widespread affect of war on children, the United Nations Security Council today adopted a wide-ranging resolution calling on various actors to take steps to protect youngsters from armed conflict and its consequences.

Among the resolution’s provisions is a request for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to include in his reports to the Council a list of countries or parties to conflicts that recruit children into their armed forces.

Adopted unanimously, the resolution also obliges combatants, UN Member States, the UN system and regional and sub-regional organizations to respect international treaties dealing with children's rights, consider ways to provide protection and assistance to women and children during and after hostilities and contemplate action and legislation against those who recruit child fighters.

The Council's text also asks that international financial and development institutions devote part of its funding to support programmes to rehabilitate and reintegrate child soldiers and that child protection staff are included in peacekeeping and field missions.

The Council action followed a daylong debate involving representatives of nearly 30 countries, as well as top UN officials. Speaking at the outset of the discussion, the Secretary-General said the UN had always sought to alleviate the plight of children affected by war and that the Council’s resolution “tells each of us what we have to do to protect children in armed conflict.”

"It calls on States to punish conduct that fuels and exacerbates conflict," he said. "It draws attention to issues such as the recruitment of children and trafficking in arms and natural resources. It urges donors, lenders and others to use their financial leverage. And it insists that this Council, the United Nations system, the international financial institutions and others use their influence as well."

For his part, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, told the Council that since its first open debate devoted to the protections, rights and rehabilitation of children affected by armed conflict, there had been a progressive integration of those concerns into the peace and security agenda of the UN. He said that despite that progress, however, the overall situation of children exposed to war remained grave and unacceptable – an assessment that was echoed by Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund.

For the first time in the practice of the Council, a child was invited to address the 15-member UN body. “We want to be able to move about freely in all parts of the country to attend the schools of our choice,” 14-year-old Alhaji Sawaneh, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone said, pleading to the Council on behalf of the children of his country. “We want to be able to visit our friend and families everywhere in the country without fear of abduction, recruitment and other dangers. Above all, we want our parents to be able to work and educate us and to become useful citizens.”