UN official urges concrete action to protect children caught in war

14 January 2004
Olara Otunnu

The senior United Nations official charged with looking after the rights of children caught in the throes of armed conflict today called on the Security Council to take concrete action to protect them.

Olara Otunnu, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, made his comments at a press briefing ahead of next week's Council meeting on a major UN report on the issue.

Mr. Otunnu said that report, prepared by the Secretary-General, not only served "to deepen and consolidate the progress achieved to date," but also to strengthen the foundation for an "era of application."

The latest edition goes a step beyond the report issued the previous year by not only including an updated list of individuals and organizations that have violated children's rights during conflicts that are on the Council's agenda, but also a list of parties recruiting and abusing children in clashes that are not being actively considered by that body.

The conflicts on the Security Council's agenda in question are taking place in Afghanistan, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia and Somalia. The latest report also names parties recruiting and using children in the Russian Republic of Chechnya, Colombia, Myanmar, Nepal, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda.

Mr. Otunnu voiced hope that the Council would "assume its responsibility and take concrete action against parties that continue to use and recruit children."

Specifically, he urged sanctions against the leaders of these groups, including travel bans. Concerning the groups themselves, he recommended restricting financial flows and arms sales to the violators.

On Friday, a network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with backing from Canada's UN Mission also urged action on the issue. Among other recommendations, they called for a formal framework for punishing parties that fail to reach given benchmarks in the effort to protect children in war.


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