Delayed peace talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are a significant obstacle to assisting children affected by the country’s two-decade-long war, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today.
A new report by the agency on progress made in the Action Plan for Children Affected By War - the only human rights agreement signed between the Government and the LTTE on the issue - found that the rebel group's failure to stop the recruitment of children and continued inter-factional violence are hindering assistance to youngsters in the country.
Under the Plan, 7,000 children re-enrolled in school and 43,000 children received catch-up education classes. However, the LTTE recruited 488 children during the first half of this year. While the group released 449 other children, 1,300 still remain in its ranks.
Among its recommendations, the report called for the Government of Sri Lanka to amend its Prevention of Terrorism Act to ensure that it does not apply to children under the age of 18. LTTE should immediately stop all recruitment of children who are under 18, verify the age of all young people who wish to join, and halt all forcible recruitment and abductions. For its part, the international community should increase support and other resources for children affected by war, the report said.
In releasing its report, UNICEF stressed that all organizations involved in the Action Plan would continue to work for the rights of children in Sri Lanka. The Action Plan partners consist of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Ministry of Social Welfare, Save the Children in Sri Lanka, the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).