Top UN official details ‘terrible’ year for children in armed conflict

15 September 2009

It has been a terrible year for children living in situations of armed conflict around the world, the top United Nations official dealing with the issue said today, stressing the need for the international community to address impunity and hold perpetrators accountable.

“The nature of conflict is changing and civilians are increasingly on the frontline. The toll on children is more brutal than ever,” stated Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

“Ferocious conflicts in Gaza, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Iraq and Afghanistan have led to high casualty rates and the displacement of a large number of people, especially children,” she reported to the UN Human Rights Council, which is holding its 12th session in Geneva.

Ms. Coomaraswamy stressed that addressing impunity and holding perpetrators accountable must remain a priority of the international community to halt grave violations against children.

On the positive side, she drew attention to progress made in some situations of concern where child soldiers were freed.

She also commended the adoption by the Security Council of resolution 1882, which expanded the list of criteria of violations to include those who kill, maim, rape or commit other forms of sexual violence against children in wartime.

“Action at the international level must, however, also be underpinned by accountability at the national level,” she urged.

“That includes rigorous investigation and prosecution of those responsible for grave violations against children as well as reforms of national legislation for the protection of children in order to ensure compliance with international norms and standards.”

Ms. Coomaraswamy called on all parties to conflict to make every effort to better protect children and to make protection of civilians an integral part of military planning.

She also stressed the need to address protection concerns for children displaced as a result of conflict, including according them the right to education, the liberty of movement, the right to protection against sexual and gender-based violence and the right to basic services.

 

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