Plight of conflict-displaced children deserves greater attention, says top UN official

14 October 2009

A top United Nations official today urged that greater attention be given to the plight of internally displaced children, among the most vulnerable groups affected by armed conflict.

“This is becoming an increasing issue around the world,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, told reporters ahead of the presentation of her annual report to the General Assembly.

She noted that annexed to her report is the “rights and guarantees” which should be accorded to children who are among internally displaced persons (IDPs), including the right to education, the liberty of movement, the right to protection against sexual and gender-based violence and the right to basic services.

Ms. Coomaraswamy also announced that she is sending Major-General Patrick Cammaert as her representative to Sri Lanka as soon as possible, and that the issue of IDP children “will be among the issues he will raise.”

Last month the Special Representative voiced her concern to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council about the fate of internally displaced children who still remain in camps in the north of Sri Lanka following the end of the Government’s military operation against Tamil rebels.

“We acknowledge the recent releases of some IDPs from the camps and hope that the others will also be allowed to leave if they wish to do so,” she told the Council.

In her briefing to reporters, Ms. Coomaraswamy also welcomed the increased commitment of the international community to combat sexual violence in wartime through the adoption of Security Council resolutions 1882 in August and 1888 in September.

She also highlighted a number of other issues contained in her report, including sexual violence against boys, juvenile justice protections – to ensure that children are not prosecuted for war crimes – and the successes with some countries in ending the practice of using child soldiers.

In addition, she urged all countries to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child related to the recruitment and use of children, and announced the launch of a ratification campaign which will begin in 2010 towards this goal.


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