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More nations sign on to UN-backed initiative to end use of child soldiers

More nations sign on to UN-backed initiative to end use of child soldiers

Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy
Eleven new countries have added their names to a growing United Nations-backed list of States that have pledged to halt child recruitment, support the release of children from armed groups and help reintegrate them into civilian life.

Cape Verde, Gabon, Georgia, Iceland, Latvia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Togo and Uruguay yesterday endorsed the Paris Commitments on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, raising the number of supporting countries from 84 to 95.

“The use of children in armed conflict is not only morally reprehensible, but it is a war crime,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict.

“To protect the children of today and tomorrow, we must work collectively to ensure that armed forces and rebel groups cannot continue to get away with this egregious violation,” she added.

Thousands of children continue to be recruited by both government forces and armed rebel groups in situations of armed conflict and insecurity, despite global efforts to combat the scourge.

The Paris Commitments, a voluntary initiative adopted in 2007, are accompanied by the Paris Principles – operational guidelines designed to help children successfully reintegrate into their communities.

“The Paris Principles reaffirm our collective commitment to protect the most fundamental right of a child: To be a child,” said Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“If we do not succeed in reintegrating these children into their communities and supporting them once they return, we cannot hope to break the cycle of violence.”

The 11 countries voiced their support for the initiative during the third Ministerial Follow-up Forum to the Paris Commitments, which was held at UN Headquarters on Monday on the margins of the annual high-level general debate of the General Assembly.

The event, organized by UNICEF, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and France, was designed to assess the implementation of the Paris Commitments and the Paris Principles, to review the status of Member States’ endorsements and encourage new countries to sign on.

It also sought to examine the need for additional funds to support proven prevention and reintegration programmes, as well as to monitor compliance by parties to armed conflict.