Millions of children across the world are denied the right to enjoy their childhood as a result of conflicts that expose them to violence and rob them of their innocence, two senior United Nations officials said today, stressing the need to ensure that children grow up in safety.
“Growing up in conflict, their innocence is stolen when they are abducted from schools, recruited to fight, wounded or killed, separated from their families and emotionally as well as physically scarred for life,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said in a joint statement to mark Universal Children's Day.
They drew attention to the needs of the children in Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d''Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nepal, the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, Somalia, Sudan, and all other countries in conflict, and reaffirmed their commitment to be their voices and protectors.
Ms. Coomaraswamy and Mr. Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, highlighted the achievements of the UN in the protection of children in armed conflict over the past decade.
“Through a systematic monitoring and naming of child rights violators by the Secretary-General, the UN is acting as one and has secured the demobilization of thousands of children associated with armed forces and groups over the past 10 years,” they said, noting that the Security Council in June this year expressed its readiness to impose sanctions against those named as persistent abusers of children's rights.
Joint efforts with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other UN partners have achieved notable success in protecting children affected by conflict, they stated, adding that this year alone, with the assistance of UN peacekeepers in the DRC, armed forces and groups in that country freed over 1,000 girls and boys from their ranks.
The UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan and UNICEF also facilitated the demobilization of over 200 children, while the joint African Union-UN mission in Darfur played an important role in the release of close to 1,000 children over the past year.
In Afghanistan, Myanmar and the DRC, three agreements for the release of child fighters are currently being prepared, they added.
“While we celebrate these achievements, the Universal Children's Day also reminds us that we still have to address many more challenges that children face during conflict.
“As long as schools become targets of attacks and children once freed are re-recruited or abused in the absence of rule of law, we pledge to carry on this important work. We will use the synergies of our two offices, along with UNICEF and all UN partners, to secure the dream of childhood everywhere, even in the darkest corners of conflict,” they said.