Five more countries have joined a United Nations-backed list of States committed to release hundreds of thousands of child soldiers and others recruited by armed groups worldwide, end the practice and reintegrate them into society, bringing the total to 100.
“Children associated with armed conflict often bear a burden of shame and tremendous stigma,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah said yesterday of the accession of Angola, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica and San Marino to the Paris Commitments, a voluntary initiative adopted in 2007 to help such children successfully reintegrate into their communities.
“It is important that all children have access to vital assistance to help them to be rehabilitated and reintegrated, and to lead empowered and productive lives.”
During the course of 2010 alone, UNICEF and partners contributed to the release and reintegration of some 10,000 children associated with various armed forces or groups.
“Yet one of the most important lessons that is often overlooked is that successful release and reintegration programmes for children are long-term and require early, flexible and sustained funding mechanisms,” UNICEF said in a news release on the new accessions, which were deposited with France’s permanent mission to the UN.
“What is required is a relatively small yet critical investment by governments and donors, which is also an investment in peace and stability in the fragile context where this exists.”
Many of the children are exposed to sustained violence as witnesses, as direct victims themselves and as forced participants, the agency stressed. The impact on their mental and physical well-being breaches fundamental human rights and represents a grave threat to durable peace and sustainable development, as cycles of violence are perpetuated.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy stressed the importance of justice for children, particularly during times of conflict.
“Justice must also mean reparations to victims,” she said. “For children, justice includes far more than punishing a perpetrator. Equally important is the restoration of their rights and an element of reparation to address their loss of childhood, loss of family, loss of education, and loss of livelihood.”