100 COUNTRIES ENDORSE COMMITMENTS TO PREVENT THE USE OF CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT
At the UN today, international commitment to protect children in times of conflict was strengthened.
The UN has noted that hundreds of thousands of children worldwide are associated with armed forces, or armed groups in conflict. Many are exposed to tremendous and sustained violence - as witnesses, as direct victims themselves and as forced participants. The impact on their mental and physical well-being breaches the most fundamental human rights and represents a grave threat to durable peace and sustainable development, as cycles of violence are perpetuated.
Five states added their names to the ’Paris Commitments’ to protect children from recruitment and use by armed forces or armed groups. The number of States to have endorsed the commitments has increased from 95 to 100, the latest coming from Angola, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica and San Marino. Over half the member states of the UN have now joined the Paris Commitments.
"The support to the ’Paris Principles’ and new endorsements of the ’Paris Commitments’ show that the international community is mobilized to stop this unbearable phenomenon," said Mr. Francois Zimeray, France’s Ambassador for Human Rights. "The time for warnings has come to an end. We have to take into account what is working and what is not. It’s high time to make justice happen" said the Ambassador. A concept that was also underlined in a very moving and personal way by Grace Akallo, Founder and Executive Director of United Africans for Women and Children’s Rights and co-founder of Network of Young People Affected by War.
The Paris Commitments were adopted in Paris in February 2007, and are an expression of strengthened international resolve to prevent the recruitment of children and highlight the actions governments can and should take to protect children affected by conflict. The Paris Principles are the operational guidelines related to sustainable reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces and groups.
"Children associated with armed conflict often bear a burden of shame and tremendous stigma," said Rima Salah, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF. "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 have contributed to the release and reintegration of approximately 10,000 children associated with various armed forces or armed groups. Yet one of the most important lessons that is often overlooked is that successful release and reintegration programs for children are long-term and require early, flexible and sustained funding mechanisms.
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.
The importance of justice for children particularly during times of conflict was a theme for the event.
"Justice must also mean reparations to victims. For children, justice includes far more than punishing a perpetrator," said Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, "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".