Governments are undermining progress in ending the use of children as soldiers. That is the conclusion of a coalition of the world's leading human rights organizations.
In the most comprehensive global survey of its kind to date, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers says children are being exploited around the world in more than two dozen conflicts.
The Director of the organization, Casey Kelso says children can be found fighting in Latin America, in Asia, and elsewhere.
"In Africa, as many as 100,000 children have been recruited and used in hostilities by both governments and armed groups across the continent," he said. "In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, thousands of children are associated with fighting forces, many of them girls who have been subjected to rape and other sexual violence. Up to 20,000 child soldiers are thought to be involved in government-allied militias and armed opposition groups in Dafur and elsewhere in Sudan."
The Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mehr Khan Williams was at the launch of the report. She says the survey underlines the need for all governments to eliminate the practice.
"It points out that hundreds of thousands of children are currently engaged as child soldiers. They include both boys and girls as young as nine or 10 years of age," she said. "Children are fighting in almost every conflict in both government and opposition forces. They are being injured, subjected to horrific abuse and they are being killed. The report makes the point and I would like to quote from it, that a world that does not allow children to fight in wars is possible, but governments must show the political will and courage to make this happen by enforcing international laws."
Casey Kelso says that as of this week, 87 countries have ratified the U.N. treaty banning child soldiers, but much more work remains.
"Clearly declarations and resolutions of outrage from the U.N. and elsewhere is not enough. Words on paper are important but they do not protect children. Decisive, consistent action is needed," he stressed. "We know who is using child soldiers, we have comprehensive evidence right here that we are publishing here today. ... The message from this report today then from this press conference is that we are asking the United Kingdom and the members of the Security Council and other concerned governments to provide the political leadership to enforce the ban on child soldiering."
The coalition also wants to see the Security Council take immediate and decisive action to get children out of conflict by applying targeted sanctions and referring child recruiters to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.