Representatives of nearly 60 countries addressed the U.N. Security Council Tuesday on the subject of children in armed conflict. They urged the world body to sanction parties that recruit children as soldiers or use sexual violence against them. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.
Belgium's Minister for Development Cooperation, Charles Michel, put the issue in terms everyone could understand. He is heard here through a translator speaking about child soldiers.
"How many of us here around this table have children? Who here in this room doesn't want for their son or daughter the best? Three hundred thousand children have been torn away from their families - that represents half the Belgium children between the ages of 10 and 15," he said. "Let's think of the cruel dilemma facing these children: kill or be killed. Kidnapped, drugged, abused, commit the worst atrocities - sometimes against their own family. As a father, as a mother, we cannot resign ourselves to accept this scourge."
The United Nations has had some success in improving the situation of children in conflict zones. A report from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this year cites progress in the Central African Republic, Burma, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Chad, but says many challenges remain.
Italy's Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Vittorio Craxi, urged the world to take action. He is heard here through a translator.
"The figures we have before us are chilling and require immediate action on the part of the international community," he said. "For the last 10 years, armed conflicts have caused the deaths of more than 2 million children and have maimed some 6 million of them. Similarly, there are millions of refugee children, others taken hostage or illegally trafficked."
Many envoys urged the Security Council to take concrete measures against individuals and groups responsible, including imposing travel restrictions, arms embargoes, financial restrictions and other means available to the council.
The U.N. report records violations against children including killing or maiming of them; recruiting or using them as child soldiers; attacking schools or hospitals; rape and other grave sexual violence; as well as the abduction of children or the denial of humanitarian access to them.
A total of 58 entities - including the Taliban in Afghanistan, remnants of the former Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia and parties in southern Sudan and Darfur, were singled out in the report for abuses committed against children in conflict zones.