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New UN Report Released On Children And Armed Conflict

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has submitted a new report to the Security Council, which he says helps “ensure the protection of millions of children who are brutalized” in war.

The report on children and armed conflict says “efforts over the last several years have yielded significant advances and created a strong momentum” for protecting children.

Ambassador Olara Otunnu is the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

He says, "This report is a very special report. It marks a turning point in efforts to ensure the protection of children exposed to war. Because for the first time it brings together all the key elements to launch a compliance regime to ensure that we transform from word to deed. That we go from passing resolutions and conventions to actually ensuring enforcement on the ground and that children can be safe in situations of conflict."

The report says, “Protection of war-affected children has been placed firmly on the agenda of the Security Council; and that children’s concerns are increasingly being considered in peace negotiations.”

Ambassador Otunnu says 54 groups have been listed for violating the rights of children.

"All the 54, by the way, are responsible for recruiting and using children as child soldiers; several of them are responsible for killing and maiming. Many are responsible for abduction. And several are responsible for attacking schools or hospitals. And many are responsible for committing rape and other grave sexual violence against children," he says.

These include the Burundi rebel groups CNDD-FDD and PALIPEHUTU-FNL, as well as various armed groups in the DRC, Ivory Coast and Sudan, such as the Janjaweed militias.

Mr. Otunnu says the UN report presents an action plan for a monitoring and reporting system to identify those responsible and hold them accountable.

The Special UN Representative says the strategy to crack down on child abusers has been successful in a number of countries.

"First of all, only a couple of years ago, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, for example, were synonymous with the worst possible treatment and abuse of children. Today, that situation has changed thanks to the end of conflicts in those countries. So, you will not see in the report parties to conflict in Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia listed in the report," he says.

But Ambassador Otunnu says there have been problems in the DRC from an unexpected source.

He says, "Peacekeeping missions now have as part of their mandate the protection of children, which is why we are so, so, so disturbed by the recent developments in the Congo and elsewhere where peacekeepers have turned on those they’re supposed to protect and committed sexual exploitation and abuse."

In January, the UN Office of Internal Oversight said some peacekeepers in the DRC were having frequent sex with girls as young as 13.

The new report on children and armed conflict makes a number of recommendations. It calls on the Security Council to take targeted action against those listed for exploiting and abusing children. This includes denying travel visas to leaders of the groups, restricting the flow of weapons, freezing financial assets, and stopping the illicit trade in diamonds and minerals that armed groups use to fund their wars.