Published on reliefweb, GA/SHC/3888, 17 Oct 2007 – Source: United Nations General Assembly.
Former child soldier takes international community to task for failure to do more for children living amid conflict.
2 excerpts: … Ishmael Beah, who as a young teenager had been forced to fight in the civil war in his country in the 1990s, recalled how hopeful the mood had been when he came to the United Nations a decade ago to draw attention to the plight of young people caught up in war. That appearance coincided with the publication of a landmark United Nations report by Graça Machel that put children in conflict at the forefront of the Organization’s agenda.
He regretted, however, that the call for immediate action made by Ms. Machel had gone largely unheeded. More concrete things had to be done, not least to give children a voice in resolving conflict. “Whatever your ideas are, you haven’t done very well with them”, he told representatives in the unusually crowded conference room. In a question and answer session, he went on to stress the importance of conflict prevention, saying that in the past decade, he had become aware of a pattern of reluctance and lack of political will to respond to conflict situations at their very early stages.
The Committee also heard from Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, who drew attention to the forthcoming strategic review of the Machel study. She reported that in the past year, progress had been made on action plans to end the recruitment of children by armed forces. Reintegration processes for released children, however, now had to be strengthened. She also called for an end to impunity for those who abused and exploited children in conflict situations. And she recalled a boy she had met on a trip to the Middle East, who had asked her why the United Nations talked so much but did so little. “I hope his words will haunt all of us as we try and implement the recommendations of the Machel review,” she said.
Speaking before the Committee as well was Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who said that the impact of conflict on children was still as brutal as ever. Sometimes children were the intended targets, and not just caught in the crossfire. She too said that children and youth were key to defining their own future, and that their contributions to peacemaking and peacebuilding should not be underestimated …
… NOBUKO KUROSAKI, the representative of ( Japan), said that as a paediatric surgeon who has practised for more than 20 years, he told the Committee that the children he had treated had struggled, not only for their health, but because of prejudice caused by some people’s misunderstandings of illness. Children were the most vulnerable of all those affected by prolonged armed conflict and poverty, and adults were responsible for creating a world fit for their future.
As a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he said Japan had made both domestic and international efforts to promote and protect children’s rights. To combat child abuse, one of the most serious human rights problems today, Japan had revised its child abuse prevention law and child welfare laws. Those revisions were meant to strengthen the role of child guidance centres and to introduce a new system to confirm safe conditions for children. Along with other Member States, Japan had also given assistance totalling about 2.2 million U.S. dollars, through the Trust Fund for Human Security, to the project entitled “Basic Education/Literacy, Income Security and Employment for Vulnerable People including Children and Women in Bhutan”.
He commended UNICEF’s follow-up to the Secretary-General’s study on violence against children, presented last year, by providing technical support to countries implementing the study’s recommendations. He also welcomed UNICEF’s latest study on the issue of violence by Mr. Paulo Pinheiro and urged the agency to continue its valuable work to effectively implement the recommendations contained in that report. Although progress had been made on the issue of children and armed conflict, such as the application of international standards for the protection of children, he said there was still much to be done. He stressed that the issue should be a priority for the international community and should be mainstreamed into all policies and programmes of the United Nations. Japan would participate in the high-level plenary meeting on 11 and 12 December of this year to mark the passing of half a decade since the convening of the special session of the Assembly on children. That meeting would afford a review of the implementation of the Declaration and Plan of Action and provide and opportunity to renew the determination to achieve the goal of creating a “World Fit for Children” … (full long text).
(For information media, not an official record).
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