Robert*, 18, enters a UNICEF-supported transit centre for recently released former child soldiers, in Bria, in the Central African Republic. The centre provides shelter, psychosocial support, health care, education and vocational opportunities while working to reintegrate children with their families. *Name changed to protect identity. Photo: UNICEF, CAR, 2012, Matas
UNICEF has launched a new initiative Children, Not Soldiers to end the recruitment and use of children in government forces in conflict by 2016.
“The recruitment and use of children by armed forces must end,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Children, Not Soldiers can give this issue more of the focus and attention it deserves.
“When we help a former child soldier overcome such a terrible experience and prepare for a new future, we do more than mend a broken life. We begin to bind the wounds of a nation torn by conflict.”
Around the world, thousands of boys and girls are recruited into government forces and armed opposition groups to serve as combatants, cooks, porters, messengers or in other roles. Girls – and sometimes boys – are also recruited for sexual purposes.
“There is a consensus among States that no child should be recruited or used in conflict by government forces,” said Special Representative Zerrougui. “The time has come for the world to unite and turn the page, once and for all, on the recruitment and use of children by security forces in conflict.”
Parties to conflict that use and use children are listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict. Ten years ago, the Security Council called on all these parties to work with the United Nations and prepare time-bound action plans to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children. Through this mechanism, the Council opened the door for governments to affirm their commitment that children do not belong in their security forces and to receive the assistance needed to transform this commitment into reality.
Currently, eight government security forces are listed for the recruitment and use of children. In the past three years, six of those countries have signed action plans with the United Nations: Afghanistan and Chad in 2011, followed by South Sudan, Myanmar, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo the following year. Both Yemen and Sudan have expressed their commitment to child-free security forces, and dialogue with the United Nations is ongoing.
Over the next two years, the Office of the Special Representative, UNICEF, United Nations and NGO partners will redouble their support to the eight governments’ efforts to ensure that children into civilian life and fully implement action plans to end and prevent recruitment.
This support will include providing technical expertise, identifying gaps and challenges to the implementation of action plans, and mobilizing additional resources to support programmes on the ground.
While the campaign focuses on the government forces listed in the Secretary-General’s report, the United Nations will continue working to address grave violations perpetrated by armed groups.
Children, Not Soldiers launched today at the United Nations during an event hosted by H.E. Mr. Jean Asselborn, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg. In January 2013, Luxembourg has assumed the presidency of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict for a two-year mandate.
“By having to take part in hostilities, by being compelled to become instruments of war, the most fundamental rights of children are violated: their right to life, to health, to education, to protection from physical or mental violence,” said Jean Asselborn, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg.
“Our common goal is to ensure that these countries succeed in translating their commitments into concrete actions. We now need to galvanize the support of the international community, regional organizations and the entire UN system to ensure that adequate resources and expertise are available to reach our objective,’’ said Special Representative Zerrougui.