More action needed to address children caught in conflict – IIECL
Fifty-eight groups in 13 countries are still recruiting and using child soldiers. Despite a 2005 U.N. resolution, international protocols on child soldiers, and increased monitoring and reporting, that has produced some results, “Much more is needed to be done,” says Diane Mull, Executive Director of the International Initiative to End Child Labor (IIECL).
“Concrete and targeted measures, such as increased legal actions and sanctions, should be taken against recruiters of child soldiers and countries failing to take appropriate action,” says Mull. “The U.S. needs to step up its response and increase its support for ending the practice of using children during conflict.”
At a U.N. Security Council briefing, Undersecretary-General Radhika Coomaraswamy reported that children continue to be pressed into service, and in several countries, are killed, maimed, abducted and raped. Further, these children are denied access to humanitarian groups who could provide needed counseling and services to help address the physical, psychological, emotional and mental devastation that results from their experience. The background cited for Coomaraswamy’s briefing is drawn from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report to the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict that recently named 58 groups in 13 countries who are “responsible for the recruitment and use of child soldiers.” The 13 countries are Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Myanmar, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Colombia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uganda.
“Notably absent from this list are the countries of Mali, Syria and Yemen, where recent evidence of the use of children in conflict has been documented and reported,” says Mull. On a positive note, Ivory Coast was dropped from the list due to the country’s actions to address the situation of child soldiers.
Sixteen groups that were cited as “persistent violators” have been on the list of groups for five years that perpetuate these crimes. Coomaraswamy urged the Security Council to take concrete and targeted measures against these offenders. Additionally, she urged the Security Council charged with investigating the use of child soldiers to expand its focus to include systematic sexual violence and other issues affecting children, particularly girls.
“The failure of the council to mention in their statement the adoption of targeted measures against violators or expanding the monitoring activities to compile data on rape and sexual violence is very discouraging,” says Mull. “While some progress has been made in the last five years, thousands of children’s lives are destroyed by the failure to implement appropriate and effective targeted actions.”
The council did express concern at the “widespread and systematic use of rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, in particular girls, in situations of armed conflict.” The council has encouraged all parties to take special measures to protect girls and boys from sexual and gender-based violence.
“Without concrete targeted measures, including sanctions and strong legal actions, little will be accomplished and the monitoring actions, while effective to raise awareness, will do little to effect real change,” says Mull. “In five years, how many more children’s lives will be destroyed because we fail to act today.”