CAUTION: ADVANCE RELEASE
SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT TO VISIT NORTHERN IRELAND
NEW YORK, 14 December (UN Headquarters) -- Olara A. Otunnu, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, will visit Northern Ireland from 17 to 19 December to assess the situation of children who have been affected by the troubles, and the implementation of the child-specific provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr. Otunnu will meet with Government officials, including the Deputy First Minister, Mark Durkin; Lord Alderdice, the Lord Mayor of Belfast; Ministers Denis Haughey and Dermot Nesbitt from the offices of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister; Martin Guinness, the Minister of Education; Des Brown, the Minister for Victims Issues and Brice Dickson, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
The Special Representative will also meet with religious and community leaders, young people and children.
Following the visit of the Special Representative to Northern Ireland in June 2000, the decision was made by the offices of the First and Deputy First Ministers to appoint the Commissioner for Children in Northern Ireland to provide a national mechanism that ensures that children’s concerns are accorded priority attention and adequate resources. The Special Representative will follow up on the progress of this initiative.
"Children are routinely overlooked in peace, truth and reconciliation processes", said Mr. Otunnu. "Northern Ireland will have a far better chance for a durable peace if young people are a priority in that process."
From 1969 to August 2001, 579 persons aged 19 years and under have been killed in Northern Ireland. "Children are not responsible for the conflict, yet, during the past three decades they account for 15 per cent of the causalities. They have witnessed physical violence, including vigilante justice, and the killing and injury of family members and neighbours", he stated.
Mr. Otunnu will highlight the lessons learned from Northern Ireland that can inform the work of those striving to protect children in other countries during and after situations of long-standing sectarian strife and armed conflict.
Mr. Otunnu will urge all parties to stop the involvement of young people in violence. He will propose that training in the areas of child rights and protection should be provided, where appropriate, for policy makers and community leaders in Northern Ireland.
The Special Representative will highlight the considerable efforts of young people who are working to bridge cross-community differences in Northern Ireland.
[The Special Representative serves as an international advocate for children affected by armed conflict by promoting standards for their protection in times of war as well as their healing and social reintegration in the aftermath of conflict.]
For further information from the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (OSRSG-CAAC), please contact: Mary Ellen Glynn at: Telephone: 212-963-9648; Facsimile: 212-963-807; e-mail: Glynnm@un.org; or Bodine Williams at: Telephone: 212-963-9879; Facsimile: 212-963-0807; e-mail: Willimasb@un.org
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