15 January 2003

Secretary-General Provides List to Security Council of Those Using Child Soldiers, Says Exposure Means Violators of Protection Norms Can No Longer Act With Impunity

NEW YORK, 14 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the statement of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to today's Security Council meeting on children and armed conflict in New York:

I am grateful to you and the members of the Council for holding this meeting to discuss my report on children and armed conflict. This is an issue that goes to the heart of our common aim of protecting the most vulnerable of our world.

I am pleased to say that we have made steady progress in embedding the protection, rights and well-being of children affected by armed conflict into the United Nations peace and security agenda. The three resolutions adopted by this Council; the integration of child protection in peacekeeping mandates; the deployment of child protection advisers in selected UN peace missions; and the development of child protection training in mission areas all attest to this fact.

I am also pleased to note the progressive development of a body of international norms and standards for the protection of children affected by armed conflict. I am referring in particular to the entry into force over the past year of two landmark international instruments: the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which sets the age limit for compulsory recruitment and direct participation in hostilities at 18; and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which classifies the conscription, enlistment or use in hostilities of children under 15 as war crimes.

These two legal instruments, along with other norms and standards, have strengthened the international framework for the protection of children in situations of armed conflict.

Regrettably, there is far more to be done in this area. Despite the progress made in creating and strengthening the normative framework, the tragic fact is that children continue to be victimized in the most cynical and cruel manner in conflicts around the world.

In addition to being forcibly conscripted by government and rebel armies, children in conflict zones are at risk from landmines and unexploded ordnance; from abduction; from displacement and deprivation of education and basic health care; from use as forced labour in the extraction of natural resources, and from sexual exploitation and abuse.

These outrages continue to be perpetrated against children in far too many places in defiance of the will of the international community. The time has come to ensure that the hard-won gains in crafting a protection regime for children are applied and put into practice on the ground.

The Security Council, in calling for a list of parties to armed conflict that use or recruit children in violation of the international obligations, has taken the first important step in this regard. My report contains a list of 23 parties, including both governments and insurgents, in five conflict situations on the Council agenda that use or recruit children. It also highlights other conflicts not on the Council agenda where children are recruited or used.

By naming the parties that continue to recruit or use child soldiers, the international community has demonstrated its willingness to match words with deeds. Those who violate standards for the protection of children can no longer do so with impunity. The list represents an important step forward in our efforts to induce compliance by parties to conflict with international child protection obligations. It is also the beginning of a new era of monitoring and reporting on how parties treat children during conflict. It is essential that the publication of the list is followed by systematic monitoring and reporting on compliance by listed parties, as well as the consideration of targeted measures against those who continue to flout their international obligations.

By exposing those who violate standards for the protection of children to the light of public scrutiny, we are serving notice that the international community is finally willing to back expressions of concern with action. I congratulate the Members of the Council on this important step, and urge you to maintain your resolve in seeing this challenge through.

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