UN: UN officials urge more protection for children in armed conflicts

New York US (PANA) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday stressed the need
for the international community to act "collectively and expeditiously" to thwart the growing
number of children affected by armed conflicts.

Speaking at the UN Security Council meeting in New York on Children and Armed
Conflict, Ban said: "We agree that we cannot tolerate a world in which children are killed and
maimed, where they are abducted, subjected to sexual violence, forced to become soldiers,
and where schools and hospitals are attacked."

He, however, noted that "increasingly, children are snatched from a normal life of school
and family, abducted by armed groups and thrown into a life of violence and horror."

The UN chief observed that since he last addressed the Security Council on the issue
in 2014, hundreds of thousands more children had been confronted with the emergence
or intensification of conflict, while UN agencies on the ground were verifying more and
more cases of child abductions by armed groups.

"These children face “some of the worst human rights violations a child can experience,
including death, injury, imprisonment and torture, sexual abuse, forced recruitment and
abduction," he said.

An estimated 230 million children reside in countries and areas where
armed groups are fighting and up to 15 million children are impacted by the violence.

"The world’s children are increasingly under threat in theatres of war, and last
year was considered one of the worst ever for children in areas affected by conflict," Ban said.

He noted that as violent conflicts proliferate across the globe, more especially in the
Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and in the occupied Palestinian
territories, children were being kidnapped from their schools or on their way to school
and recruited or used by armed forces and groups in ever greater numbers.

Despite the sobering details, however, the secretary-general told the Security Council
that there was a glimmer of hope as the UN better engaged with government and
non-State actors to end and prevent violations against children.

"We have seen concrete outcomes of our efforts that have translated into thousands
of children now going to school instead of battle and playing in fields instead of fighting
on them," Ban stated.

"By protecting children, we contribute to building durable
peace and to helping countries reach their full potential," the UN chief added.

Also addressing the Security Council, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, UN Special Representative
for Children and Armed Conflict, lamented the growing challenges facing the
international community despite the consensus and our combined efforts to spare
children the horrors of war.

"In this start to 2015, it is the violence of armed groups and the brutality with which
they treat the children which is our main challenge, and this is the case in Syria, Iraq,
Nigeria, but also in other countries, while recurring conflicts have intensified and
the expansion of armed groups is assuming alarming proportions," Ms. Zerrougui

Noting that out of the 59 parties documented as having committed violations
against children, 51 were non-State actors, she suggested that it remained necessary
to enter into "constructive dialogue" with armed groups, in order to dissuade
them from continuing in their destructive practices.

On her part, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt emphasized that
voicing outrage was "not enough, but that the international community’s words
must be matched by action to prevent violations of child rights."

Ms. Brandt admitted that there had been some successes as a number of child
soldiers in South Sudan were undergoing demobilization.

She however said that being released was "only a first step" as many children
faced struggles when they returned home, such as stigmatization and psychological

"The Yazidi children who were recently rescued from the clutches of the Islamic
State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), for instance, continued to recount stories of
abuse from their time in captivity," she said, adding that they had "experienced
the worst of humanity.

"We can rebuild shattered lives and shattered societies, and as we heal these
children, we also heal divided societies," Ms. Brandt added.

Among those who addressed the meeting was Junior Nzita Nzuami, who was abducted
and forced to fight as a child soldier with rebel forces in Democratic Republic
of  Congo (DRC).

He recounted moments of horror during his three years of fighting, as he and other
children shot at and killed everything that moved.

He, however, noted that the experiences had prompted him to dedicate his life to
helping his country rebuild a better future and so that what he went through "would
no longer happen."
-0-  PANA  AA/AR  25Mar2015

25 march 2015 18:37:50

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