Over 250,000 child soldiers are still participating in armed conflicts around
the world and tens of thousands of girls are being sexually exploited by
combatants, a senior U.N. official said.
While the situation for children has improved markedly in recent conflict
zones Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia and Congo, "children continue to suffer" as
witnessed most recently in the Middle East, Undersecretary-General Radhika
Coomaraswamy told the U.N. Security Council.
"Since 2003," she said, "over 14 million children have been forcibly
displaced within and outside their home countries, and between 8,000 and 10,000
children are killed or maimed each year by land mines."
"Over 250,000 children continue to be exploited as child soldiers by armed
forces and groups around the world. Tens of thousands of girls are being
subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence. Abductions of children are
becoming more systematic and widespread," she said.
Coomaraswamy, the U.N. special representative for children and armed
conflict, spoke at an open council meeting examining the impact of a resolution
adopted a year ago aimed at halting the use of child soldiers and exploitation
of youngsters in war zones by governments and insurgent groups.
Under the resolution, the council for the first time established a group to
report on the killing, maiming, rape and sexual abuse of children in conflicts,
the recruiting and use of child soldiers and the abduction of children. The
council also reaffirmed its intention to consider imposing targeted sanctions
such as arms embargoes, travel bans and financial restrictions against parties
that continue to violate international laws protecting children in armed
UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman told the council that "children
continue to be targeted in today's armed conflicts" and are the first to suffer
from poverty, malnutrition and poor health as a result of the upheavals caused
"In every region of the world girls and boys endure the consequences of being
caught up in war," she said. "The children who are used by armed groups, or who
are displaced from their homes by war, orphaned or separated from their
families, and who are targeted by gender-based violence, experience violations
of their fundamental rights and freedoms."
Since 1996, approximately two million children have died as a result of war,
at least six million have been injured or physically disabled, and 12 million
have been left homeless, Veneman said.
Ian Bannon, a senior World Bank official, said over 300 million young people
under the age of 25 _ representing nearly 20 percent of the world's children and
youth _ still live in countries affected by armed conflict.
China's deputy U.N. Ambassador Liu Zhenmin said children in more than 30
countries "are harmed in various ways by armed conflict" and he urged the
Security Council to step up efforts to promote peace.
Coomaraswamy and Veneman welcomed last year's landmark council resolution,
saying much has been accomplished _ but much more remains to be done.
"It is now time for the council to take effective action against repeat
offenders," Coomaraswamy said.
She cited the case of a Sierra Leone boy named "Abou" who was abducted from
school when he was 11-years-old by rebels from the Revolutionary United Front.
When he was demobilized at the age of 15, he was an RUF commander and although
his community accepted him back, he was feared and isolated. Six months later,
he disappeared and went to fight first with rebels in Liberia and then in Ivory
Coast where he was disarmed again at age 18.
"Abou" told U.N. workers he only knew how to fight, Coomaraswamy said, urging
that much more must be done to keep youngsters from being recycled from conflict
Saying "Band-Aid" solutions are not sufficient, she called for children
affected by conflict to receive education and job training. She also urged the
council to expand its monitoring and reporting program to more countries.
Veneman said children also need psychological and social support, and
protection against persecution and exploitation after conflicts end because they
remain vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups unless their economic prospects
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, the current council
president and chairs of the council's working group on children and armed
conflict, read a statement at the end of the meeting calling for "a
reinvigorated effort by the international community to enhance the protection of
children affected by armed conflict."
The statement, approved by all council members, underlined "the importance of
a sustained investment in development, especially in health, education and
skills training, to secure the successful reintegration of children in their
communities and prevent re-recruitment."