Human Rights Council holds Interactive dialogue with Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict
Human Rights Council
14 September 2010
The Human Rights Council this morning opened its agenda item on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, and heard the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict present her report, which was followed by an interactive dialogue in which speakers welcomed the progress made during the last year in the protection of children in armed conflict and the attention accorded by the Special Representative to internally displaced children and their particular vulnerabilities.
Radikha Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, said last year witnessed some important positive developments with regard to children and armed conflicts around the world, but great challenges remained. The recent incidents of mass rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were mind boggling, and this was the international community's collective responsibility. Ms. Coomaraswamy said that not all practices against children took place in the developing world, and the problem of children in detention had become a new challenge to be faced in the future. The special needs and concerns of internally displaced children all over the world must be highlighted, as they were at higher risk of becoming victims of grave violations, recruited to be child soldiers, and at high risk of sexual violence and harassment. Education was also a basic service that must be guaranteed to children, Ms. Coomaraswamy said.
In the interactive dialogue, speakers welcomed the important international mechanisms established to deal with children and armed conflict over the past decade and the progress achieved over the last year in protecting children in armed conflicts. Despite the progress in legislative terms, there was an alarming increase of children being used in conflict situations. Demonstrable United Nations action was crucial for the improvement of protection of children in armed conflict, particularly in the implementation of action plans, which was where the United Nations could have the most impact. Mainstreaming of child rights issues related to armed conflict into the work of human rights mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review, treaty bodies and Special Procedures was seen as important. There was no excuse for a national government to be listed as a violator of children’s rights in the Secretary-General’s report, or to refuse to enter into an action plan when requested by the United Nations. Speakers asked the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to provide her views and further information on a number of issues, including the “Zero under 18” campaign and a working paper that had been launched on the vulnerabilities of internally displaced children.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Qatar, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Georgia, European Union, Sri Lanka, Denmark, Slovakia, Russian Federation, Jordan, United Kingdom, Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Morocco, Israel, Egypt, Costa Rica, Japan, Brazil, Italy, Republic of Korea, Iraq, Switzerland, France, Argentina, Indonesia, Sudan, Philippines, Austria, Mexico, Greece, Colombia, China, Hungary, Nepal, United States, Norway, Uruguay, Slovenia, Algeria, United Nations Children’s Fund, Viet Nam, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: International Save the Children Alliance, Colombian Commission of Jurists, World Muslim Congress, International Islamic federation of student organisations and Action Internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la region des Grand Lacs.
This afternoon, at 3 p.m., the Council is scheduled to hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences and the Chairperson of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impending the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.
The Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, (A/HRC/15/58), covers the period May 2009 to May 2010 and outlines the activities undertaken in discharging the mandate of the Special Representative, including information on her field visits and on the progress achieved, and challenges remaining on the children and armed conflict agenda.
Presentation by Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict
RADHIKA COOMARASWAMY, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, presenting her report, said last year witnessed some important positive developments with regard to children and armed conflict around the world. The Human Rights Council itself strengthened its own resolution on children to include provisions with regard to children and armed conflict, specifically on the fight against sexual violence against children in war. Despite these moments of progress, great challenges remained. The recent incidents of mass rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were mind boggling, and this was the international community's collective responsibility. Women and children must be protected, and everything should be done to review the situation, to put in place procedures and practices that would alert the international community to such events so as to ensure an effective response. But, most importantly, those who committed these horrendous acts must be held responsible. Without accountability, there was no justice, and without justice there was no deterrent. Not all practices against children took place in the developing world, and the problem of children in detention had become a new challenge to be faced in the future.
The special needs and concerns of internally displaced children all over the world must be highlighted, Ms. Coomaraswamy said. There was no child more vulnerable in the world than a child internally displaced by armed conflict, forced to leave home and community behind, facing discrimination and often denied the documentation and the legal and civic rights guaranteed to other children in the population. Children who had been internally displaced were also at higher risk for becoming victims of grave violations, recruited to be child soldiers, at high risk of sexual violence and harassment. Education was also a basic service that must be guaranteed to children. Humanitarian actors, led by UNICEF, had increasingly recognized that child participation should be promoted in devising local strategies for recovery and reintegration. Universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography would move the international community toward ensuring that the prohibition against child soldiers became an international norm which would be recognized by international customary law.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict
MOHAN PEIRIS (Sri Lanka) said that throughout the three decade long conflict in Sri Lanka, the Government continued to uphold and enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards the abduction and use of children in armed conflict. The end of the conflict situation in Sri Lanka in May 2009 marked a significant new beginning for former child combatants. As the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam no longer had the ruthless capacity to forcibly separate children from their families, the abominable practice of forced recruitment of child soldiers had ceased to exist. A total of 667 former child combatants had undergone rehabilitation and were reunited with their families since May 2009. Finally, Sri Lanka added that it was among the first United Nations Member States to set up a National Task Force in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1539 and 1612 to monitor and report on child conscription. http://www.ohchr.org/