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32. U.S. statement to conference on children and armed conflict (Oct. 2007)

Madame State Minister Yade other distinguished participants,

The United States is pleased to participate in today’s Ministerial Meeting on Children and Armed Conflict. We would like to extend our appreciation to the government of France and to UNICEF for organizing this meeting.

The United States is deeply committed to addressing issues important to the welfare of children, including protecting children from the scourges of war. The United States government agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Labor, have invested tens of millions of dollars in programs to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate child combatants in conflict situations around the world. The United States is of course also fully committed to meeting its obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Children and Armed Conflict. Our deep commitment to this issue is further evidenced by our global leadership on combating trafficking in persons. Last year, the United States provided more than $74 million in anti-trafficking assistance overseas. This included programs that help conflict-affected children. For example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United States assisted with identification and reintegration for children who were victims of abduction and sexual exploitation. In Uganda the United States worked with local groups to support four reception centers and two night commuter shelters in three war-affected districts.

The United States is pleased that France has taken an active leadership role on children and armed conflict issues. Under France’s leadership in the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, we have worked intently this year to address a number of serious situations around the world. We look forward to continuing to work with France, other members of the Security Council, and the Special Representative to the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict to address these and other situations where children are, often tragically, both participants in and victims of armed conflict.

However, with respect to the Paris Principles and the Paris Commitments, the United States is not able to endorse these documents. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly why this is the case.

Although we strongly support the overall aim of the documents, our review identified a number of legal and policy concerns, in particular some significant inconsistencies between the document and international legal norms governing the issue of children in armed conflict. We fully believe that our concerns could have been addressed through further discussions and negotiations. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity for Member States to have such discussions or to provide their input into those documents before the Paris Conference last February at which these documents were presented.

Since we were told that participation in the Paris Conference amounted to an endorsement of the documents, we were not in a position to attend. For this reason, regrettably, we cannot support the objective, as outlined in this meeting’s Concept Paper, to (quote) “ensure both the Principles and the Commitments are referred to as standards in the UN” (end quote). We believe that documents can only become “UN standards” following a full process of discussion among Member States. We also believe that any decision to create a new standard should only be taken after a decision by Member States that the current international law on the subject is unclear or otherwise requires the creation of new standards.

Our views on this matter are principled, and are not in any way a reflection on our commitment to seriously confront the issue of children and armed conflict.

The United States would be pleased to engage with France, other Member States, and UNICEF on the application of current legal standards so that we end the tragedy of the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers and further promote the welfare of children in armed conflict situations.

Thank you.

October 1, 2007


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