|USUN Press Release|
United Nations, NYC
November 28, 2006
USUN Stakeout, November 28, 2006 (Sudan, Uganda, Chad, DROC)
Released on November 29, 2006
Thank you far convening this meeting today. I also want to thank the Secretary General and his Special Representative an Children and Armed Conflict, Radika Coomaraswamy, as well as UNICEF Executive Director, Ann Veneman, for their statements this morning and for their report on Children and Armed Conflict. It is important that the United Nations, the Security Council, and our governments keep the issue of Children and Armed Conflict in our focus, particularly in light of the alarming estimate that some 300,000 children are today involved in more than 30 conflicts worldwide.
The Secretary General's Report describes the terrible circumstances where the use of child soldiers continues and highlights as current issues of concern child victims in the Middle East and the Great Lakes region of Africa. The United States fully supports the request for all parties listed in the Annexes of the Report to halt recruitment and use of child soldiers. We believe the current plight of child soldiers is particularly dire in Burma, Sudan, and parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Northern Uganda, where the Lord's Resistance Army operates.
According to some reports, Burma is thought to have the largest number of child soldiers in the world. Human Rights Watch has documented the widespread forced recruitment of boys as young as eleven by Burma's national army. Burma's military regime has acknowledged the recruitment of child soldiers and claimed to have taken action against five officials involved in the forced recruitment of child soldiers since 2003 and to have set up a Committee to Prevent the Recruitment of Child Soldiers. Nonetheless, evidence continues to emerge that the practice of recruiting child soldiers has not ceased. A September 2006 report issued by the Thailand-based Human Rights Education Institute of Burma stated that little had changed with regard to Burma's forced recruitment of child soldiers and that the regime had done little to protect children from being recruited into the military. The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers estimated that 20 percent of the Burmese army and ethnic insurgency forces, about 90,000, were under the age of 18. Child soldiers are also used in ethnic armies. We encourage Burma's neighbors to provide protection to any child soldiers who desert from the national or ethnic armies and to allow international relief organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), to provide humanitarian assistance to resettle and reintegrate them into society.
The military forces of the Government of Burma also use the systematic rape of women and girls, particularly of the Shan, Karen, Karenni, and other ethnic minorities, as an instrument of armed conflict. The United States encourages members, Parties, States, and international organizations to provide all appropriate protection and assistance to victims of these atrocities.
In Sudan, government-armed forces, government forces, and various armed groups continue to recruit and use child soldiers in armed conflict. In IDP camps in Darfur and in refugee camps in neighboring Chad, we have seen the tragic recruitment of young men and boys by various parties to the Darfur conflict. Also in Darfur, rape continues to be used as a weapon of war against young women and girls. The Government of Sudan, which is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, must accept responsibility for the widespread problem of recruitment and use of child soldiers and take immediate steps to halt these practices.
The current negotiations between the Government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) seek an end to the 20-year conflict, which has produced 2 million internally displaced people and roughly 25,000 abducted children by the LRA. Children abducted by the LRA are often forced to participate in acts of extreme violence, including beating or hacking to death fellow child captives who have tried to escape. Girls as young as twelve are given to commanders as "wives." Some abducted children have managed to escape, while others have died from disease, mistreatment, or combat wounds. Although child abductions are down because of a decrease of LRA activity in northern Uganda, many of the abductees remain under control of the LRA.
We also remain concerned about the sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping personnel, a problem again cited in the Secretary Generals report. We must redouble efforts to apprise refugees/IDPs of their rights, to insist that all international organizations and non-governmental organizations adhere to a.common code of conduct, and to be vigilant in monitoring risk factors in order to end the exploitation of vulnerable persons, which continues to take place in conflict and post-conflict settings. The United Nations must also increase its efforts to investigate and punish exploitation and abuse perpetrated by United Nations peacekeepers.
The United States fully supports the following measures:
--Active monitoring of the governments and armed groups that have already been named in the Secretary General's report;
-- Direct dialogue involving the governments and armed groups concerned in order to develop action plans to eliminate the use of child soldiers.
-- Continuing efforts aimed at halting the sexual exploitation and abuse of vulnerable children.
The United States has contributed substantial resources to international programs aimed at preventing the recruitment of children and at assisting the reintegration of child ex-combatants into the community. Since 2001, the United States has contributed over $34 million to prevent the recruitment of child combatants and toward the demobilization and reintegration of child combatants.
We welcome the Secretary-General's report and are reviewing its specific recommendations closely. We look forward to working with other Council Members on closer review of the report.
Thank you, Mr. President.