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Promotion and protection of the rights of children

16-10-2006 Statement

United Nations, General Assembly, 61st session, Third Committee, item 63 of the agenda, Statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), New York, 16 October 2006

Mr Chairman ,  

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is gravely concerned by the plight of children in armed conflicts and other situations of violence. The International Committee of the Red Cross is grateful to be given this opportunity to address the pressing humanitarian issue of children affected by armed conflict.

In too many contexts, children continue to be enrolled into armed forces and armed groups, separated from their families, killed or maimed, forced to flee their home, abused sexually or otherwise exploited. This is unacceptable.

The ICRC has not spared any efforts in the past and will not spare any efforts in the future to work for an improvement of the respect of International Humanitarian Law and fundamental norms of Human Rights Law.

The last year marked an important turning point in the development of the agenda for children affected by conflict, reflecting the ever-growing commitment by the international community to protect such children. We welcome, amongst others, the appointment of the new Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflicts, Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy, the implementation of SC Resolution 1612, and now, the upcoming revision of the Cape Town Principles.

A significant drive exists today for concerned authorities and arms carriers to turn international child protection standards and norms into a reality on the ground. This drive must now be nurtured, supported and sustained.

The fate of children affected by war, especially children associated with armed forces and armed groups, is of particular concern to the ICRC. We therefore note with satisfaction that a specific focus is set in the United Nations agenda on the issue of recruitment of children into armed forces and armed groups.

We would like to emphasize, however, that working with children formerly associated with armed forces requires commitment over time. The rehabilitation and reintegration of children formerly associated with armed groups or forces is not done in a fortnight and we would like to stress that those engaging in this work should do so by working closely with the local communities and by displaying long term vision, planning, commitment and funding.

Mr Chairman,

I would also like to say a few words on the issue of children separated from their parents as a result of armed conflict. The ICRC works with these children from the very outset of the conflict. We identify and register them. We trace their parents, often across borders, in close cooperation with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, we reunify them with their parents whenever possible. In this work, we do our best to identify complementarity and collaborate closely with other child protection agencies and with national authorities.

We would like to emphasize, however, that working with children separated from their parents is also a long-term process that needs commitment over time. Tracing family members may take time. Reunification processes may be even longer. For those children whose parents cannot be traced, other durable solutions must be found.

When there is usually a rush and a lot of public attention at the outset of a new emergency, the ICRC often notes with concern a limited commitment for long-term funding and hence for continuity and durable presence on the ground.

Let me therefore end by repeating our call for improving the lives of children affected by armed conflict, and for a long term commitment to the programmes on their behalf in order to ensure these are sustained throughout their cycle.

Thank you Mr Chairman.