As millions of children suffer across the world in conflict-ridden countries, unable to go to school, the international community has the responsibility to take up measures to protect them from violence. These thoughts were expressed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, at the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council, which began in Geneva on Monday.
"Parties to conflict must do more and can do more to minimize killing and maiming of children in the conduct of military operations," Zerrougui said. In her address, Zerrougui reminded the Human Rights Council that, millions of children are deprived of their right to education because of conflict.
With attacks on schools and hospitals, happening too often in conflict-ridden countries, traditional safe havens for children are now on the frontline. It is a matter of grave concern, she said. She pointed out that, during her recent visit to Syria and neighbouring countries, she met many families and children - internally displaced or refugees - who narrated the horrors of conflict and its impact on their children's education.
Nearly two million children in Syria had dropped out of school since last year because of conflict, she added. In other parts of the world too, children were dealing with equally grave and troubling circumstances, Zerrougui said. The Special Representative also elaborated the progress achieved in protecting children living in conflict-ridden countries. She noted that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) signed Action Plans to end the recruitment and use of children, as well as sexual violence against children.
Meanwhile in Somalia the Transitional Government has signed a similar Action Plan as well as another one to end killing and maiming of children, the first time a Government made such a commitment, she said. In addition, the Government of Yemen, last week, approved an Action Plan to end the recruitment and use of children by the country's armed forces.
Of the eight countries accused of recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts, Zerrougui said, seven has now adopted Action Plans and there is an active dialogue with the Government of Sudan. In her statement, Ms. Zerrougui urged the Human Rights Council to include the protection of children and monitoring of child rights violations in armed conflict in all its new and renewed mandates as well as Commissions of Inquiries.
"We must strengthen our collective action to respond to the plight of conflict-affected children," she said.
"If we fail to protect their rights, their schools and ultimately their future, we call into question our common and longstanding commitment to uphold human rights and international humanitarian law. We must do more to translate these commitments into action and to spare children from the scourge of conflict," she added.
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