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Plight of children in armed conflict reaches watershed stage – UN official

During the annual Council debate on children and armed conflict, Under-Secretary-General Olara Otunnu said that while there has been significant progress on many fronts for children, too many parties go unpunished despite continuing to violate their rights.“The general situation for children remains grave and unacceptable,” Mr. Otunnu said, citing the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Indonesian province of Aceh, Iraq, Liberia, the occupied Palestinian territories and Uganda as areas where children have particularly suffered over the past year. Mr. Otunnu’s recommendations to redress the situation include setting up a monitoring and reporting mechanism to track violations of children’s rights during conflicts.But he said there has been some progress in recent years, including greater advocacy for children, the development of international norms for their treatment, and the increasing integration of child protection into UN peacekeeping operations.Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told the Council debate that many children suffer more because humanitarian access is often restricted or banned outright during wars.Ms. Bellamy said child soldiers were not the only victims of wars, adding that girls were especially vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation.“Another devastating consequence of today’s wars is that they create and exacerbate conditions that lead to HIV/AIDS,” she said. “The impoverishment that accompanies conflict often leaves women and girls so destitute that trading sex for survival becomes the only option for many.”A number of the more than 40 delegates who spoke at the meeting said the most effective way to help children affected by armed conflict was to strike at the root of the problem by preventing war from breaking out in the first place. Video of the Council meeting [3hrs]

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