UN envoy on children and armed conflict wraps up Kabul visit

31 Jan 2011

UN envoy on children and armed conflict wraps up Kabul visit

KABUL - The United Nations envoy on children and armed conflict today met with Afghan human rights leaders and members of the international community before wrapping up a two day visit to Kabul to co-sign a child protection plan with the Government of Afghanistan.

“Last year we had evidence that the Afghan National Police was recruiting and using children, and also that children were associated with police in different ways,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

The Afghan National Police was named in the Secretary-General’s March report and placed on his list of parties to conflict engaging in recruiting or using children, killing or maiming and/or using sexual violence against children.

“To be removed from the list, you have to enter into an Action Plan and go through an intensive programme monitored and verified by the United Nations. That was the purpose of my visit,” Special Representative Coomaraswamy told the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The Special Representative co-signed the Action Plan on Sunday with Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Zalmai Rassoul and Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan.

It will be implemented by the Government’s Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict and monitored by UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund) and other members of the United Nations Country Task Force.

In addition to underage recruitment, the Action Plan aims to prevent sexual violence against children by curbing a practice of bacha bazi or so-called dancing boys. 

“Ordinary Afghans, the laymen I have spoken to, civil society, even the Taliban is opposed to this practice. Everyone in Afghanistan who has a moral voice is against it. The religious leaders are the ones who personally raised it. It is important that we unite against it."

The Action Plan also outlines activities to be undertaken by the various Afghan ministries to previen the killing and maiming of Afghan children in the ongoing conflict.

“The largest number of children killed in conflict is in Afghanistan, and a large number is due to landmines,” Coomaraswamy said about her visit to the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan (MACCA).

An average of 31 children each month – approximately one every day – are killed or injured by landmines and other explosive remnants of war.

Coomaraswamy visited the education programme’s centre in Kabul where informational sessions are held in airplanes and helicopters transformed into classrooms.

“It’s very imaginative. We met with orphaned children who were there to become aware of the issues.”
Earlier today, Coomaraswamy met with General Petraeus, Joint Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US Forces, to follow up on her February 2010 visit where she urged greater preventions against child casualties.

“We welcome the fact that when I came here last year the civilian children casualties were at an all time high. We welcome the fact that during the course of this year they have decreased by 37 per cent. That is due to the technical directives that were adopted in the last year,” Coomaraswamy said.

The Special Representative also met today President Hamid Karzai, the High Peace Council and Sima Samar, Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, and winner of the Tipperary International Peace Award.