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(WNN) United Nations, New York, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: Working to bring stronger protection for child soldiers who have been abducted in Africa, UNICEF, also known as the UN Children’s Fund, is stepping up the commitment level to stop the use of child soldiers inside the AU – African Union. To do this they are coordinating with AU officials who will be stressing that special attention be given to the plight of children trapped by the militias who abduct them.
Signing a recent September 17 agreement to bring more protective mechanisms forward, the Peace and Security Department of the African Union Commission, along with the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, pledged to work closely with UNICEF on issues that affect children inside Africa.
In January 2013 UNICEF gave an approximate number of boys and girls child soldiers in one of Africa’s regions, the CAR – Central African Region which is estimated to number 2,500 children. This is only part of the total number of African children involved inside conflict events.
Contrary to what most of the public believes, a minority of children who become child soldiers are not kidnapped. Instead they are mislead into thinking that life in an army is heroic and good. But a majority of others are abducted and forced to join militias.
While boys make up the majority of child soldiers, a larger than realized minority of girls are also drafted into becoming active members of roaming militias. In addition to becoming child soldiers, numerous girls often also become the forced sexual companions of male militia members. These events and becoming party to violent acts can also have devastating long range effects on a child.
“All children have the right to be protected from violence. The recruitment and use of children in armed conflict is one of the six grave children’s rights violations according to Security Council Resolution 1612 and those who commit such crimes against children must be held accountable,” said UNICEF in a statement covering the illegal recruitment of child soldiers in the Central African Republic released on May 10, 2013.
With the new agreement between the African Union, UNICEF and the UN Office for Children and Armed Conflict it is hoped that more children can be saved from conditions that create the need for child soldiers.
“As the African Union is taking a larger role in the continent’s mediation and peacekeeping operations, it had become essential to make our partnership stronger,” said Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-‐General for Children and Armed Conflict. “A significant number of children affected by armed conflict live on the African continent. With this agreement, my Office will work even more closely with the African Union and UNICEF to respond to their plight.”
“We welcome this collaboration to ensure that protecting children is central to the work of the African Union,” said El-Ghassim Wane, Director of the Department of Peace and Security at the AU Commission.
“We know that we cannot succeed in building a prosperous and just future for the continent if we do not do everything in our collective power to protect them from the scourge of violence and war,” Mr. Wane added.
Among the areas of collaboration outlined in the document, the AU, with UN support, agrees to include the protection of children in all its peace and security activities.
The agreement also calls for the development of a joint programme of work to align domestic legislation with regional and international child rights, as well as to develop guidelines on protection of children.
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