Ferrero-Waldner: Human Security Network
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Human Security Network
First Anniversary of the Optional Protocol
to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement
of children in armed conflict
Statement by the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs
Ms. Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Vienna - New York, 12 February 2003
Over the last decade, tangible progress has been made in developing and advancing the protection of children's security and rights in the course of armed conflict. This is evidenced by the near universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and of the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography. Another important step in strengthening the normative framework was the recent entry into force of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which has an explicit jurisdiction when children under the age of 15 years are conscripted or enlisted into armed forces or groups or used to actively participate in hostilities. While a remarkable number of standards have been set to better protect children, including in armed conflict much remains to be done when it comes to the systematic implementation of these norms and standards. The Human Security Network thus fully supports the UN Secretary-General's call for an "era of application" of international child protection obligations.
Today we celebrate the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the involvement of children in armed conflict. This Instrument is the cornerstone for the protection of war-affected children. Notwithstanding the fact that the Protocol has been signed by 117 and ratified by 46 countries, many serious forms of violations continue. The members of the Human Security Network (HSN) are committed to ratify the Optional Protocol and to promote its universal ratification as well as to fully implement and to adopt the necessary laws and regulations in their national legal order, in compatibility with the provisions contained therein.
In this spirit, the Human Security Network (HSN) has agreed to make the protection of children affected by armed conflict one of its priorities. The Network believes that there is an urgent need for bridging the gap between universal child rights standards and their implementation, between information and action in international forums and between programmatic concepts and systematic response on the ground. The HSN welcomes the recent report of the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council on children affected by armed conflict, containing also a list of parties to armed conflict which recruit or use child soldiers. The Network has requested the Secretary-General to regularly update this list and consider extending it by including also conflict situations not on the Council's agenda, as well as other severe violations of relevant child protection obligations, like abductions or the use of landmines. It welcomed that Security Council Resolution 1460 (2003) has strengthened the Secretary-General's mandate to report on parties to armed conflicts that recruit or use children. Another move in the right direction is the Security Council's intention to consider appropriate steps to further address the issue of recruitment if it deems that insufficient progress is made upon the review of the next Secretary-General's report.
Many of the new elements of the resolution have been recommended by the HSN, such as the request to countries contributing peace-keeping troops to develop codes of conduct for their personnel and to develop appropriate disciplinary and accountability mechanisms. One further element of the resolution, recommended by the HSN is reflected in the request to the Secretary-General to include in his next report inter alia an assessment of child protection advisers in peacekeeping and peace-building support operations and of best practises on negotiations aimed at ending the recruitment or use of children in armed conflict in violation of international obligations applicable to the parties concerned.
As an example, I would like to direct your attention to one situation, which is particularly alarming: the ongoing abductions of numerous boys and girls in Northern Uganda. Based on reports from a variety of sources we have reason to believe that large numbers of children are still being abducted and held by the Lord's Resistance Army for the use in combat or as sex slaves. The Network is currently considering suggestions by reputable non-governmental organisations that the Commission on Human Rights appoint an expert acceptable to all parties to assist the Government of Uganda and the other parties in the region in facilitating the amnesty, reconciliation and rehabilitation, including the return and resettlement, of child members of the LRA and abducted children.
HSN Members will use their collective political weight, as appropriate, at national, regional and international levels to give priority attention to the implementation by parties to armed conflict of their international obligations in respect of children.
Human Security Network - a group of like-minded countries from all regions of the world including Austria, Canada, Chile, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa as an observer, Switzerland and Thailand - for the term of the Austrian chair in 2002/03 has identified two interlinked priorities for political initiative: "Human Rights Education" as a future oriented work plan for the globally shared acquisition of a culture of human rights, and "Children Affected by Armed Conflict" focusing on eliminating worst forms of violations to the highly vulnerable group of children living in conflict. Indeed, it is the children who are to carry the core message of peaceful democratic society into the next century.
To this end, a work program that will lead to a Human Security Network Ministerial meeting to be held from 8 to 10 May 2003 in Graz/Austria includes the preparation of a HSN Declaration of Principles on Human Rights Education and Manual on Understanding Human Rights as well as a HSN Support Strategy for Children affected by Armed Conflict and Curriculum for Training of Child Rights Monitors and Rehabilitation Experts in the field.
The central objective of the Network is to mainstream the perspective of people-centred human security into national and international policy approaches.