New York, 26. September 2008 Press release

Winkler: "Uncompromising action against the deployment of child soldiers"

State Secretary Hans Winkler at the meeting of ministers on ‘children and armed conflicts’

New York, 26 September 2008 – “The battle against the deployment of child soldiers can be successful only if we mobilise at all levels against the deployment of child soldiers, taking uncompromising action against all those who deploy child soldiers, and if the release and reintegration of children into society is guaranteed. We need a worldwide alliance and increased awareness,” said State Secretary Hans Winkler at a meeting of ministers on the subject of children and armed conflicts. Winkler expressed his thanks to the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, and UNICEF for their tireless commitment.

“The protection of children in armed conflicts has been an important concern of Austrian foreign policy for a long time. We do not want to look the other way but make a contribution to the reintegration of child soldiers and other children concerned through concrete projects in countries such as Iraq, Uganda and Congo,” stated Winkler. The State Secretary particularly stressed the provision of support for children reuniting with their families, entering schools and receiving professional training as well as medical and psychological care. “Every Austrian soldier or police officer who participates in international missions also receives special training in fields such as child protection and children’s rights,” the State Secretary added.

“The future of children who become involved in conflicts depends on the answers we find in the context of the existing grievances. The legal foundations for the protection of children in conflict already exist. They should, however, be implemented more effectively and consistently than has been the case so far. There must be an end to impunity for the deployment of child soldiers. Those who recruit child soldiers and send them into battle must be called to account without exception,” asserted Winkler, highlighting in this context the important role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and various special tribunals.

More than two million children have died in armed conflicts in the past ten years. According to estimates over 300,000 children in more than thirty conflicts worldwide are being coerced into fighting in armed groups. They are thus not only victims of the violation of international law but also victims of brutal violence, murder, mutilation and rape.

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