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Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

17 July 2008

While conflict prevention was the most effective and least costly means of protecting children trapped by war, the Security Council must nevertheless play a greater role in protecting children from armed violence, reporters were told today at a Headquarters press conference.

Providing a summary of today’s open Security Council debate on children and armed conflict was Pham Gia Khiem, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, whose country holds the Presidency of that 15-member body for the month of July. He was joined by Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and Karin Landgren, Associate Director for Child Protection of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Le Luong Minh, Permanent Representative of Viet Nam to the United Nations, moderated the panel.

Mr. Khiem said today’s debate had attracted the participation of more than 40 United Nations Members and international organizations, showing the importance attached to the issue of children and armed conflict. For its part, Viet Nam had taken the initiative to organize the open debate and “has always been at the forefront of efforts to protect children”, he said, adding that his country was the first in Asia and the second in the world to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Government had various policies in place, notably for universalizing primary education andprovidingfree health care for children under the age of 6. It would make further contributions to international efforts to protect the world’s children, especially those in armed conflict.

Picking up on that point, Ms. Coomaraswamy said today’s debate had provided another occasion for the child protection community to discuss ways for moving the child protection agenda forward. Indeed, States had reiterated their commitment to Security Council resolution 1612 (2005), and to exploring ways to strengthen the framework. “We’re very happy with this event,” she said.

Ms. Landgren pointed out that a recurring theme of today’s discussions was that child protection should be placed above politics. UNICEF was looking to the Council for “steady and continued political commitment to move the child protection agenda forward, particularly where persistent violators are concerned”.

To a question on whether it was morally acceptable for United Nations peacekeepers to kill child soldiers, Ms. Coomaraswamy said one school of thought believed that children became an enemy once in uniform, and that offensive operations could then be taken against them. That was not the perspective of the child protection community. Another view proposed that, regardless of whether children were in uniform, they were civilians, and force could only be used in self-defence. While not a legal norm, that was the line which was developing as the norm.

Mr. Minh added that the Council would adopt a presidential statement that would condemn all violations of children’s rights, and reaffirm the role of reporting and monitoring mechanisms, as well as the activities of the working group, which would put more focus on the issue of prevention and protection of children.

As to weather it had been morally acceptable for children to be involved in combat when Viet Nam was at war in the 1970s, Mr. Khiem remarked that Viet Nam had never used children as combat troops.

Taking a question on the situation in Myanmar, Ms. Coomaraswamy said that the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council highlighted many parties in that country which recruit children, including the Government. The conclusions of the working group were due out soon. For the report on Myanmar, the working group had requested access to verify the situation, and without access, it was difficult to do that work.

Regarding a query on the Secretary-General’s report on the Sudan, which referred to child soldiers involved with the Justice and Equality Movement, Ms. Coomaraswamy responded that her Office had consistently reported on that group’s recruitment of child soldiers.

As for using the International Criminal Court to get to the bottom of such issues, she said there were several cases before the Court involving child soldiers. The Court’s Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, was very committed to the issue of recruitment and use of child soldiers, which was why he specifically had chosen as his first case former Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga, who is accused of conscripting children to actively participate in hostilities.

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For information media • not an official record

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