Sunday, July 1, 2012

Myanmar Signs an Action Plan to Prevent Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers

The United Nations and the Government of Myanmar have signed an action plan to prevent the recruitment and use of children by Myanmar’s armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, and allow for the release of under-age recruits. “UNICEF welcomes the signing of the action plan and is ready to support the Government to take forward these key commitments,” the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative in the South-East Asian nation, Ramesh Shrestha, said in a news release issued this past week.  “The most important work begins now to ensure that children are released from the Tatmadaw as soon as possible and are returned to their families and communities and receive support to promote their well-being, learning and livelihoods,” he added.

The action plan sets a timetable and measurable activities for the release and reintegration of children associated with Government armed forces, as well as the prevention of further recruitment. The plan was signed in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, by senior military officers on behalf of the Government of Myanmar, and the UN Resident Coordinator, Ashok Nigam, and Mr. Shrestha. Among those witnessing the signing was the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.

“This is an ambitious plan agreed by the Government and the United Nations to deal with this long standing issue, and the international community must support it,” Ms. Coomaraswamy said. “This is a testament but also a test of Myanmar’s engagement for children, and I hope to see it through.”

The Special Representative’s office noted that the action plan calls for additional UN and Government programmes for affected children. It also refers to the possibility of opening up dialogue on similar commitments with armed groups also listed in the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.

According to UNICEF, the plan is the result of years of negotiation between the Government and the United Nations, on behalf of a Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting of grave violations of child rights in armed conflict (CTFMR), with the latter made up of various UN agencies and programmes, as well as international non-governmental organizations.

“The signing of the Action Plan brings a great opportunity for the United Nations and the Country Task Force to work together with the Government and send a strong message that children should not, and will no longer, be recruited and used for military purposes,” said Resident Coordinator Mr. Nigam, who along with Mr. Shrestha, serves as a co-chair of the CTFMR.

The action plan was negotiated under the mandate of Security Council resolution 1612, which established the UN-led Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism to report on six grave violations of children’s rights in situations of armed conflict.

In Secretary-General Ban’s annual report to the Council on children and armed conflict, he lists parties that commit grave violations against children. 

UNICEF said that in Myanmar, there are eight parties listed for the recruitment and use of children. Apart from the Tatmadaw, which is directly affected by Wednesday’s agreement, these include the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, the Kachin Independence Army, the Karen National Liberation Army, the Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council, the Karenni Army, the Shan State Army-South and the United Wa State Army. The agency added that they are considered persistent perpetrators because they have been listed for more than five years.

(adapted from a UN press release)

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