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Protection of war-affected children endorsed by West African leaders

AFR/557, HR/4642
DAKAR, 5 February (Office of Special Representative) - The twenty-sixth Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called on all Member-States to adopt a plan of action for war-affected children proposed in an address to the meeting by United Nations Under-Secretary-General Olara A. Otunnu, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

In the final communiqué adopted and issued at the end of the summit, held in Dakar, Senegal, on 31 January, the West African leaders expressed "particular concern" about the violence perpetrated against children in the subregion and declared their commitment to respect the "inalienable principles" contained in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

They also called on Member States to implement the agenda for action proposed by Under-Secretary-General Otunnu, which outlines a range of measures to protect children from the deadly impact of war. The measures include: conflict prevention; ratification of key international instruments for the protection of war-affected children; the inclusion of child protection in ECOWAS peacemaking and peacekeeping activities; and the development and strengthening of a civil society network for child protection and advocacy.

Also contained in the agenda are proposals to make ECOWAS a child-soldier-free zone, including cross-border initiatives aimed at reducing the recruitment of children and at stopping illicit trade in natural resources, the strengthening of traditional African values and norms for the protection of children and women exposed to conflict, and the strengthening of the ECOWAS Child Protection Unit. The establishment of a child protection unit within the ECOWAS secretariat was originally proposed by Under-Secretary-General Otunnu at the ECOWAS Conference on War-Affected Children, held in Accra, Ghana, in April 2000. The Unit was established last year.

Noting in his address to the Summit that "the most important asset for Africa is its enormous human resource and intellectual capital, especially that of its youth", Mr. Otunnu pledged a partnership of the United Nations and ECOWAS "to ensure the protection, rights and well-being of all the children of this subregion".

For further information, please contact: Jean-Victor Nkolo, Communications Officer, OSRSG, Telephone: +1-212-963-9879, Fax: +1-212-963-0807, nkolo@un.org