NEW YORK, 21 March (Office of the Special Representative) - The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara A. Otunnu, today called upon all parties involved in the conflict in Iraq to ensure the rights, protection and well-being of children at all times during the conflict.
The children of Iraq, who make up half the population, are at risk of physical injury, psychosocial trauma, displacement, family separation, and loss of social services, such as schooling and medical care, during the conflict. They are all the more vulnerable because, as Secretary-General Kofi Annan has emphasized, Iraq's population has already suffered from the impact of "two major wars, internal uprisings and more than a decade of debilitating sanctions".
Special Representative Otunnu stated, "It is the responsibility of the parties to ensure that children are given special protection, that children and facilities critical for their well-being, such as hospitals and schools, are not attacked, and that children are not used as combatants."
"I call on all parties to abide strictly by their responsibilities and obligations embodied in international human rights norms and international humanitarian law providing for the protection of children during conflict", said Mr. Otunnu. In this connection, he cited in particular the relevant provisions of the Geneva Conventions and two Additional Protocols of 1977; the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict; and Security Council resolutions 1261, 1314, 1379 and 1460 concerning the protection of children during armed conflict.
The Special Representative stressed that the children of Iraq are innocent, and all parties must make their protection "an absolute priority". Looking beyond the conflict, Mr. Otunnu said, "we must now begin to put in place plans to ensure that the well-being, rehabilitation and development of the children of Iraq will constitute a central aspect of any programmes for post-conflict recovery and reconstruction".
The Special Representative serves as international advocate for children affected by armed conflict by promoting standards and measures for their protection in times of war, as well as their healing and social reintegration in the aftermath of conflict.
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