Austrian diplomacy taking a stand for child soldiers in Northern Uganda

Vienna, 11 March 2003 - In her capacity as the President of the "Human Security Network", the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, has for the first time activated the "alert function" of the network for children in armed conflicts which was developed by Austria. This way the Minister seeks to draw public attention world-wide to the fate of children who have been kidnapped by the 'Lord's Resistance Army', a rebel army in Northern Uganda, and are now being used as child soldiers or abused as sex slaves.
In this context, Ferrero-Waldner has sent two high-ranking diplomats to Uganda: Georg Lennkh, the Head of the Development Policy Directorate at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and Werner Brandstetter, Envoy at the Minister's Office. In talks with government representatives, the two diplomats have succeeded in winning Uganda's support for the idea of appointing a special envoy of the Human Rights Commission for the problem of child soldiers in Northern Uganda. In co-operation with the Ugandan authorities and NGOs in the country, potential ways of alleviating the child soldiers' fate are to be reviewed, in particular by humanitarian means, such as care in protective camps and assistance in rehabilitation.

Ferrero-Waldner took over as the President of the "Human Security Network" last year, following the Chilean presidency. The membership of the organisation is composed of Austria, Chile, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Canada, Mali, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Slovenia, Thailand and South Africa having observer status. The Minister for Foreign Affairs chose human rights education and the fate of children in armed conflicts as the focal issues of the Austrian presidency. In a similar vein as in the earlier landmine campaign, the world is to be given a wake-up call, it is to be reminded of its responsibility not to leave children in armed conflicts to their fate.

The Austrian presidency will reach its high point in the meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the "Human Security Network", which will be held in the first European Human Rights City and Cultural Capital of Europe, Graz, from 8 to 10 May 2003. On that occasion, Mali will take over as Austria's successor. At the meeting, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs will adopt a Declaration of Principles and a manual for human rights education as well as a support strategy for children in armed conflicts and a children's rights training programme for use by fieldworkers.