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Written Answers. - Child Soldiers.

Wednesday, 27 March 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 551 No. 3

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 37. Mrs. Owen Information on Nora Owen Zoom on Nora Owen  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  the interventions and actions Ireland has taken in relation to the issue of more than 300,000 children under 18, both girls and boys, fighting as soldiers with Government armed forces and armed opposition groups in more than 30 countries throughout the world; the action proposed by the UN to tackle this issue and ensure that children are not used to fight in the front-line of wars or used as spies, messengers, sexual slaves, or to lay and clear land mines or to commit atrocities against their own families and communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8489/02]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen The use of child soldiers is an issue of particular concern to the Government. The Government is committed to bringing to an end the use of child soldiers in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We urge all governments and armed groups to adhere to the international humanitarian and human rights standards that protect the rights of children in conflict situations.

We also support the work of the United Nations to protect those children affected by war, particularly the work of the UN Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict. The special representative, Mr. Olaru Otunnu, acts as an advocate for the adoption of measures to protect children and their mothers in areas of armed conflict, to prevent the recruitment of children as armed combatants, and to promote the demobilisation and reintegration of children who have been engaged in armed conflict with particular reference to their mental and physical health and education.

Ireland is part of an informal group known as the friends of the special representative, which includes 11 other EU member states and the EU Commission as well as Canada, Japan, Malaysia, India and Kenya. The aim of the group of friends is to support the work of the special representative and to promote measures for the protection of children in armed conflict. Ireland has contributed €48,250 to a trust fund set up to support the work of the special representative.

I welcome the launch of Trócaire's Lenten campaign which highlights the plight of children who are involved in armed conflict and the measures necessary to prevent their recruitment and to promote and protect their rights.

The Government attaches great importance to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which is central to the protection and promotion of children's rights on a global level and has achieved almost universal ratification.

During the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which concluded its deliberations in Geneva in April of last year, a European Union resolution on the rights of the child was adopted by consensus. That resolution was fully supported by the Irish delegation. It called on all states to end the use of children as soldiers, to ensure that children are not forcibly recruited into their armed forces, and to take all feasible measures to prevent recruitment and use of children by armed groups. The issue of child soldiers will also be addressed at this year's ongoing Commission on Human Rights.

The protection and promotion of the rights of all human beings is the first responsibility of every government. The use of child soldiers is a most fundamental abuse of human rights, and presents a challenge to all governments. High[779] lighting and addressing this issue is a priority for the Government.

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