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NEWS STORY

Afghanistan signs landmark agreement to release children in the national security forces




February 3, 2011

NEW YORK, 3 February 2011 – The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy has returned from a three day visit to Afghanistan where she witnessed the signing of a comprehensive Action Plan between the Government of Afghanistan and the United Nations to halt child recruitment and other violations among the Afghan National Security Forces.  SRSG Coomaraswamy also met with General Petraeus, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and of the US Forces in Afghanistan, and with Afghan political and religious leaders.

This signing of the Action Plan was in response to the listing by the United Nations Secretary-General of the Afghan National Police as a party to conflict for recruitment and use of children in his 2010 annual report to the Security Council. With the signing and the implementation of the agreement, the Afghan National Police shall be eligible for de-listing upon UN verification that policies and procedures have been successfully implemented to prevent child recruitment and that any breach is properly investigated and those responsible held accountable.

The agreement was signed by the Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Zalmai Rassoul and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and the Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Staffan de Mistura in Kabul.

"I am impressed with the political commitment of the Government on the issue of children and we, the United Nations, stand ready – at the highest level – to support Afghanistan in fulfilling the agreement made," said SRSG Coomaraswamy.

"This is an important first step toward protecting the children in Afghanistan but what is key is the implementation of the agreement," SRSG Coomaraswamy continued, "real results will prove that the action plan is not just a document to be tossed in a drawer."

The agreement is immediately effective and identifies concrete, time-bound and verifiable activities to be undertaken by the various Afghan ministries with the support of UN Agencies, including UNICEF. These include amongst others the issuing of military orders which impose specific sanctions on those responsible for underage recruitment, the  strengthening of age verification procedures  and of issuance of National ID cards,  development of child specific release and reintegration programmes  as well as the unimpeded and regular UN access to training centers, recruitment camps and military bases.

By signing, the Government of Afghanistan has also committed itself to address other child rights violations such as the use of sexual violence and the killing and maiming of children. The practice of Bacha Bazi, the so-called “dancing boys”, remains a key concern of the United Nations.

During SRSG Coomaraswamy’s meeting with General Petraeus, the SRSG followed up on the appointment of a child protection focal point within ISAF, the detention of those under eighteen within International Military detention facilities, and attacks on and occupation of schools. "I am pleased with the steps that ISAF is taking to reduce the number of civilian casualties in this on-going conflict. Still, one child killed or wounded, is one child too many."

Meetings also took place with representatives of the Ulema and the High Peace Council during which they both committed to include the issue of children affected by armed conflict into their agenda. SRSG Coomaraswamy noted the progress of the Government to reopen schools which had been closed in areas affected by the conflict through engagement with local school protection shuras.

SRSG Coomaraswamy called on all parties, including anti-government elements, to end the recruitment and use of children, the practice of Bacha Bazi, and urged the Government of Afghanistan to ensure due process and durable solutions for all children arrested and detained by security and law enforcement forces for crimes against national security. "I feel confident that the Government of Afghanistan and the international community will work together on this issue as I have been supported in my efforts by regular Afghans, members of the Ulema, civil society and the media."

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