Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar (26 June, 2012) – An official agreement to end the recruitment of child soldiers will be inked in a Joint Action Plan between Ministry of Defence and the United Nations Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting tomorrow (27 June, 2012) at 9:00 a.m. at Thingaha Hotel.
It will demand the unconditional release, protection and reintegration of children enlisted in the military. Under the agreement, the government will have to declare child recruitment and use of child soldiers in the military as a criminal offence. Myanmar is one of the worst violators of child rights in armed conflict globally. This was reflected in the UN Secretary-General’s “list of shame” earlier this month, in the release of the annual report on children and armed conflict to the Security Council.
Kelland Stevenson, country director for Save the Children in Myanmar, said: “We know that children do not willingly join the military. They are often duped into migrating away from their homes with promises of good jobs and then recruited into the armed forces. These are usually some of the most vulnerable children who live in impoverished areas and need our protection.”
“The government of Myanmar has expressed its desire to be taken off the UN ‘list of shame’, and this agreement is a show of that commitment. Save the Children will continue to support the government in eradicating child involvement in armed conflict.”
The United Nation Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (UNTFMR), made up of non-governmental bodies such as International Labour Organisation, Save the Children, UNICEF, UNHCR and World Vision, has worked collectively to advocate for the rights of children in armed conflict in Myanmar since 2007. The improvements made in Myanmar as a result of the partnership between NGOs and government bodies were noted in the UN Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict for better vetting and complaints mechanism.
With the Joint Action Plan, the UNTFMR will be given access to affected children in military bases, training facilities, recruitment centres and prisons. In turn, they will provide specific programme interventions for identification, verification, release and reintegration of children.
“The implementation of this Joint Action Plan will be our next big challenge. It requires great political will to make these changes and ensure compliance among military personnel in all ranks across the country. Children released from military service will also need to be physically protected, rehabilitated into their communities and in some cases, given psychosocial support,” said Kelland Stevenson.
“In order for this to work, we need good reporting and accountability mechanisms, and the mentality and behaviour of recruiters have to be changed at scale. Children who have been released from military service often report that recruiters had not asked for their age, or held falsified age documentation for them. We will work to eliminate such incidents in our efforts to protect children.”
Save the Children has been working to establish community and national child protection systems over the past six years and the work on Children and Armed Conflict has been scaled up with communities and civil society specifically over the past 2 years. In 2011 alone, the children’s charity engaged 180 community-based Child Protection Groups (CPGs) at the village level to protect children from military recruiters. These groups monitor protection issues, respond to known cases of child recruitment and build strong links with relevant government departments. Save the Children received 60 verified cases from the CPGs and was able to refer and support these cases for discharge, release and reintegration process.
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Note to Editors:
Save the Children has been working in Myanmar for more than 17 years and is one of the largest international NGOs operating in the country. The children’s charity delivers programmes on child protection, child rights governance, health and nutrition, HIV and AIDS, education, and water and sanitation. To date, the organisation has reached 870,000 beneficiaries including 370,000 children in 10 states and regions across the country.
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