UN Plays Politics with Children and Armed Conflict, Soft on
July 8 -- In Pakistan, where the UN has positioned itself as
a friend of government, careful not to comment on human rights but
rather build government's capacity, the UN is also underplaying the
problem of children
and armed conflict.
the Taliban recruit, and
in cases abduct or buy, children as fighters or even suicide bombers
or assassins is well known. But Pakistan is not on the UN's list of
countries with children in armed conflict. Why not?
UN has played
along with Pakistan's fiction that there is no armed conflict inside
its borders, despite massive army sweeps through the tribal areas,
displacing millions. Whereas elsewhere it is called a Post Conflict
Needs Assessment, in Pakistan the UN helpfully calls it a Post Crisis
are one thing. But to fail to act on children and armed
conflict to placate a government is something else, particularly when
there are double standards. As Inner City Press has previously
disputes being listed in Annex II of the UN's
Report on Children and Armed Conflict.
Press has sought an
explanation about Colombia, and now about Pakistan, from the head of
office, without receiving a substantive response.
briefing on July 8, Inner City Press asked:
Press: many people are saying that in Pakistan there are many
children either adopted or used by the Taliban and even some local
pro-Government militias. But it’s not on Annex II of the
Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict. I’m
wondering, does putting a country on that agenda, on that annex —
Colombia is on it, the Philippines is on it, Sri Lanka is on it —
does it require the consent of the Government or does the
Secretary-General and Ms. [Radhika] Coomaraswamy determine that
children are being recruited and put them on?
Farhan Haq: I believe that’s a determination that’s
made by Radhika Coomaraswamy in her role as the Special
Representative dealing with that topic.
Press: And she is free to put a country on without its consent?
I believe it’s her determination how to do it.
Press: Does the Secretary-General think that Pakistan should be
on the list given the UN’s own knowledge of children and armed
The views of the Special Representative, Radhika
Coomaraswamy, are the ones that count for this.
so later on
Thursday, Inner City Press sent Ms. Coomaraswamy written questions,
as it has done in the past. But this time, her answers were curt and
UN's Ban and Zardari, protection of children in
armed conflict not shown
definite children and armed conflict issues in Pakistan, among
the Taliban and also some local, quasi-governmental militias... I ask
you for comment:
agree these issues exist in Pakistan?
Pakistan on Annex 2?
thinking of putting Pakistan on Annex 2?
do you make of Colombia's
opposition to your Office seeking an
action plan with the FARC [and to] a statement you made in
Mexico recently, about Colombia-- What's your response?
on the events at UN House in Colombo, led by government
minister Wimal Weerawansa and supported from higher up.
substantive answers, except a notation that Colombia's complaint
involves a question raised in Geneva. But what of Pakistan? If we
ever get answers to these questions we will report them. Watch this
* * *
Supported by UN in Somalia, UNSC Will Respond After 3
16, updated -- Days
after the UN-supported
Federal Government's use of child soldiers was widely exposed, the
Security Council's lack of seriousness on the issue was on display on
Wednesday. Mexican foreign minister Patricia Espinosa presided over a
day-long series of speeches about children and armed conflict. At
noon, Inner City Press asked her what she and the Council would do
about their support of the TFG, which uses children as young as nine
and 12 to wield AK-47s in Mogadishu.
raised to the Security Council, Secretary Espinosa replied, not even
to the Working Group. Video here.
later, when Inner City Press asked
the UN's envoy on the issue Radhika Coomaraswamy how the TFG's use of
child soldiers could have been missed, she protected that the Council
had in fact been told of the TFG's recruitment in three straight
of the Council's debate after 7 p.m., a Mexican mission official
confirmed that yes, the Somali TFG has been formally listed for the
past three years. The most senior Mexican mission official shrugged*
that the minister had been mis-informed. [See update below, on both the shrug
and the information.]
The expose of
TFG's use of child soldiers was on the front page of the New York
Times days before the UN's day long "debate." The
representative of a Permanent Five member of the Council told Inner
City Press that the NYT story had triggered inquiries to the
capital(s), and statements ready for the press. How could the month's
Council presidency, with children and armed conflict as their chosen
thematic issue, be so unprepared?
Update: It has been explained to
Inner City Press that what Secretary Espinosa was referring to was an
upcoming Working Group session in September. Our point remains the
same: something is wrong with the Security Council when pressing
issues, involving as this one does the Council's own integrity, get
confined to slow bureaucratic processes.
But that is
hardly this month's Presidency's fault. And the senior -- senor --
diplomat, it's worth nothing, undertook a thankless trip to Eritrea and
other hotspots, in the name of Somali sanctions. The shrug* was not
disinterest but fatigue after a full day of speeches. We will continue
to follow this issue.
UNICEF's Johnson, Ms. Coomaraswamy, UN action on TFG
asked Secretary Espinosa if this didn't show that the Council is too
bound in bureaucracy to deal with egregious behavior in the
peacekeeping or political missions it creates, from Somalia to the
Congo to Haiti. These are the mechanisms, she replied. Indeed.
said that UN Envoy to Somalia Ould Abdallah had been told, UNDP had
been told. Why did Ould Abdallah say or do nothing? Why did UNDP keep
* * *
Unaddressed in Security Council Speeches,
Conflict of Interest
NATIONS, June 16 -- As the UN Security Council debates one of its
favorite topics, Children and Armed Conflict, it has a conflict of
interest. Since 2006 it has supported, some say propped up, the
Transitional Federal Government in Somalia. Now what was long known
has been more publicly
exposed, that at least 20% of the TFG's
soldiers are underage, some below ten years old.
June 15 Inner City Press asked Council President for June Claude
Heller of Mexico what the Council would do about the report. There is
a debate tomorrow, Heller said on camera. Later, emerging from
consultations in the Council chamber with, among others, delegates of
Ivory Coast and Georgia, Heller said that something would be said on
the topic on Wednesday.
foreign minister Patricia Espinosa Cantellano is in New York for the
debate, slated to speak to the Press at 11:30. But not on this topic,
Inner City Press is told. What then could she be asked? If the
underaged members of drug gangs like La Familia in Michoacan should
be considered children in armed conflict?
UN's Ban and Sec't Espinosa, 2009, support
for TFG and its child soldiers not shown
here's from Secretary Espinosa's statement:
call upon the Security Council, within the limits of its mandate, to
continue being vigilant of the repercussions that armed conflicts
have on children, and to promote concrete actions to fulfill the
recommendations emanating from the Working Group on Children and
Armed Conflict. We defend the interests of children and consider
that, as a community, we must enhance our efforts to give a wide and
effective protection to children. Crimes against children cannot be
stopped if perpetrators remain unpunished."
about enablers in the recruitment of child soldiers, like the UN
Political Office on Somalia, UNDP and... the UN Security Council? We
will be asking. Sixty countries are coming to speechify. Watch this
of 10:38 a.m. -- After Susan Rice strode in at 10:11, the meeting and
speeches started. Another P5 member's spokesperson said they're aware
of the TFG Somalia expose, but "it hasn't come up, there's been
no reason for it to come up." And in today's debate on children
and armed conflict? "Let's see," the spokesperson says.
of 10:41 a.m. -- it emerges in the Security Council "quiet room"
people, including Ambassadors, are watching the Spain - Switzerland
game instead of listening to the speeches on children and armed
of 11:37 a.m. -- US Amb. Susan Rice briefly mentions Somalia, calling
on "all parties" to stop recruiting child soldiers. What
about the "party" the US is funding, the TFG? Not enough
specifics. She also mentions DRCongo, the Lord's Resistance Army and
the Central African Republic. Answers on Somalia, and on US
safeguards, are needed. But here comes Sec't Espinosa.
* * *
Child Soldiers of Somali TFG, Safeguards and UN Role Not
-- Since the Transitional Federal Government was
installed in Somalia, it has been known that it controlled its small
turf by using child soldiers. The US provided salaries, the UN system
Ambassador to the UN Claude Heller told Inner City Press on June 15,
when a 12 year old with an enormous AK 47 is on the front page of the
New York Times, what had been accepted changes. See video here.
Heller is the
president of UN Security Council for June, and will chair a meeting
on June 16 on children and armed conflict. After Inner City Press
asked him about the TFG, Heller replied off camera that the issue
will be raised on June 16.
Inner City Press asked but the UN and US diplomats about the issues.
Carolyn Vadino, a spokesperson at the US Mission to the UN, told
Inner City Press that
firmly against the use of child soldiers by all
sides in any conflict. U.S. assistance provides salary support to TFG
security forces. Prior to making payments to any individual member of
these forces we take appropriate steps to verify the ages of such
individuals to ensure that we are not funding salaries of anyone
under the age of 18."
in a war-torn
environmental like Mogadishu the US claims full control over the
payments to individual soldiers is not known. Another US official,
speaking only on background, referred to safeguards in "the
Leahy amendment." Clearly, there are more questions to be asked
Lovefest with TFG, May 2010, UN's Ban,
Kouchner, Turks, child soldiers not shown
the June 15 noon
briefing, Inner City Press asked
Spokesman Farhan Haq:
Somalia, there is this report of the use by the
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of child soldiers, and this
includes quotes from the UN saying that they’re aware of it. Since
the UN provides training and some funding for the TFG forces, the UN
system does, I’m wondering what safeguards are in place that the UN
itself has not been either training or funding or otherwise involved
in the use of child soldiers by the TFG?
the United Nations does not approve of
the use of child soldiers anywhere, and we would not encourage any of
that in its operations. If I have any further information on the
specifics of that, I’ll let you know. But certainly, among other
things, tomorrow, we will have as one of the guests at the noon
briefing, Radhika Coomaraswamy, who deals with this issue and you can
certainly ask that of her as well.
North Lawn building on June 14, Inner City Press was
approached by two Somali woman, in from Minneapolis for a conference
on the Millennium Development Goals. The women asked how
to arrange a meeting with new envoy Augustine Mahiga, to tell him of
Somalia's plight before he takes up his post in Nairobi. They spoke
of the lack of opportunity for children in Mogadishu. But these are
not voices that will be heard in Wednesday's Security Council
session. But afterward and on the sidelines, there will be questions
- perhaps even answers.
for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters
footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
Click here for Inner City Press' Jan.
16, 2009 debate about Gaza
Click here for Inner City Press'
review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate
Click here for Inner
City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger
Click here from Inner City Press'
December 12 debate on UN double standards
Click here for Inner
City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
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