The UN and the AU have agreed to strengthen protection of conflict affected children in Africa where, despite progress, child rights violations including under-age recruitment continue.
“As the AU is now taking a larger role in the continent’s mediation and peacekeeping operations it is essential to make our partnership stronger,” Leila Zerrougui, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for children and armed conflict, said.
An agreement signed this week between the two organisations and UNICEF (the UN Children’s Fund) will see measures stepped up to protect children from armed violence. Among the areas of collaboration are protection of children in both AU and UN peace and security activities as well as a joint programme to align domestic legislation with regional and international child rights. Guidelines for the protection of children in conflict areas will also be developed.
Countries contributing troops for AU peace missions will also undergo improved training in child protection.
“We welcome this collaboration to ensure protecting children is central to the work of the AU,” said AU Commission peace and security department director El Ghassim Wane. “We know we cannot succeed in building a prosperous and just future for the continent if we do not do everything in our collective power to protect them from the scourge of violence and war”.
Zerrougui said: “A significant number of children affected by armed conflict live on the African continent. With this agreement my office will work even more closely with the AU and UNICEF to respond to their plight”.