The Sydney Peace Prize was awarded in November to Olara Otunnu, former UN Under-secretary-General and special representative for Children and Armed Conflict. The text of his acceptance speech can be found here. I would like to expand on one part of his remarkable address.
From Mr Otunnu's address:
Over 250,000 children continue to be exploited as child soldiers - - used variously as combatants, porters, spies and sex slaves. Tens of thousands of girls are being subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence, including as a deliberate tool of warfare.
Most cynically, children have been compelled to become themselves the instruments of war - - indeed the weapon of choice - -recruited or kidnapped to become child soldiers. Another feature of these conflicts is the proliferation of light-weight weapons that are easily assembled and borne by children.
Second, all offending parties, governments as well as insurgents, will continue to be identified publicly, in what has been called the `naming and shaming' list submitted annually to the Security Council since 2003. The latest report lists 54 offending parties in 11 countries. These include: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka; FARC in Colombia; the Janjaweed from Sudan; the Communist Party of Nepal; the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda; the Karen National Liberation Army in Myanmar; and government forces in DRC, Myanmar and Uganda.
He talks about the real successes, and concludes with a case study in failure, one with which he is all too familiar, the horror that is Uganda:
UNICEF has realeased its annual report on the state of the world's children, The State of the World's Children 2006: Excluded and Invisible. While the figures are frustratingly vague (keep that title in mind), UNICEF guesses that between 250,000 and 300,000 children are engaged in armed conflict globally.
NPR segment with Olara Otunnu and Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution.
Singer's own writings discuss the subject from many angles, including the vexing subject of American soldiers face to face with 12-year old soldiers. This is difficult. It does no good to look the other way, much as we would like to. This is what war is now, and what it increasingly will be.
The first American to die in Afghanistan was killed by a child.
From Childsoldiers.org, a Canada/Sierra Leone effort to heal the wounds:
by Rashid Peters, a student of iEARN Sierra Leone
When I was drugged and injected with cocaine, Forced to join the war of stains Brainwashed often and again, I would have told you I have so much to gain With the heavy arms I lug at war. And to convinve me out of it, I will say don't bother!!
Conscritpted away from my mother and father to shoot and murder another I cannot go any further, with this shooting and killing that has no border.
Forgive me now if I injured your brother. I was forced to pull the trigger By elders who made my childhood wither.
iEARN Sierra Leone,
Age 15 years
Two nations have failed to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Do I have to tell you? Would you like to guess? Somalia and the United States. Bolton, prior to his current job, spoke against every convention on behalf of children and control of small arms sales that came before the UN. But you already knew that.
Resources (Almost literally at random. There are so many.)
NPR: The Forgotten War in Uganda
These Sudanese adolescents chose to walk away: