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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:

Children are the primary victims of armed conflict.  They are both its targets and increasingly its instruments.  Their suffering bears many faces, in the midst of armed conflict and its aftermath.  Children are killed or maimed, made orphans, abducted, deprived of education and health care, and left with deep emotional scars and trauma.  They are recruited and used as child soldiers, forced to give expression to the hatred of adults.  Uprooted from their homes, displaced children become very vulnerable.  Girls face additional risks, particularly sexual violence and exploitation.
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:

I wonder if we have learned any lessons from history.  When millions of Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust in Europe, we said `never again,' - - but after the fact. When genocide was perpetrated in Rwanda, we said `never again,' - - but again after the fact.  When children and women were massacred in Srebrenica, we said `never again,' - - but after it was all over.  The genocide unfolding in northern Uganda is happening on our watch, and with our full knowledge. Why is there no action?

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, a Canada/Sierra Leone effort to heal the wounds:

I Will Lay Down the Arms now!!
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.

Rashid Peters,
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.)

Amnesty International

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Human Rights Watch

BBC: Children of Conflict

UN Convention on the Rights of the CHild


NPR: The Forgotten War in Uganda


These Sudanese adolescents chose to walk away:

Originally posted to melvin on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 05:31 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for this important diary. (4.00)
    The only way to end war is for the young to simply refuse to fight wars started by old bastards. If it were only so simple.

    Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
    You can kill one, but another is born.
    The words are written down, the deed, the date.

    Czeslaw Milosz

    by Chris Kulczycki on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 05:33:13 AM PST

  •  I started this a couple days ago in (4.00)
    response to a request from RubDMC. I found it very hard to do, and probably failed to get across half the horror that I feel. Please visit Rub's daily war grief site. And if you have something to add here, please do. This diary could have gone on forever on the abuses of the Tamil Tigers alone. What is needed, as always, is the will to put a stop to these abominations. How about a shout out to our churches, or are they just a little too busy?
  •  as a (4.00)
    single parent, I worry so often about making ends meet and maintaing a stable life for my kids. Eh.  Today, I won't worry so much.  

    Thank you for such an important diary.  

    ...despite those nets of tuna fleets...we thought that most of your were pretty sweet...

    by moira977 on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 05:49:09 AM PST

  •  CK: (4.00)
    So frustrated with kos, what should I do?  If I thoug it could make a difference, I have time, money, etc. So disappointed here.
    •  Thanks, Melvin (4.00)
      for the excellent and most important diary. I remember when Rub asked you to do this, and I'm glad you did. Have you ever visited Booman? Diaries stay up there get much longer, so more people get a chance to see them.

      All the best to you.

      John Murtha speaks for me

      by cotterperson on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 07:00:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Melvin (4.00)
      You never know the difference you will make.  I am sending links to this to everyone I correspond with.  Booman is a good idea and MLW, also. It is a mindblowing issue and somewhat easier to overlook than attempt to comprehend.  Again, thank you for your effort.  It is an outstanding diary.

      ...despite those nets of tuna fleets...we thought that most of your were pretty sweet...

      by moira977 on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 07:15:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  KOS is a reflection of American liberal values. (4.00)
      Read that any way you like. But I think dKOS is also a sort of club and an entertainment forum; it's not just news and good analysis that sells here. If I want to bring attention to a more obscure topic, I try hard to make the diary as entertaining as possible. Eventually folks realize that it deserves more notice and others write about it. They also remember the diarist as interesting, allowing him or her a bit more influence .

      There are other good blogs and cross posting to them is valuable. European Tribune is great for a more intellectual Euro view.  My Left Wing and Booman Tribune are more mainstream.

      Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
      You can kill one, but another is born.
      The words are written down, the deed, the date.

      Czeslaw Milosz

      by Chris Kulczycki on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 07:15:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Don't be frustrated. (4.00)
      This is an excellent diary.  One of the most important I've read in a long time.  You're competing with yet another presidential press conference during which he'll say nothing we didn't know already.

      Keep us posted on future diaries.  Eventually, the news will intersect with your interest in children's welfare and the UN.

      You've got a recommend from me.

    •  Melvin (4.00)
      sometimes people just don't know what to say.  I know that I often feel overloaded with information, rage, saddness etc...
      •  That's unfortunately true (none)
        I often read, and reread a diary that is painful and I cannot comment because I'm too angry and too sad.

        Melvin, this is one of them. Thank you. We need to see it. You are a gifted writer, some of us are not .. but we're here and need you.


        Pre-empt Vergangenheitsbewältigung!

        by Petrasays on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 09:28:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  An essential diary (4.00)

    Please consider cross-posting at My Left Wing, BooMan Tribune, and EuroTribune.

    "...psychopaths have little difficulty infiltrating the domains of...politics, law enforcement, (and) government." Dr. Robert Hare

    by RubDMC on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 10:51:47 AM PST

  •  Short, brutal, and cheap. (4.00)
    That shouldn't describe any child's life.  This is a heartbreaking topic and a very important diary.  I've forwarded a link to this diary to everyone I know, and will give it a mention over at Street Prophets.  
    (You may want to consider cross-posting it there too, melvin.)  
    Good work.

    Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. -Philo of Alexandria

    by vansterdam on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 03:40:14 PM PST

  •  Thank you for posting this. (4.00)
    It's mindblowing, how UNcivilised we are, as a species.
    •  And... (4.00) easily we hack through the thin veneer of civilization we maintain.  If not with an AK-47 (the first major small-arms weapon designed with minimal recoil, allowing even children to use it), then with a machete...  

      Anyone living in a "civilized" country who thinks otherwise, better look in the mirror, and think again.  And when the horror there registers, take some action to help those who are trying to help these kids.

      "Sometimes I think we're alone. Sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the thought is staggering." - R. Buckminster Fuller -5.88/-5.23

      by Shadan7 on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 08:17:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Melvin... (4.00)
    My recommend and comments are late in coming, but wanted to chime in to say this is important work. An important diary. Keep plugging away at this issue, and more people will see the next diary that you do on it.

    Thanks for sharing this information with us. The tragedies that this planet witnesses to this very day are heartbreaking.

    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

    by ilona on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 06:31:25 PM PST

  •  Thanks (4.00)
    for this diary.

    I grew up in Liberia... one of my childhood friends is now running a home/school for former female child combatants.  Too many sad stories but there is hope for the future.

  •  Recommended (4.00)
    I Grew up in Africa.

    This is a major problem worldwide, but especially over there.

    You don't want to know what they do with the girls.

    "[T]hat I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours. It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake."

    by Heronymous Cowherd on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 07:04:45 PM PST

    •  Isn't that part of it all... (none)
      ...helping people understand what they "don't want to know"...?
      •  Good Point (none)
        Yeah, another dirty little secret is that when you hear of these horrible atrocities, they are often committed by kids.

        Re-socializing child warriors is a big problem in countries like Sierra Leone and Uganda.

        "[T]hat I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours. It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake."

        by Heronymous Cowherd on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 03:22:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  great diary Melvin (4.00)
    don't get discouraged.  You just never know what will get seen.  I totally missed this when you posted this.  But you have a good diary here.
  •  I did a paper on child soldiers (4.00)
    in my International Human Rights was heartbreaking to do the research for it.  The problem is HUGE, and growing-the proliferation of light arms is one contributing factor on why children so young are being pressed into service.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child would limit to no country using children under 18 as soldiers-the US and Somalia have not signed on.  

    In addition, the problem on what to DO with those child soldiers is a huge one-sadly, the communities don't want them back a lot of the time, and are scared of these children.  Some countries, like Rwanda put children under 10 in overcrowded jails, so in addition to the horrors of their lives as soldiers, they then get treated and tried as adult criminals.  

    There's no point for democracy when ignorance is celebrated...insensitivity is standard and faith is being fancied over reason.-NoFx

    by SairaLV on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 07:57:12 PM PST

  •  victoria and albert royal museum (none)
    this past summer i was in london with my family.  we went to the v&a royal museum, where this guy had created a sculpture of a tree entirely out of discarded AK-47s.  I'm not normally one for art but that spoke to me.
  •  I wonder what the Orphans of Iraq... (4.00)
    will grow up to be?

    Other than painfully and deeply hurt for life that is.

    You want to downsize the government?
    Fuck you. My government defends the American people.

    by deafmetal on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 08:34:31 PM PST

  •  I saw a 14 year old kid in an ROTC uniform (none)
    the other day.  It was shocking.  I guess I sort of figured that as I grew up and got some common sense, the rest of the world must have as well, and High School ROTC surely had been banned sometime between the 1970s and now.

    Not so.

    I know him and his family well.  They are good people.  But dressing a child up like a soldier is messed up.  Bad.  

    What an implicit statement about this kid's future and worth:  

    "Someday son, if you work hard and keep your nose clean, you just might be a real good killer.  Dream big!"

  •  Melvin, (none)
    this is an excellent diary on an absolutely heartbreaking topic.

    This is yet another example of our country, land of the free and home of the brave, siding with tyrants. I am SO sick of this crap.

    I want Bolton's ass out of there...NOW! What the hell do we have to do to get him a different job? Do we seriously have to wait until 2007?

  •  I did hear an NPR story.. (4.00)
    it had to have been 2 years ago now...where they interviewed a girl who had been a child soldier in Uganda. She was kidnapped from her home with her little sister in the middle of the night. Within a few days they told her that if she didn't go back and kill the rest of her family they would torture and then kill her and her sister.

    That story was incredibly hard for me to hear...I'm upset just thinking about it now.

    Stories like this make me wish I could save every single child that's in danger...and the fact that I can't and that I'm mostly helpless makes me feel utterly worthless sometimes. Obviously I'm a member of some of those groups you listed...but I'm definitely going to check out some of the others.

  •  I'm beside myself (4.00)
    with anger, loathing, frustration and shame that I am of this country. Their are apparently no limits to how low this Government and by extension we the people can sink. All attempts, to slow global warming, at population control, to halt the manufacture and deployment of land mines, to keep even the smallest fraction of our environment pristine and now we won't even back an attempt to stop this, the ultimate obscenity. I keep trying and hoping but sometimes I just want to cease thinking or even being. I sympathize entirely with what you're feeling Melvin.

    "We have too many high-sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them." Abigail Adams 1764

    by greeseyparrot on Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 09:41:59 PM PST

  •  "Beasts of No Nation" (none)
    Available here

    Beasts of No Nation
    by Uzodinma Iweala
    142pp. HarperCollins

    In this stunning debut novel, Agu, a young boy in an unnamed West African nation, is recruited into a unit of guerrilla fighters as civil war engulfs his country. Haunted by his father's own death at the hands of militants, which he fled just before witnessing, Agu is vulnerable to the dangerous yet paternal nature of his new commander.

    More info, etc. available here

  •  I never fail to point out (4.00)
    to women that I see wearing diamonds that they have children's blood all over them.  I make them listen and they hate me for it.
    My wealthy sisters do not wear them anymore.  One Thanksgiving I put a graphic pic of an armless baby on the fridge and told the story.  It's family, they can expect to be offended.
    It is a small effort, but I am willing to risk distain by bringing it up in polite company.  You would be surprised at how many folks are un-aware of this issue.  
    The most common reaction is bewilderment.  Children?!!!???  This from a police officer.  I have encountered denial..."but...but, I LOVE diamonds!"  Bring the subject up a DEMOCRATIC meeting sometime.
    •  Totally in agreement with you on this... (none)
      I specifically went out of my way to tell my husband when we were seriously talking about getting married not to buy me a diamond. We can more than afford one; but, why spend the money on it? To us, it's a waste. And it's just a thing -- one whose existence is tarnished by the realities of how they're mined and traded.

      When I was in my early twenties, my father pointed me to a documentary on the African diamond mines/trade. I can't recall what the name of it was, but it left an incredible impression on me. I vowed I'd never own one. Strangely, my marriage or my life isn't lacking. Imagine that!

      To this day, I have a hard time bringing myself to admire a newly engaged girl's diamond. I know that's what you're supposed to do (or so Capitalist Mother Culture tells us we're supposed to do); but, I just can't bring myself to do it wholeheartedly. Because it's a part of 'social graces' with people you hardly know, I bow to custom -- but inside I'm sad that this person has no clue what that shiny thing on their finger really represents.

      Cheers to you for serving up the same type of education to your family that my Dad's done for us...

      Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

      by ilona on Tue Dec 20, 2005 at 09:37:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  you are a beautiful person (none)
      thank you for setting a fine example for us.
  •  Fantastic diary; one correction (none)
    When children and women were massacred in Srebrenica, we said `never again,' - - but after it was all over.

    While many women and children were massacred by the Serbs during the Bosnian War, in Srebrenica as well, it was men and boys who were killed predominantly in Srebrenica, about 8000 of them.

  •  Beautiful presentation (4.00)
    of an intolerably hideous topic.

    Many of the best diaries on this site take time to properly explore and absorb, and their very depth and quality work against the rapid streaming of comments (which would, in itself, attract wider notice and intensify the buzzing swarm).  This is one of those diaries.  

    And some issues just stop people in their tracks and strike them mute.  I think this is one of those, too.

    Thank you for posting this. You do consistently excellent work.

    Hotlisted for further study.

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