Statement by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

Summary: Statement by Olara A. Otunnu upon his

Over the last several years, I have led a UN-based campaign to mobilize
international action for the protection of children exposed to war. I am
now pleased to pass on the baton for this important challenge.

Our initiatives and advocacy have yielded significant advances and
innovations, most notably: the protection of war-affected children has
been firmly placed on the international peace-and-security agenda; a
comprehensive body of protective instruments and standards has now
been put in place; a systematic practice of obtaining concrete commitments
and benchmarks from parties to conflict has been developed; children’s
concerns are being included in peace negotiations and peace accords, and
have become a priority in post-conflict programmes for rehabilitation and
rebuilding; Child Protection Advisers (CPAs) have been integrated in
peacekeeping operations; key regional organizations have incorporated
this agenda into their own policies and programmes; this issue has been
integrated and mainstreamed in institutions and mechanisms, within and
outside the UN; and war-affected children are coming into their own,
through their active participation in rebuilding peace and ‘voice of children’
programmes. These efforts have also led to greater awareness and
visibility, and created strong momentum.

Above all, with the adoption by the Security Council of Resolution 1612 this
week, we have now entered the ‘era of application’. For the first time, the
UN is establishing a formal, structured and detailed compliance regime of
this kind. This brings together all the key elements we have developed, to
ensure accountability and compliance on the ground. This is a turning
point of immense consequence.

With the establishment of the monitoring and reporting system,
the ‘naming and shaming’ list of offending parties, and time-bound action
plans, the UN now has a unique and urgent opportunity to redeem our
promise to the children, by ending this trend of horrendous crimes against
millions of vulnerable children. I believe that few missions could be more
compelling for the UN and the world today.

I thank the Secretary-General for the opportunity to contribute to the
important work of the United Nations, an institution which continues to
play an indispensable role in a troubled world. I pay special tribute to
Madame Graça Machel, whose seminal report laid a strong foundation for
this work. I am very grateful to UN colleagues and agencies, delegations,
donors, and civil society organizations, for their support and collaboration.
I can never thank enough my outstanding staff - - their remarkable
commitment and sacrifice, under the particular constraints of a very small
office, has been very moving.

As I look back on the road we have traveled, my thoughts go particularly to
many people that I have been very fortunate to meet during my visits to
zones of conflict - - these ‘ordinary’ people, doing extraordinary things, in
impossible circumstances. Out of the ugliness, hatred and desolation
visited upon them by the lords of war, these unsung heroes have
reclaimed the core and beauty of the human spirit. I have been deeply
inspired and humbled by their example of faith, selfless giving and sacrifice,
and sheer courage, in the face of overwhelming odds. Let us learn to walk
more closely by their side.

I will remain actively engaged in the public campaign in support of the ‘era
of application’ - - to ensure compliance with child protection instruments
and norms where it matters most, on the ground. Words on paper alone
cannot protect children and women in danger.

* * *

Olara A. Otunnu
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed


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