[16days_discussion] [WorkingWithBoysandMen] Fw: Ex-child soldiers: from victims of war to protagonists of peace

Ravi Karkara rkarkara at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 26 12:12:26 EDT 2009

Ex-child soldiers: from victims of war to protagonists of peace
“Children and young people affected by war: learn, 
understand, act”
ROME, 23 June 2009 – Two young people, former child soldiers, who have 
transformed their brutal life experiences toward helping the more than one 
billion children whose lives are currently touched by war today told the 
international community, including Franco Frattini, the Italian Minister of 
Foreign Affairs, and Giovanni Alemanno, Mayor of Rome, what must be done to 
ensure that children are fully protected even in the heat of war.
Akallo, originally from Uganda, and Kon Kelei, originally from Sudan, narrated 
their personal experiences as former child soldiers and spoke of building their 
network of children and young people affected by war that they helped found - 
Network of Young People Affected by War (NYPAW) to a gathering of ambassadors, 
government and United Nations officials and civil society partners.
young people highlighted that children who have been affected by war need extra 
support and attention in order to overcome their difficulties
it is estimated that around 250,000 children are currently exploited by armed 
groups and forces as soldiers. As such, they are fulfilling functions as 
frontline fighters, porters or sex slaves. Over one billion children live in 
countries or territories affected by armed conflict – almost one sixth of the 
total world population. Of these, some 300 million are under the age of five. 
Since 1998 to now, more than 100,000 children have been demobilized and 
reintegrated into society. 
They suffer from both the direct 
consequences of conflict, as well as the long-term effects on their development 
and well-being.  
Hosted by  the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and 
the City of Rome, the symposium, “Children and Young People Affected by War: 
Learn, Understand, Act,” was attended by, in addition to Ms. Akallo, Mr Kelei  
(NYPAW) and Mr. Frattini (MFA),  the participants included Mr. Giovanni 
Alemanno, Mayor of Rome,  Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Representative 
for Children in Armed Conflict; Ms. Marta Santos Pais, Director, UNICEF 
Innocenti Research Centre, Appointed Special Representative of the Secretary 
General on Violence against Children, Ms. Rima Salah, Deputy Special 
Representative of the Secretary General for Central African Republic and Chad;  
Ms. Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Secretary General of International Save the 
Children Alliance; Jean-Marc de la Sablière, Ambassador of France in Italy, 
former President of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed 
Conflict; Giuliomaria Terzi di Sant’Agata, Permanent Representative of Italy to 
the United Nations.  The moderator of the event was Francesca Caferri, 
correspondent for La Repubblica.
Video messages were sent from other 
members of NYPAW:  Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone); Zlata Filopovic (Bosnia 
Following are quotes from the 
“My own story is one among the thousand-fold stories you 
have not heard.  There are dozens of armies and rebel groups who continue to 
ruin the lives of children in the same ways around the world.  NYPAW is here to 
let you know the very real suffering of these children and young people, both 
abducted or not abducted, they are innocent, they deserve protection, love and a 
future.  No child, I repeat no child deserves this kind of suffering. 
-Grace Akallo, founding member of NYPAW and former child 
“We founded this network, not to promote 
ourselves, but to communicate to the world that there is hope and children and 
young people who were once traumatized by war can recover and become important 
citizens of the world.”
“This network will be a group that governments, 
UN agencies, NGOs, media, teachers, community members and others who are seeking 
to effectively support children in this capacity can turn to for realistic 
advise, guidance and to facilitate the creation of successful and meaningful 
reintegration and rehabilitation projects. 
- Kon Kelei, founding 
member of NYPAW and former child soldier
“For years, 
Italy has been working tirelessly to protect and assist all over the world 
children and child victims of armed conflict with interventions at the highest 
international meetings and institutions, focusing on three fundamental 
objectives of prevention, reintegration of the victims and their integration 
into the social fabric.  Through the work of the Italian government humanitarian 
aid and development agency, COOPI, for many years a great number of projects in 
conflict and post-conflict countries in every continent have received funding.  
So we are particularly pleased that last November, Italy was able to help with 
the launch of NYPAW, and will help, together with the United Nations, UNICEF and 
the NGOs in the important road that NYPAW has taken.
With the meeting today 
and the photographic exhibition, we want to launch a new and powerful appeal to 
civil society and the international community so that the thousands of Italians 
and foreign visitors that visit Rome recognize that when we speak of children 
harmed by armed conflict, there is an irreparable damage that humanity 
experiences when even one of these young lives is destroyed.
- Franco 
Frattini, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs
expression ‘child soldier’ is in itself a terrible paradox, because it alludes 
to the idea that childhood, as a symbol and reality of the future, is taken 
away.  That is why by confronting the problem on a global level we are also 
addressing the local issues.  For example, the City of Rome is this year 
financing some decentralized partnership projects, aimed at assisting the 
reintegration of the child soldier into society, for example in North Kivu in 
the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
- Giovanni Alemanno, Mayor of 
“Advocacy must be reinforced by real action. 
Perpetrators of grave violations against children have to be held accountable 
and impunity must end.”
“We must let the world know children’s stories 
and we must take effective protective, legal and political actions to ensure 
that as many children as possible are spared the brutalities of war.  Our joint 
action has, and will, make a difference, if only we make the 
- Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Representative for 
Children in Armed Conflict
 “The role of education is 
critical to the protection of children affected by war, in the prevention of 
conflict and peace building.  Save the Children launched in 2006 the “Rewrite 
the Future” campaign, thanks to which, 10 million minors that live in more than 
20 countries affected by war –of whom were also many child soldiers – had the 
opportunity to get an education.”
- Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Secretary 
General of International Save the Children Alliance 
we have listened to the personal experiences of courageous young people who have 
faced the brutal consequences of war. They have turned tragedy into victory and 
their testimony clearly shows the important role of children and young people in 
reconciliation and peace-building efforts. But there must be long-term 
commitment to guide and support young people in achieving realistic and 
sustainable solutions. This requires our urgent attention. We cannot fail to 
answer their call to action.”
- Marta Santos Pais, Director, UNICEF 
Innocenti Research Centre Appointed Special Representative of the Secretary 
General on Violence against Children
“Today UN 
peacekeeping operations are working in close collaboration with UNICEF and other 
child protection actors, in various conflict and post conflict contexts to 
ensure that child protection issues are integrated as a key priority within the 
political processes and that they are adequately addressed in the peace-building 
and consolidation phases.  In both Burundi and Eastern Congo these efforts have 
recently resulted in the release of hundreds of children from armed 
- Rima Salah, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary 
General for Central African Republic and Chad
to editors:   Today a photo exhibit, "Children of War - Broken Childhood" was 
opened in Piazza Campidoglio by Giovanni Alemmano, Mayor of Rome, Franco 
Frattini, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Radhika Coomaraswamy, SRSG for Children 
and Armed Conflict and Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Secretary General of 
International Save the Children Alliance.  The exhibition will remain outdoors 
on display in Piazza Campidoglio until 29 June 2009. 
The exhibition is 
composed of four themes:  girl-child soldiers, reintegration, small arms and 
light weapons and the fight against impunity and was taken from the book by 
Leora Kahn,  “Child Soldier” – that features the work of renown war 
photographers. The exhibition is taking place thanks to the support of the 
Department of Culture Policies and Communications, the Superintendent of Fine 
Arts with the technical expertise of the Capitoline 

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