29 September 2015 – The United Nations today welcomed Myanmar’s signature of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The protocol aims at strengthening the protection of children from recruitment into armed forces by, among other provisions, making 18 the minimum age for compulsory recruitment into the armed forces.
"We congratulate the Government for its commitment to enhance the protection of children in Myanmar," says Renata Lok-Dessallien, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar. "The signature of the protocol reinforces the Government’s expression of commitment that Myanmar armed forces will be child-free.”
The signature is also a positive sign of the ongoing cooperation between the UN and the Government on the Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) agenda, which resulted in the 2012 Joint Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children and, more recently, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) mission to Myanmar in late July.
According to the Protocol, Myanmar will have to take all possible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures necessary to prohibit and criminalize such practices, whether committed by military personnel or civilians.
“It is really important that the new Child Law, which is already under discussion, is closely aligned with the Protocol, by including a specific provision on prohibiting the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, strong penalties for those infringing the law, and accountability mechanisms”, says Bertrand Bainvel, Unicef Representative to Myanmar.
Since the signature of the Joint Action Plan, important actions have been taken, namely the centralisation of the recruitment and the release of 646 children. Despite the progress made so far, the UN calls on the Government to accelerate essential remaining steps, particularly by reinforcing the age assessment procedures. In addition, an efficient and effective birth registration system is a crucial measure to protect children against recruitment at a later stage in their childhood.
“We also welcome the recent steps by the Government of Myanmar and the ethnic armed organizations in the ceasefire discussions, and to see the Children and Armed Conflict Agenda very well placed within the National Ceasefire Agreement”, says Renata Lok-Dessallien.
“The National Ceasefire Agreement provides a useful framework that will help accelerate all actions under the agenda, making all signatories more accountable, and thus is potentially a game-changer for all children in Myanmar”, concludes Bertrand Bainvel.
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