June 17 2010, A senior UN official urged both Myanmar and Colombia to allow the United Nations to negotiate directly with rebel groups to secure the demobilisation of child soldiers.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, special representative for the UN secretary general on children in armed conflict, said in a press conference; “Colombia and Myanmar do not allow us to have discussions with non-state actors on recruiting children for implementing plans of action to release children.”
Coomaraswamy stated that countries which permitted dialogue with non-state groups, such as Sudan, Philippines, Nepal, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, had made considerable progress with the release and rehabilitation of vulnerable children, but without government consent U.N. officials could not enter into negotiations with some 50 armed groups worldwide.
The U.N. official said that the root of Colombia’s problem with child soldiers was the difficulty of distinguishing between criminal gangs and political groups in the country.
The Security Council resolutions which “name and shame” countries that violate the rights of children caught in war have proved effective, according to Coomaraswamy.
The U.N. estimates that there are 250,000 child soldiers in 22 countries across the world. They include Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Yemen. Coomaraswamy also stated that 22 governments are guilty of recruiting child soldiers, but the most persistent violators are rebel groups, such as the Taliban and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Coomaraswamy said earlier in June that, according to new plans to combat “persistent violators,” Colombia’s foremost rebel faction would also be subject to U.N. sanctions. Although not yet in place, a presidential statement issued by Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller expressed the council’s “readiness to adopt targeted and graduated measures against persistent perpetrators.” These would include a freeze on the assets of individuals, travel bans and arms embargoes.