HC Deb 26 July 1999 vol 336 cc147-8W
Dr. Tonge

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Governments of(a) Liberia, (b) Colombia, (c) Nigeria, (d) Sri Lanka, (e) Sudan, (f) the Democratic Republic of Congo, (g) Sierra Leone and (h) Ethiopia concerning the rehabilitation of child soldiers. [92809]

Mr. Tony Lloyd

We believe that the use of children as soldiers, in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, is one of the worst violations of children's rights. We are working to encourage and assist the demobilisation and rehabilitation of child soldiers around the world.

The majority of child soldiers today are fighting in guerilla organisations, not for governments. We therefore need to take a broad approach to the issue.

Our approach is based on a combination of support for international efforts in this field, in particular the work of the UN Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, whose recent visits have included Sri Lanka, Colombia and Sudan; discussions with governments, such as the Governments of Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone; ensuring that the needs of former child soldiers are effectively addressed in any post-conflict reconstruction, eg in Sierra Leone; and, with the Department for International Development, support for practical measures to address this issue, eg in Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Sierra Leone.

We have heard allegations that Ethiopia may have used child soldiers in its war with Eritrea, but we have seen no evidence to confirm this. We continue to monitor the situation. We are not aware of any reports of the use of child soldiers in Nigeria.

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