New York, 30 November 2022 – The Agreement for Lasting Peace through a Permanent Cessation of Hostilities in Ethiopia, brokered by the African Union, is a milestone that provides an important opportunity to prioritize the protection of children, including by incorporating their rights and needs in the mediation process and peace discussions, said the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba.
This Agreement must now urgently be translated into concrete improvements for civilians on the ground, including children, by accelerating the facilitation of humanitarian access, the protection of children, and the restoration of essential services such as education, health, mental health, and psycho-social support, in particular for children.
“I commend the parties for this important milestone and for prioritizing peace. I urge both sides to continue with negotiations on the outstanding issues in a spirit of reconciliation, including by ensuring that preventing violations against children are a key component of ceasefires. I also urge all those involved in peace discussions to include child protection provisions, such as securing the immediate and unconditional release of any child associated with parties to conflict and prioritizing their reintegration assistance, including prior to any disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes as provided for in the UN’s Integrated DDR Standards,” said the Special Representative.
She reminded that the Practical guidance for mediators to protect children in situations of armed conflict developed by her office provided useful tools to allow children to be placed at the center of peace processes. She added that the Government of Ethiopia has been engaging with her Office on the importance of protecting children from conflict and ending and preventing grave violations against them and encouraged all parties to engage in similar efforts.
Children in Ethiopia have seen their fundamental rights violated over the past two years, in addition to the dire humanitarian crisis facing the country, making boys and girls increasingly vulnerable to grave violations and climate emergencies. The opportunity provided by the cessation of hostilities should further be used to scale up humanitarian assistance and support to recovery needs to all civilians in need, in particular for vulnerable groups such as children. I commend the efforts of the Government of Ethiopia to enable humanitarian corridors to affected populations, the Special Representative added.
“The inclusion and meaningful participation of children through all phases of the peace processes such as the one in Ethiopia is fundamental to establishing the foundations of sustainable peace. For ultimately, only peace can ensure the full protection of children’s rights. The United Nations stands ready to assist the next steps of the African Union-led process,” she concluded.