A Letter of Fred Devon – OSCE Representative

Vienna/Hamburg, 21th September 2009


A Humanitarian Peace Initiative Against The Misuse of Children as Soldiers

Despite of the increasing international awareness for the problems (UN Security Council Resolutions 1379 and 1460), despite the enormous efforts of the UN aid organizations and of many international non-governmental organizations (Terres des hommes and others), the crime of abusing children as child soldiers has increased alarmingly, especially in Africa and Burma. The UN Member States have made numerous announcements and have above all accepted the international punishability. Joint action has nevertheless remained weak.

Therefore I herewith make a proposal for a European peace initiative against the abuse of children as child soldiers!What does this mean?

Under the leadership and upon the initiative of Germany and France Europe could take over its historical responsibility for the continent, but also invite USA and others to participate in this humanitarian peace initiative. The excellent work of NGO’s should be used for the initiative which so far dedicate themselves to this problem. However, their work should also generate a common initiative of the participating states, which will have very clear principles for this project.Hereto some reflections:

The abuse of children as „soldiers“– under the influence of drugs – has been one of the most dramatic and most fatal tragedies in Africa in the 20th and now in the 21st century. Through this brutalization of their existence, the lives of thousands of children and adolescents detached from their families and separated from any notion of motherland are destroyed for ever, and for the future they aggravate all efforts of these troubled African countries torn by wars and poverty to enter the modern world. Herein lays the task that Europe has to accomplish:

To stop this process of recruitment of child soldiers through concrete and, preferably, joints projects and to help these children and adolescents turn back to normal life as far as this is still possible:

  • disarmament as a chance for the future
  • psychological and medical support of the young people
  • pedagogical, cultural and social assistance

In the course of two years my project for the Balcans – mobile.culture.container- In Defence of our Future – could gather know-how with the war and violence experiences of adolescents, although under quite different conditions.

This experience in the post-war Balcans shows that civilian peace work in the frame of an international security presence is possible. It means that international police and military presence, meanhwile availabe in some regions, should devote itself to the problematic regions with child soldiers, with the particular task of protecting the following concrete initiatives:• Extradiction of the responsible perpetrators (including the indirectly involved international weapons exporters) to the International Court of Justice.

Readiness to protect the concrete initiatives for releasing and bringing of children in civil and educational projects.

This Europan peace project needs strong international support and must, of course, involve these African governments which are not only sharing this basic point of view but which are also prepared to participate in it.

Fred Devon
Currently OSCE – Representative on Freedom of the Media