[Stop-traffic] News/UNITED NATIONS: U.S. JOINS OTHER NATIONS IN BANNING CHILD SOLDIERS AND EX

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/UNITED NATIONS: U.S. JOINS OTHER NATIONS IN BANNING CHILD SOLDIERS AND EX
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Aug 07 2000 - 10:13:32 EDT


7-6-00 UNITED NATIONS: U.S. JOINS OTHER NATIONS IN BANNING CHILD SOLDIERS
AND EXPLOITATION.
By BARBARA CROSSETTE.
UNITED NATIONS - President Clinton signed two international agreements
Wednesday, one intended to prevent anyone under 18 from being sent to war
and the other to protect children from exploitation by the sex trade and
other forms of human trafficking.
Clinton said that the agreements should be "signposts to the future of the
global society."
"To give life to our dream of a global economy that lifts all people, first
we must stand together for all children," he said. Several hundred thousand
children are fighting in wars, some in civil conflicts of savage brutality.
And tens of millions of children are trafficked around the world as bonded
labor or sex slaves, according to U.N. estimates.
"Every day around the world and even here in the United States, children
are sold into virtual slavery or trafficked for the worst forms of sexual
abuse," he said.
The two agreements Clinton signed are known formally as the Optional
Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Optional
Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
Both were approved in May by the General Assembly as side agreements to the
1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the United States also
signed, in 1995, but has never ratified.
That core covenant on children's rights has been ratified by 191 nations,
with only one other holdout, Somalia, which is effectively without a
government.
A U.S. signature is important in giving a measure momentum around the
world, officials say. But U.N. officials and diplomats from many nations
have grown accustomed to seeing the administration in Washington back away
from a fight to ratify signed agreements after meeting resistance in the
Pentagon or in the Senate, which has been reluctant to approve treaties on
a range of issues from the environment to international criminal law or
arms control.
Clinton said he would send the agreements to the Senate promptly for
ratification within the year.
It took more than six years of international negotiations to win Pentagon
approval for the measure on child soldiers. Until January, the U.S.
military had balked because the agreement sought a blanket ban on
recruitment under the age of 18 and the United States recruited 17 year
olds with parental consent. After acknowledging that the measure could
affect fewer than 3,000 U.S. soldiers of the 1.4 million men and women in
uniform, the Pentagon dropped its objections.
The agreement on child soldiers, which is intended to apply not only to
national armies but also to guerrilla forces or irregulars who recruit,
often forcibly, the majority of the 300,000 children thought to be involved
in armed conflict, asks governments to raise to at least 16 the minimum age
of recruitment, and demands that no one under 18 be involved in combat.
The second agreement signed by Clinton makes it a criminal offense to sell,
trade or use children for a variety of purposes including sexual
exploitation and pornography. The measure was first proposed by Cuba and
Guatemala, among other nations, because of other perceived violations of
children's rights, including the selling of organs and forced adoptions,
said Marjorie Newman-Williams, the communications director of Unicef.
But with the rapid growth in human trafficking, especially the sale of
girls into brothels in Asia, the measure has gained very wide support in
the United States, Europe and other regions. Six nations now have signed
the agreement; 10 ratifications are needed for it to come into force.
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THE NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE 06/07/2000
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