DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Child Soldiers Conference

By Caty Weaver

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

Representatives of governments and organizations from about twenty countries met in Kathmandu, Nepal recently for a four-day conference on child soldiers. The conference was organized by a group of international human rights organizations called the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. At the end of their conference, the delegates called for a worldwide ban on child soldiers.

Rory Mungoven was the chief planner of the meeting in Nepal. Mr. Mungoven says children are fighting in almost every current conflict in Asia. He says Asia is second only to Africa in its widespread use of child soldiers. A recent Coalition report says children are being used as soldiers in Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and other countries.

Mr. Mungoven says many rebel groups use children as fighters. Such groups include Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels and separatists in the Philippines and Kashmir. However, children do not only fight for rebel groups. The report says child soldiers can be found in the Burmese government's armed forces, for example. And, several countries permit children in their late teenage years to join the armed forces. The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers says more than three-hundred-thousand children are fighting in conflicts in more than thirty countries around the world.

Human Rights Watch is a member of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. The human rights group says the children who become soldiers are often poor, separated from their families, or living in a battle area. They usually do not have much education or chance to get an education. Mr. Mungoven says people seeking child soldiers will put pressure on teachers, families and community leaders. The children also are promised food or security. Other children are kidnapped and forced to serve as soldiers.

Human Rights Watch says children in armed groups may become cooks, guards or spies. However, the group says children may also be forced into situations that are more dangerous. Sometimes children are placed into battle immediately. They also may be used to explore minefields ahead of older troops. And sometimes they are ordered to carry out military operations that are sure to lead to their deaths.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Caty Weaver. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English