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Participants, including representatives of governments and civil society from throughout the Asia-Pacific Region, as well as intergovernmental and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), at the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers, held in Kathmandu, in the Kingdom of Nepal, from 15-18 May 2000;


Appalled that more than 300,000 children under 18 years of age are currently participating as soldiers in armed conflicts worldwide, not only impacting directly and immediately on these children but creating problems for them in the future and for the next generation of children;


Acknowledging that poverty, injustice, displacement, lack of access to education and other opportunities, a culture of militarisation, the proliferation of arms, economic disparity and other factors contribute to the involvement of children in armed forces and armed groups;


Recognising the need to address all the causes leading to armed conflict, including availability of arms, poverty, unemployment, economic disparity, issues of identity and self-determination, environmental degradation, intolerance and discrimination, and the need to seek peaceful alternatives, including non-violent resolution of conflicts by traditional or other means, and the urgent need to involve children in building peace and reconciliation;


Welcoming the proclamation of 2001-2010 as the International Decade for the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World;


Reaffirming the UN Charter commitment "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war", and rejecting the use of violence as a means of achieving one's ends, acknowledging that force and violence cannot form the basis of human co-existence;


Welcoming the UN Secretary-General's recommendation to the Security Council that the minimum age for recruitment and participation in armed conflict and civil strife should be 18 years, as well as his decision that UN peacekeepers should be at least 21 years and in no case less than 18 years;


Welcoming the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court which makes the conscripting or enlisting of children under the age of 15 years or using them to participate actively in hostilities a war crime, both in international and internal armed conflict and whether by armed forces or armed groups;


Welcoming the inclusion of forced or compulsory recruitment of children under 18 for use in armed conflict as one of the worst forms of child labour in the ILO Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (182);


Welcoming the adoption by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights of the draft Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict which bans the use of children under the age of 18 years in armed conflicts;


Alarmed that despite these international standards children, girls and boys, are currently taking part in armed conflicts and civil strife across Asia and the Pacific in both governmental armed forces, including militia, and armed groups, and are often subject to exploitation sexually and as labourers, and that in some cases these include children under 15 years of age;


Welcoming the Maputo (April 1999), Montevideo (July 1999) and Berlin (October 1999) Declarations on the Use of Children as Soldiers;


Determined to put an end to the use of children as soldiers:


1) Solemnly declare that the use in hostilities of any child under 18 years of age by any armed force or armed group is wholly unacceptable;


2) Strongly condemn the use of children as soldiers by armed forces and armed groups and call upon them to end the recruitment and use of children and to immediately demobilise or release into safety children already being used as soldiers;


3) Call upon Asia-Pacific States and other parties to armed conflicts to seek peaceful means of resolving disputes;


4) Call upon Asia-Pacific States who have not already done so to ratify the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, the two Additional Protocols of 1977, the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Ottawa Landmines Treaty, the ILO Convention concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour;


5) Urge all Asia-Pacific States to ratify the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts as soon as possible after adoption by the United Nations General Assembly, without reservations and specifying at least 18 years as the minimum age for voluntary government recruitment, and to translate it into local languages and disseminate it widely;


6) Call upon Asia-Pacific States to introduce legislation to give effect to the international standards accepted by them where this has not already been done and to effectively implement it in practice, including bringing perpetrators of human rights violations to justice, and establishing independent national human rights institutions where they do not already exist;


7) Encourage all States to establish Children's Departments or Ministries or other mechanisms of the Government with trained and committed Child Protection Workers, to develop policies and programmes within the child rights framework, with particular attention to the best interests of the child and the development of different approaches for different ages, the development of mechanisms for the involvement of children in policies and governance, and to provide or facilitate training on child rights and international standards, in particular for the armed forces, other law enforcement personnel and peacekeepers;


8) Calls upon Asia-Pacific States to review their national legislation in relation to children to take account of the 18-year age limit to childhood, including in National Security Laws and similar legislation, and working with local communities in developing an understanding of this age limit and its importance;


9) Encourage Asia-Pacific States to enact laws for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, and to provide access to refugee and displaced, including internally displaced, populations for UN agencies and international and national NGOs;


10) Call upon international agencies and NGOs working with refugee and internally displaced populations to actively work to prevent the recruitment of such children; and to ensure provision of adequate education and other programmes, with special attention to female-headed and child-headed households and separated children;


11) Call upon all Asia-Pacific States to promote an environment that favours the safe and healthy development of children, including quality, accessible and mandatory education that promotes peace, human rights, gender sensitivity, tolerance, dignity and positive self-esteem, and to ensure that schools do not become sites for child recruitment, that compulsory basic military training is not integrated into the curriculum, and that national budgets reflect the priorities of education and development rather than military expenditure;


12) Urge all Asia-Pacific States and other parties to armed conflict to take all necessary measures to ensure that no child under 18 years of age takes part in hostilities;


13) Call upon all Asia-Pacific States to ensure that they have laws requiring compulsory birth registration and provide appropriate and effective methods to facilitate their implementation; and in the meanwhile, in the absence of age documentation, the armed forces require sworn affidavits from parents or community elders;


14) Call upon Asia-Pacific States, and States outside the Region, to adopt measures to reduce the availability of arms, in particular small arms, including sanctioning those who manufacture, supply and traffick in arms to those using children in armed conflicts, and to actively support preparations for the 2001 UN Conference on Small Arms;


15) Call upon Asia-Pacific States and States outside the Region to use their influence to bring pressure to bear on any government or armed group which recruits or uses children as soldiers by refraining from providing them, whether directly or indirectly, with arms, military equipment, training, personnel, safe haven, and other measures including bringing such use to public attention and making leaders accountable for their actions;


16) Call on communities themselves to declare "child soldier free zones" and "weapons free zones" and to take local measures to establish these;


17) Call upon Asia-Pacific States and non-state actors to respect fully the provisions of international law, in particular in the case of captured, surrendered or rescued child soldiers;


18) Encourage all parties to armed conflicts to facilitate access to enable an analysis of the situation of children to be undertaken as the basis for programmes of protection, demobilisation and reintegration to be carried out by non-military organisations, as well as access by and protection of human rights NGOs;


19) Call upon Governments and NGOs to respect and invoke local indigenous cultures and belief systems in assisting child soldiers, their families and communities to overcome the trauma and pain associated with armed conflict, and to facilitate reconciliation and forgiveness, recognising that child soldiers are victims as well as instruments of violence;


20) Call for a holistic approach to reintegration of child soldiers, linking education, vocational training, income-generating activities and trauma counselling, ensuring that the interests of the child - material, physical, psychosocial and spiritual - are considered within the family and community context;


21) Call upon Asia-Pacific States to ensure the special needs of former child soldiers are met through effective and appropriate programmes of rehabilitation, reintegration into society and social rehabilitation;


22) Call upon Asia-Pacific States to ensure that girl soldiers are integrated into the demobilisation process, are not discriminated against at any stage and that programmes are gender sensitive and address their special health, educational and psychosocial needs;


23) Call upon all governments, including those outside the Asia-Pacific Region, the UN system and international institutions to provide adequate assistance to ensure the implementation of the above aims, in particular by providing resources for generating and supporting alternatives to joining armed forces or armed groups, including employment, and for demobilisation, rehabilitation and reintegration for child soldiers;


24) Call upon the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the United Nations Children's Fund, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to intensify their efforts to ensure an end to the use of children as soldiers and on Asia-Pacific States to invite these and relevant mechanisms of the UN Commission on Human Rights to visit their countries, including any areas of conflict, and follow-up on their visits;


25) Call on communities to give priority to fostering the culture of peace and to develop and carry out peace and reconciliation initiatives, community awareness initiatives and programmes on child recruitment, and to create channels for child participation in policy-making and in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programmes;


26) Call upon international, Asia-Pacific, national and local media to report on situations of armed conflicts without recourse to the sensationalisation of violence and to support efforts to end the use of children as soldiers, bearing in mind the imperative need to protect individual children from stigmatisation and to preserve their dignity, safety and self-respect;


27) Request ASEAN, SAARC, the South Pacific Forum, ECO (Economic Cooperation Organisation) and the forthcoming Summit of the G8 in Japan, to include this Declaration on their agenda and to disseminate it to all Foreign and Defence Ministries, and endorse the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on involvement of children in armed conflicts once adopted by the UN General Assembly;


28) Request representatives of national human rights institutions attending this conference to present this Declaration to the Asia Pacific Forum of national human rights institutions and request the forum secretariat to disseminate the declaration to all national human rights commissions and to consider measures to monitor the use of under-18s as soldiers;


29) Call upon NGOs, in particular those of the Asia-Pacific Region, to work for the implementation of this Declaration, to translate it into local languages and to disseminate it widely, including through community groups and indigenous folk media, and to encourage further consultations, including children's consultations, on these issues at national and local levels;


30) Express their warm appreciation to His Majesty's Government of Nepal for hosting this Conference.


Adopted in Kathmandu on 18 May 2000

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