Millions of children across the world are denied the right to enjoy their childhood as a result of conflicts that expose them to violence and rob them of their innocence, two senior United Nations officials said today, stressing the need to ensure that children grow up in safety.

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The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy met with the new Prime Minister Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed in Mogadishu on Tuesday. In a productive discussion, the Prime Minister committed his government to eradicating the practice of child soldiering in Somalia. Acknowledging that the use of children as soldiers is a terrible phenomenon, the Prime Minister agreed to designate a focal point, reporting directly to him, who would work with the United Nations to pave the way toward the signing of an action plan, an official agreement to secure and verify the release of child soldiers.

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The top United Nations official fighting to eliminate the recruitment of child soldiers today appealed to governments to provide the necessary resources to ensure the reintegration of these youngsters into civil society once they have been freed.

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Eleven new countries have added their names to a growing United Nations-backed list of States that have pledged to halt child recruitment, support the release of children from armed groups and help reintegrate them into civilian life.

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Today the Gabonese Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Malawi became the latest Member States to sign or ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict at Treaty Event coinciding with this year’s General Assembly session.
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The army in Southern Sudan has pledged to demobilise all child soldiers by the end of the year.

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Rape is one of the world’s greatest peace and security challenges, a senior United Nations official said today, adding that rape in times of conflict remains one of the least-condemned war crimes, leading to impunity for perpetrators.

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Representatives of the United Nations and the Sudanese opposition movement, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), will sign an historic Agreement on the protection of children in the Darfur conflict on Wednesday 21 July.

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Two senior United Nations officials today urged an immediate halt to the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Somalia, where they say the practice is growing and affects children as young as nine years old.

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