United Nations — Mr. Lewis Brown, Liberia's Permanent Representative at the UN has said Liberia welcomes and supports the Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) Agenda not only as a tool to ensure that children are protected and perpetrators held accountable but also as a moral imperative. "As if we needed one, that we must act with singularity of purpose and unwavering determination, including here in this chamber, to decidedly end the ongoing conflicts. It is all too obvious, where conflict exists; poor children and their families will remain at high risks of having their lives, and our future, ruined perhaps forever. The same is also true that we must act with equal commitment and decisiveness to prevent conflict and sustain peace."
The diplomat added: "Where the institutions of the State have clearly collapsed under the weight of the ongoing armed conflict, perhaps it is time to extend the duty of protection, and actually ending the ongoing conflicts to the regions of the conflict as well as other external actors who are vesting interests in the continuation of the conflicts. It is time we truly held each other duly accountable for ending conflicts, as well as preventing them."
Regarding child soldiers, Mr. Brown averred that Liberia is quite aware of due to its experience from its brutal civil war. "We commend the works of SRSG Gamba and Unicef in this regard, and also the works of many local actors including non-governmental organizations and faith-based groups, who despite little or no means, gave willingly of themselves and their organizations to advance, in whatever way they can, not only the process of reintegration but also disarmament and demobilization. However, the truth also is that these institutions, local and international, lack the needed funding and donor support for proper reintegration of children recruited as soldiers, many of whom have been mentally seated by exposures to the worst forms of inhumanity and drugs."
And yet rather than victims, he said, they are entreated as drags on the society - ostracized and vilified sometimes by their own families, and certainly by their communities - even as we have urged them to move along in their development.
Becoming Killing Machines
Needful as the process of reintegration is, Mr. Brown explained that it is the least supported in the efforts to return countries to peace despite the fact that, again in the case of Liberia, there is an overwhelming eagerness of child soldiers to be disarmed. "And so, a sizeable element of a post-conflict country's future - its energetic youth - lies in waste in the streets of urban cities destined to a life of drugs and crime, and yes, doomed to a fate whose path they did not help to create, and as such, waiting for the next opportunity to become killing machines."
The diplomat said there are no shortcuts to rehabilitation and reintegration, nor can we afford to wish one into existence. "Rehabilitation and reintegration require long-term strategies. It requires resources, sadly, that most affected and needful countries do not have, and cannot afford to be without in firming up the foundations of and sustaining their peace. For post-conflict countries, rehabilitation and reintegration is an important way to sustain their peace and avoid a pattern of slipping back into conflict. When we give each other a chance to be better - when we give children a better chance at a better life - we do not necessarily help others, we actually help ourselves. We ensure we live in a better world."