Source: unic.org

Hailing the move by several countries to ban the use of child soldiers, a top United Nations official urged today that all nations that have not yet done so take the important step of signing and ratifying the global treaty that serves to protect children in armed conflict.

“Today is a landmark day for children,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said after three countries either signed or ratified the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.

The Protocol – one of two that strengthen the Convention on the Rights of the Child – serves to ensure that children will not be forced to fight in war or be pressed into military service.

“Today, you have strengthened a growing moral consensus that war is no place for children,” Ms. Coomaraswamy said at a special event held at UN Headquarters.

Gabon and Malawi ratified the protocol, while Iran signed it – one of dozens of treaties that are open for signature, ratification or accession during the annual treaty event that coincides with the high-level segment of the General Assembly.

Ms. Coomaraswamy noted that seven Member States have signed or ratified the Optional Protocol since the launch of the “Zero under 18” campaign in May, more than in all of 2009. Before today, 136 countries were StatesParties to the Protocol.

The two-year campaign aims to achieve universal ratification of the Protocol by 12 February 2012, the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the treaty.

She urged that the momentum generated by today's actions be kept up so that the more than 50 nations that have yet to ratify the Protocol will do so at the earliest.

Also today, Moldova ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, while Bhutan signed the pact.

In addition, Monaco ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, while Laos signed the Convention against Torture and acceded to the Rotterdam and Basel Conventions relating to hazardous chemicals and wastes.

This year's treaty event highlights 44 treaties deposited with the UN that address human rights, disarmament, environmental protection, biodiversity, desertification and climate change, terrorism and crime, and the safety of UN and associated personnel. In addition to these, Member States can also take action with regard to some 500 other treaties.