[JURIST] French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy [official profile] Monday cautioned countries against the illegal and unacceptable use of child soldiers in armed conflicts at the opening of Free Children from War [conference materials], a two-day global conference in Paris drawing together representatives from about 60 nations. Hosted by the French Foreign Ministry [official website] and UNICEF [official website], the conference is directed at formal adoption of the so-called Paris Commitments and provide political support for the dissemination and acceptance of the more extensive Paris Principles [text, PDF], which propose to update the 1997 Cape Town Principles recommending actions to be taken by governments and communities in affected countries to end that violation of children's rights. According to UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman, the estimated 250,000 children [press release] recruited by armed forces and armed groups are "used as combatants, messengers, spies, porters, cooks, and girls in particular are forced to perform sexual services, depriving them of their rights and their childhood." Experts say that girls comprise up to 40 percent of child recruits and that twelve countries have used child soldiers on a massive scale. Over 95,000 child soldiers who have taken part in armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Colombia, Uganda, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Liberia have participated in reintegration programs since 2001.
In 2005, the UN Security Council [official website] adopted Resoluton 1612 [text] authorizing the UN to closely scrutinize and keep track [JURIST report] of all countries and rebel organizations that abuse children in any way or recruit children as soldiers [UN press release]. BBC News has more. AP has additional coverage.