Tools for Children and Youth
WHAT YOU CAN DO: When issues such as the problem of the use of child soldiers, landmines, or education of the girl child arise:
In the Case of the Child Soldier:
* Write to the President of Rwanda to urge his government to stop all recruitment, training and use of child soldiers in the DRC;
* Write to your own Foreign Minister or Secretary of State to urge your government to denounce the use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and support the demobilization and rehabilitation of children who have participated in the conflict.
Major Général Paul Kagame
I am deeply concerned about recent reports of widespread recruitment of children by the Congolese Rally for Democracy Goma (RCD-Goma) and Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) soldiers in Eastern Congo, and the role of the RPA in training these children for combat in military training camps.
Credible reports gathered by the United Nations and independent organizations such as Human Rights Watch indicate that thousands of children, some as young as ten, have been recruited by RCD-Goma and RPA soldiers. These reports indicate that recruitment of children is generally carried out by force, frequently without the knowledge of the childrens parents. Children recruited by RCD-Goma and the RPA have frequently been ill treated, deprived of adequate food and health care, and been sent into battle with little training.
In early April 2001, RCD-Goma authorities pledged to end the recruitment of childsoldiers and demobilize those in their ranks. But just a few days later at a ceremony marking the end of a military training program at Mushaki, nearly 1800 of the 3000 graduates were reportedly children aged twelve to seventeen.
I urge your government to take the following immediate steps to protect the rights of children affected by the conflict:
I look forward to your response, and thank you for your consideration.
SAMPLE LETTER to Foreign Ministers:
Dear Minister __________:
Im writing to express my grave concern regarding the role of the Rwandan government in facilitating the widespread recruitment of children for use as soldiers in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC). The UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) has estimated that 15-30% of all newly recruited combatants in the DRC are children under eighteen, and a substantial number are under the age of twelve.
In areas of the eastern DRC controlled by the Congolese Rally for Democracy Goma (RCD-Goma), a rebel group supported by Rwanda, credible reports gathered by the United Nations and independent organizations such as Human Rights Watch indicate that thousands of children, some as young as ten, have been recruited by RCD-Goma and Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) soldiers. These reports indicate that children have been forcibly recruited at schools, on the roads, at markets and in homes, frequently without the knowledge of the childrens parents. In one instance, 500 children on their way to church were recruited on a single Sunday.
In military training camps, RPA soldiers have often overseen the training of child recruits. In some camps, more than 60% of new recruits are believed to be under the age of eighteen. Human Rights Watch reports that many of these children have been sent unarmed into battle, where hundreds have been killed.
In early April 2001, RCD-Goma authorities pledged to end the recruitment
of child soldiers and demobilize those in their ranks. But just a few days later at a
ceremony marking the end of a military training program at Mushaki, nearly 1800 of the
3000 graduates were reportedly children aged twelve to seventeen.
Thank you for your kind attention to these concerns. I look forward to
constructive steps by your government to help ensure the protection of
children in the Eastern DRC.
David Kenneth Waldman
To Love Children
Sample Letter To Your Senators and Representative
The Honorable _____________
Dear (Representative or Senator) _____________:
I am writing to let you know that I am pleased that the Foreign Operations Appropriations in the final budget bill directed the Administration to provide $110 million to UNICEF for Fiscal Year 2000.
This funding is essential for UNICEF to continue its work to implement the global goals of the 1990 World Summit for Children and to sustain its child survival activities that help to save the lives of seven million children every year. The U.S. Governments contribution also helps UNICEF to fight child malnutrition, to enable more children to have access to basic education, to make clean drinking water and sanitation available to more children, and to provide assistance to children at risk of exploitation, abandonment, and abuse. With the help of this funding, UNICEF can help more children to survive the threats they face to surviving early childhood, to be ready and able to attend school, and to be prepared for the challenges of early adolescence in the developing world.
The assistance we provide for child survival and UNICEF in the Foreign Operations Appropriations makes a measurable difference in saving and improving childrens lives around the world. Thank you for your efforts to support this funding this year.
Sample Letter in Support of the Convention on the
Rights of the Child
The Honorable ____________
Dear Senator _____________:
I am writing to you regarding a matter of great importance. Although the issue has not yet come before the United States Senate, I encourage you to support U.S. ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an internationally recognized agreement which establishes a comprehensive set of goals for individual nations to achieve on behalf of children. The Convention is the most widely adopted human rights treaty in history with 191 States Parties. Unfortunately, only the United States and Somalia have not ratified this celebrated agreement.
Recognizing the special vulnerability and needs of children, the Convention focuses on the "best interests" of the child. Its provisions, which repeatedly emphasize the primacy and authority of parents, are contingent on the child's age and evolving capacities. In general, the Convention calls for freedom from violence, abuse, hazardous employment, exploitation, abduction, or sale; equal treatment regardless of gender, race, or cultural background; adequate nutrition; free compulsory and primary education; adequate health care; the right to express opinions and freedom of thought in matters affecting themselves and other children; safe exposure and access to leisure, play, culture, and art.
The Convention's provisions, which will only be implemented in a manner and time-frame determined by our own government, are consistent with the principles contained in the Bill of Rights. Notably, representatives from the Reagan Administration participated in the drafting of the Convention.
Ratification of the Convention would promote a more supportive social and legislative environment for children and would be a giant step forward in making children a high national priority for the United States. Ratification would also improve the plight of children overseas by giving the United States the opportunity to participate in the international body that monitors the Convention, therefore enabling our voice to be heard on this important issue.
I'm sure you would agree that the United States needs to maintain a leadership position in the area of human rights and child protection. Since children in our nation remain at risk of child abuse, sexual exploitation, and inadequate health care and education, don't our children deserve the special protections of the Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Thank you for your consideration of my request. Please write back to me to let me know that you will support the Convention on the Rights of the Child when it comes before the Senate.
I am concerned about the growing number of children subjected to hazardous and exploitative labor practices around the world. A recent report released by the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there are some 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 working in developing countries.
I was further alarmed when I learned that this problem is not limited to developing countries. In a three-day sting operation in 1990, the U.S. Department of Labor discovered more than 11,000 children working illegally in just one area of the United States. In the same year, a survey of Mexican-American children working on New York state farms showed that almost half had worked in fields still wet with pesticides and more than a third had themselves been sprayed, either directly or indirectly. It is generally believed by many child advocates that 1.5 million underage children are working illegally on farms or in sweatshops in the United States.
The physical dangers associated with this issue transcend the moral implications. Hazardous and exploitative child labor has a profound negative impact a child's physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development. In many cases, children engaged in labor suffer poor health, a lower IQ, physical harm and abuse, low self-esteem, little or no education, and deprivation of adequate care.
As a world leader and vital importer of consumer goods, the United States has a responsibility to combat the exploitation of children in the workplace. I urge you to support or develop legislation which will utilize a combined approach of education and income-generation to curb or eliminate the use of child labor, both domestically and abroad. I hope I can rely on your leadership to help remedy this abuse of children which it too often ignored.
I appreciate your attention to my request and would like to hear back from you on this issue.
For the President of the United States:
Dear Mr. President:
I wish to express my deep concern about the global humanitarian crisis caused by antipersonnel landmines. I have learned that 26,000 people a year are injured or killed by these weapons, many of whom are civilian women and children. It has also come to my attention that there is an international treaty to ban antipersonnel landmines which has been ratified by more than 100 countries, but the United States refuses to participate.
In researching this issue I have discovered that current U.S. policy proposes that the United States sign the Mine Ban Treaty by 2006 if we can identify alternatives to stand-alone mines and mixed-mine systems. The same research also revealed that these alternatives already exist and more are in development.
Given the strength and diversity of our military power and technology, I believe that we should not delay in signing and ratifying this treaty. The year 2006 is much too late for the thousands of innocent civilians who lose their limb or life to this indiscriminate weapon each year.
More than 100 nations have indicated their willingness to give up this insidious weapon NOW and to use alternatives ALREADY in existence. Our leadership is imperative.
I therefore urge you to join the world community's stigmatization of this weapon by signing the Mine Ban Treaty and by supporting any legislative measures aimed at banning mines, demining, and assisting mine victims.
So that the children of the twenty-first century can walk the earth in safety, I urge you to make banning landmines a priority.
Thank you for your attention. I would appreciate hearing back from you on this issue.
You can send your letter to the President by E-mail.
For more information, please visit www.banmines.org.