2 May 2010Afghanistan’s Government has made important commitments to protect children from the impact of armed conflict, according to a new United Nations report. “The Government has shown political will to deal with issues related to children and armed conflict,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, told reporters at the end of her visit to the Asian nation in February. She has welcomed the appointment a high-level official in the Foreign Ministry to follow up on all Government commitments and to coordinate efforts to protect children, including the prevention of child recruitment into the armed forces and police and to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. In the new publication, which covers her 7-day mission, Ms Coomaraswamy highlights the need to keep schools and health centres from being used as polling centres for the upcoming September parliamentary elections. Last August during the presidential elections, there was a marked increase in attacks against these sites, she said. The report noted that it is difficult for the UN to engage with non-State groups committing violations against children. “It is critical that the UN communicate to them their responsibility to respect and comply with international law and to cease and desist on-going violations against children and to alert them on their responsibility to engage and to conclude action plans to bring these grave abuses to an end,” it stressed. Ms. Coomaraswamy voiced hope peace jirgas – or gathering of elders – will work to protect children. “Peace remains the only hope for the future of Afghanistan and its children,” she emphasized.