Accord targets use of child soldiers

Published February 7, 2007

PARIS - African, Asian and South American nations where child fighters have been used in war endorsed a new international agreement Tuesday that commits them to stopping the practice and punishing those who recruit youngsters as combatants.

Some nations hailed the text, which carries moral but no legal weight, as a breakthrough. But others said that it may be no more than empty promises and that more than words are needed to rehabilitate children mentally and physically scarred by war.

"We've lost a whole generation of children," said Liberia's deputy minister of education, Hawa Goll-Kotchi. "It's scary."

Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Sudan and Somalia - just some of the nations where children have been recruited as fighters - were among nearly 60 countries that approved the Paris Commitments, although it was not formally signed.

The U.S. government did not participate in the conference. The State Department said the administration objected to some of the wording of the documents but remained committed to its treaty obligations to prevent the use of children in combat.

At least 250,000 boys and girls are believed to still be fighting in about a dozen conflicts worldwide, according to the United Nations.