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More than 5,000 child soldiers released in 2017, but tens of thousands still being used in conflict

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“Children can only be freed from armed groups and forces through a comprehensive reintegration process, including medical and psycho-social support, as well as educational programmes and trainings,” the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, said Monday, on the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers.

“Without a strong political and financial commitment to the reintegration process, re-recruitment is unfortunately likely to happen in many conflict situations,” Ms. Gamba added.

Despite progress, boys and girls continue to be recruited, kidnapped, forced to fight or work for military groups or armed forces. The recruitment and use of children happened in all 20 country situations covered by the mandate entrusted to Ms. Gambia and her office.

Sixty-one parties to conflict out of 63 are listed for this grave violation in the 2016 Annual Report of the Secretary-General on the issue, making it by far the most widely-spread violation.

“It is our responsibility to show these children that there is hope outside of conflicts, that they can live in peace and security and be allowed to live their dreams,” Ms. Gamba, reminded.

The International Day was initiated in 2002 when the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict entered into force on February 12, 2002. This protocol, which sets the minimum age for recruitment into armed forces in conflict at 18, has been ratified by 167 States.

Is the international approach fit-for-purpose?

Meanwhile, the United Nations University (UNU) has been collaborating with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Luxembourg and Switzerland, to examine whether the international community’s approach to this scourge is effective, or requires adjustments.

The goal is to use the empirical findings of the research to inform programmatic guidance for actors in the field and to effectively disengage children from armed groups.

In their report, titled Cradled by Conflict: Child Involvement with Armed Groups in Contemporary Conflict, researchers suggest that most children do not so much “opt” into conflict as “grow” into it.

According to the report, conflict structures the information they see and the choices they make. It pulls and pushes them in many directions. Conflict erodes their relationships. It exacerbates their needs and exposes them to untold risks. Conflict shapes their identity and heightens their need to find meaning in their lives.

Ultimately, the forces of conflict narrow the paths available to children, and tragically, for many, lead to exploitation, violence, and trauma.

These findings undermine the conventional wisdom that “violent extremism” or ideology is predominantly responsible for driving children into armed groups.

The report proposes five principles for more effective international efforts to prevent and respond to child recruitment and use by armed groups: avoid programmes focused primarily on ideological factors; only incorporate ideological components where individually necessary and where they can be embedded into larger, holistic efforts to address the needs and risks of children; ensure all interventions are empirically based; rigorously assess interventions over the long term; and engage children not just as beneficiaries, but as partners.

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China to Improve Inland Waterway Transport with World Bank Support

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a US$150 million loan today to improve the capacity and reliability of inland waterway transport along the Han River in China’s Hubei Province. The project will increase connectivity between the less developed central and western regions and the more prosperous eastern provinces, and yield local and global environmental benefits by promoting a green mode of transport and producing renewable energy.

As part of the Yangtze River Economic Belt, China is relocating industries in the less developed inland regions of the middle and upper reaches of the Yangtze River. This requires an efficient multimodal transport that can move freight over long distances in a sustainable manner.

“Inland waterway transport is a cost effective and environmentally friendly mode of transport that is underexploited in China. The new project will increase inland waterway transport along the Han River and promote a shift from roads to waterways, which reduces carbon emissions from transport,” said Zhai Xiaoke, World Bank’s Senior Transport Specialist and leader of the project.

The Hubei Inland Waterway Improvement Project will construct the Yakou Navigation-Hydropower Complex in the middle reaches of the Han River. It will upgrade about 53 kilometers of waterway between the Yakou and the Cuijiaying Complex to Class III navigation standards and help enable the completed investments at other cascades to realize their full navigation capacity and economic benefits. The hydropower station will supply renewable energy to Yicheng City, which is located 16 kilometers from Yakou.

The project will also provide gravity flow irrigation to over 5,300 hectares of existing farmland. Other anticipated benefits of the project include the significant reduction of lifting costs, the improvement of flood resilience, and the creation of a better landscape for recreational tourism.

The total investment of the project is US$515.13 million; the IBRD loan will finance US$150 million and the Hubei Provincial Government will invest US$365.13 million. About 5.61 million residents along the Han River are expected to benefit from the economic development and ecological improvement brought about by the greener transport mode.

Starting with the First Inland Waterways Project in 1995, the World Bank has supported seven inland waterway projects in China, with each successive phase introducing important additionality, ranging from technical innovation to integrated development and management of multi-purpose inland waterway transport, as well as improved institutional capacity and environmental aspects.

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EU investment in gas interconnection between Bulgaria and Serbia to enhance energy security in the region

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To boost the diversification of energy sources in the Western Balkan region, reduce dependency on one dominant supplier and increase energy security, a joint commitment to implement the gas interconnector between Bulgaria and Serbia has been signed today 17 May by the Energy Minister of Bulgaria, Ms. Temenuzhka Petkova, and the Energy Minister of Serbia, Mr. Aleksandar Antić, on the occasion of the Western Balkans summit of Leaders in Sofia, Bulgaria. This interconnection will for the first time link the gas systems of Bulgaria and Serbia.

This new political impetus to the project showcases the political will of all parties. Once completed, the interconnector will constitute a major contribution to the solidarity in the Energy Union. The interconnector will allow for the transfer of between 1 and 1.8 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually from Bulgaria to Serbia and 0.15 billion cubic metres from Serbia to Bulgaria. The project forms part of the EU’s Projects of Common Interest and is a priority in the context of the Central and South Eastern Europe Energy Connectivity High Level Group (CESEC).

The European Commission is contributing notably to the Serbian side of the Bulgaria-Serbia Interconnector with a Pre-Accession grant of EUR 49.6 million. The Commission is actively facilitating progress on this priority project in close contact with both the Bulgarian and the Serbian authorities.

The new gas pipeline will provide a new supply route from Bulgaria not only to Serbia, but also to other parts of the South-East European region. This will enable access to liquefied natural gas from Greece, Azeri gas from the Southern Gas Corridor, as well as gas from Black Sea offshore production, and ensure improved integration of these sources into the EU’s internal energy market.

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ASEAN youth promotes “green” entrepreneurship at ASEAN Youth Expo 2018

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ASEAN youth leaders and youth entrepreneurs showcased their efforts and creativity in promoting environment-friendly enterprises at ASEAN Youth Expo 2018 held on 3-4 May at the Grand Sahid Jaya Hotel, Jakarta.

The expo, themed “Proliferating Youth Entrepreneurship: Tacking Environmental Issue by Being Greenpreneurs”, was hosted by the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Indonesia. It was held in conjunction with the Ninth ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Youth (SOMY IX) and the Eighth ASEAN Plus Three Senior Officials Meeting on Youth (8th SOMY+3)

The ASEAN Youth Expo is a recurring activity under the ASEAN Work Plan on Youth 2016-2020 led by Indonesia. This year’s event aimed to strengthen collaboration among the youth in ASEAN and the Plus Three Countries in addressing environmental problems through entrepreneurship.

Each country sent four best youth representatives to join the youth-organised and youth-led event which comprised workshop, seminars, discussions, and an exhibit of the products of the youth entrepreneurs. A total of 450 youth leaders and youth entrepreneurs participated in the two-day event.

Nineteen display booths were installed featuring their “green” or environment-friendly products such as biodegradable plastic bags, fresh and processed fruits from organic and integrated farming, and other environmental friendly and recycled products.

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