Page last updated at 12:00 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

Somalia 'to ratify UN child pact'

A Somali government soldier in Mogadishu shows children a Kalashnikov rifle, file image
Somali children lead perilous lives amid brutal civil conflict

Somalia has vowed to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - a move that would leave the US as the only nation not to back the accord.

The UN, which is celebrating 20 years since the agreement was put into force, welcomed Somalia's announcement.

But analysts say the Somali government has little authority and its rulings are largely unenforceable.

The US helped draft the agreement, but conservative politicians have argued its measures impinge on sovereignty.

'Remarkable' impact

The BBC's East Africa correspondent Peter Greste says it is hard to think of a place where children are more at risk than Somalia.

The country is in its 18th year of a crippling civil conflict in which youngsters are routinely forced to fight, and child mortality is among the highest in the world.

So our correspondent says the decision to ratify the agreement will be seen as an important symbolic step.

Unicef, the UN's children's agency, welcomed the announcement and reminded the Somali government that ratifying the convention was a commitment to protect children's rights.

Ceremonies are taking place around the world to mark the 20th anniversary of the agreement.

The UN says the convention has has had a "remarkable" impact on children's lives, but warns that one billion youngsters still go without food, shelter or healthcare.

The convention guarantees children the right to life, education, and the right to play and to be protected from abuse.

It has the widest international support of any human rights treaty - ratified by 193 countries.

The US and Somalia have both signed the agreement - but neither country has ratified it.

Somalia's transitional government, which is backed by the UN and African Union, is engaged in a fierce power struggle with several Islamist militant groups.

In effect, the government controls only parts of the capital, Mogadishu.

The rest of the country is controlled by Islamist militants and warlords.

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