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Impact of armed conflict on children
Note by the Secretary-General

  1. The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit herewith to the General Assembly the study on the impact of armed conflict on children, prepared by Ms. Grac’a Machel, the expert appointed by him on 8 June 1994, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 48/157 of 20 December 1993. The study was undertaken with the support of the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and the United Nations Children’s Fund, as provided for in the resolution, and is the fruit of extensive and wide-ranging consultations.
  2. In the study, the expert proposes the elements of a comprehensive agenda for action by Member States and the international community to improve the protection and care of children in conflict situations, and to prevent these conflicts from occurring. The study demonstrates the centrality of these issues to the international human rights, peace and security and development agendas, and should serve to promote urgent and resolute action on the part of the international community to redress the plight of children affected by armed conflicts.
  3. The Secretary-General trusts that the General Assembly will give thorough consideration to this study and to the mechanisms required for following up and monitoring the implementation of the conclusions and recommendations it will adopt on this important subject.


Report of the expert of the Secretary-General, Ms. Grac’a Machel, submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 48/157



(* Annexes I-VIII are contained in A/51/306/Add.1.)

  1. Statement of the First Regional Consultation on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children in the Horn, Eastern, Central and Southern Africa (Addis Ababa, 17-19 April 1995)
  2. Statement of the Second Regional Consultation on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children in the Arab Region (Cairo,


27-29 August 1995)

  • Statement of the Third Regional Consultation on the Impact of

Armed Conflict on Children in West and Central Africa (Abidjan, 7-10 November 1995)

  1. Statement of the Fourth Regional Consultation on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children in Asia and the Pacific (Manila,

13-15 March 1996)

  1. Statement of the Fifth Regional Consultation on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children in Latin America and the Caribbean (Santafe’ de Bogota’, 17-19 April 1996)
  2. Statement of the Sixth Regional Consultation on the Impact of

Armed Conflict on Children in Europe (Florence, 10-12 June 1996)

  • Statement adopted by the World Conference on Religion and Peace: Children and Violent Conflict
  • Selected bibliography on children and armed conflict


  1. The attack on children
  2. Millions of children are caught up in conflicts in which they are not merely bystanders, but targets. Some fall victim to a general onslaught against civilians; others die as part of a calculated genocide. Still other children suffer the effects of sexual violence or the multiple deprivations of armed conflict that expose them to hunger or disease. Just as shocking, thousands of young people are cynically exploited as combatants.
  3. In 1995, 30 major armed conflicts raged in different locations around

the world. 1/ All of them took place within States, between factions split along ethnic, religious or cultural lines. The conflicts destroyed crops, places of worship and schools. Nothing was spared, held sacred or protected – not children, families or communities. In the past decade, an estimated two million children have been killed in armed conflict. Three times as many have been seriously injured or permanently disabled, many of them maimed by landmines. 2/ Countless others have been forced to witness or even to take part in horrifying acts of violence.

  1. These statistics are shocking enough, but more chilling is the

conclusion to be drawn from them:  more and more of the world is being sucked

into a desolate moral vacuum. This is a space devoid of the most basic human values; a space in which children are slaughtered, raped, and maimed; a space in which children are exploited as soldiers; a space in which children are starved and exposed to extreme brutality. Such unregulated terror and violence speak of deliberate victimization. There are few further depths to which humanity can sink.

  1. The lack of control and the sense of dislocation and chaos that characterize contemporary armed conflicts can be attributed to many different factors. Some observers point to cataclysmic political upheavals and struggles for control over resources in the face of widespread poverty and economic disarray. Others see the callousness of modern warfare as a natural outcome of the social revolutions that have torn traditional societies apart. The latter analysts point as proof to many African societies that have always

had strong martial cultures. While fierce in battle, the rules and customs of those societies, only a few generations ago, made it taboo to attack women and children.

  1. Whatever the causes of modern-day brutality towards children, the time has come to call a halt. The present report exposes the extent of the problem and proposes many practical ways to pull back from the brink. Its most fundamental demand is that children simply have no part in warfare. The international community must denounce this attack on children for what it is – intolerable and unacceptable.
  2. Children can help. In a world of diversity and disparity, children are

a unifying force capable of bringing people to common ethical grounds. Children’s needs and aspirations cut across all ideologies and cultures. The needs of all children are the same: nutritious food, adequate health care, a decent education, shelter and a secure and loving family. Children are both our reason to struggle to eliminate the worst aspects of warfare, and our best hope for succeeding at it.

  1. Concern for children has brought us to a common standard around which to rally. In the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the world has a unique instrument that almost every country has ratified. The single most important resolve that the world could make would be to transform universal ratification of this Convention into universal reality.
  2. It was this challenge, of turning good intentions into real change for children, that led the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in 1993 to recommend to the General Assembly, in accordance with article 45 (c) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, that it request the Secretary- General to undertake a comprehensive study on the impact of armed conflict on children.
  3. Course of the study and its methodology
  4. At its forty-eighth session, the General Assembly adopted resolution

48/157, entitled “Protection of children affected by armed conflicts”, in which it requested the Secretary-General to appoint an expert to undertake a comprehensive study with the support of the Centre for Human Rights and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The expert was asked to make recommendations in five areas:   (1) the participation of children in armed

conflict; (2) the reinforcement of preventive measures; (3) the relevance and adequacy of existing standards; (4) the measures required to improve the protection of children affected by armed conflict; and (5) the actions needed to promote the physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of children affected by armed conflict.

  1. In accordance with the resolution, the expert submitted progress reports to the forty-ninth and fiftieth sessions of the General Assembly (A/49/643 and A/50/537). The expert, Ms. Grac’a Machel, hereby transmits her final report on the impact of armed conflict on children, pursuant to resolution 48/157.

The report sets out the findings and recommendations of the expert, who used the Convention on the Rights of the Child throughout her work as a guiding source of operative principles and standards. The Convention on the Rights of the Child represents a new, multidisciplinary approach to protecting children.

It demonstrates the interdependence of all children’s rights, and the relevance of those rights to the activities of a whole host of actors at all levels. In accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, this report uses the term “child” to include everyone under the age of 18.

  1. In the process of her work, the expert identified a number of particular concerns in addition to those identified in paragraph nine of resolution

48/157, including:   the changing patterns of conflict; specific impacts on

girls and the children of minority and indigenous groups; economic embargoes; rape and other forms of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation; torture; the inadequate provision of education, health and nutrition and psychosocial programmes; the protection and care of refugee and internally displaced children and other children at particular risk; and the inadequate implementation of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Accordingly, with the cooperation of relevant inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations and individual experts, a programme of research into these issues was undertaken through the preparation of twenty-five thematic papers and field-based case studies.

  1. Six regional consultations were held to determine regional priorities

relating to children in armed conflict and to draw these issues to the attention of Governments, policy makers and opinion leaders. The following consultations took place: First Regional Consultation on the Impact of Armed

Conflict on Children in the Horn, Eastern, Central and Southern Africa:  Addis

Ababa, 17-19 April 1995 (co-convened with the Economic Commission for Africa); Second Regional Consultation on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children in the Arab Region:Cairo, August 1995 (co-convened with the Economic and Social

Commission for Western Asia and UNICEF); Third Regional Consultation on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children in West and Central Africa: Abidjan,

7-10 November 1995 (co-convened with the African Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Africa and UNICEF); Fourth Regional Consultation on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children in Asia and the Pacific: Manila,

13-15 March 1996 (co-convened with UNICEF); Fifth Regional Consultation on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children in Latin America and the Caribbean: Bogota, 17-19 April 1996 (co-convened with the Government of Colombia, Save the Children UK, the Fundacio’n para la Educacio’n Superior de Colombia, and UNICEF); and Sixth Regional Consultation on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children in Europe: Florence, Italy, 10-12 June 1996 (co-convened with the

Government of Italy, the Italian National Committee for UNICEF, the Istituto’ degli Innocenti and UNICEF International Child Development Centre).

  1. The consultations included Governments, military authorities and legal experts. They also involved human rights organizations, the media, religious organizations, eminent leaders from civil society and women and children directly involved in armed conflicts.
  2. The expert personally conducted field visits to areas affected by armed conflicts. Visits were made to Angola, Cambodia, Colombia, Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Rwanda (and refugee camps in Zaire and the United Republic of Tanzania), Sierra Leone and various places in the former Yugoslavia. During these visits, she met with Government representatives, non-governmental organizations, community organizations, women’s organizations, religious groups, agencies, national institutions and other interested parties, as well as with children and their families. This direct contact has helped ensure that the present report and its recommendations are firmly based on conditions and priorities within countries. It also ensures that the report reflects not only the experience of those most involved in the care and protection of children, but also the immediate concerns of the affected families and children themselves.
  3. The expert received guidance from a group of eminent persons

representing a variety of political, religious and cultural backgrounds. The members of the group are:Belisario Betancur (Colombia), Francis Deng

(Sudan), Marian Wright Edelman (United States of America), Devaki Jain (India), Julius K. Nyerere (United Republic of Tanzania), Lisbet Palme (Sweden), Wole Soyinka (Nigeria) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (South Africa).

In addition, the expert received analysis and guidance from an advisory group of technical experts. The members of the advisory group include: Thomas

Hammarberg, Chair (Sweden), Philip Alston (Australia), Rachel Brett (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Victoria Brittain (United

Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), Maricela Daniel (Mexico), Helena Gezelius (Sweden), Jim Himes (United States of America), Duong Quynh Hoa (Viet Nam), Elizabeth Jareg (Norway), Helga Klein (United States of America), Salim Lone (Kenya), Jacques Moreillon (Switzerland), Vitit Muntarbhorn (Thailand), Olara A. Otunnu (Uganda), Sadig Rasheed (Sudan), Everett Ressler (United States of America), Jane Schaller (United States of America), Anne Skatvedt (Norway) and Jody Williams (United States of America).

The special advisers are:  Ibrahima Fall (Senegal), Kimberly Gamble-Payne

(United States of America), Stephen Lewis (Canada) and Marta Santos Pais (Portugal).

  1. In all of her undertakings, the expert has enjoyed widespread support

from Governments, regional bodies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as from United Nations bodies, especially the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Centre for Human Rights and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Inter-agency consultations convened periodically in Geneva and New York were attended by representatives of the following major international bodies:                                         the Centre for

Human Rights, the Department of Humanitarian Affairs, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and their National Societies, the International Labour Organization (ILO), UNICEF, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UNHCR, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

  1. Working groups on children and armed conflict of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), particularly the Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict of the New York-based NGO Committee on UNICEF and the SubGroup on Refugee Children and Children in Armed Conflict of the Geneva-based NGO Group on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, provided substantial contributions to the expert’s research and mobilization activities. Other international, regional (including the Forum of African Voluntary Development Organizations and the African Network on Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect) and national NGOs also contributed to these activities.
  2. Seminars were convened on the role of religious communities in protecting children in situations of armed conflict (in Geneva, in cooperation with the World Conference on Religion and Peace) and on the impact of low intensity conflicts on children (in Belfast, in cooperation with Save the Children Fund-UK and Ra”dda Barnen (Save the Children Fund-Sweden)). A third seminar was held on landmines, child soldiers and rehabilitation (convened in Stockholm in cooperation with the Swedish National Committee for UNICEF, the Swedish Foreign Policy Office, Ra”dda Barnen, the Swedish Red Cross and other Swedish NGOs).
  3. Beyond collecting information, the expert undertook a widespread and unusual process of sensitization and mobilization. This facilitated the development of new networks and coalitions organized both nationally and regionally, and helped to place the concerns addressed in the present report on political and development agendas. The collaborative nature of this undertaking created an opportunity to develop unique new partnerships across disciplines and interest groups. For example, following the First Regional Consultation in Addis Ababa, a new alliance of children’s NGOs was set up to coordinate action on child rights and development in eastern, central and southern Africa; following the Third Regional Consultation in Abidjan, a regional initiative was developed to promote the role of women in peace-building, and another proposal is currently being negotiated to provide child rights and protection training for African Chiefs of Defence Staffs; following the Second Regional Consultation in Cairo, a selected bibliography

on children and war in the Arab region was published; and following the field visit to Cambodia, UNICEF was requested to assist the Ministry of Social Affairs in training its personnel in the concrete implementation of the rights of children.

  1. The expert wishes to acknowledge the considerable support and financial contributions received from national committees for UNICEF and from Redd Barna (Save the Children Fund-Norway), without which this work would not have been possible. Specifically, she wishes to thank the UNICEF National Committees of Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America.
  2. While the present report is formally submitted for the consideration of the United Nations General Assembly and its Member States, it is also addressed to regional institutions, United Nations bodies, specialized agencies and other competent bodies, including NGOs, relevant special rapporteurs and working groups, intergovernmental bodies and civil society.