- Civil society organizations
- In the course of the regional consultations, field trips and research undertaken by the expert, civil society organizations have contributed an enormous range of knowledge and expertise in children and conflict issues.
Many of these organizations have been central in spreading the message of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in implementing its principles.
They have shown themselves willing and able to break new ground in developing programmes, to be daring in advocacy and to take risks in protecting and promoting the rights of children in situations of conflict. From international federations of religious groups and national development organizations to local service delivery projects, civil society organizations continue to demonstrate their critical role in promoting the rights and ensuring the well-being of children and families. Many of these groups have helped develop the issues and recommendations contained in the present report.
The role of civil society will be crucial in implementing these recommendations and in assisting Governments and international agencies to fulfil their obligations to children.
- Civil society organizations play a fundamental role in preventing conflicts, protecting children and in reconstructing conflict-affected societies. They do so through advocacy, research and information, human rights monitoring, programme interventions, training and humanitarian assistance. Because of their importance, it is essential to have lively dialogue and cooperation between and among all groups and with regional bodies, national institutions and the international community. NGOs, religious communities, cultural organizations, educators, professional and academic networks and associations and the media are encouraged to use international standards relating to the protection of children’s rights as the framework for their work, and to continue to bring these issues of concern to the attention of the international community.
- Organizations dealing specifically with women, family and communities are especially important. While women’s roles in protecting and sustaining children and families are well recognized, their participation in the economic, political and security arenas is less well acknowledged and supported. Women have been active agents of peace-building and conflict resolution at the local level and their participation at the national, regional and international levels should be increased. Governments, agencies and other civil society actors must utilize the ideas, knowledge and experience women have gained from protecting their children, maintaining families and sustaining communities, often in perilous or insecure circumstances. Women’s organizations and networks should be strengthened at all levels as one way to maximize women’s contributions to child protection, peace, social justice and human development.
- Civil society organizations are encouraged to develop capacities, at national, regional and global levels, to undertake relevant research; form alliances, networks and campaigns on key issues such as child soldiers; and to assist in creating an enabling environment for child rights activities.
- With support from the international community, the expert encourages civil society organizations to prepare an international meeting on children’s rights and armed conflict. Such a meeting might be held in September 2000, 10 years after the Convention on the Rights of the Child went into force and world leaders met at the World Summit for Children. The meeting should evaluate progress achieved globally subsequent to the tabling of the present report, as well as future ways and means to continue to improve the situation of children affected by armed conflict. While it may be thought that this is an unusual recommendation for the expert to make, it must be realized that we are dealing with often desperate circumstances for children, and the ongoing role for civil society is crucial for their rescue and well-being.
“We want a society where people are more important than things, where children are precious; a world where people can be more human, caring and gentle.”
- The present report has set forth recommendations for the protection of children during armed conflict. It has concentrated on what is practical and what is possible, but this cannot be enough. In considering the future of children, we must be daring. We must look beyond what seems immediately possible and find new ways and new solutions to shield children from the consequences of war and to directly address the conflicts themselves.
- There is a clear and overwhelming moral case for protecting all children while seeking the peaceful resolution of wars and challenging the justification for any armed conflict. That children are still being so shamefully abused is a clear indication that we have barely begun to fulfil our obligations to protect them. The immediate wounds to children, the physical injury, the sexual violence, the psychosocial distress, are affronts to each and every humanitarian impulse that inspired the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention commits States to meet a much broader range of children’s rights, to fulfil the rights to health, to education and to growth and development within caring and supportive families and communities.
- The report has shown how all rights to which children are entitled are consistently abused during armed conflict. Throwing a spotlight on such abuses is one small step towards addressing them. Exposure challenges perpetrators to face up to their actions and reminds defenders of children’s rights of the enormity of the task ahead. The only measure by which the present report can be judged is the response it draws and the action it stimulates. To some extent, both are already under way: the report has in many ways broken new ground, focusing not just on the debate or resolution that form the final product, but on a process of consultation and cooperation among Governments, international agencies, NGOs and many other elements of civil society. Above all, the report has engaged families and children in explaining their situations and asserting their rights.
- The present report’s mobilization work is ongoing. Commitments have already been made, at national and regional levels, to hold meetings that will begin to implement the report’s conclusions. Further publications are planned, including a book, a series of research papers, information kits and a popular version of the report. In the preparation of the report, there were many other issues that could not be covered in the time available, and that demand further investigation. These include: operational issues affecting the protection of children in emergencies; child-centred approaches to the prevention of conflict and to reconstruction and development; the treatment of child rights violations within existing human rights mechanisms; the role of the military in protecting child rights; child rights issues in relation to peace and security agendas; special programming for adolescents in conflict situations, and particularly child-headed households; the role of women in conflict prevention, management and resolution; community and regional approaches to humanitarian relief; and the development of effective training programmes in the area of child rights for all actors in conflict situations. In following up the present report, it is recommended that each of these issues be pursued through research and other means.
- The flagrant abuse and exploitation of children during armed conflict can and must be eliminated. For too long, we have given ground to spurious claims that the involvement of children in armed conflict is regrettable but inevitable. It is not. Children are regularly caught up in warfare as a result of conscious and deliberate decisions made by adults. We must challenge each of these decisions and we must refute the flawed political and military reasoning, the protests of impotence, and the cynical attempts to disguise child soldiers as merely the youngest “volunteers”.
- Above all else, the present report is a call to action. It is unconscionable that we so clearly and consistently see children’s rights attacked and that we fail to defend them. It is unforgivable that children are assaulted, violated, murdered and yet our conscience is not revolted nor our sense of dignity challenged. This represents a fundamental crisis of our civilization. The impact of armed conflict on children must be everyone’s concern and is everyone’s responsibility; Governments, international organizations and every element of civil society. Each one of us, each individual, each institution, each country, must initiate and support global action to protect children. Local and national strategies must strengthen and be strengthened through international mobilization.
- Let us claim children as “zones of peace”. In this way, humankind will finally declare that childhood is inviolate and that all children must be spared the pernicious effects of armed conflict. Children present us with a uniquely compelling motivation for mobilization. Universal concern for children presents new opportunities to confront the problems that cause their suffering. By focusing on children, politicians, Governments, the military and non-State entities will begin to recognize how much they destroy through armed conflict and, therefore, how little they gain. Let us take this opportunity to recapture our instinct to nourish and protect children. Let us transform our moral outrage into concrete action. Our children have a right to peace. Peace is every child’s right.
1/ Smith, Chris and D. Henrickson, “The Transformation of Warfare and Conflict in the Late-Twentieth Century”, London, Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College, 1996, p. 50.
2/ United Nations Children’s Fund, State of the World’s Children 1996, Oxford, Oxford University Press, p. 13.
3/ Brett, Rachel, Margaret McCallin and Rhonda O’Shea, “Children: The
Invisible Soldiers”, Geneva, Quaker United Nations Office and the International Catholic Child Bureau, April 1996, p. 88.
10/ Almquist, Kate, Robbie Muhumuza and David Westwood, “The Effects of Armed Conflict on Girls”, Geneva, World Vision International, May 1996, p. 21.
11/ Brett, Rachel, Margaret McCallin and Rhonda O’Shea, “Children: The
Invisible Soldiers”, Geneva, Quaker United Nations Office and the International Catholic Child Bureau, April 1996, p. 84.
12/ Ibid., p. 53.
13/ See E/CN.4/1996/52/Add.2. The Representative of the Secretary- General on Internally Displaced Persons has developed the following working definition of internally displaced persons: “Persons who have been forced to
flee their homes suddenly or unexpectedly in large numbers as a result of armed conflict, internal strife, systematic violation of human rights or natural or man-made disasters, and who are within the territory of their own country”.
14/ Article 1A, paragraph 2, of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as someone who, “owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reason of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside of the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or who, not having nationality and being outside of the country of his former habitual residence, as a result of such events, is unable or unwilling to return to it”.
15/ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, State of the World’s Refugees 1995: In Search of Solutions, New York, Oxford University Press,
1995, p. 248.
16/ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Refugee Children: Guidelines on Protection and Care. Geneva: UNHCR, 1994.
17/ See also General Assembly resolution 41/85 entitled Declaration on Social and Legal Principles relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, with Special Reference to Foster Placement and Adoption Nationally and Internationally.
18/ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sexual Violence Against Refugees: Guidelines on Prevention and Response. Geneva: UNHCR,
19/ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children: The Refugee and Displaced Children Dimension, Geneva, 1996, p. 36.
20/ Ibid., p. 53.
21/ See E/CN.4/1996/63.
22/ See E/CN.4/1996/53/Add.1.
23/ Schade, Ernst, “Experiences with regard to the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in Mozambique”, Norway, Redd Barna, 1995.
24/ Statistics from the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs.
25/ Williams, Jody, “The Protection of Children Against Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance”, Washington, D.C., Viet Nam Veterans of America Foundation, p. 1.
26/ Ibid., p. 12.
28/ Ibid., p. 13.
29/ Information obtained from the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs.
30/ Garfield, Richard, “The Impact of Economic Sanctions on the Health of Women and Children”, New York, Columbia University, April 1996, p. 9.
31/ Ibid., p. 11.
32/ Ibid., p. 13.
33/ United Nations Children’s Fund, State of the World’s Children 1995, New York, Oxford University Press, p. 20.
34/ Youth for Population Information and Communication, “Improved Quality of Life, Empowerment and Development for Street Youth in Kumasi”, Ghana, Youth for Population Information and Communication, 1996.
35/ United Nations Children’s Fund, State of the World’s Children 1996, Oxford, Oxford University Press, p. 20.
36/ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Report of the Study on the Nutritional Impact of Armed Conflicts on Children”, Rome, 1996, p. 16.
37/ Ibid., p. 18.
38/ Ibid., p. 10.
39/ Joint and Co-sponsored United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, “HIV and Infant Feeding: An Interim Statement”, Geneva, July 1996.
40/ The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the National Societies have adapted the following as a full definition of international humanitarian law: “international rules, established by treaties
or custom, which are specifically intended to solve humanitarian problems directly arising from international or non-international armed conflicts and which, for humanitarian reasons, limit the right of parties to a conflict to use the methods and means of warfare of their choice or protect persons and property that are, or may be, affected by conflict”.
41/ Committee on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/46, paras. 203-238.
42/ United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, States of Disarray: The social effects of globalization, Geneva, 1995, p. 112.
43/ Devaki Jain speaking at the Eminent Persons Group meeting for the United Nations Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, Tarrytown, New York, 9 May 1995.
44/ United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 1996, New York, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 72.
45/ See E/AC.51/1995/2.
46/ Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaking at the Eminent Persons Group meeting for the United Nations Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE REPORT ON THE IMPACT
OF ARMED CONFLICT ON CHILDREN
Adam, Hubertus and Joachim Walter et al., “Refugee Children in Industrial Countries – Reports of the Psychosocial Situation and Case Studies in the United Kingdom, Germany and South Africa”, University Clinics of Hamburg, Germany, 1996.
Almquist, Kate, Robbie Muhumuza and David Westwood, “The Effects of Armed Conflict on Girls”, Geneva, World Vision International, May 1996. The paper draws on the work of more than 15 World Vision country offices and was prepared in consultation with other international non-governmental organizations.
Balian, Hrair, “Armed Conflict in Chechnya: Its Impact on Children”, Covcas
Center for Law and Conflict Resolution, Virginia, November 1995.
Barnes, Catherine, ed., “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children from Minority and Indigenous Communities: Four Case Studies on the Experiences of
Jumma, Mayan, Roma and Somali Children”, United Kingdom, Minority Rights Group International, May 1996. Three of the case studies for this report were prepared with local non-governmental organizations.
Boyden, Jo and Sara Gibbs, “Vulnerability and Resilience: Perceptions and
Responses to Psycho-social Distress in Cambodia”, United Kingdom, May 1996. This report was prepared in cooperation with other United Nations agencies, UNICEF and UNRISD in particular, and a local working group on psychosocial vulnerability and coping strategies in Cambodia.
Boyden, Jo and Paul Ryder, “The Provision of Education to Children Affected by Armed Conflict”, April 1996.
Brett, Rachel, Margaret McCallin and Rhonda O’Shea, “Children: The Invisible
Soldiers”, Geneva, Quaker United Nations Office and the International Catholic Child Bureau, April 1996. The report is the result of the Child Soldiers Research Project of the Sub-Group on Refugee Children and Children in Armed Conflict of the Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Many of the 24 case studies were prepared by local non-governmental organizations. Ra”dda Barnen was a major funding partner of the study on the impact of armed conflict on children and will publish a more detailed study later in 1996.
Cohn, Ilene, “Verification and Protection of Children’s Rights by United Nations Human Rights Missions (MINUGUA and ONUSAL)”, Guatemala, May 1996.
Djeddah, Carol and P. M. Shah, “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children: A
Threat to Public Health”, Geneva, World Health Organization, Family and Reproductive Health and Division of Emergency and Humanitarian Action,
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Report of the Study on the Nutritional Impact of Armed Conflicts on Children”, Rome, 1996.
Garfield, Richard, “The Impact of Economic Sanctions on the Health of Women and Children”, New York, Columbia University, April 1996.
Hamilton, Carolyn and Tabatha Abu El-Haj, “Children and War: Humanitarian Law
and Children’s Rights”, United Kingdom, University of Essex, May 1996.
Hampson, Franc’oise J., “Legal Protection Afforded to Under International Humanitarian Law”, United Kingdom, University of Essex, May 1996.
Kadjar-Hamouda, Eylah, “An End to Silence: A Preliminary Study on Sexual
Violence, Abuse and Exploitation of Children Affected by Armed Conflicts”, Geneva, International Federation Terre des Hommes and Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, July 1996. This study was based on 12 case studies prepared by a number of contributing local and international nongovernmental organizations.
Kur, Dengtiel A., ed. and Larjour Consultancy, “The Impact of War on Children and the Role of Traditional Values and International Humanitarian Principles in South Sudan”, Nairobi, South Sudan Law Society, June 1996.
Marcelino, Elizabeth Protacio et al., “Community Participation in the Recovery and Reintegration of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict (The Philippine Experience)”, contribution to the Asia Pacific Regional Consultation of the study on the impact of armed conflict on children, Philippines, University of the Philippines, 1996.
Marcelino, Elizabeth Protacio, “Torture of Children in Armed Conflict”, Philippines, Center for Integrative and Development Studies, 1996.
Monan, Jim, “The Impact of Landmines on Children in Quang Tri Province – Central Viet Nam”, report prepared for the Asia Pacific Regional Consultation of the study on the impact of armed conflict on children, Hanoi, Viet Nam Veterans of America Foundation and UNICEF, 1995.
Save the Children Alliance Working Group on Children Affected by Armed Conflict and Displacement, “Promoting Psychosocial Well-Being Among Children Affected by Armed Conflict and Displacement: Principles and Approaches”, Working Paper No. 1, March 1996. The paper was based on the experience of a number of international and local professionals with over 15 Save the Children field programmes.
Smith, Chris and D. Hendrickson, “The Transformation of Warfare and Conflict in the Late-Twentieth Century”, London, Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College, 1996.
Thinh, Nguyen Tien, “The Impact of Herbicides and Defoliants on Vietnamese Children”, report prepared for the Asia Pacific Regional Consultation of the study on the impact of armed conflict on children, Hanoi, UNICEF, 1996.
United Nations Centre for Human Rights, “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children: A Survey of Existing Standards and of their Relevance and
Adequacy”, Geneva, 1996.
United Nations Development Fund for Women, “Women in Crisis Situations Resulting from Armed Conflict”, UNIFEM contribution to the study on the impact of armed conflict on children, New York, March 1996.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “Refugee and Displaced Children”, Geneva, 1996.
Williams, Jody, “The Protection of Children Against Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance”, Viet Nam Veterans of America Foundation, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, April 1996.