1. Returning home and durable solutions
  2. Long-term solutions for refugees involve voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement into new national communities. Whichever is chosen, procedures should be expeditious and carried out in the best interests of the child. The principles relating to voluntary repatriation and reintegration should also be applied to the return of internally displaced persons. These are to ensure that conditions of safety and dignity as well as national protection are available.
  3. For refugee or internally displaced families and children returning to their home communities, reintegration may be very difficult. In countries disrupted by many years of conflict, there are often tensions between returnees and residents. For children in particular, one of the most important measures is to ensure education and the opportunity to re-establish family life and productive livelihoods.
  4. Another major difficulty is that female heads of households may, on their return, lose property rights and custody of their children. Loss of property rights may also affect child-headed households. These are usually family units of siblings, children of extended family members, or even unrelated children, headed by a minor, usually an adolescent girl. In September 1995, UNICEF and the Rwandan Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs identified 1,939 children living in child-headed households. Their need for legal and social protection is especially acute; lack of land, property and inheritance rights add to their instability. Child-headed households are particularly vulnerable to exploitative labour and prostitution. Dilemmas have arisen in designing appropriate policy and programme responses, especially around the feasibility of foster arrangements. The principle of family unity, even where there are not parents, as safeguarded in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, must be the basis of all support for these children.
  5. Specific recommendations for refugee and internally displaced children
  1. The expert submits the following recommendations for refugee and internally displaced children:
  • As a priority in all emergencies, procedures should be adopted to ensure the survival and protection of unaccompanied children. Family tracing programmes should be established from the outset of assistance programmes;
  • Unaccompanied children should, wherever possible, be cared for by their extended family and community rather than in institutions. It is essential that donors support this principle. The vast majority of unaccompanied children have some family somewhere. Therefore, no adoptions should be permitted until exhaustive family tracing, including into the post-conflict phase, has been attempted;
  • Practical protection measures to prevent sexual violence, discrimination in delivery of relief materials, and the recruitment of children into armed forces must be a priority in all assistance programmes in refugee and displaced camps. Such measures should involve women and youth fully in their design, delivery and monitoring and include advocacy and social services to address abuses and violations of children’s rights;
  • The Inter-Agency Standing Committee and its Task Force on Internally Displaced Persons should evaluate the extent to which assistance and protection are being provided to internally displaced children and develop appropriate institutional frameworks to address their needs. In cooperation with the Department of Humanitarian Affairs in its role under the authority of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, and in consultation with other major humanitarian agencies, in each emergency, a lead agency should be assigned overall responsibility for the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons. In collaboration with the lead agency, UNICEF should provide leadership for the protection and assistance of internally displaced children;
  • The General Assembly, the Commission on Human Rights, as well as regional organizations, should support the work of the Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons to develop an appropriate legal framework to increase protection for internally displaced persons and to give particular emphasis to the specific concerns of children;
  • Intergovernmental bodies, UNHCR, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and other organizations should support Governments in strengthening national legislative frameworks challenging any aspect of discrimination against women, girls and child-headed households with particular respect to custody, inheritance and property rights;
  • The expert urges that UNICEF, UNHCR, FAO and ILO give urgent attention to the situation of child-headed households, and develop policy and programme guidelines to ensure their protection and care.
  1. Sexual exploitation and gender-based violence
  2. Gender-based violence: a weapon of war
  3. Rape poses a continual threat to women and girls during armed conflict, as do other forms of gender-based violence including prostitution, sexual humiliation and mutilation, trafficking and domestic violence. While abuses such as murder and torture have long been denounced as war crimes, rape has been downplayed as an unfortunate but inevitable side effect of war. Acts of gender-based violence, particularly rape, committed during armed conflicts constitute a violation of international humanitarian law. When it occurs on a massive scale or as a matter of orchestrated policy, this added dimension is recognized as it was at the most recent International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, as a crime against humanity. Recent efforts to prosecute rape as a war crime, however, have underscored the difficulties in applying international human rights law and humanitarian law.
  4. Women of all ages may be victims of violence in conflict, but adolescent girls are particularly at risk for a range of reasons, including size and vulnerability. Their vulnerability is even greater in some localities where they are considered less likely to have sexually transmitted diseases and the HIV/AIDS virus. Characteristics such as ethnicity, class, religion or nationality may be factors that determine which women or girls are subjected to violence. Women and girls are at risk in all settings whether in the home, during flight or in camps to which they have fled for safety. Children affected by gender-based violence also include those who have witnessed the rape of a family member and those who are ostracized because of a mother’s assault.
  5. Most child victims of violence and sexual abuse are girls, but boys are also affected and cases of young boys who have been raped or forced into prostitution are under-reported. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, sons and fathers have been forced to commit sexual atrocities against each other. In some cases, boys traumatized by violence have also subsequently been the perpetrators of sexual violence against girls.
  6. Rape is not incidental to conflict. It can occur on a random and uncontrolled basis due to the general disruption of social boundaries and the license granted to soldiers and militias. Most often, however, it functions like other forms of torture and is used as a tactical weapon of war to humiliate and weaken the morale of the perceived enemy. During armed conflict, rape is used to terrorize populations or to force civilians to flee.
  7. Often, gender-based violence is practised with the intent of ethnic cleansing through deliberate impregnation. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the territory of the former Yugoslavia found that this was the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Croatia. 21/ The thousands of Korean women forced to serve as military sexual slaves during the Second World War is another example of rape being used as a weapon of war. 22/
  8. Child victims of prostitution and sexual exploitation
  9. Poverty, hunger and desperation may force women and girls into prostitution, obliging them to offer sex for food or shelter, for safe conduct through the war zone or to obtain papers or other privileges for themselves and their families. Children have been trafficked from conflict situations to work in brothels in other countries, transported from Cambodia to Thailand, for example, and from Georgia to Turkey. In refugee camps in Zaire, the expert heard numerous reports of girls who had been pressured by their families to enter prostitution. Similarly, some parents among the internally displaced communities in Guatemala have been forced to prostitute their children. Other girls have done so in the hope of securing greater protection. In Colombia, for example, there have been reports of girls as young as twelve submitting themselves to paramilitary forces as a means of defending their families against other groups.
  10. With time, different forms of gender-based violence experienced during armed conflicts become institutionalized, since many of the conditions that created the violence remain unchanged. Young girls who have become victims of prostitution for armies, for example, may have no other option but to continue after the conflict has ceased. In Phnom Penh, the number of child victims of prostitution continues to escalate with an estimated 100 children sold into prostitution each month for economic reasons.
  11. Children may also become victims of prostitution following the arrival of peacekeeping forces. In Mozambique, after the signing of the peace treaty in 1992, soldiers of the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ) recruited girls aged 12 to 18 years into prostitution. After a commission of inquiry confirmed the allegations, the soldiers implicated were sent home. 23/ In 6 out of 12 country studies on sexual exploitation of children in situations of armed conflict prepared for the present report, the arrival of peacekeeping troops has been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution.
  12. Sexual exploitation has a devastating impact on physical and emotional development. Unwanted and unsafe sex is likely to lead to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS, which not only affect immediate health but also future sexual and reproductive health and mortality. In Cambodia, according to a study prepared for the present report, it is estimated that 60 to 70 per cent of the child victims of prostitution are HIV positive. Adolescent girls may nonetheless suffer in silence after the trauma of sexual exploitation; they often fear reprisals from those who attacked them or rejection by their families, not to mention the sheer personal humiliation and anguish which causes so many of them to withdraw into a shell of pain and denial. WHO has found that among rape victims the risk of suicide is high.
  13. When a pregnancy is forced, the determination about whether it will be carried to term depends on many local circumstances, including access to and the safety of abortion, community support systems and existing religious or cultural mores. In Rwanda, the expert heard conflicting reports about the numbers of pregnancies that had been terminated or brought to term, abandoned or adopted.
  14. All women and young girls who give birth during conflict must contend with the unexpected economic and psychosocial consequences of raising a child without adequate systems of support. The deterioration of public health infrastructure reduces access to reproductive health services, such as family planning, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and gynaecological complications, and pre- and post-natal care.
  15. Complications in pregnancy and delivery are especially likely for children who have children. Owing to their physical immaturity, many pregnant adolescents experience infection as a result of unsafe or incomplete abortion.

Victims of repeated rape and young girls who give birth in the absence of trained birth attendants and in unhygienic conditions are at greater risk of chronic pelvic inflammatory diseases and muscle injury that can result in incontinence. Without sensitive, timely and adequate medical care, many of these victims die. Some commit suicide because of the humiliation and embarrassment they suffer.

  1. Ending impunity
  2. The failure to denounce and prosecute wartime rape is partly a result of its mischaracterization as an assault against honour or a personal attack rather than a crime against the physical integrity of the victim. The International Tribunal established to try war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia has indicted eight people on specific charges of rape and sexual assault, despite estimates of up to 20,000 victims. This limited result underscores the difficulties in applying international human rights and humanitarian law to rape – difficulties which are reflected both in the codification and interpretation of national, and even international, law.
  3. The widespread practice of rape as an instrument of armed conflict and ethnic cleansing must be ended and its perpetrators prosecuted. National and international law must codify rape as a crime against the physical integrity of the individual, national Governments must hold those who commit rape in internal conflicts accountable and must reform their national laws to address the substantive nature of the abuse. Unwanted pregnancy resulting from forced impregnation should be recognized as a distinct harm and appropriate remedies provided.
  1. Overall procedures and mechanisms to investigate, report, prosecute and remedy gender-based violations should be reviewed and strengthened, ensuring the protection of victims who report violations. It is encouraging that some organizations are beginning to include trained and qualified personnel in international human rights monitoring, investigation and verification operations to consider issues of gender violence more systematically.
  2. As recommended in the Beijing Platform for Action, gender balance must be sought when nominating or promoting candidates for judicial and all relevant international bodies, including the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, the International Court of Justice and other bodies related to the peaceful settlement of disputes. Both legal and medical programme personnel, including medical and relief personnel, prosecutors, judges and other officials who respond to crimes of rape, forced impregnation, and other forms of gender-based violence in armed conflict, should be trained to integrate a gender-specific perspective into their work.
  3. Preventing gender-based violence
  4. Prevention of gender-based violence should include a role for the military, and United Nations peacekeepers in particular. Senior officers often have turned a blind eye to the sexual crimes of those under their command, but they must be held accountable for both their own behaviour and that of the men they supervise. The 12 case studies on gender-based violence prepared for the present report found the main perpetrators of sexual abuse and exploitation to be the armed forces of parties to a conflict, whether governmental or other actors. Military training should emphasize gender sensitivity, child rights and responsible behaviour towards women and children. Offenders must be prosecuted and punished for acts against women and children.
  5. Other preventive measures include the construction of shelter, water and sanitation facilities in camps which must be carefully designed to avoid creating opportunities for gender-based aggression against displaced women and children. In situations of armed conflict, all humanitarian assistance must include community-based psychosocial and reproductive health programmes.

Higher priority should be given to addressing the needs of children who have witnessed or been subjected to gender-based violence.

  1. Humanitarian responses have been largely inadequate. UNHCR, however, has published guidelines on prevention and response to sexual violence against refugees and guidelines on evaluation and care of victims of trauma and violence. These are important efforts to ensure that relief workers are equipped to respond to the special needs of victims of sexual violence. Some effective programmes do exist, such as the “Women Victims of Violence” project in Kenya. This was initiated by UNHCR following the very large number of rapes committed by bandits and local security personnel in the Somali refugee camps of north-eastern Kenya. During a field visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the expert visited a number of community-based programmes, such as “Bosfam” and “Bospo” that provide support for women, including victims of sexual violence, in regaining control over their lives through small-scale income-generating activities. Such programmes have been few and far between, however. To be effective, they should provide comprehensive services including economic assistance and psychosocial support, and they should not overtly identify the women as victims. If such initiatives are to succeed, the local community must be involved in their design and implementation.
  1. Specific recommendations on sexual exploitation and gender-based violence
  2. The expert submits the following recommendations on sexual exploitation and gender-based violence:
  • All humanitarian responses in conflict situations must emphasize the special reproductive health needs of women and girls including access to family planning services, pregnancy as a result of rape, sexual mutilation, childbirth at an early age or infection with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Equally important are the psychosocial needs of mothers who have been subjected to gender-based violence and who need help in order to foster the conditions necessary for the healthy development of their children;
  • All military personnel, including peacekeeping personnel, should receive instruction on their responsibilities towards civilian communities and particularly towards women and children as part of their training;
  • Clear and easily accessible systems should be established for reporting on sexual abuse within both military and civilian populations;
  • The treatment of rape as a war crime must be clarified, pursued within military and civilian populations, and punished accordingly.

Appropriate legal and rehabilitative remedies must be made available to reflect the nature of the crime and its harm;

  • Refugee and displaced persons camps should be so designed as to improve security for women and girls. Women should also be involved in all aspects of camp administration but especially in organizing distribution and security systems. Increased numbers of female personnel should be deployed to the field as protection officers and counsellors;
  • In every conflict, support programmes should be established for victims of sexual abuse and gender-based violence. These should offer confidential counselling on a wide range of issues, including the rights of victims. They should also provide educational activities and skills training.
  1. Landmines and unexploded ordnance
  2. The spread of light weapons of all kinds has caused untold suffering to millions of children caught up in armed conflict. Many of these weapons have a devastating impact not only during the period of conflict, but for decades thereafter. Landmines and unexploded ordnance probably pose the most insidious and persistent danger. Today, children in at least 68 countries live amid the contamination of more than 110 million landmines. Added to this number are millions of items of unexploded ordnance, bombs, shells and grenades that failed to detonate on impact. Like landmines, unexploded ordnance are weapons deemed to have indiscriminate effects, triggered by innocent and unsuspecting passers-by. 24/
  3. Landmines have been employed in most conflicts since the Second World War, and particularly in internal conflicts. Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia alone have a combined total of at least 28 million landmines, as well as 85 per cent of the world’s landmine casualties. Angola, with an estimated 10 million landmines, has an amputee population of 70,000, of whom 8,000 are children. African children live on the continent most plagued by landmines – there are as many as 37 million mines in at least 19 African countries – but all continents are affected to some extent. 25/
  4. The threat to children
  5. Landmines and unexploded ordnance pose a particular danger for children, especially because children are naturally curious and likely to pick up strange objects they come across. Devices like the “butterfly” mines used extensively by the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in Afghanistan are coloured bright green and have two “wings”. Although they were not designed to look like toys, such devices can still hold a deadly attraction for children. Children are also more vulnerable to the danger of landmines than adults because they may not recognize or be able to read warning signs. Even if they are aware of mines, small children may be less able than adults to spot them:  a mine laid in grass and clearly visible to an adult may be less so to a small child, whose perspective is two or three feet lower.
  1. The risk to children is further compounded by the way in which mines and unexploded ordnance become a part of daily life. Children may become so familiar with mines that they forget they are lethal weapons. In northern Iraq, children have been known to use mines as wheels for toy trucks, and in Cambodia children have been seen playing “boules” with B40 anti-personnel mines, even beginning their own collections of landmines. 26/ The dangers from unexploded ordnance are very similar, and in many places these weapons are much more numerous. During her field visit to Cambodia, the expert noted that civilians increasingly use mines and other devices for daily activities such as fishing, guarding private property and even settling domestic disputes. Such familiarity dulls awareness of the dangers of these devices.
  2. The victims of mines and unexploded ordnance tend to be concentrated among the poorest sectors of society, where people face danger every day when cultivating their fields, herding their animals or searching for firewood. In many cultures, these are the very tasks carried out by children. In Viet Nam, for example, it is young children who look after the family water buffalo, which often roam freely in areas where the ground has been mined or contains unexploded bombs and shells. Many poor children also work as scavengers. In a village in Mozambique in 1995, several children were collecting scrap metal to sell in the local market. When they took it to the market and placed it on a scale, the metal exploded, killing 11 children. 27/ Child soldiers are particularly vulnerable, as they are often the personnel used to explore known minefields. In Cambodia, a survey of mine victims in military hospitals found that 43 per cent had been recruited as soldiers between the ages of 10 and 16.
  3. A mine explosion is likely to cause greater damage to the body of a child than to that of an adult. Anti-personnel mines are designed not to kill, but to maim, yet even the smallest mine explosion can be lethal for a child. In Cambodia, an average 20 per cent of all children injured by mines and unexploded ordnance die from their injuries. 28/ For the children who survive, the medical problems related to amputation are often severe, as the limb of a growing child grows faster than the surrounding tissue and requires repeated amputation. As they grow, children also need new prostheses regularly. For young children, this can mean a new prosthesis every six months. The extended medical treatment and psychosocial support that mine injuries demand make them extremely expensive for the families of the victims and for society in general. Girls are even less likely than boys to receive special medical attention and prostheses. The burden and the expense of rehabilitative care should be considered in recovery and social reintegration programmes.
  4. Even where children themselves are not the victims, landmines and unexploded ordnance have an overwhelming impact on their lives. Families already living on the edge of survival are often financially devastated by mine incidents. Surveys in Cambodia have revealed that 61 per cent of families with a mine victim to support were in debt because of the accident. Additionally, when a parent is a mine casualty, the lost ability to work can substantially weaken the care and protection available to children. A field survey in Afghanistan reported that unemployment for adult males rose from 6 to 52 per cent as a result of landmine accidents.
  5. Indiscriminate weapons also strike at a country’s reconstruction and development. Roads and footpaths strewn with landmines impede the safe repatriation and return of refugee and displaced children and their families. Land seeded with millions of landmines and unexploded ordnance is unfit for sowing productive crops, and the threat of mines inhibits the circulation of goods and services.
  6. Mine clearance, mine awareness and rehabilitation
  7. Protecting children and other civilians from landmines and unexploded ordnance demands rapid progress in four major areas:  a ban on landmines; mine clearance that will eventually remove the problem; mine awareness programmes that help children to avoid injury; and rehabilitation programmes that help children recover. The Department of Humanitarian Affairs of the Secretariat has advanced the relatively new concept of humanitarian mine clearance. The United Nations considers that an area meets safety standards when it is

99.9 per cent free of landmines. Clearing landmines is a long and expensive business:  each one takes 100 times longer to remove than to deploy and a weapon that costs $3 or less to manufacture may eventually cost $1,000 to remove. The countries most contaminated by mines are generally among the world’s poorest, so there is little prospect that they can afford to finance their own de-mining programmes. Only Kuwait has been able to devote the necessary resources to mine clearance.

  1. The United Nations is responding to this problem with the Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance. To date, countries have pledged $22 million of the United Nations goal of $75 million, and so far

$19.5 million has been received. 29/ The Department of Humanitarian Affairs, as the focal point for mine-related activities within the United Nations system, is developing the Voluntary Trust Fund and de-mining stand-by capacity as quick response instruments to develop national programmes. Protection from landmines is a shared international responsibility and the costs should be borne by the companies and countries that have profited from the manufacture and sale of mines.

  1. Far greater attention must be paid to increasing national capacity to address the consequences of landmines and unexploded ordnance. This requires sustainable financial support for mine-clearance teams and medical rehabilitation programmes. It is essential to establish and support local mechanisms for coordination, the open sharing of information and the development of consistent mine awareness messages. Commercial teams often clear only the major roads and generally follow the priorities of central Government or of businesses such as airports and commercial transportation routes. Too often, children’s needs are ignored and the areas around schools or rural footpaths are left uncleared. Mine clearance should be adapted to local knowledge and priorities. In the area of medical rehabilitation, the development of local capacity for prosthetics production is essential. This can provide economic opportunity for victims and contribute to their psychosocial well being.
  2. Mine awareness programmes help people to recognize landmines and suspected mined areas and explain what to do when a mine is discovered or an incident occurs. These programmes have been undertaken in a number of countries, but for children, they are not as effective as they need to be, making relatively little use of techniques that are interactive or tailored to the needs of different age groups. Often, mine awareness teams simply enter a community, present information and leave – an approach that does not address the behavioural changes an affected community must make to prevent injury.

Recent programmes have been more carefully prepared, not merely telling participants about the issues, but trying to involve them in the learning process. For example, a new programme developed by Save the Children Fund – US for Kabul (a city with more than 1 million mines) emphasizes participants’ involvement, child-to-child approaches, multi-media presentations, role playing, survivors as educators and the creation of safe play areas.

  1. The need for an international ban
  2. The immense impact of landmines and the damage they will continue to cause for many years to come has stimulated an international campaign to ban their manufacture and use. In 1992, a global coalition of non-governmental organizations formed the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and there has been considerable progress since. The Secretary-General has strongly advocated an end to the landmine scourge and, in resolution 49/75 D, the General Assembly has called for their eventual elimination. UNICEF and UNHCR have adopted stringent policies against doing any business with companies or subsidiaries of companies that produce or sell anti-personnel mines. Some 41 countries have now stated that they are in favour of banning landmines and some have already taken concrete steps to ban the use, production and trade of the weapons and have begun to destroy their stocks. The expert urges that all States follow the lead of countries like Belgium and enact comprehensive national legislation to ban landmines.
  1. Many legal experts believe that landmines are already an illegal weapon under international law and should be prohibited because they counter two basic principles of humanitarian law. First, the principle of distinction holds that attacks may only be directed against military objectives.

Landmines do not distinguish between military and civilian targets. Second, the principle of unnecessary suffering holds that, even if an attack is directed against a legitimate military objective, the attack is not lawful if it can result in excessive injury or suffering to civilians. Thus, the military utility of a weapon must outweigh its impact on civil society, and the long destructive life of a landmine is clearly greater than any immediate utility. These principles apply to all States as part of customary international law.

  1. The use of landmines is specifically regulated by Protocol II of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects. Worldwide pressure resulting from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines led to a call for a review conference on the Convention, which took place between September 1995 and May 1996. While some progress was made in revising Protocol II to the Convention, this legal protection falls far short of even the bare minimum needed to protect children and their families. The expert hopes that the next conference in 2001 will agree on a total ban, at least on anti-personnel mines.
  2. Specific recommendations on landmines and unexploded ordnance
  3. The expert submits the following recommendations on landmines and unexploded ordnance:
  • Governments should immediately enact comprehensive national legislation to ban the production, use, trade and stockpiling of landmines. Governments should support the campaign for a worldwide ban, at least on anti-personnel mines, at the next review conference to the Convention on Conventional Weapons in 2001. In order to reduce the threat of unexploded ordnance, the conference should also make concrete proposals to address the impact on children of other conventional weapons, such as cluster bombs and small-calibre weapons;
  • In reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, States Parties, where relevant, should report on progress in enacting comprehensive legislation. Furthermore, they should report on measures being taken in mine clearance and in programmes to promote children’s awareness of landmines and to rehabilitate those who have been injured;
  • Humanitarian mine clearance should be established as a part of all peace agreements, incorporating strategies to develop national capacity for mine clearance;
  • Governments must provide sufficient resources to support long-term humanitarian mine clearance. Such funding should be provided bilaterally and through international assistance such as the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance;
  • Countries and companies that have profited from the sale of mines should be especially required to contribute to funds designated for humanitarian mine clearance and mine awareness programmes. Measures to reduce the proliferation and trade of landmines, such as consumer boycotts, should be explored;
  • A technical workshop on mine awareness should be held by the Department of Humanitarian Affairs, UNICEF, UNESCO and involved NGOs. The purpose would be to assess lessons learned, promote best practice in child-focused mine awareness programmes and improve coordination, assessment and evaluation.