The Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the Children in Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC) reports that there are around 250 million children living in a conflict affected nations. The report of the past ten years reveals that there are more than 170.000 grave violations verified by the United Nations.
These millions of children are deprived of their childhood and basic human rights. Despite the protection that should be afforded to them by international law, conflict places them in situations of extreme vulnerability and risks. All too often, they are drawn into hostilities, either directly as child soldiers or indirectly by being forcibly displaced, detained, killed, maimed, abducted, injured, or exploited. As a result of poverty, discrimination, or avenging past sufferings, children of any age and sex are recruited by governmental forces, paramilitaries, or rebels.
States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities. States Parties shall ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 18 years are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces.
Art 1 & 2 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict
We believe and defend that children in conflict situations should enjoy full protection and realisation of their human rights in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols (particularly the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (2002) and other relevant international standards and be enabled to develop their potentials as fully-fledged responsible members of society, especially with a view to being actors of change and peace during and post-conflict.
These various international instruments set the parameters of recruitment: recruitment into armed forces is 18 years of age while volunteer participation is 16 years of age. In addition, the recruitment of children under the age of 15 into armed forces or armed groups is considered a war crime by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Despite several decades of international attention on this issue and admittedly some progress, children continue to be subjected to the scourge of conflict in general. With the increase of conflicts nationally and across borders in many parts of the world, DCI reaffirms its commitment to advocate for the respect of the parameters settled by international law to protect children from the devastating impact of armed conflicts.
Among Defence for Children International main contributions in the field of Children in Armed Conflict:
- Graça Machel’s report of 1996, “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children”
- the UN Study on Violence against Children in 2006
- the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015
- the UN Global Study of Children Deprived of Liberty
Defence for Children International and its national section have been most active in Central African Republic to support survivors of rapes, and demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers involved in the conflict-affected regions of Bouca and Kaga-Bandoro, in Colombia where the rates of recruitment of children are increasing despite the peace agreements made, in Yemen a living hell for children with the ongoing political crisis of 2011, and in Palestine where children are brutally detained, killed and maimed in the Palestine-Israeli conflict.
In addition, DCI partnered with nongovernmental organisations like Child Rights Connect to found the Child Rights Connect Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, and was elected its co-convener in 2017 with War Child Holland, and convener as of 2020. DCI is also an associated member of the Watchlist on Children Affected by Armed Conflict.
UN GLOBAL STUDY
DCI works closely with the UN Special Representatives of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC), Ms. Virginia Gamba, concerning the UN Global Study of Children Deprived of Liberty and its chapter on children deprived of liberty in situations of armed conflict. DCI-International Secretariat advocated for the development of the UN Global Study (launched in 2019) and, alongside with other organisations, promotes its implementation.
Over the past 20 years, we have been working relentlessly for children in armed conflict at the national and regional levels.
DCI programmes dealing with children in conflict include:
-Promotion of laws and regulations in compliance with the international laws and mechanisms.
– Sensitisation campaigns and development of capacity building materials.
– Rehabilitation and reintegration in communities of children associated with armed forces.
– Collaboration with providers of social services (education, health) for survivors, especially for those who suffered gender-based violence in conflict.
– Integrating programmes with those of justice for children, violence against children, children on the move
DCI works closely with the UN Special Representatives of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC), Ms. Virginia Gamba, concerning the UN Global Study of Children Deprived of Liberty and its chapter on children deprived of liberty in situations of armed conflict. DCI–International Secretariat advocated for the development of the UN Global Study (launched in 2019) and, alongside with other organisations, promotes its implementation.
The UN Global Study states that there are at least 16 countries in the world where authorities detain children in the context of armed conflict, most often for alleged association with armed groups. Furthermore, the study reveals that there are many cases of children detained as hostages because of alleged association of their family members, religion or ethnicity, for punishment or for sexual exploitation.
During and after armed conflict, thousands of children are deprived of their liberty in child facilities, prisons and camps. Particularly, in conflicts involving non-State armed groups, designated as terrorists, governments have become more likely to detain children than to reintegrate and rehabilitate them. More info: Children deprived of liberty and UN Global Study Website
T.S started her journey as a child rights defender when she was 13, as a member of the DCI-Palestine protection teams. Since then, she is an active and highly visible member of the child-led protection team, where she monitors, documents and participates in local initiatives and accountability sessions.
During the 15th Child National Conference, she spoke to address violations to the right to education. Her overwhelming speech started with these words: “in my name and the name of all Palestinian children, I call on all of you to protect our education and schools, and to contribute to making them safe, friendly and accessible. We demand to enjoy our right to education without barriers and boarders”.
T.S also participated in preparing reports with other children on right to education and presented its findings in the conference, focusing on the freedom of expression in the education sector in the OPT. As a result of her active participation, T.S was selected by the Ministry of Social development as a representative of Palestinian children in the Arab Children’s Parliament, in 2019.
During the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2018, the State of Colombia was reviewed, DCI-Colombia submitted a civil society joint report on children in armed conflict. Eight of the recommendations on how to end child soldier recruitment were accepted and one noted.
Oral statement on behalf of Yemen –General Debate on HC EN