News

Children in War and Conflict

Making the world a better place for children affected by war and conflict is of great concern to the Norwegian government. As the EU, Norway is working to persuade countries and non-state actors to implement international law and to take effective measures to protect children from the effects of armed conflict.

15/02/2006 :: During the last decade at least 2 mill children have been killed as a direct result of armed conflicts. Every month 800 children are either killed or seriously wounded by land mines. About 300,000 children are used as soldiers. Thousands of children continue to be abducted to serve as soldiers, spies, messengers, servants and sexual slaves with armed forces including paramilitaries, guerrilla groups and rebels as well as government armies.

Conflict has the potential to forever change a child’s aspirations and capabilities by subjecting him and her to horrific physical, psychological, sexual and societal violence. No child emerges unscarred and unaffected from situations where killings, indiscriminate bombings, recruitment, torture, sexual exploitation, forced labour, abduction, sickness and malnutrition are a constant threat, and where educational opportunities rarely exist.

The international community condemns such violations of the rights of the child. It condemns the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. It also condemns attacks on protected places that usually have a significant presence of children, such as schools, hospitals and homes. During the last 15 years a number of regional and international legal instruments have been put in place to protect the rights and welfare of all children, including those who are affected by war.

Convention on the Rights of the Child
As the EU, Norway strongly supports this development. It is the responsibility of the State to give children the leeway and prepare grounds for them to prosper in conditions of peace and protection of human rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes a core set of basic rights for children. The convention has now gained almost universal ratification. The need to strengthen the protection of children affected by armed conflict led to the adoption of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflicts in 2000. NGOs, and in particular the Coalition to end the use of child soldiers, contributed hugely to this process.

Security Council
Several Security Council resolutions reaffirm that the authorities, rebel groups, and the private sector are responsible for safeguarding children's fundamental rights in both wartime and peacetime. They impose a number of requirements on member states, the Security Council, the UN system, financial institutions, regional organisations and not least the parties to conflicts. The Security Council must systematically integrates child protection objectives when adopting and reviewing mandates of peacekeeping operations. All peacekeeping missions should receive child-sensitive training and include child protection advisers who can safeguard the rights of children. The next step for the UN Security Council must therefore be to establish a robust international mechanism for monitoring and reporting on serious international crimes against children in all conflict settings.

Impunity
Armed conflicts across the world breads on impunity and visa versa. The establishment of the International Criminal Court and its subsequent ratification by a large number of states is one of the major achievements in the field of child protection in armed conflicts. Human security is dependent on a global ban on impunity – holding perpetrators accountable for the atrocities they commit.

Demobilisation of child soldiers
Demobilisation and reintegration of child soldiers following armed conflicts is a complex and indeed challenging task. It is decisive that DDR efforts address the special needs of child soldiers. Armies often try to cover up the presence of child combatants in their ranks. As a result, peace agreements have no provisions for this category of former soldiers despite the debt owed them by society for depriving them of opportunities for normal emotional and intellectual growth. Child combatants need to be reunited with their families if they can be traced, they need to continue their education and they need psychological counselling so they can readjust.

Norwegian efforts
Norway is well known for its extensive involvement in peacemaking and peacekeeping operations. The Norwegian experiences in these fields have been gathered in a Strategic Framework on Peacebuilding. Amongst many conclusions are several with relevance to children’s situation:
- Support special programs for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of child soldiers.
- In reconciliation efforts, help build capacity and competence among key actors and young people - the leaders of the future.
- Secure educational programs for refugees and internally displaced, so that they can be assets to their societies upon their return.
- In repatriation and reintegration programs, include special measures for children, such as schooling, tracing and reuniting families and psychosocial counselling.
- Restore schools and health services among the first priorities in reconstruction of in post-conflict situations: Provision of a minimum of public functions rapidly is essential.

Norway is striving to put children first in all strategies for development policy and co-operation. Recently the “Strategy for Children and Young People in the South” titled “Three Billion reasons” (see link) was launched. Three billion - that is as many children and young people there are in our world today. Three billion that is also the number of children and young people expected to be living in developing countries alone in 2015. In relation to children and young people in war and conflict, Norway will:
- Continue extensive economic, political and diplomatic efforts to prevent armed conflict, promote peaceful solutions and build lasting and stable peace;
- Help secure that children’s special needs and rights are included in peace negotiations, the mandates of peacekeeping operations and the planning and implementation of peace-building measures.
- Give special attention to the situation of girls and children on their own.
- Work to ensure that as many countries as possible ratify the additional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
- Increase the support to children subject to violent conflict both in terms of preventive protection and rehabilitation.
- Give particular priority to educational and recreational programs, training in non-violent conflict resolution and psychosocial rehabilitation for children, particularly to girls who have been subject to violence in armed conflict.
- Work to prevent the recruitment of children to armed forces and to promote the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of child soldiers into their local communities.
- Seek to ensure that programs for refugees and internally displaced persons safeguard children’s rights and needs, e.g. for psychological counselling services, schooling and tracing their families.

 

Send this article to a friend  
Print version

 Photo: Amnesty International Norway

© 2003/2007