Unicef urges a global ban on the use of children in conflicts

 

Share
Related Topics

Conflict is like a terrible fire that ceases and flares, spreading through communities and across borders, making it very difficult to calculate the numbers of children affected or associated with armed forces and armed groups. Unicef estimates that thousands of girls and boys in more than 20 countries around the world are taking part in hostilities.

Protecting children from harm is at the heart of Unicef’s mandate and has been since its inception more than 60 years ago. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guides Unicef’s work, specifies that every child, everywhere, has the right to survive, grow and be protected from all forms of violence. But children who participate in conflict are exposed to egregious and sustained violence in all its forms – as witnesses, victims and forced participants.

They may be used as combatants, spies, messengers, porters and cooks, and for forced sexual purposes. Many are abducted or forcibly recruited, while others are driven by poverty, abuse and discrimination, or revenge for violence enacted against them or their families. In the most extreme instances children are used on the frontlines of battle and may be forced to commit terrible atrocities against their own families, friends and communities.

The brutalising impact on their mental and physical well-being not only breaches the most fundamental human rights, it also represents a grave threat to durable peace and sustainable development, as cultures and cycles of violence are perpetuated, with the consequences passed down from one generation to the next.

The recruitment and use of children are grave violations under international law and it is a war crime to conscript, enlist or use children under 15 in armed conflicts. Unicef believes any child under the age of 18 should be protected from the dangers of associating with armed groups and promotes an optional protocol within the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, a principle which 151 State parties have so far agreed to ratify.

Unicef, together with partners, is ever increasing its efforts to prevent and end all recruitment and use of children for armed conflict and sexual violence and is working together with partners and Governments to make sure that children are safely reunited with their families and communities and given counselling, life skills and vocational training to help them cope with the terrible realities they have experienced, to begin life anew and enable them to earn money in a safe and sustainable way. In 2012, more than 5,300 children associated with armed forces or armed groups were released and reintegrated in nine countries with the help of Unicef and partners.

Unicef is also committed to holding accountable those responsible for the abduction and forced recruitment, whether government forces or armed opposition groups. This means that the violations of the laws of war that affect children need to be properly monitored and reported, so that perpetrators can be investigated and prosecuted under national or international law.

While opinion can be divided, Unicef holds that children who are unlawfully recruited by armed groups must be primarily considered as victims of violations against international law and not as alleged perpetrators and treated in accordance with international standards for juvenile justice with alternatives to judicial proceedings sought where possible.

But the issue of child soldiers must also be tackled in the wider context of all forms of violence against children. Violence destroys lives – in every country and at all levels of society, and when it occurs, the physical wounds or bruises may disappear but the mental scars take longer to heal, if they ever do.

At no time or place is violence against children ever acceptable or can it be justified.  If no one talks about violence, or calls for action against it, perpetrators believe their actions are tolerated and victims believe that there can be no end to the misery and horror.

Laws must be enacted and enforced and social norms that promote the continuation of violence must be changed. Governments cannot do the job alone. It is up to each and every one of us to speak out and to help drive change.

Unicef is enormously grateful for the support received, which enables us to negotiate for the release of children from armed forces and armed groups. Since 1998 we have secured the release of more than 100,000 children.

Children received psychosocial support, health care and other essential services. They are reunited with their families and communities, and provided with educational opportunities and life skills to help them in their return to civilian life. But even then our work is not complete and we cannot act alone. We need governments, civil society partners, communities and individuals to join in our efforts to protect children and prevent them from the atrocities of war.

Susan Bissell, Unicef’s Global Chief of Child Protection on violence against children

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

.NET Developer - .NET & SharePoint - Coventry

£35000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + bonus: Ampersand Consulting LLP: .NET a...

English Secondary Teacher

£110 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cambridge: English Teacher needed for ...

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to 'adapt and survive'

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?