Child Protection Issue Brief - Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups
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Child Protection Issue Brief - Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups

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Thousands of children continue to be recruited as “child soldiers” despite numerous commitments by countries to eradicate the practice. ...

Thousands of children continue to be recruited as “child soldiers” despite numerous commitments by countries to eradicate the practice.

Children are used in armed conflicts in numerous countries and regions around the world by both armed (government) forces and armed (rebel) groups in situations of armed conflict and insecurity.

They are exposed to tremendous violence − forced to witness it, to commit it and be subjected to it themselves. They may be abused, exploited, injured or killed as a result.

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Child Protection Issue Brief - Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups Document Transcript

  • 1. Child Protection Sheets Children Associated with Armed Forces and Groups (CAAFAGs) * A ‘child soldier’ is any person under 18 years of age who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity – including, but not limited to, combatants, cooks, porters, messengers and anyone accompanying such groups, other than family members. The definition includes girls recruited for sexual purposes and for forced marriage.The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of childrenin armed conflict (2000) raises the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities from 15 to 18(Article 1) and prohibits conscription or forced recruitment below the age of 18 (Article 2). The Statute ofthe International Criminal Court (1998) makes it a war crime to conscript or enlist children under 15into national armed forces or to use them to participate actively in hostilities in international and internalarmed conflicts. The International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 182 (1999) defines theforced and compulsory recruitment of children as a worst form of child labour, which it prohibits.Millennium Development GoalsFailing to protect children from being recruited and used by armed forces and armed groups will impede theachievement of at least three of the Millennium Development Goals: (i) universal primary education (MDG2) as children associated with armed forces and armed groups (CAAFAGs)often miss out on schooling, (ii)reducing child mortality (MDG 4) as CAAFAGs often have no access to health care and are exposed to life-threatening situations, and (iii) combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (MDG 6) as CAAFAGs aresubject to sexual and gender based violence, abuse and exploitation.KEY FACTSAn estimated 250,000 children are associated with armed forces and groups in at least 20countries around the world, although reliable figures are hard to come by. Children are used ascombatants, messengers, spies, porters, cooks, and girls in particular are forced to performsexual services. Many of these children have been recruited by force, though some may havebeen driven to join armed forces and armed groups as a result of economic, social or securitypressures. Regardless of the means by which children join armed forces or armed groups, theirassociation deprives them of their rights and their childhood.1 Moreover, the physical andpsychological impact on children and their communities is devastating.Situations of displacement, whether across international borders or within a country, renderchildren even more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and violence, including child recruitment byarmed forces and armed groups. It is estimated that there are 14.2 million refugees worldwide,of whom 41 per cent are believed to be children. On the same basis, there are 24.5 millionpeople who are internally displaced because of conflict, of whom 36 per cent are children.2KEY MESSAGESADVOCACY: The first casualty of the use and recruitment of children by armed groups and forces is the loss of innocence and childhood. It exposes them to tremendous violence - they are forced to1 Child Protection information sheet – Children Associated with Armed Groups2 PFC – 07 page 48 1
  • 2. witness it, to commit it and be subjected to it themselves. They may be abused, exploited, injured or killed as a result. Children must be protected from this threat to their well-being. The impact is devastating and requires concerted engagement and long-term support, not only to gain the release of children who remain associated with numerous armed forces and armed groups and to prevent the recruitment and use of more children, but also to ensure that children who are affected by conflict receive the support they need at the community- level to move forward with their lives as productive and peaceful members of society. Creating and enforcing stronger legal standards prohibiting the use and recruitment of children is an essential first step to bringing an end to this practice. We need to address the social factors that lead to the recruitment of children in the first place – that is whether children are forcibly recruited, join armed groups in order to escape poverty or hunger, or enlist to actively support a cause. Effective monitoring and reporting will help reveal the extent and severity of the violations. We need greater accountability for those who target, abuse or exploit children.MEDIA/PUBLIC: An estimated 250,000 children are involved in conflicts around the world. They are used as combatants, messengers, spies, porters, cooks, and girls in particular are forced to perform sexual services, depriving them of their rights and their childhood. Children often suffer the most in wartime. We need to act with urgency and commitment to help ensure that children are not only protected from the impact of war, but also from the horror of combat. We must ensure that children’s childhood is not lost.YOUTH: Children must be brought back to the classroom and communities from the battlefield. Sexual violence represents a significant threat to children in emergencies, particularly girls. Behind each child formerly associated with an armed force or group is a very personal and painful story of violence and indescribable horror.INTERNAL: The protection of children is a universal imperative, and it is critical that the reintegration of all separated children with their families, extended families or communities of origin be expedited. Reintegration requires patience and long-term commitment. We will never end recruitment if we do not address the social factors that lead to recruitment in the first place.UNICEF POLICY POSITION 2
  • 3. UNICEF advocates for the rights of all children including those affected by war. UNICEF’s work toprotect children affected by armed conflict includes advocating for the ratification of the OptionalProtocol on Children Involved in Armed Conflict and for broad support of the Paris Commitmentsand Paris Principles; supporting disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes forchildren who are used by armed forces and groups; and protecting children from violence,particularly sexual violence that targets girls. UNICEF Child Protection Strategy (adopted June 2008) Addressing any child protection violation in isolation, without considering the components of children’s protective environment, will only achieve short-term results. Thus, rather than undertaking an issue-based approach to Child Protection, UNICEF has adopted a more comprehensive strategy, which aims to reduce children’s exposure to harm by strengthening all elements of the protective environment in all settings. Five main approaches are emphasized: 1) building national child protection systems, which are comprised of the set of laws, policies, regulations and services needed across all social sectors — especially social welfare, education, health, security and justice — to support prevention and response to protection related risks; 2) supporting social change to combat forms of violence that are rooted in discriminatory and unequal societal gender dynamics, and harmful practices that may be deeply anchored within societies; 3) strengthening the protective environment in emergencies through systems building and social change, while still ensuring that focused attention is paid to urgent protection issues in crisis situations; and the two cross-cutting approaches of 4) evidence building and knowledge management and 5) convening and catalyzing agents of change to leverage results for children. UNICEF therefore considers a range of systemic factors and stresses prevention alongside mitigation to achieve lasting impact for children.UNICEF IN ACTIONSince the mid-1980s, UNICEF has played a key role in advocating for and securing the release ofchildren from armed forces and other armed groups in conflict-affected countries across theglobe, including in Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of theCongo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mozambique, Nepal, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka,Sudan and Uganda.In addition to securing the release of children from armed groups, each year UNICEF’sprogrammes assist thousands of former child soldiers to rehabilitate them, reunite them withtheir families and help them to reintegrate with their communities. Programming in this fieldrequires concerted engagement and long-term support. Moreover, support must go to children ofthe broader community to avoid creating further divisions that exist in an already dividedcommunity by only focusing on child soldiers; many other children in the broader communityhave also been affected by armed conflict in varying ways. More than 100,000 children havebeen demobilized and reintegrated with their communities since 1998.3Children associated with armed forces and groups may pass through the following cycle:recruitment & use by armed group > release or escape from armed group > transitory care (theymay also return home directly) where they receive medical & psychosocial support, peaceeducation and life skills building > family tracing & reunification (with family mediation & follow-up) > community reintegration with support to return to school, learn a vocational trade or starta small income generating activity (together with other vulnerable children identified at thecommunity level).KEY PARTNERS Office of the Special Representative on Children Affected by Armed Conflict Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict3 PFC - 6 3
  • 4.  Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers Save the Children Alliance International Rescue Committee CARE Human Rights WatchCASE STUDYUNICEF’s reintegration programme has helped many children including former children soldier,Ishmael Beah, who was removed by UNICEF from the army and completed rehabilitation inFreetown, Sierra Leone in late 1996. Ishmael was recently appointed UNICEF Advocate forChildren Affected by war. He is a youth advocate and author of the New York Times bestseller ‘ALong Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier’. He continues his advocacy work to bring attention tothe plight of child soldiers around the world and children affected by conflict more broadly,speaking on numerous occasions on behalf of UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, and the UnitedNations Secretary General’s Office for Children and Armed Conflict.Ishmael Beah – “In my role (as advocate) I have seen the depths of misery andsuffering … but I have also seen the pinnacles of potential and hope.”RESOURCES, DEBATES AND DISCUSSIONSUNICEF Resources: • UNICEF Information Sheet: Children Associated with Armed Groups. May 2006. • UNICEF Information Sheet: Protecting Children During Armed Conflict. May 2006. • The European Network for a Research Agenda on Children in Armed Conflict. UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre. • CD Rom Children Associated with Armed Forces and Groups. Selected Child Protection Resources and Materials. European Commission/UNICEF, 2005. • Guide to the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers/UNICEF, 2003 • Evaluation of the Disarmament and Demobilisation Programme for Children Associated with the Fighting Forces in Liberia. UNICEF, 2006. • Technical Note on Child Soldiers from the CD-Rom “Technical Notes : Special Considerations for Programming in Unstable Situations” (prepared by UNICEF EMOPS and PD), 2000-2001.UN Resources: • UN Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Resource Center. Contains key documents such as the The Integrated Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Standards (IDDRS), a comprehensive set of policies, guidelines and procedures covering 24 areas of DDR, 2006. • Office of the UN Secretary General Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict website. http://www.un.org/children/conflict/english/index.html Contains key documents such as the Special Representative for CAAC Reports and legal instruments.Other Resources: • Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers website. Includes the Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 which reviews trends and developments since 2001 in 196 countries. • A Fighting Chance: Guidelines and implications for programmes involving children associated with armed groups and armed forces, International Save the Children Alliance, 2004 • Returning Home Children’s perspectives on reintegration -- A case study of children abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Teso, eastern Uganda. Coalition to Stop the Use 4
  • 5. of Child Soldiers, 2008. • Fighting Back: Child and community-led strategies to avoid children’s recruitment into armed forces and groups in West Africa. International Save the Children Alliance, 2005. • Reaching the Girls: Study on Girls Associated with Armed Forces and Groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Save the Children UK, 2004. Also in French. • A Survey of Programmes on the Reintegration of Former Child Soldiers (author: William Deng, Deng). Goverment of Japan, 2001. This survey highlights the process of implementation of programs for former child soldiers in seven countries: Cambodia, Colombia, El Salvador, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Kosovo. • Children and Youth in Organised Armed Violence (COAV) Project Website. http://www.coav.org.br/publique/cgi/cgilua.exe/sys/start.htm? sid=55&UserActiveTemplate=_en. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the publication: Neither War nor Peace: International Comparisons of Children and Youth in Organised Armed Violence (author: Luke Downdey) Brazil, 2005. • Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, and Gender-based Violence in Sierra Leone. Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, New York, September 2002. • Reader on Children and Armed Conflict, CRIN, 2005International Agreements: • Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) Article 32. • Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998) Article 8. • ILO Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour (1999) • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts (126 States Parties as of February 2009) • Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War or 4th Geneva Convention (1949) • Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1) • Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II)Normative Framework: • Paris Commitments. Paris, France. 2007. Endorsed by 79 States as of February 2009. • Paris Principles. Paris, France. 2007 • Cape Town Principles and Best Practices. Cape Town, South Africa, 1997. • United Nations Security Council Resolutions:  Resolution 1612 (2005) Monitoring and reporting system on child rights violations in conflict situations in five African countries - 2006 Report  Resolution 1539 (2004)  Resolution 1460 (2003)  Resolution 1379 (2001)  Resolution 1314 (2000)  Resolution 1261 (1999)CONTACTSPernille Ironside, Child Protection Specialist in Emergencies, UNICEF HQ.Email: pironside@unicef.org 5