Child soldiers, actors and victims of armed conflict

Nazi Germany had its “Hitler Youth” (“Hitler Jugend”), Charles Taylor in Liberia practiced forced recruitment of children (see the excellent novel based on real events “Allah is not obliged ‘ Ahmadou Kourouma Prix Renaudot 2000), Saddam Hussein had his “Futuwah” (army Vanguard) children, and now a British report, entitled “children of the Islamic State”, which had been released March 9th, 2016, documents the indoctrination of children by Daesh (the “Islamic state”).

The UN Security Council adopted unanimously on June 18th 2015, the 2215 resolution (2015) condemning the abduction of children, the vast majority perpetrated by non-state actors, including terrorist organizations as Daesh and Boko Haram. It was a step to protect 250 million children living in conflict situations. The Security Council, under the presidency of France, was organized March 25th, 2015 a public debate on children in armed conflict, in the presence of the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Executive Director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake . France had then invited States that had not done so to endorse the “Principles and Paris Commitments’ to protect children against exploitation or unlawful recruitment by armed groups or forces.

The Council of Human Rights had considered on Monday 7 and Tuesday, March 8 the issue of children affected by armed conflict.

Two Special Representatives of the Secretary-General of the United Nations had presented their annual report:

  • The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the plight of children in armed conflict, Mrs Leïla Zerrougui (Algeria), presented a report (A / HRC / 31/19), which covers the period from December 2014 to December 2015. the special Representative described the activities she has conducted pursuant to its mandate and progresses realized in the fight of the grave violations against children, including efforts with the parties inside the conflict to prevent and to stop these violations. The Special Representative also studies the difficulties in strengthening the protection of children affected by armed conflict, and addresses in particular the effects of extreme violence, deprivation of liberty of children in times of conflict and displacement of children due to armed conflict. The Special Representative highlighted the progress made in the framework of the campaign “Children, not soldiers”, which aims to prevent and stop the recruitment and use of children by the national security forces, and highlights the key elements to consider in advance. Further, she discusses the developments regarding the establishment of responsibilities for grave violations against children. Finally, she makes recommendations to the Council of Human Rights and Member States to further improve the protection of children’s rights.
  • The Special Representative of the Secretary General on the issue of violence against children, Mrs. Marta Santos Pais (Portugal) asked in his report (A / HRC / 31/20) to promote respect for rights culture child and zero tolerance for violence. She rightly points out that 2016 could be the beginning of a new era in child protection through better articulation between international and local actors commitments.

These two excellent reports complement. They converge on a theme: children in detention …

It is a comprehensive approach, covering all situations, using all the instruments and mechanisms of international law, national law, regional organizations, civil society, including the private sector, research and training centers (civilian and military), opinion trainers (media artists), spiritual leaders, local communities be adopted with determination.

Many instruments of international law, universal and regional, protect children against violence: human rights, international humanitarian law, refugee rights, international criminal law, labor law. The implementation of these standards and primarily the responsibility of states, individually and collectively.

It is also the mandate of international humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Office for Human Rights, the United Nations development Programme (UNDP), including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

It is also the responsibility of civil society, international and national NGOs, religious organizations, often active in the rehabilitation and reintegration, local communities, highlighting the essential role of families in the prevention and rehabilitation of child victims of violence.

Reintegration is also the matter of education systems and the private sector to give them training and workplace. It is finally, if necessary, the task of those who will provide their physical care, psychological or psychiatric necessary.

Regarding the complexity of the task and the multitude of actors involved, it is important to have an overview and to assign the necessary resources to meet its challenges, which are not only humanitarian but also economic and security (as shown by some countries emerging from conflict, child soldiers – if they are not reintegrated into society – join the terrorist or criminal groups). We would emphasize the value of restorative justice, and recall the often irreplaceable role of religious organizations for rehabilitation, education and vocational training.

The Order of Malta in France for many years had an educational project for children held in Madagascar. Similarly the Order of Malta has a program in the Democratic Republic of Congo with Malteser International and acts for years in favor of Syrian children displaced people fleeing violence in their own country or refugees in Lebanon and Turkey.

A global campaign ( “Children, not soldiers”) was launched there are exactly two years on March 7, 2014, in New York. As noted by one of the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General, the campaign progresses. We hope that it will receive the resources and political support necessary for its implementation.

The protection of child victims of violence and armed conflict requires additional commitment of the international community in New York with the Security Council and in Geneva with the Council of Human Rights, as well as regional organizations and communities local, not forgetting civil society, the private economy, educational systems, the media, artists without forgetting the spiritual leaders.

Michel Veuthey,
Deputy Permanent Observer
Mission of the Sovereign Military Ordre of Malta to the United Nation Office at Geneva