UN urges greater protection for over 1 billion children caught in conflict

UN urges greater protection for over 1 billion children caught in conflict

Palestinian children cower in fear during Israeli military offensive in Gaza
The United Nations today called for urgent action to protect more than one billion children living in areas of the world affected by armed conflict, some 300 million of whom are under the age of five.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict today released a ten-year study of the impact of war on children, which calls on “governments, UN agencies, and civil society to urgently step up efforts to protect all children affected by conflict.”

The report is a follow up to a 1996 study on the impact of armed conflict on children delivered to the General Assembly by the then-Secretary-General’s independent expert on the subject, Graça Machel.

“The report emphasizes that war violates children’s rights: the right to life, the right to family unity, the right to health and education, the right to protection from violence and abuse, and the right to receive humanitarian assistance,” the two UN bodies said in a news release.

The in-depth, 236-page report recommends adherence to, strengthening of and monitoring existing international agreements on the protection of children, and an end to impunity for those violating them.

It also calls for commitment by all governments to access to basic services for children, including justice, as well as support for the reintegration of children separated from their families by conflict, and increased efforts to end all gender-based violence, among other recommendations.

Further, it recommends that the UN continue to include protection for children in the mandates of its peacekeeping and peacebuilding work.

“The most important challenge ahead for all actors is translating international standards into national action that can make a tangible difference in the lives of children affected by war,” the study concludes.

“Much more needs to be done to implement international standards and to ensure compliance in order to hold perpetrators accountable and to stop grave violations against children in times of war,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

“Everybody has a role to play,” she added.