This latest report in our Stop the War on Children series looks in detail at one of the grave violations: children at risk of recruitment and use by armed forces or armed groups. There has been a rise in the number of verified incidents of children recruited and used by armed forces and groups, and the number of groups recruiting children has also increased. In three countries – Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen – the vast majority of children in conflict zones are deemed at risk of recruitment. This report and its key findings illustrate the war on children.
This report presents the very first quantitative analysis of the risk of sexual violence against children in conflict for the period 1990–2019. The report flags remaining data gaps, shortcomings in child-centred and gender-responsive service delivery, and impunity for these crimes. Our findings also show the urgency of the broader call for gender equality and child rights, including increased focus on girls’ empowerment initiatives, recognising that girls are disproportionately affected. Sexual violence in conflict is a weapon, whether it is used tactically or opportunistically. While children face increasing risk of sexual violence in conflict, the international community struggles to adequately address this human rights violation. The scale and gravity of sexual violence against children in armed conflict call for immediate and concerted action by the UN, states, donors, the humanitarian community, researchers and civil society to meet their obligations to ensure children are safe from harm.
The protection of children in conflict – and with it the realisation of the promises made in the declarations, conventions and statutes of the 20th century – is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century. The nature of conflict – and its impact on children – is evolving.
In today’s armed conflicts, there is often no longer a clearly demarcated battlefield: children’s homes and schools are the battlefield.
Increasingly, the brunt of armed violence and warfare is being borne by children. Children suffer in conflict in different ways to adults, partly because they are physically weaker and also because they have so much at stake – their physical, mental and psychosocial development are heavily dependent on the conditions they experience as children. Conflict affects children differently depending on a number of personal characteristics – significantly gender and age, but also disability status, ethnicity, religion and whether they live in rural or urban locations. The harm that is done to children in armed conflict is not only often more severe than that done to adults, it has longer lasting implications – for children themselves and for their societies
“Conflict-related sexual violence is now widely recognized as a war crime that is preventable and punishable. The United Nations Security Council has played an important role in the past decade
by passing successive resolutions that emphasize accountability for perpetrators and services for survivors.”
– United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres
Millions in Syria and Yemen fleeing relentless conflict, the Rohingya seeking refuge in Bangladesh, girls abducted in Nigeria, Venezuelans driven by economic collapse into Brazil — today’s crises are becoming more widespread, complex and protracted and they continue to take a disproportionate toll on women and girls. War, human rights violations, underdevelopment, climate change and natural disasters are driving people to leave their homes in unprecedented numbers.Humanitarian crises produce psychological suffering and trauma that threaten the health and well-being of affected people, and erode global efforts for peace building and recovery. In 2019, nearly 143 million people needed humanitarian aid and protection. UNFPA estimates that more than 35 million are women and girls of reproductive age.
Reveals a disparity between refugee camps and urban areas: in camps there is a greater awareness about the needs of the disabled and better services than in urban environments, where refugees with disabilities are unable to access services offered by the host government and virtually no one is providing special assistance to them. The Women’s Refugee Commission also found greater discrimination and stigmatization towards the mentally disabled population; assistance programs, when available, tend to focus on those with physical and sensory disabilities.
Children are particularly at risk of harm and ill-treatment resulting from deprivation of liberty, a situation which is clearly recognized in international standards. This Handbook sets out the relevant provisions of the human rights standards that apply to monitoring places of detention for children, and provides guidance on implementing these in practice. PRI has a long experience in assisting states to implement international standards in the field of penal reform and juvenile justice and is well-placed to provide this expert guidance.