Tag: <span>Children</span>

Child Soldiers Appeals

The Use of Child Soldiers: The Children of Conflict.

Featured Image: A child soldier of the Liberian rebel group LURD at the Po River (2004). By United States Army Africa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

12 February is the United Nations sponsored International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers.  Efforts to counter the use of persons under 18 years of age in the military began with non-governmental efforts in 1979 – which the U.N. had proclaimed as “The International Year of the Child”. 

Nicolas Hulot, who later became well known in France for his reporting on ecology and the defence of the environment, had written “Ces Enfants qui souffrent” (Paris: Sipa-Press, 1978).  He highlighted children dying from malnutrition, disease, and injury caused by wars and natural disasters.  Hulot’s cry of conscience showed children fighting and being trained to fight in a number of countries in different parts of the world.

Nicolas Hulot

Nicolas Hulot at the Fête de l’Humanité 2008. By Olivier « toutoune25 » Tétard, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.

Concern with the welfare of children has been an inter-governmental concern going back to the League of Nations days.  However, the use of child soldiers was rarely mentioned as the professional military prior to the Second World War had persons over 18, usually the youngest were in their 20s.  However, the German Nazi used very young men in the last days of the war to try to limit the impact of the Allied forces within Germany.  There were a number of films and books which told of their efforts.  However, attention did not carry on once the Nazi forces were defeated.

Building on the NGO efforts in 1979 during the International Year of the Child, in the period 1993-1996, there was a U.N. study on the “Impact of Armed Conflict on Children” led by Ms Graca Machel, later the wife of Nelson Mandela.  She wrote:

“For too long, the consequences for children have been tolerated as an unfortunate but inevitable side effect of war.  In reality, children have increasingly become targets and not incidental victims, as a result of conscious and deliberate decisions made by adults.”

League of Nations

 Image: Stanley Bruce chairing the League of Nations Council in 1936. Joachim von Ribbentrop is addressing the council. By Commonwealth of Australia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The League of Nations and its unused Peace Army.

As a result of the Graca Machel study in 1997, the U.N. General Assembly named Ambassador Olara A. Otunnu as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  He placed an emphasis on the moral vacuum in which all restraints have been eroded and discarded – a world in which children are no longer precious.  He wrote:

“At the heart of this growing phenomenon of mass violence and social disintegration is a crisis of values.  Perhaps the most fundamental loss a society can suffer is the collapse of its own value system.  Many societies exposed to protracted conflicts have seen their community values radically undermined, if not shattered altogether.  This has given rise to an ethical vacuum – a setting in which international standards are ignored with impunity and where local value systems have lost their sway.  Distinctions between civilians and combatants have broken down.  Children, women, the elderly – all have become fair game in the single-minded struggle for power.”

Graca Machel

Madame Graça Machel at the Sports for Peace Gala 2010 in Johannesburg. By Madame_Graca_Machel.TIF: Sportsforpeacederivative work: Rosentod, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Ambassador Otunnu was from Uganda which had seen more than its share of the breakdown of social norms and resulting violence such as that carried on by the Lord’s Reistance Army which systematically abducted children to be used as soldiers, porters, and sex slaves starting in 1987 but building on earlier armed movements. He was in exile and given citizenship by the Cote d’Ivoire which had appointed him Ambassador to the U.N.  During the sessions of the U.N. Committee on Human Rights, he was in Geneva, and we had long discussions.  He was very open to the spirit of Citizens of the World and the need to develop universal norms so as to move beyond an unregulated struggle for power.

Olara Otunnu wrote:

“Children represent the future of human civilization and the future of every society.  To permit them to be used as pawns in warfare, whether as targets or perpetrators, is to cast a shadow on the future.  From generation to generation, violence begets violence, as the abused grow up to become abusers.  Children who are thus violated carry the scars of fear and hatred in their hearts and minds.  Forced to learn to kill instead of pursuing education, the children of conflict lack the knowledge and skills needed to build their futures and the futures of their communities.   For a society, the lives destroyed and the opportunities lost could have a devastating effect on its long-term stability and development.”

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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World Refugee Day.

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Convention on the Rights of the Child Appeals

Convention on the Rights of the Child: The Vital…

Featured Image: Photo by Yannis H on Unsplash.

When the Convention on the Rights of the Child was unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 November 1989; governments took a major step forward in establishing a framework of world law to protect the basic dignity and rights of children in all parts of the world. 

Therefore on 20 November; we remember with gratitude those who worked to develop the concepts and reality of the Rights of the Child; but also to measure the tasks that are before us; especially as members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  This universal framework is based on the principle that each child should have the possibility to develop into an active and responsible member of society. The way in which a society treats its children reflects not only its qualities of compassion and protective caring, but also its sense of justice, its commitment to the future and its urge to better the human condition for continuing generations.

General Asembly

 Image by Basil D Soufi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

U.N. General Assembly: Can It Provide the Needed Global Leadership?.

“Save the Children International Union”. 

The effort to create a legal framework for the welfare of the child began early in the League of Nations efforts with the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child of 1924 which was largely based on a text written by the then newly-established NGO “Save the Children International Union”.  Child welfare has always been a prime example of cooperative efforts among governments, scholars highlighting the conditions of children, and NGOs working actively in the field.

However, the Geneva Declaration served as the basis for the UN General Assembly resolution on the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted also on 20 November 1959.  The 1959 Declaration was followed with more specific provisions of the Declaration on Social and Legal Principles; relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice; and the  Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict.

League of Nations

Featured Image: Stanley Bruce chairing the League of Nations Council in 1936. Joachim von Ribbentrop is addressing the council. By Commonwealth of Australia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The League of Nations and its unused Peace Army.

Special Working Group on the Rights of the Child.

In 1978, some representatives of both governments and NGOs in the UN human rights circles in Geneva felt that it was time to bring together these different declarations and provisions into a single text that would have the  legal force of a UN convention.  The Polish delegation to the UN Commission on Human Rights took the lead in this effort; but some governments felt that the different declarations needed to be closely reviewed and measured against changing realities.

Thus a Special Working Group on the Rights of the Child was created in 1979  under the chairmanship of the Polish representative; the legal specialist Adam Lopatka. Government and NGO representatives worked together from 1979 to 1988 for a week each year.  There was a core group; including the Association of World Citizens; which worked steadily and which represented a wide range of different beliefs, values and traditions, as well as a wide range of socio-economic realities.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child.

As a result of serious discussions, the  Convention covers a wide range of human rights which can be summarized as the three “Ps”: provision, protection and participation.  Each child has the right to be provided with certain things and services, such as a name and a nationality, to health care and education.  Each child has a right to be protected from certain acts such as torture, exploitation, arbitrary detention and unwarranted removal from parental care.  Each child has a right to participate in decisions affecting their lives as well as in community life.

The Working Group managed to come to a consensus on the final version in time for the General Assembly to adopt it on 20 November 1989, the anniversary date of the Declaration.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child is meant to provide guidance for governments to review national legislation and policies in their child-related initiatives.  It is by examining national law and policy and the effectiveness of government structures and mechanisms that progress can be measured. The Convention also provides a framework of goals for the vital activities of NGOs.  NGOs work on two lines simultaneously: to remind governments of their obligations through approaches to ministries, elected officials and the media and to undertake their own operational efforts.

Article 43 of the Convention.

To help governments to fulfill their obligations and to review national practices, a Committee on the Rights of the Child was created as called for in article 43 of the Convention. The Committee is composed of 10 independent experts elected for a four-year term by the States which have ratified the Convention. The Committee usually meets three times a year for a month each time in Geneva to review and discuss reports submitted by governments, once every four years. The sessions of the Committee are largely carried out in a non-confrontational dialogue with an emphasis on “unmet needs”. The discussion usually lasts six to nine hours for each country. The Committee members have received information and suggestions from NGOs in advance.  The Committee members ask many questions and based on the government’s responses, make suggestions for improving the promotion and protection of children’s rights in the country.

By creating a common legal framework of world law, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has increased levels of governmental accountability, bringing about  legislative and institutional reforms, and increasing international cooperation.  As James P. Grant, then UNICEF Executive Director said:

Transcending its detailed provisions, the Convention on the Rights of the Child embodies the fundamental principle that the lives and the normal development of children should have first call on society’s concerns and capacities and that children should be able to depend upon the commitment in good times and in bad, in normal times and in times of emergency, in times of peace and in times of war, in times of prosperity and in times of recession.”

Unicef

Flag of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an organization of the United Nations. By Delehaye, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

World Refugee Day.

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day;  marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot”…

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