UNICEF’S ANTI-WAR AGENDA
plight of children in war-time contradicts not just every normal human concern
for their welfare but also the professed beliefs and legal obligations of those
responsible. UNICEF believes that insisting on the rights of children is one of
the best ways of reasserting core humanitarian values. In the words of Graça Machel,
Chairperson of the National Organization of Children of Mozambique;
the inherent brutality of conflict, no one can possibly believe it is ever permissible
to murder, rape, torture or enslave children." Nor is it permissible to stand
by and allow it to happen."
We (UNICEF) do not argue that our Anti-war Agenda is some grandiose initiative to bring peace in our time. We do argue, however, that it is a vital beginning. And what gives it particular legitimacy is the existence of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Convention is the guiding force of the Anti-war Agenda and we are determined that
warring parties in any conflict be aware of, and be obliged to apply, the protections
for children that the Convention provides. We will strive to ensure that the principles
of international human rights law are observed to the full when the lives of children
are at stake' whatever is needed, be it training of the military in various countries,
training for UN peace-keepers or training for international NGOs.
believes" along with many colleagues from governments, humanitarian agencies
and NGOs" that the following agenda is vital:
world must no longer wait for the outbreak of hostilities before it pays heed.
Much more deliberate effort should be made to address the underlying causes of
violence and to invest more resources in mediation and conflict resolution.
the midst of conflict, specific community-based measures are necessary to monitor
the situation and needs of girls and women and especially to ensure their security
because of the terrible threat they face of sexual violence and rape. Traumatized
girls and women urgently need education and counseling. Because in times of conflict
women's economic burdens are greater, access to skills training, credit and other
resources must be secured. Education, women's rights legislation and actions to
strengthen women's decision-making roles in their families and communities are
all needed, both before and after conflicts.
believes that the minimum age of recruitment into the military should be 18 years.
At present, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is 15 years. The
change could be achieved through the adoption of an Optional Protocol to the Convention.
Beyond that, there is a great need to concentrate on rehabilitating child soldiers
to prevent them from drifting into a life of further violence, crime and hopelessness.
international law specifically bans the production, use, stockpiling, sale and
export of anti-personnel mines. It is now time for such a law. UNICEF joins many
other organizations in concluding that this is the only way to stop the endless
suffering of children and other civilians. UNICEF will not deal with companies
manufacturing or selling land-mines.
years have seen the most barbaric acts of violence against children and other
civilians. These must be denounced as they are revealed. International war crimes
tribunals must have both the support and the resources to bring perpetrators to
Children as zones of peace
idea should be pursued more vigorously. The gains from establishing such zones
may be fragile and temporary. Nevertheless, zones of peace have become an important
part of international diplomacy' capable of prizing open vital areas of humanitarian
space in even the darkest conflicts. As such, UNICEF intends to pursue the possibility
that zones of peace be raised to a tenet of international humanitarian law.
sanctions are imposed on the assumption that the long-term benefits of pressure
on errant regimes outweigh the immediate cost to children. This may not be the
case. There should be a 'child impact assessment' at the point at which any set
of sanctions is applied, and constant monitoring thereafter to gauge impact.
situations of long-term conflict, aid should be seen as part of a process to help
rebuild a society's capacity and promote development.
much more deliberate effort needs to be made to demobilize both adult and child
soldiers and rebuild communities so as to offer not just respite but also reconciliation.
An important part of rehabilitation must be to address the psychosocial damage
that children suffer.
may be inevitable, but violence is not. To prevent continued cycles of conflict,
education must seek to promote peace and tolerance, not fuel hatred and suspicion.
is committed to mobilizing whatever resources are necessary in pursuit of these
goals wherever conflicts break out. It is the singular characteristic of warfare
in our time that children suffer most. But that only makes the task more urgent.
Without minimizing the difficulty, we are confident that children's needs can
be met even in the midst of the inferno of war. However dreadful the armed conflict,
the death and suffering of children cannot be tolerated.
need be the victims of war only if there is no will to prevent it. Experiences
in dozens of conflicts confirm that extraordinary actions have been taken and
can be taken to protect and provide for children. Our Anti-war Agenda is intended
to expand the scale and scope of those efforts, and we will direct much of UNICEF's
future activities to this all-important end.
(Article taken from www.unicef.org)