Children and armed non-State actors
Download: Deed of Commitment under Geneva Call for the Protection of Children from the Effects of the Armed Conflict.
Download: Acte d'Engagement auprès de l'Appel de Genève pour la Protection des Enfants des Effets des Conflits Armés.
Download: In Their Words: Perspectives of Armed non-State Actors on the Protection of Children from the Effects of Armed Conflict.
Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of armed conflict due to their level of physical and mental development. Among other things, they may be separated from their caregivers, their education may be interrupted or prevented from commencing, and they are less able to withstand physical and mental trauma.
A particular problem is that they may be more easily recruited (forcibly or by other means) into armed forces or armed non-State actors (NSAs), and in addition to combat roles, may be used as spies, porters, cooks, and even in some cases for sexual purposes. In many instances children join armed forces or NSAs to escape daily hardships such as a lack of basic needs or abusive relationships. Some join in search of a sense of empowerment, or to revenge the loss of family members. In other circumstances, children live with family members who are active in NSAs, or in communities where the separation of fighters and civilians is practically non-existent. The Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 finds that many NSAs currently lag behind States in complying with international standards of use and recruitment. Initial perspectives of some NSAs, on the other hand, allege that the international community’s focus on use and recruitment of “child soldiers” covers up violations of States on issues such as indiscriminate bombings and commandeering of schools.
Over the past several years, international law has developed towards recognizing the particular vulnerabilities of children. Both provide special protection for children in situations of armed conflict, including a prohibition on the recruitment of children and their use in hostilities, and children’s right and access to education. The conscription, enlisting, or use of children under the age of 15 is also a crime under the . In addition, United Nations Security Council refers to six violations to the rights of children in armed conflict, namely killing and maiming of children, recruitment or use of children as soldiers, attacks against schools or hospitals, denial of humanitarian access for children, abduction of children, as well as rape and other grave sexual abuse of children.
In spite of the specific international legal protection of children in situations of armed conflict, two significant inconsistencies arise. First, the age standards differ depending on the source and type of right being protected. Second, the relevant provisions do not comprehensively create obligations for NSAs. This results in a lack of clarity as to which norms are binding upon NSAs. Moreover, the international legal framework provides little opportunity for NSAs to express their willingness to abide by existing norms. NSAs cannot negotiate or become parties to international treaties, which limits their incentive to respect the norms providing for the protection of children in armed conflict.
Following the encouragement of a wide range of national and international actors, Geneva Call is extending its efforts towards improving NSA compliance with international norms related to children and armed conflict. Activities relating to Children and Armed Non-State Actors (CANSA) are being implemented in consultation with legal and policy experts, international actors, local civil society partners, former child members of NSAs, and NSAs themselves. Essential to the process is the trust and confidence Geneva Call has built up with NSAs over the past nine years of engagement on the anti-personnel mine ban.
Geneva Call aims to engage NSAs in a dialogue on CANSA issues, sensitize them towards existing international norms, and provide them with a universal and standard mechanism to demonstrate their accountability and to contribute to the consolidation of norms on children and armed conflict issues. A Deed of Commitment on children in armed conflict has recently been launched, currently with 7 signatories from Burma/Myanmar. Yet engagement efforts do not end with commitments. They require monitoring, follow up, and assistance in ensuring that commitment translates into implementation, processes in which Geneva Call has built up valuable experience over the past years. Inclusive dialogue will help to identify potential obstacles, and work towards sustainable solutions for the protection of children from the effects of armed conflict.
For further information:
Download: Engaging Nonstate Armed Groups on the Protection of Children: Towards Strategic Complementarity, International Peace Institute, April 2012
Engaging Armed Non-State Actors to Protect Children from the Effects of Armed Conflict: When the Stick Doesn't Cut the Mustard.
Journal of Human Rights Practice, OUP, March 2012. The abstract of this article can be found here : http://jhrp.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/03/06/jhuman.hus002.abstract?keytype=ref&ijkey=YfBFngM9GGfSqZC
Download: Flyer.PDF for information on Engaging Armed Non-State Actors on the Protection of Children in Armed Conflict (CANSA)
Philippe Gazagne, Forthcoming, Engaging Armed Non-state Actors on the Issue of Child Recruitment and Use, in David Nosworthy (Ed.), 2009,
, Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).
Anki Sjöberg, 2007, , Geneva Call and the Programme for the Study of International Organization(s) (PSIO), November. .
Geneva Call, 2001, . Report of the workshop organized in Geneva on 15 July by Geneva Call, with participation of the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, the NSA Working Group, the World Organisation against Torture and other experts and international organisations.