From 22 to 24 November 2016, 31 leaders, commanders and advisers of 21 armed movements from 11 countries, including Syria, Iraq, Colombia, Yemen, and Burma/Myanmar, participated in workshops and discussions around the issue of child protection in armed conflict.
« We thank Geneva Call for this meeting on international norms to protect children, and for recognizing our role to promote human values in armed conflict, and this even though we are considered outlawed in our country » said a representative of an armed movement.
During three days, Geneva Call and specialized agencies delivered training sessions on international norms and mechanisms protecting children in armed conflict as well as on specific issues, such as methods to assess the age of new recruits and the release and reintegration of child soldiers.
Speakers included the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, and experts from UNICEF, Save the Children, War Child, Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC) and the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). The last day sessions, co-organized with PEIC, were dedicated to the protection of education, in particular the protection of schools from military use and attack.
In parallel to these sessions, representatives of armed movements were able to share their experiences and the challenges they face in implementing international norms. «All parties to the conflict should apply the same rules. It is difficult to protect schools when the enemy is bombing or using them » said a participant.
Geneva Call is in continuous dialogue with all the participating movements to promote their respect for humanitarian norms. While nine of them had already signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict, two groups made new pledges during the event: the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) – already a signatory to the Deed of Commitment – signed an Action Plan with the UN to end the recruitment and use of children in hostilities and another African movement signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment.
«The meeting was a key opportunity to strengthen armed movements’ knowledge and ownership of international norms but also to identify practical measures they could take to ensure compliance, » noted Pascal Bongard, Geneva Call’s Policy Director. He assured that, « Geneva Call will follow up on the actual implementation on the ground of these measures with each armed movement.»
The meeting also provided a unique opportunity for specialized agencies to interact with this kind of actors and to identify ways to increase assistance to children in need living in areas under their control. « Often basic services such as healthcare or education are lacking, which may lead children to join armed movements,» Pascal Bongard added.
The event was organized with the support of PEIC, UNICEF, Loterie Romande and the Governments of Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland.
Geneva Call regularly organizes such meetings in Geneva on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. 35 armed movements attended the last one in 2014.
List of participating armed movements: http://bit.ly/2gOUWLF