On 1st February 2017, Geneva Call held a roundtable on the protection of children in armed conflict in partnership with the Permanent Peace Movement – a Lebanese non-governmental organization.
The ongoing Syrian conflict and regional tensions have direct effects on Lebanon, which puts children at increased risk of recruitment and use in armed conflict. “In the situation the region faces today, with terrifying acts of violence and terror, Lebanon is receiving scores of child victims of the regional conflicts; at the same time, the actors in these conflicts may recruit innocent Lebanese children” informs Armin Köhli, Geneva Call’s Programme Manager for the Middle East.
This meeting was an attempt to reinitiate the ratification process of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) by the Lebanese parliament.
The OPAC is an international treaty which aims to protect children under 18 from recruitment and use in hostilities. Lebanon signed it together with 179 other countries of which only 13 haven’t ratified it, including Lebanon.
The roundtable gathered 26 participants, among which, members of the concerned parliamentary committees, the Ministry of Social Affairs, representatives from the Lebanese army, UNICEF, Save the Children, and other concerned Civil Society Organizations. Youth representatives of various political parties – simultaneously future leaders of Lebanon and the youth at risk – attended the event as observers.
In order to prevent these risks and increase the protection of children, many stakeholders, including Geneva Call, UNICEF and the Higher Council for Childhood, have insisted on the importance for Lebanon to ratify and implement the OPAC.
In 2016, the Lebanese government accepted a recommendation originating from the Universal Periodic Review related to the ratification of the OPAC, thus highlighting the need to undertake quick measures to encourage ratification to increase the protection of children from the effects of armed conflicts.
A taskforce comprising the youth representatives and NGOs was established at the end of the roundtable to follow up on the ratification process from various sides and to join efforts to raise awareness. “Knowledge generates responsibility. We need a joint effort and seek support from all the concerned parties” says Hiba Mikhail, Geneva Call’s Programme Coordinator for Lebanon. A taskforce meeting will be held within a month in preparation for a national conference on the subject.