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Analysis of the UN’s Children and Armed Conflict Report 2023

According to the new report released on 27 June 2023, the number of children affected by hostilities in the 24 situations and one regional monitoring arrangement on the Children and Armed Conflict Agenda has remained shockingly high at almost 19,000 children in 2022. Long-running and new conflicts have continued to rage. International humanitarian law and international human rights legislation are routinely and flagrantly ignored, which has a significant negative influence on children’s safety.

The UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Armed Conflict exposed the bleak situation these children found themselves in after being enlisted or used, killed or injured, raped or the target of sexual assault, or kidnapped. Children have repeatedly been refused access to aid, and their schools and hospitals have been damaged or destroyed. But regrettably, this is just the visible tip of the iceberg. The actual number is undoubtedly more significant, raising the possibility of a much more meaningful and deeply upsetting human catastrophe.

According to the CAAC agenda, 27,180 confirmed grave violations involving children in 2022, including those from recently added countries, including Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Ukraine.

The number of attacks on schools and hospitals, which totaled 1,843 verified instances and mainly were committed in Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Israel and the State of Palestine, Myanmar, Mali, and Afghanistan, exhibited the most significant increase of all grave violations, increasing by more than 110%.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, said that children who are caught up in violent conflict all around the world aren’t given access to even the most fundamental rights, including being acknowledged as children. Armed organizations and governments have disregarded the International Convention on the Rights of the Child’s definition of a child. By doing this, we are preventing the kids from developing in a safe environment, exercising their fundamental rights, and getting an education.

The Impacts of armed conflict on boys and girls are as follows:

  • In 2022, as opposed to 2021, one in four children who suffered grave violations were girls.
  • In 2022, at least 4,638 girls experienced one of the four grave infractions, compared to 13,469 boys.
  • Following the abduction, rape, and other sexual abuse, recruiting and use, murdering, and maiming had the most significant impact on girls.
  • A notable rise in serious crimes against girls was observed in the Lake Chad Basin area.
  • Grave offenses against girls revealed an upsurge in abduction, use, and recruiting.
  • Boys made up 85% of the children utilized and recruited.

Some of the cases are:

1. Recruitment and Use

In the Gedo region of Somalia, Al-Shabaab enlisted a young person. Due to the drought, he enlisted in the quest for additional sources of money. The boy used to care for his parent's goats, but the lack caused them all to perish. Jabhah al-Shamiya in Syria hired four internally displaced boys between 15 and 16 and utilized them as a checkpoint in exchange for a monthly allowance of US$26.

2. Killing and Maiming

A maternity unit in Vilniansk, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, was struck by a Russian military missile, which killed a newborn boy and injured his mother and two doctors. In the Magway region of Myanmar, a father and daughter were taken captive while gathering firewood. The girl was allegedly raped before getting killed.

3. Abduction

In the Segou region of Mali, a 13-year-old boy was kidnapped by an unidentified armed group while in the jungle close to his village. He was utilized as a chef and an errand-runner for the armed organization for one month before being freed during an FDSM military operation. Four boys, aged between 12 and 15, were kidnapped from a school in Colombia’s Cauca province by a FARC-EP rebel organization.

4. Rape and Other Forms of Sexual Violence

By SPLA-IO forces in Jonglei, South Sudan, three females were sexually assaulted. Together with four other adult women, the girls were taken hostage while they were leaving an IDP camp. They endured five days of gang rape before being rescued by a humanitarian protection team, who referred them to medical and social assistance.

The main factors that affect a child’s risk of recruitment, their level of exploitation, and the violations they experience include their sex, age, (dis)ability, ethnicity, religion, geographic location, and economic status.

Hence, relief is needed to be given as a solution to these problems:

  • To increase cooperation with parties, conflict resolution is essential for stopping and preventing serious crimes against children. Member States should encourage UN involvement in the future, especially by promoting UN involvement with non-state entities.
  • To assist in tracking down and reporting severe crimes against children. By the 2017 policy on child protection in United Nations peace operations, the Security Council should ensure that child protection provisions and capacity are included in all pertinent mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations and special political missions. It should also ensure that child protection data and power are preserved and transferred during mission transitions and reconfigurations.
  • To sign up for and put into practice international agreements and commitments to safeguard children from war. If they haven’t already, Member States should ratify and put into practice the Paris Principles, the Safe Schools Declaration, and the Vancouver Principles. They should also become parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding the involvement of children in armed conflict.

To conclude, the Special Representative said that children will always be the first to suffer the consequences of a war. A childhood free from violence is a right for children. Through dedication, conviction, and practical action, states must increase adherence to human rights commitments and international humanitarian law. Words are a waste of time regarding the safety of the kids. To ensure their presence and give them a future devoid of fear, conflict, and violence, urgent action must be implemented. This is something that the adults owe to the kids.

Video source: UN's Children Armed and Conflict Report

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