On April 29, Fight for Humanity and Independent Diplomat co-organized a webinar on the prevention of recruitment of children by non-state armed actors. Five panelists including experts on children and armed conflict, diplomats, and representatives from non-state armed actors from Mali and Sudan discussed the challenges and progress made to protect children from use and recruitment in conflict.
“Since 2018, close to 40’000 children have been released from parties to conflict”, and “10 Action Plans [to prevent child recruitment and use and other grave violations against children] are currently being implemented with non-state armed groups” stressed Virginia Gamba, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in her declaration. She also reminded the audience that despite this positive result, in 2019, 7’747 children were reported to have been recruited and used, most of them by non-state actors.
“As a military actor, we should no longer believe it’s enough to state things on paper; but we need to implement and make use of existing instruments […] to protect children in conflict. […] We are non-state actors but can complement the work of the state in protecting children.”, said Mr. Attaye Ag Mohamed, Head of Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Member of the Comité de Suivi de l’Accord, Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) in Mali.
“While signing UN Action Plans or making unilateral declarations can demonstrate non-state actor’s desire to address problems, they can lack the capacity and support, to do so meaningfully ” explained Guillaume Charron, Geneva Director at Independent Diplomat.
Anki Sjoeberg, Co-Director at Fight for Humanity, then listed key practical measures to ensure that non-state actors not only commit to the ban on child recruitment, but also implement it. For her, it is key to help build internal capacity through trainings, training of trainers and awareness-raising: everybody within the movement and the related communities should be aware that recruiting children under 18 is prohibited by the leadership of this movement.
Rita French, UK Ambassador for Human Right stressed that “child protection is central for conflict prevention and resolution” and “protecting education […] is essential in preventing child recruitment and use, as it supports post-conflict reconstruction, reintegration, and peace.”
She also underlined that “children’s involvement in conflict has a profound impact on their lives and […] societies’ wellbeing long after the conflict has ended.” Therefore, it is necessary to develop “long-term prospect and practical projects to allow these children to be reintegrated in daily life, to be really socialized” according to Dr. Mohamed Salih Mohamed Yassin, representative from the SPLM-N High Committee of the Joint Peace Agreement.
In his concluding remarks, Guillaume Charron highlighted the importance of improving communications with non-state actors at every level: in the field, Geneva, Brussels, and in New York, as “only by engaging directly with the actors in the field we can understand the challenges”, which puts us in a better position to “empower them to create the change that we all want to see” for children.
Watch the recording here and read the main conclusions and outcomes of the event here. This event, the fifth edition of Fight for Humanity’s webinar series, was sponsored by Belgium, the principality of Liechtenstein and the United Kingdom and was attended by more than 130 participants.