ROUND TABLE - CHILDREN IN CONFLICTS
Thursday 15 April 1999
Room No. XXXI Palais des nations Geneva
From 13.00 to 15.00 hours
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN MINORITIES
cordially invite you to participate in a
"CHILDREN IN CONFLICTS"
Ms. Rachel Brett - Associate Representative Human Rights and Refugees Quaker United Nations
Ms. Elizabeth Bennett - Head ACT Project on Children in Armed Conflict, South Africa
Mr. Henrik Haggstriom - Swedish Save the Children
Mr. Shabir A. Dar - Delegate of IIFSO
Mr. Sidji Kaballo - World Federation of Democratic Youth
Chairperson: Ms. Karen Parker - International Educational Development (Replacement for Dr. Y. Kly)
International Educational Development
International Peace Bureau
LIST OF THE PARTICIPANTS AT THE ROUND TABLE ON
'CHILDREN IN CONFLICTS'
Save the Children International
International Service for Human Rights
Committee for Defense of Human Rights in Bahrain
Yugoslav Child Rights Center
U. N. World Food Program (W.F.P.)
Conseil pour la Defense des Droits de lHomme de Cristina, Kosovo
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
World Society of Victimology
World Muslim Congress
O.H.C.II.R. (Children in Armed Conflict)
International Council of Women
BAHA'I lnternational-C6mmunity Geneva
World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women
Arab Organization for Human Rights
International Federation of University Women
World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations
Association de Volontaires Pour le Service International (A.V.S.I.)
Consuller - Mission Tunisia
I.C.R.C.(International Committee of the Red Cross)
World Vision International
International Council of Jewish Women (I.C.J.W.)
Organization for Defending Victims of Violence
World Christian Life Community (W.C.L.C./J.R.S.)
International Institute for Peace
United Kingdom Delegation (U.K. Mission)
International Institute for Non-aligned Studies
Association for the Prevention of Torture (A.P.T.)
Muslim World League
World Federation of Trade Unions
Association of World Citizens
Comite du Kurdistan
Federation International de la Action des Chretiens Pour l 'Abolition de la
Federation International des Ligues des Droits de lHomme (F.I.D.H.)
Mission of Iran - Counselor
Center for South Asian Studies
Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Quakers United Nations
World Young Women's Christian Association (World Y.W.C.A.)
World Federation of Democratic Youth
International Human Rights Law Group
Indigenous People of Latin America
International Peace Bureau
Asian Buddhist Conference for peace
ACT Project on Children in Armed Conflict
Swedish Save the Children
International Islamic Federation of Students Organizations
International Human Rights Association of American Minorities
MOST OF THE ORGANISATIONS WERE REPRESENTED BY
AT LEAST TWO OR MORE PERSONS.
ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION ON CHILDREN IN CONFLICTS
A Round Table discussion was held by IHRAAM on the topic of CHILDREN IN
CONFLICTS at the Palais des Nations on 15 April, 1999. The Round Table was
attended by 139 NGOs, IGOs and United Nations officials. The Round Table was
opened by chairperson Ms. Karen Parker of International Educational Development.
She invited Majid Tramboo, European Director, to read the opening statement
forwarded by Dr. Y. N. Kly, IHRAAMs Chair. The statement was very well received.
This was followed by the rest of the invited speakers, beginning with Ms. Rachel
Brett) Associate Representative of Human Rights and Refugees, Quaker United
Nations who spoke primarily of child soldiers.
Next to speak was Colin McNaughton of the Guatemala Human Rights Comnission
who reported on the effects of the internal armed conflict in Columbia on the lives of
the children and a brief history of the socioeconomic causes of the conflict.
Ms. Elizabeth Bennett continued with a brief description of the project which she
heads, the ACT Project on Children in Armed Conflict in South Africa.
Then Mr. Shabir A. Dar,, a delegate of the International Islamic Federation of Students
Organizations, presented a view of the situation in Asia, with particular reference to
Jammu and Kashmir.
He was followed by Mr. Henrik Haggstriom of Swedish Save the Children with an
interesting discourse on the Child Coalition and the work they are presently doing
Mr Sidji Kaballo from the World Federation of Democratic Youth concluded the
speakers list by providing information about the effects on children of armed conflicts
in Africa, including Rwanda, Sudan, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Liberia.
These presentations were followed by a brief question and answer period.
Majid Tramboo was then asked by the chair to present the Declarations and Recommendations
which were placed by the panel before the participants. The declarations and
recommendations were unanimously approved with thunderous applause.
The round table event culminated with a video presentation about child soldiers and
children in armed conflicts. The video was followed by a delicious hot meal and
Declarations and Recommendations
Unanimously Adopted by the Round-Table on Children in Conflicts
STATEMENT TO CONFERENCE ON THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN IN SITUATIONS OF INTERNAL CONFLICT
PROFESSOR YUSSUF NAIM KLY, CHAIR OF THE IHRAAM DIRECTORATE
First, I would like to express my deep regrets at not being able to assist at this most important conference on the
situation of children in conflict situation and the duty of the UN and the international community to provide such
children with adequate human rights protection. Only the need to recover from a serious illness could have
prevented my presence with you on this occasion.
I would also like to thank and express IHRAAM's sincere appreciation to those organizations that co-sponsor this
event with IHRAAM. To them, I can only state our deep gratitude and unconditional willingness to continue our
cooperation with them in all efforts to promote the human rights of all humans in any situation or under any
circumstances wherein any human rights are being violated. Last and most heart-felt, I express the gratitude of the
IHRAAM directorate to our Geneva representative, Mr Majid Tramboo, for all the diplomatic work he has done in
making this event possible.
Having stated the above, I would now like to make a few comments about nature and gravity of the situation of
children in conflict situations. The human rights aspects of this problem, which we are gathered here to explore and
elaborate, seem to have resulted from three unavoidable and interdependent historical factors, and their impact on
the development of international human rights law.
Briefly stated, the first of these factors was the rise of the ideal of the nation state (including the ideal of absolute
sovereignty over how a state treated its citizens) as the only international personality or international legal subject.
The second, the collapse of this ideal in the mid 21st century led to the third, internal conflicts (civil wars) as a
major animator of socio-political change in the international system and thereby the major threat to world peace
and human centered development.
The first factor influenced the orientation of those responsible for the development of the Geneva conventions.
Thus, children were not seen as having specific rights in themselves, but rather were seen as simply part of the
civilian population and thus indirectly protected by the conventions. The subsequent collapse of nation-state ideal
witnessed the emergence of citizens as the subjects of nation states and also subjects of international law. Thus,
human rights treaty law emerged and came into force. This new international law reflecting the changed ideals and
spirit through the good offices of the UN, spoke repetitively to the rights of the child and particularly so, in the
Convention on the Rights of the Child.
However, in giving the state the chief responsibility to provide for, protect and respect these rights, international law
ignores the significant changes in the ideals and socio-political environment that were responsible for the advent
of these human rights (particularly the rights of the child, which were chiefly animated by NGOs instead of
governments) coming into force in the first place. Thus, with the collapse of many multinational states into internal
conflicts, we of course find that neither the Geneva convention and its elaborations nor the UN human rights
treaties provide sufficient guidelines, law or jus ferenda needed to enforce or sufficiently encourage the protection
of children in situations of violent internal conflict.
In guise of concluding this opening address, I choose to stop at what is really only the beginning. I hope that your
deliberations and conclusions will serve to bring this dilemma to the attention of international organizations,
government, etc and to provide them with the correct understandings and clues for its remedy.
I would like to provide you with the IHRAAM website address; www.ihraam.org and invite you to consult with our
Geneva Representative, Mr Majid Tramboo. IHRAAM thanks you for your participation.
STATEMENT OF ORIENTATION
"It is unconscionable that we so clearly and consistently see children rights attacked and that we fail to defend
then". Grace Machel.
The Machel report provides a unique opportunity for all those working for children's rights and the states parties to
advocate for substantial changes in practice, procedure, law and enforcement in this field.
Indeed, no aspect of a child's life is spared in armed conflicts simply because of their vulnerability. They are prime
victims of multiple phusical and emotional abuse and of dangers such as violence, tortures, shellings and snippers.
In the chaos of conflicts, escape and displacement, children are at high risk of becoming separated from their
families - a trauma potentially more devestating than even the displacement itself. Separated minors are extremely
vulnerable. Girls are at risk of sexual violence, exploitation and abuse. boys are vulnerable to underage military
recruitment etc. as they can be easily itimidated by force.
The Emergence of Humanitarian Law with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
For several decades advocates of children's rights have been overwhelming concerned about the particularly
tragic plight of children during armed conflicts. The humanitarian law of the past has recently become a part of
general human rights as it relates to the rights of the child.
Article 6 - The Right to Life and the Right to Survival.
1. States Parties recognise that every child has the inherent tight of life.
2. States parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival development of the child.
The most fundamental challenge faced by the advocates of children's rights is to ensure their inherent right to life
and survival in armed conflicts situations. It is estimated that there have been some two million child deaths in the
last decade. the reasons for the rise in the numbers of child fatalities need to be identified and addressed.
Article 24 - Access to Health and Care Services.
1. States Parties recognise the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and
to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child
is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.
Armed conflicts invariably dirupt health and community infrastructure. Sadly, there are situation in which total
breakdown of health and care services have been witnessed. The result is deaths of chhildren from otherwise
avoidable causes. further, there is little or no time or manpower to provide for the physical and psychological
rehabilitation of child victims of armed conflict related trauma.
Article 28 - Right to Education
1. States Parties recognise the right of the child to education.
The destruction and or closing of educational institutions (school, colleagues and universities) and the
displacement of the population result in loss of schooling for children. Loss of schooling is very hard to make up.
This is a serious problem.
Article 38 - Child Soldiers
2. States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of fifteen
years do not take a direct part in hostilities.
3. States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any persons who have not attained the age of fifteen years into their
armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not
attained the age of eighteen years, States Parties shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest.
According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, there are at least 300,000 children under the age of 18
currently taking part in hostilities around the world.
Amoung the earliest well known instruments that concerns the rights of the child during armed conflicts were the
Geneva Convention. The Convention not only afforded general protection to children as civilians, but in no less
than 17 of its provisions provided special protection for then. However, their scope is restricted in relation to the
present needs of the child, particularly in relation to internal or civil armed conflicts.
The horrors of Second World War sadly demonstrated inadequacy of humanitarian law to protect children thereby
establishing the urgent need to draw up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and its elaboration into
numerous instruments and mechanisms for child protection. Today, it is this new human rights law, or shall we say
humanitarian law that attempts to meet the challenges posed by new types of conflicts not contemplated by the
Geneva Conventions. For instance, the primary function of the Fourth Convention is to protect a strictly defined
category of civilians from arbitrary action on the part of the enemy and not from the dangers due to military
In 1977 two additional Protocols to the Fourth geneva Convention itself were adopted. Indeed, these treaties
marked a substantial step forward in the provision of protection for children in wartime. Not only did they afford
children greater protection against the effects of hostilities but also attempted to regulate the actual participation of
children in hostilities.
Undoubtedly, considerable amount of work has been done since the beginning ofthis century for the promotion and
protection of children's rights. Nonetheless, it was acknowledged at the 1990 World Summit for Children in New
York that provisions of international law are neither adequate nor effective in protecting children from the effects of
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights responded by setting-up a working group on the drafting of the
Convention on the Right of the Child. This resulted in formulation and wide ratification of the Convention.
The United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child contains its own provisions relating to armed conflicts.
Pursuant to the facts and figures provided by UNICEF (May 1996), domr 10 million children have been deeply
affected and traumatised by armed conflicts during the past decade. More than half currently 52% overall - of the
world's 22.7 million refugees, according to UNHCR, are children and adolescents under the age of 18.
Analysing Children and Armed Conflicts
We plan to broach and analyse sone of the problems facing children in situation of armed conflicts with reference
to the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child. We would, among others, particularly wish to analuse
the meaning of following articles as it relates to all forms of armed conflicts:
Regrettably, Article 38 sets the minimum age for the participation of children in hostilities at fifteen. Children's
involvement in actual fighting is a common feature of today's conflicts. Whereas many are lawfully recruited
however, others are coerced or kidnapped to join.
Article 38 is the target of serious criticism. It is argued that the article fialed to provide improved protection to
children taking part in hostilities. This needs to be fully debated.
Following consultation with panellists, a set of recommendations are likely to be formulated both generally and in
particular to the matters identified in this orientation. Those recommendations will be placed at the Round table for
discussion and approval. Approved recommendations will be forwarded to the United Nations Commission on the
Human Rightsand the Committee on The Rights of the Child and to all those organisations and individuals who
advocate children's rights.
IHRAAM extends its invitation to all individuals, intergovermental organisations and non-governmental organisations
to join us at the Round Table. Let us work together to assist the Commission on Human Rights and the Committee
on the Rights of the Child to improve and enhance the rights of children in armed conflicts.
We have been approached by a number of NGOS to co-sponsor the Round Table. We will be delighted to hear
from you with your comments, recommendations etc., on this issue.
COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR IHRAAM
|1. Whereas we welcome extending the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court to deal with alleged
grave and other breaches of international humanitarian law in both international and non-international
conflicts regarding Children, we however, recommend that the ratification process should be expedited.
2. Children deserve the highest level of protection under international humanitarian law. Any distinction
between protection offered in international conflicts and that offered in internal conflicts is invalid.
3. All states are legally obliged to provide or accept impartial humanitarian aid directed at the civil
population, in particular to children, whatever the characterization of the conflict.
4. States should not be allowed to close schools for security reasons in times of armed conflicts. All
parties to the conflicts are obliged to permit children to receive education. Schools may not be the object
of military operations.
5. Given the armed conflict situations in Kosovo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Columbia, Jammu & Kashmir and
Uganda, which drastically affect the children there, we recommend that the Committee on the Rights of
the Child appoint a Standing Committee on these situations.
6. Although prevailing international law sets 15 as the minimum age for military recruitment and
participation in armed conflicts, there is widespread disagreement on this and hence this Round table
recommends that this age limit must be raised to 18 pursuant to the Optional Protocol.
7. NGOs should be actively encouraged to provide information on the plight of children in armed conflicts
or emergency situations to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. It is recommended that an NGO
Childrens Group should be formed. This would require considerable development of the group and the
appointment of responsible officers. The Commission on Human Rights should establish a Voluntary
Fund on Children in Armed Conflicts for this purpose.
8. Small arms and ammunition should not be supplied to the countries that recruit under age children.
9. Skilled training should be provided to ex girl combatants.