Launch of new inquiry on protecting children in conflict
An international inquiry tasked with strengthening the framework for the protection of children in conflict and holding perpetrators of abuses to account was announced today. Speaking at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown unveiled the Inquiry on Protecting Children in Conflict – which will aim to halt the widespread violation of children’s rights in conflict zones.
The last year has seen an escalation in the war on children – from the sexual enslavement of children to the deliberate bombing of their schools – subjecting a generation of children to targeted violence and indiscriminate attacks. Crimes against children which should send shockwaves around the world are coming to be accepted as commonplace. In Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the international laws and human rights provisions developed in the 20th Century are being violated at an alarming rate and the institutions designed to defend these norms are failing to provide protection. This calls for a review of the existing laws and enforcement mechanisms that are supposed to protect children.
The new Inquiry on Protecting Children in Conflict will undertake this review with the aim of helping to stem the tide of violations of children’s rights. Building on the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the Inquiry will consider the adequacy and effectiveness of existing laws and enforcement mechanisms – and consider whether there are new laws or procedures that may enhance the protection of children. The final report will be published and submitted to UN Secretary-General António Guterres in December 2017.
The Inquiry, which is supported by Save the Children UK and Theirworld – comprises two groups:
- A legal panel, led by Shaheed Fatima Q.C. of Blackstone Chambers, London, bringing together lawyers with a broad range of expertise, which will consider the adequacy and effectiveness of existing laws and enforcement mechanisms and possible reforms aimed at enhancing the protection of children. The legal panel is listed in full below.
- An advisory panel of globally influential policy-makers, thinkers and activists which will receive the report of the legal panel and consider its recommendations. In doing so, they will take into account the role of foreign policy and soft power in the protection of children and ways of building a large and diverse coalition of states and national leaders in support of this agenda.
Gordon Brown, who will act as Chair of the Inquiry, said:
“We must not allow ourselves to become inured to the senseless acts of violence befalling children in conflict zones, Syria being a prime example. Moral lines – such as the recent Idlib gas attack – have been crossed in Syria. Other less visible atrocities include the deliberate bombing of children in their schools, as happened in the same Syrian province on October 26th last year, the abuse and trafficking of children, the militarisation of schools and the use of child militias.
“Not since 1945 have so many children been subjected to such widespread violations of their human rights in conflict zones – in Yemen, where schools have become instruments of war and children used as human shields; in Iraq, where girls are being systematically raped; and across the Middle East, Africa and Asia where thousands of girls are being abducted and sold as slaves. The latest outrage is Boko Haram's use of children as suicide bombers.
“Eglantyne Jebb, the founder of Save the Children, once said that the only international language we understand is the cry of the child. But J.K. Rowling is probably nearer the truth when she said that children may be seen but are usually not heard. For it is questionable whether existing international legal norms and institutions provide adequate accountability for the widespread violations of children’s rights.
“In 1996, Graça Machel’s path-breaking report on the ‘Impact of Armed Conflict on Children’ led to the creation of a UN Special Representative and an annual report to the Security Council that names and shames states and non-state actors responsible for grave violations against children in war zones. But 20 years on, it is time to revisit and ask what more can be done – practically and effectively – when moral lines are crossed.
“The new Inquiry on Protecting Children in Conflict will consider what may be done to strengthen the current framework for the protection of children and to hold the perpetrators of atrocities to account. Only when international law is robust enough – substantively and procedurally – to secure accountability for children’s rights, will we have done all in our power to ensure that no child of God will ever again suffer the horrors of Syria.”
For more information about the work of the Inquiry, please email Andrew Hilland at firstname.lastname@example.org
COMPOSITION OF THE LEGAL PANEL
Chair and Lead Author:
Shaheed Fatima Q.C.
Panelists (in alphabetical order):
Tim Otty Q.C.
Professor Harold Koh
Dr Federica Paddeu