Geneva Peace Week

Interactive Panel on:
Reintegrating Children as a contribution to Peace and Security:
Delivering Long-term and Sustainable Solutions

Remarks by Ms. Virginia Gamba
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

6 November 2018
Maison de la Paix, Geneva

Excellencies, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank Switzerland and UNOG for recognizing the important role children affected by armed conflict can play to build peace and for placing this issue at the heart of peace week. I am pleased to see key actors getting together during this week to think, discuss and innovate in order to make a greater contribution to peace. This is more important than ever, in a world marked by numerous protracted conflicts leaving many young victims behind.
The dynamics in the use and abuse of children in, for and by armed conflict are a constant reminder that children continue to be the first casualty of war.

Boys and girls who survive the ordeal of conflict and more specifically recruitment and use are often left with unresolved trauma and feel powerless to direct their future.

Reintegration is crucial, because it provides children, often deeply traumatized, a lifeline that helps them find a path away from violence. Reintegration programs also address another important issue, the stigma that former child soldiers face by equipping them and their communities with the tools to overcome assumptions and prejudice, so that these young people can be accepted as valuable members of the community.

The international community has provided former child soldiers with reintegration services for decades, creating a wealth of research and analysis by practitioners. We have learned that to be effective, these programmes need to be comprehensive and include health and psycho-social assistance in addition to education and socio-economic support. We also know that we need to take into account the specific needs of girls, who are too often victims of sexual violence during their time as child soldiers.

During my visits to reintegration centers, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to children and to better understand the gap between what we would like these programs to be and the services we have the capacity to provide.

In fact, a recent study conducted by War Child UK demonstrates that while the needs keep increasing – with over 10,000 kids released last year alone — the resources available for reintegration are decreasing.

As a result, the international community is unable to provide reintegration services to all the boys and girls that need it. Indeed, UNICEF reports that over the last five years they have only been able to reach 70% of the children exiting armed groups and forces. That is a staggering number left behind.

Another lesson learned from years of practice is that the children should be supported through reintegration programmes for a longer period of time than what is currently offered. Breaking cycles of violence, offering children recovering from traumatic experiences the chance of a new reality is much more difficult if we only follow them for a short period of time. In such cases, they can relapse into violence. Making war, or turning to crime, becomes more likely.

I am therefore making a plea to make use of the full potential of reintegration programs to build peace. That is why, in September, I have launched the Global Coalition for Reintegration.

Ladies and gentlemen,
I am using my mandated role as a convener on Children and Armed Conflict issues to bring everyone together to build on the good work done so far and to come up with innovative solutions and commitments to use reintegration not only as a tool to rebuild lives, but also to rebuild peaceful communities. contribute

We need to act now and as such, the Global Coalition for Reintegration will start working immediately to ensure contributions are received from everyone able to further our work on child reintegration. The initiative has been well-received by our partners, including UNICEF and the World Bank. Many member states and concerned NGOs have expressed a keen interest in joining.

Over a one-year period, we will collectively re-evaluate programming needs of these children and champion an exponential increase in funding available for reintegration, possibly resulting in the launch of a new Fund or similar mechanism for child reintegration in September 2019.

Every child used and abused by, in, and for, armed conflict should be given a real chance to create his or her own future. It is my hope that this project will help them accomplish this and, in the longer term, will help them become game changers in their communities.

Thank you