As the world is getting ready to mark the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers on February 12th, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC), Ms. Virginia Gamba, made a strong plea for increasing prevention efforts to better protect children from hostilities during the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.

“Prevention efforts are particularly important to ensure that children are not put at risk,” SRSG Gamba said. “The Security Council, in its resolution 2427 (2018), put a strong emphasis on the issue of prevention of violations against children, particularly in a regional context. As the African Union makes Silencing the Guns a central priority of its action, I look forward to cooperating closely with the African Union and its member States to develop strategies to prevent violations against children.”

The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict was one of the speakers at the High-Level Breakfast Dialogue: Stop the War on Children — Dividend of “Silencing the Guns”, organized by Save the Children in collaboration with the Permanent Missions of Norway and Sweden to the African Union. Other distinguished panelists included the Presidents of Ethiopia and Nigeria, the President of Stop the War on Children Mali and the CEO of Save the Children South Africa.

The collaboration between the African Union and the CAAC Office goes back to the very origins of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate, which was created following the Graça Machel study on the impact of conflict on children in 1996. This partnership was consolidated in 2013 with the signature of an agreement to strengthen protection mechanisms to ensure that child protection is a critical component of the peace and security agenda for the continent. More recently, the African Union, together with the European Union, co-sponsored the launch of the campaign ACT to Protect children affected by conflict in April 2019 in New York, marking the deeper engagement of the AU in the protection of children from armed conflict.

The African Union’s increasing role in maintaining peace and security on the continent makes the collaboration between the AU and the CAAC Office even more critical. Security Council Resolutions 2427 (2018) and 2457 (2019) provide additional opportunities to jointly respond to child protection challenges and devise measures to prevent grave violations against boys and girls.