NEW YORK, 16 June 2009 – UNICEF and the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict launched the Machel Study 10-Year Strategic Review today, calling on governments, UN agencies, and civil society to urgently step up efforts to protect all children affected by conflict.
The report emphasizes that war violates children's rights: the right to life, the right to family unity, the right to health and education, the right to protection from violence and abuse, and the right to receive humanitarian assistance.
Globally, it is estimated that over one billion children live in countries or territories affected by armed conflict – almost one sixth of the total world population. Of these, some 300 million are under the age of five. They suffer from both the direct consequences of conflict, as well as the long-term effects on their development and well-being.
With the changing nature of armed conflict, the impact of war on children and young people is more brutal than ever. They are affected by the proliferation of small arms and armed groups, landmines and unexploded ordnances, as well as terrorism and counterterrorism measures. They are recruited as combatants, targeted during attacks against schools and hospitals, victims of aerial bombardments, or illegally detained. Girls and boys also face sexual violence, including rape, which has been used as a weapon of war.
Children living in countries of conflict are also more likely to be out of school and threatened by poverty, malnutrition, displacement, and diseases.
Since the groundbreaking study by Graça Machel on the impact of armed conflict on children in 1996, the international community has achieved a number of milestones in developing a solid legal protection framework and international standards to prevent the recruitment of children in armed conflict, and ensure their reintegration into communities.
Children's concerns are now also more frequently reflected in peace negotiations and agreements, as well as in the mandates of peacekeeping missions.
"Progress has been made in improving international legal protections for children in armed conflict," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. "Children who have lost their childhoods to war should not also lose their futures."
The report recommends that all states uphold their responsibility to protect their youngest citizens by stepping up efforts to develop legislation, policy, and action on behalf of children at the national level.
"However, much more needs to be done to implement international standards and to ensure compliance in order to hold perpetrators accountable and to stop grave violations against children in times of war. Everybody has a role to play," said Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
Children and young people also have a powerful role to play in shaping their own futures and in building peace. They can be empowered to rebuild communities, and need to be involved in relief, recovery and reconstruction programs, as part of transition and national reconciliation.
The Machel Review is an advocacy tool, resulting from a broad consultation process with governments, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other civil society representatives, including young people.
For more information please contact: Laurence Gerard, OSRSG for Children and Armed Conflict, + 212 963 0984, firstname.lastname@example.org Miriam Azar, UNICEF NY, +212 824 6949, email@example.com