The Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) mandate is one of partnership and collaboration. Because it takes a village to ensure the actual protection of children from the harms of conflict.

From member states to civil society organizations, from UN entities to child protection practitioners, from children themselves to their communities: partners from all horizons have been supporting the CAAC mandate since its creation 25 years ago.

Through commitments, actions and advocacy efforts; by financing reintegration programmes, supporting the creation of new tools to better protect children or advocating with parties to conflict, partners are essential to ensure that day after day, boys and girls are better protected from the dramatic impact of conflict.

We invite you to listen to their voices.

Voices for Conflict-Affected Boys and Girls

Children are at the heart of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate. Elevating their voices is crucial to make their stories of hope and resilience known by the international community.

Former child soldier on tough road to recovery

John* was abducted in 2017 on his way back from work in a farm in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State. He was among the thousands of children who became child soldiers and whose lives were drastically changed by the conflict in the country.

With World Vision‘s support, John* was able to overcome his trauma and learn tailoring at a vocational training center. He can now provide for his family.

“God protected me in the bush, and then, World Vision and partners intervened to help equip me with skills. Now I can provide for my family.”

─────John*, former child soldier

* Name has been changed

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Nancy's story is an appeal for the world to join forces and end the recruitment and use of children

“We were given the chance to change our lives using our skills and we were able to support ourselves, move forward.”

─────Nancy, former child soldier

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“The past years have shown us a series of grave violations against children in both decades-long and new conflicts. From Nigeria to Ethiopia to Yemen, thousands of children and youths are paying the prices for tribal, intercommunal violence, and insurgency conflicts.

Today, I am here for the nameless and the named ones, and calling everyone to commit to formal action plans and to take concrete measures to protect children, especially girls. World leaders must fill the wide gap in aid funding so that women and children can receive protection and meet their essential needs. “

───── Aisha Zannah, young activist from Maiduguri (Nigeria) and girl’s education advocate

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A wide range of UN entities have a critical role to play in the implementation of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate. In countries on the CAAC agenda, UN partners are often directly supporting children victims of grave violations and engaging parties to conflict to end and prevent grave violations.

All partners need to continue supporting the Office’s vital monitoring and reporting work.

We need to strengthen our support of released children so they can reintegrate into their communities.

We need to place the needs and rights of children first in peace negotiations.

And we need to honour their bravery and resilience by giving them a full and active voice in their countries’ futures.

The Children and Armed Conflict mandate is more important than ever.

Let’s keep the promise we made 25 years ago.

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“25 years after Graca Machel’s seminal report, I can say with confidence that the Children and Armed Conflict agenda has made enormous positive change in the lives of children.

Countless children have been released from armed groups – at least 170,000 since the year 2000, many with UNICEF’s support. And we know that proactive engagement with parties to conflict has directly prevented violations against children globally.”

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The protection of children is at the heart of UN peacekeeping. Despite the extreme challenges they face every day, our peacekeepers remain determined to play their part in protecting boys and girls affected by armed conflict. As we look to the future, we should never forget that maintaining peace, security and stability is the best way to protect children and that, in turn, protection of children is essential to building lasting peace and stability for all.

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“There are absolutely no justifications for recruiting children or subjecting them to the ugly face of violence and abuse. The UN in Lebanon is fully committed to promoting community-based protection programmes for children and advocating for their right to live in peace and dignity.”

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Member States are valuable partners of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate, both at global and national levels. Groups of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict can also play a significant role and contribute to improving the protection of children affected by conflict.

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

No one has the right to steal children´s dreams or their innocence. The EU and the UN stand together to make sure that all children, wherever they are, experience a childhood free from violence and with access to education.

Children have a key role to play in building a present and a future where peace will prevail. It is our responsibility to enable them to be such agents of change.

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Sophie Wilmès, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium

Preventing grave violations of the rights of children in situations of conflict requires continued political action, joint prevention and remediation efforts and a constant mobilisation of financial and human resources.

The children and armed conflict mandate does represent the UN at its best.

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Bob Rae, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations

Together, we are seeking to build a real partnership between the UN, member states, and civil society, to prioritize the prevention and recruitment and use of children, so that no child has to experience war. So that they can be children, not soldiers.

This spirit of collective action and shared responsibility is at the core of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate and agenda. And it is in this spirit that Canada will continue to work closely with all of our partners to ensure that children are protected and their rights fully upheld and respected.

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Ivory Coast

In the search for solutions aimed at eradicating the use of children in the conflict [in Côte d’Ivoire], the armed groups had undertaken to end this practice by signing Action Plans with the United Nations. […]

These plans were based on several pillars: first, the facilitation of access for United Nations representatives to areas under the control of armed groups; then, the administrative verification of the age of girls and boys; and finally, the release of those who have been identified as children and their social reintegration support.

The open collaboration between the United Nations system, NGOs and armed groups has facilitated the effective implementation of these action plans.

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David Lega, Member of European Parliament, co-chair of the Intergroup for Children’s Rights

The cooperation with the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict has been instrumental in setting the record straight within the work of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament by raising awareness on the specific plight of children in armed conflict. […]

The human rights violations that occur during conflict have a huge strain on children and make them extremely more vulnerable to severe forms of abuse and violence.

Children should go to school, not war. Children should never pay the consequences of the choices of adults for which they didn’t take part of.

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Nathalie Broadhurst, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

25 years after the creation of this mandate, the “Children and Armed Conflict” agenda illustrates what the multilateral system can do best when it is vigilant, united and equipped with effective tools. […]

We must remain mobilized and we must make better use of the tools at our disposal.

We must end widespread impunity for these crimes;

And Security Council mechanisms must be given the means to continue to document grave violations.

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Pablo Abdala, President of the Institute of Children & Adolescents of Uruguay

The results achieved throughout this quarter of a century are simply the confirmation that the path [to ending grave violations against children] is only one, and it is that of fighting this scourge and that of fighting it with commitment, with conviction and fundamentally through the development of concrete actions that lead to put a final end to this dramatic reality.

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The Children and Armed Conflict mandate is about giving a voice to children, bringing attention to their plight in conflicts they neither created nor chose and, above all, protecting them.

“While working with MONUSCO in Goma, I advocated for the release of children from armed groups. Often, I was the first point of contact for boys and girls against whom grave violations had been committed by parties to the conflict. As we worked together to reconstruct their stories, they began to regain their self-confidence and the trust in their communities, as many of them believed that they had been betrayed by adults. I secured the release of children associated with armed groups from detention centres and liaised with justice actors to ensure that perpetrators of grave violations were held accountable.”

───── Adele Rutsobe, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Mali

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“Children affected by armed conflicts can change their lifestyles and become conscious of their future and useful for their communities when all stakeholders including community members and leaders, parents, children themselves, host governments, parties to conflict and child protection partners decide to play their respective child protection roles.

I remember in 2010 when a 14-year-old Ugandan girl previously abducted and used by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) exhibited some dance steps in tears of joy as she was informed by a partner on the way forward towards her family reunification and community integration.

This is just one example out of thousands that make me proud of the CAAC mandate.”

─────Alain Angu-andia Onziga, Child Protection Officer with MINUSCA

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“As we celebrate the 25 years of the Children and Armed Conflict mandate, I think an important message to take away is the art of cooperation and collaboration. We also need to be mindful of working with the local population, and I’ve been privileged in my 7-month here so far to see so many projects that help develop the future of the Congo and the adults of tomorrow.”

────Lt. Col. Sophie Gregory, Force Gender Advisor and Child Protection Officer with MONUSCO

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Mr. Forest Whitaker, Advocate for Children Affected by War and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation

Participating directly in the demobilization of child soldiers made me realize that their emancipation was only the beginning and that there had to be a continuity of action on our part to help them reintegrate society as normal citizens. This has defined some of the key orientations of my work today, as I strive to empower children, youths and women living in conflict areas, aiming in particular to support former child soldiers as peacebuilders and entrepreneurs.

If I had one thing to say today, it is that former child soldiers who have been reintegrated and rehabilitated are among the most dedicated and motivated advocates of peace and reconciliation. With mindful assistance, they can become highly valuable assets for their community.

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Kambale Kamaliro, Secretary-General of ACOPE (Actions Concretes pour la Protection de l’Enfance) in DR