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Who is Protecting Children Affected by Armed Conflict?

Who is Protecting Children Affected by Armed Conflict?

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Victoria Walshe. Originally submitted for Arts at University College Dublin, with lecturer Karen Smith in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Victoria Walshe. Originally submitted for Arts at University College Dublin, with lecturer Karen Smith in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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07/02/2014

 
4.Choosing from either 
child trafficking 
or 
children affected by conflict 
carryout a critical review of policy responses to the issue at the international level.
Who is Protecting Children affected by Armed Conflict?
As of today there are millions of children around the world suffering from the many andmounting affects of armed conflict. Whether it is state warfare or internal conflicts,children often bear the biggest brunt of the deteriorating political climates of thecountries in which they live. As many as 300,000 children in the world are being used asdirect weapons of war; recruited and used in armed conflict, and those who have escapedto perceived “safety” in refugee or displaced persons camps also witness and suffer immense atrocities. The devastating affects of armed conflict have significant impact onthe girl-child in particular, who is not only recruited and used as a child soldier but isoften subjected to further gender-based sexual violence as well. What is being done to protect these children so gravely affected by conflict? Although the internationalcommunity has made great strides in legislation in the last number of years in relation tothe protection of children such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and theOptional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, it seems a lot more needs to be done in the ways of preventionof these atrocities, in the implementation and monitoring of these legal frameworks andin punitive measures; holding the violators of children’s rights accountable at a nationaland international level.Children have been used for years in armed conflict, mainly in supporting roles such ascooks, porters, messengers and spies. However in the past decades with the changing
 
nature of war; increased internal conflicts in developing nations and the prevalence of terrorism, children are increasingly being used as “weapons of war”
1
. An estimated300,000 children have been recruited and used as soldiers in thirty different conflictsaround the world. Although some children “volunteer” themselves for the armed forcesdue to pressure from their families or due to the desperation of the hunger and poverty inwhich they live, the majority of child soldiers have been conscripted, abducted and forcedinto combat, years before their time. The international community has devised a number of policy responses in order to tackle the issue of the recruitment and use of children assoldiers in armed conflict. The initial standards prohibiting child recruitment wereoutlined over thirty years ago by the 1977 Additional Protocol to the Four GenevaConventions of 1949. They were further enhanced by the Convention on the Rights of theChild 1989 which was ratified almost universally, excluding six countries; the Cook Islands, Somalia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Switzerland and the United States of America. These standards established 15 years as the minimum age of recruitment anduse in armed conflict.
2
In response to the mounting problem of the use of children inarmed conflict, there was an advocacy to raise the minimum age to 18 in the 1990s.Given the almost universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adraft for an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armedconflict was proposed to focus specifically on the involvement of children in armedconflict. In 1994 the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights formed aworking group to draft the Optional Protocol and, six years later, it was formally adopted
1
Jo Becker,
 Human Rights Watch World Report 2004: Human Rights and Armed; “Children as Weaponsof War”,
(New York, 2004).
2
 
Guide to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict; UNICEF and Coalitionto Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, December 2003; available fromwww.unicef.org/emerg/index_childsoldiers.html; accessed 20/11/08
 
 by the UN on 25 May 2000. On the 12 February 2002, the Optional Protocol becamelegally binding as the first ten countries ratified.
3
The Optional Protocol increased theminimum age of participation in conflict to 18 and broadened the Convention standardsto include non-state armed forces; by prohibiting all recruitment by non-state armedforces – compulsory and voluntary - of anyone under 18. The Optional Protocol prohibitsthe compulsory recruitment by government forces of anyone under the age of 18 and callson state parties to raise the minimum age of 15 for voluntary recruitment andalternatively to implement safeguards to protect any volunteers under the age of 18, for instance in Ireland and the U.S. the minimum voluntary age remains at 17 but thesecountries do not allow under 18s to participate in direct conflict.
4
With the help of theUnited Nations child protection bodies and related NGOs, the Coalition to Stop the Useof the Child Soldier in particular, who have made the adoption, ratification andimplementation of the Optional Protocol their primary objective, 124 countries haveratified the protocol as of 1 October 2008.
5
However despite the significant progress inthe development of legal frameworks to protect children from being used as weapons of war, the practice still continues. The efforts made at the international level have provedinsufficient, with many governments continuing to recruit and use children, such asLiberia, Sudan, Burundi and Burma; who itself accounts for one quarter of the world’schild soldier population claiming over 70,000 children in their ranks.
6
Even thosecountries who have ratified the Optional Protocol flout their obligations and continue to
3
Guide to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict; UNICEF and Coalitionto Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, December 2003; available fromwww.unicef.org/emerg/index_childsoldiers.html; accessed 20/11/08
4
 
Ratification Status of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; available fromwww2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/ratification/11_b.html; accessed 04/12/08
5
 
Ratification Status of the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; available fromwww2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/ratification/11_b.html; accessed 04/12/08
 
6
Becker,
 Human Rights Watch World Report 2004,
224

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