Safety of Children-Worldwide

Article excerpt

An International Conference on War Affected-Children, co-sponsored by Canada and UNICEF, was held in Winnipeg, Canada, in September 2000. This conference brought together experts from all over the world to discuss issues related to the protection of children in war affected countries. While the conference specifically focused on those children in war, there are issues that can be applied to the problems of violence against children in this country.

Keynote speaker at the conference was Graca Machel of Mozambique and South Africa, author of THE IMPACT OF ARMED CONFLICT ON CHILDREN. "Power and greed can never be an excuse for sacrificing children," Ms. Machel said, "In tolerating this scourge of war against children, every one of us becomes complicit in the violence and harm inflicted upon them".

Machel reviewed the progress made in protecting children since the 1996 landmark document she wrote that raised global awareness to violence in so many war-torn countries. Serious violations against children during war continues. According to Machel, an estimated 300,000 children under 18 are participating in armed conflicts - fighting on the front lines, abused sexually by older soldiers, and used as porters of arms. At least 20 million children have been uprooted from their homes, more than 2 million more have died from war-induced malnutrition and disease.

The report contains specific recommendations for the international community on a wide range of issues affecting children in war. In addition to child soldiers and sexual violence, it identifies HIV/AIDS, landmines, and comprehensive sanctions. Other themes included ending immunity for those who commit crimes against children, ensuring that children are central in the issues related to peacemaking, and strengthening mechanisms for monitoring and reporting violations of children's rights.

New measures to protect children from military recruitment and to prosecute and punish crimes against children have taken place. Increased importance on education is placed as an essential part of humanitarian relief, joining food, health, and shelter. UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, added that, "Education is the key to a children's development and future prospects and must not be overlooked in times of conflict. It is essential as an alternative to recruitment by armed forces. It can play a vital role in helping children heal from the traumas of war and in promoting peace and tolerance; and it is the key to HIV awareness, prevention and care firing crises."

UNIFEM Executive Director, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, also praised the review saying that, "Machel highlights what we already know but continue to neglect - that women and children suffer disproportionately during armed conflict. humanitarian responses are inadequate and sometimes inappropriate."

Politicians in this country discuss defense as vital to our national security but ignore the rights of children in relation to the same issue. …