New York, 14 February 2023 (TDI): The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, in the latest report gathered data showing that high levels of violations are continuing against children.

The Special Representative on Children & Armed Conflict said prevention of violence against boys and girls is essential. According to data, about 24,000 grave violations occurred in 2021.

Most involved killing and maiming, recruitment, and use in fighting, followed by denial of humanitarian access and abduction.

Multiple Risk Factors for Children

She further said that understanding and identifying the pre-existing risks and vulnerabilities would be critical to protecting kids and preventing violations in conflict-ridden regions.

The most vulnerable children are those that lack access to education and livelihoods and those who are in situations of poverty and displacement and have disabilities, among other risk factors.

These children are exposed to recruitment and re-recruitment by armed groups and other risks such as gender-based violence in times of war.

She also documented that the agency needs to take measures for children that are used in trafficking and taken to across borders in conflict situations.

More Action Needed

Virginia Gamba highlighted robust tools and initiatives taken by her office, which include warring parties to implement action plans for better protection of children and also joint action plans with concerned governments.

But more is needed, there is an opportunity to develop national-level strategies or common approaches to prevent violence, also at the sub-regional and regional levels.

Moreover, there should be sufficient capacities provided to governments willing to engage in this direction.

Also read: Preventing child recruitment in Armed Forces

She said that her office strengthened its partnership with the Office of the Secretary General’s Special Representative on Violence against Children which is headed by Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid.

“We commit to better understanding and externally communicating integral linkages between these two agendas going forward, including between early warning and incidents of violations and abuses against children, with the children – and their voices – at their center,” she said.

Conflicts Overlap Crises

In the briefing, M’jid noted that conflicts often overlap with other crises, for example, the climate emergency and the financial crisis.

These crises also intensify pre-existing social inequalities, poverty, hunger, and discrimination, further exacerbating the risks and impact of violence among children.

The UN Special Representative also presented several concrete preventive measures to address “the continuum of violence”, starting with understanding and identifying children caught in conflict and where they are located.

Ensure Aid Access for Children

It is of crucial importance to ensure the provision of easy access to humanitarian aid, also support for all children with particular attention to the most vulnerable. This could make kids, families, and communities more resilient to the adverse impacts of conflict.

Dr. M’jid also emphasized the need to strengthen cross-border cooperation to protect forcibly displaced children from abduction, trafficking, or going missing.

Cooperation on this aspect would allow better accountability of perpetrators, and traffickers through improved capabilities for criminal investigations and mutual legal assistance.

Uplift Children’s Experiences

There is a need to take all actions to address child protection that must be informed and shaped by children’s experiences, as they know best where the systems failed them the most.

The children that are affected by conflict are also taking steps to provide peer support, promote peace and reconciliation, and prevent radicalization.

“In Syria and Ukraine, girls have shared their stories with the world to promote peace. In Afghanistan, they have promoted peace through art and writing.

In Africa and Latin America, young leaders have been actively engaged in peace-building. These are just a few examples,” she said.