The United Nations (“UN”) General Assembly on 19th August 1982 had called for an emergency special session to deliberate upon the question of Palestine and decided to commemorate 4 June of each year as the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression in the wake of the great number of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese children victims of Israel’s acts of aggression. This day affirms the UN’s commitment to protect the rights of children and for this, it is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The purpose of the day is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse. The UN, in its post on one International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, highlighted the six most common violations that are found during a conflict to be: recruitment and use of children in war, sexual violence, abduction, killing, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access.
Child abuse is in the spotlight of global attention and the UN is working hard to help protect children around the world. To date, 17 action plans to end violations against children have been signed with 20 armed forces and groups, resulting in the release of thousands of children. Since the 1990 World Summit for Children, the UN has increasingly sought to draw international attention to the plight of children affected by armed conflict. In 1996, an expert appointed by the Secretary-General, Graça Machel, submitted a report to the General Assembly depicting the terrible reality of children in war.
The following key recommendations, contained in the Machel Study 10-Year Strategic Review, serve as future guidelines to protect children and youth in situations of war:
- Securing universal compliance with international norms and standards — The international community should strive for universal adherence to international standards, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, that protect children from the adverse effects of war.
- End impunity for violations against children — Member States must ensure systematic and timely investigation and prosecution of crimes against children and youth in the context of armed conflict and provide assistance to victims.
- Strengthening the monitoring and reporting mechanism — Member States, United Nations entities and non-governmental organizations must continue to enhance the existing common framework to timely collect information on violations against children and youth.
- Promote justice for children — Member States need to uphold international standards on juvenile justice with detention used only as a last resort and a guarantee that detained juveniles be separated from detained adults.
- Support inclusive reintegration strategies — Stakeholders should ensure that release and reintegration strategies are in line with the Paris Commitments and Principles. Strategies should ensure long-term sustainability and community-based approaches, with an emphasis on education and employment.
- Integrate children’s rights in peace making, peacebuilding and preventive actions — All peace making and peacebuilding processes should be child-sensitive, including specific provisions in peace agreements.
- Increase the participation of and support for children and youth — The participation of children and youth in the child rights agenda is one of the key recommendations in the Machel Study 10-Year Strategic Review.
The ground breaking report drew global attention and led to the adoption of resolution 51/77 recommending the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development also provides us with a universal master plan to secure a better future for children. The new agenda includes for the first time a specific target (16.2) to end all forms of violence against children, and ending the abuse, neglect and exploitation of children is mainstreamed across several other violence-related targets. Thus the efforts taken to streamline the initiative have given direction to all the Member States, United Nations and paved the way for long-term sustainability and community-based approaches to the same issue.
On November 12th 1992, the Government of India ratiﬁed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In order to fulfill the mandate of the UN Convention and the Directive Principle of State Policy enshrined in Article 39(f) of the Constitution of India, the Government of India adopted a new National Policy for Children, 2013. It is enacted with the aim to secure “safety and security of all children which is integral to their well-being and children are to be protected from all forms of harm, abuse, neglect, violence, maltreatment and exploitation in all settings including care institutions, schools, hospitals, crèches, families and communities.” Pursuant to principles in the National Policy, the Ministry developed and released a National Plan of Action for Children (NPAC) on January 24, 2017. One of the key priority areas in the Plan is “protection” and the objective is to “protect all children from all forms of violence and abuse, harm, neglect, stigma, discrimination, deprivation, exploitation including economic exploitation and sexual exploitation, abandonment, separation, abduction, sale or trafficking.” The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) is given the key responsibility for overseeing the implementation of these policies in India. However, there are still many challenges in the implementation of these policies though they have created a sense of awareness amongst the masses.
Children who are affected due to violence and aggression need to be cared for in a special manner. Not only rehabilitation from the stressful environment the foremost recourse but also proper access to justice, mediums to pursue goals and form support groups, and also access to healthier environments key in promoting the welfare of children. Psychological and mental trauma can be addressed by scheduled counselling provided by establishments of the State and thereby promote the various options for treatment and co-habitation with a safer environment. As a community, we need to extend our hands to serve these children so that despite the harsh realities of their pasts they do hope to see and work towards a better future.
Author: Ria Nair is the Editor-in-Chief of Indian Society for Legal Research. She is pursuing B.B.A. LL.B (Hons.) Amity University, Mumbai.