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Stopping the War on Children

15 February 2019, Action for Change, Research and Reports, Emergencies

“Every war is a war against children.”

One hundred years on, the words of Save the Children founder Eglantyne Jebb remain as true as ever.

Right now, more children are being exposed to armed violence than at any time in the past 20 years. The number of violations perpetrated against them has reached a record high. And the damage done to children – physically, psychologically and in terms of their development – will have a devastating impact on their future.

Ending the war on children so that they may survive and flourish is now the international community’s urgent task.

Growing up amid bullets and bombs

The new report, Stop the War on Children, — commissioned by Save the Children and conducted by the Peace Research Institute in Oslo — has found that more than 420 million children are living within conflict zones. 

This is roughly one in five children worldwide.

The report also states that at least 870,000 children under five died as a result of armed conflict between 2013 and 2017 — five times more than the almost 175,000 fighters killed in the same period.

The Stop the War on Children report not only shines a light on the shocking facts in comprehensive detail but also provides recommendations for what we all – for the sake of a peaceful and prosperous future – can do about it.

A violation of children’s basic rights

Last year, there were more grave violations carried out against children in conflict than ever before.

Abducted and abused. Killed and maimed. Raped and recruited. Denied medical care and aid. Children are no longer just caught in the crossfire – they have become targets in wars raged by adults.
 


Zahra*, 11, with her sister Fatima*, 3, in the doorway of their family’s temporary shelter in the city of Idlib, north western Syria.

This is truly an era of war on children.

CEO of Save the Children International, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, says the resolution must come not from choosing sides, but from choosing children.

“When the rules of war are broken, the international community must be clear that this will not be tolerated and hold perpetrators to account,” she says. “And for the children whose lives are wrecked by conflict, we must do all we can to protect them from further harm and help rebuild their future.

“The suffering of so many millions of children is not inevitable and tackling it is in the interests both of our essential shared humanity as well as our national priorities.”

Steps we can take to protect children

While the Stop the War on Children Report discloses a comprehensive collection of data on children living in conflict-affected areas, it also details the specific next steps we need to take to make sure we can protect them.

These can serve as a platform on which the international community can build its efforts to protect the 420 million children currently living in areas affected by conflict, through:

  • Upholding standards of conduct in conflict

  • Holding perpetrators to account

  • Protecting children on the ground and supporting their recovery

The recommendations are squarely aimed at governments, since it is governments that have the primary responsibility for upholding children’s rights, as well as the greatest potential for long-lasting influence on the protection of children in conflict.

Our ambition remains to advocate for children – with the same unyielding determination as our founder 100 years ago – to those who have the greatest influence on the protection of these innocent children who continue to be threatened by wars they played no part in creating.

Australia can do more

In January the Australian Government announced its ambition to become one of the top 10 defence exporters in the world and remains committed to signing a new defence agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Save the Children are calling on Australia to join the Belgian, Dutch, and Norwegian governments in halting the issuing of defence export licenses to Saudi Arabia and other parties to the conflict, and to reconsider those that have already been approved.

We also call on the Australian Government to provide greater transparency over military sales and services, and to make these explicitly conditional on respect for international humanitarian law.

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