Children in areas where armed conflict exist or may arise should be protected

4 Jun, 2024 | Press Releases

Today, 4 June, recognises the pain and suffering of children worldwide who are victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse. The United Nations General Assembly created the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression in 1984 as a response to the conflict in the Lebanon War resulting in the suffering of Lebanese and Palestinian children. This day serves as an important reminder of how armed conflicts disproportionally affect children and urgently recognises the need to protect children in areas where conflict exists or may arise.

According to a recent publication by Save the Children, the number of children in conflict zones is on the rise, with 1 in 6 children globally living in an area of conflict. Over 200 million children live in the world’s most lethal war zones, the highest number in over a decade. Children living in these zones experience a great amount of fear, threats to mental and physical health and grave violations of their rights. The UN reports that the 6 grave violations against children often occur in these areas, including killing, their recruitment or use by armed forces, abduction, attacks on schools or hospitals, lack of humanitarian support and sexual violence. These dangers do not seem to be subsiding, in fact, they are only increasing. The nature of conflict today includes deliberate attacks on civilians. This has a disproportionate and negative affect on children, as the effects of such attacks and armed conflicts have longer lasting implications on the development and health of children.

Many steps have been taken to secure protection for children since the establishment of this day, yet the number of children affected by conflict only continues to rise. We are far from the 16.2 target goal established in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

No Peace Without Justice emphasises the importance of adhering to all international instruments and mechanisms created for the promotion and protection of the rights of children. While the International Criminal Court has and will continue to hold individuals accountable for committing crimes against children and also acting as a deterrence to such acts, nothing can change unless the international instruments and mechanisms are put in place and taken seriously by local, State and international organisations together. As long as armed conflict persists, children will always be victims, requiring protection, advocacy and support to exercise all of their rights.