Kapisa leaders strategize on protecting children from the armed conflict

9 Aug 2018

Kapisa leaders strategize on protecting children from the armed conflict

MAHMUD-E-RAQI - At a UN-backed symposium in the central province of Kapisa, government officials, rights activists and other community leaders discussed ways to improve the protection of children from the impact of the armed conflict in Afghanistan.

The discussion at the daylong event, which drew a broad spectrum of participants, including local media, focused on the responsibilities of all members of Afghan society, from families to community leaders, in protecting children’s rights.

The conversations ranged from enhancing coordination between government and community counterparts to more effectively integrating efforts in monitoring and addressing cases of abuse and other rights violations.

Thousands of children in Afghanistan have been killed, injured and displaced during the last decade. In 2017 alone, 861 children were killed and 2,318 injured during the conflict, according to UNAMA’s latest report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Abdul Rahman, a religious scholar, said the protection of children’s rights is a religious obligation of parents, communities and warring parties. “Islam orders its followers not to target the vulnerable groups of the community at any time during armed conflict,” Rahman said.

Rights activist Farhad Behroz expressed similar views, adding that Afghan and international law creates obligations to protect children’s rights. “Our children are recruited into the conflict to fight, and they are killed or wounded, or become vulnerable to rights violations such as abduction, rape and psychological torture,” Behroz said.

According to international law, a child associated with an armed force or armed group refers to any person younger than 18 years old who is, or who has been, recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity.

In 2011, the Afghan government and the UN signed a Joint Action Plan for the Prevention of Underage Recruitment. In 2014, the government endorsed a 15-point Road Map toward compliance with the Action Plan. Measures outlined in the Road Map include the criminalisation of the recruitment and use of children.

Mohammad Basharat, a Labour Ministry official, highlighted new programmes in Kapisa designed to address the issue of recruitment into armed forces by instead providing children with vocational training. The programmes, he said, are designed to address both child labour and poverty.

Sherullah, a civil society activist, stressed that all Afghans have a responsibility to protect children’s rights so the children of today can lead the country tomorrow. “It is our communal responsibility to protect children’s rights,” Sherullah added.

At the end of the lively discussion, participants agreed to work together to coordinate and expand their efforts to protect children’s rights, especially by raising awareness at the community level, engaging religious leaders, elders, school teachers, civil society and media in addressing the issue collectively.

The Kapisa event, organized by UNAMA’s Kabul regional office, was recorded and later broadcast by local radio outlets Sada-e-Nijrab and Bahar, reaching audiences in and around Kapisa’s provincial capital and several northern districts of Kabul province.

By facilitating similar outreach activities across the country, including radio and television programming, UNAMA continues to carry out its mandated work to support the protection, rights and well-being of children.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides 'good offices' among other key services. 'Good offices' are diplomatic steps that the UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent national and international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.

UNAMA also promotes coherent development support by the international community; assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.