Khost leaders advocate for the rights of children in armed conflict

26 Jan 2020

Khost leaders advocate for the rights of children in armed conflict

KHOST - The abuse and recruitment of children in the Afghanistan remains a reality that must be challenged, said participants at a UN-backed event in the southeast province of Khost.

More than 60 participants, including representatives of the provincial government, police, armed forces, civil society and media, gathered in Khost city to discuss measures to help protect children, including from being recruited as labourers, soldiers and insurgents in the Afghan conflict. Participants underscored the urgent need to build a safe environment for children, including through better coordination and raising community awareness on the rights of children.

“Government, together with the community and civil society, should work together to stop child labour and abuse in Khost province,” said Mawlavi Ezhar, a well-known religious elder in the province. He condemned the abuse of children as un-Islamic: “The violation of children is not acceptable in Islam.”

Provincial Council member Zuhra Jalal, also a participant at the event, said ignorance on children’s rights contributes to abuse. “There is a general lack of awareness on the rights of children,” she said.

In the conflict in Afghanistan, children continue to be recruited in combat and support roles. Abuse remains an ongoing problem. In addition, the conflict has left thousands of children killed or maimed during the past decade. In the third quarter of 2019, 631 children were killed and 1,830 injured, according to UNAMA’s latest report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Another serious issue is displacement. Across Afghanistan, thousands of children and their families have been displaced because of the conflict. Many now live in poverty with limited access to meaningful employment or essential services such as health and education. The situation in remote and rural districts is particularly dire, with children being more susceptible to recruitment by armed forces and insurgent groups due to poverty and marginalization.

To address the situation, the government and its international partners have moved forward on several initiatives designed to protect children from harm in Afghanistan.

In 2011, the government and the UN signed a Joint Action Plan for the Prevention of Underage Recruitment. In 2014, the government’s Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict endorsed a 15-point roadmap toward compliance with the action plan, drafted jointly by the Afghan government and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF and UNAMA.

In 2015, the government enacted a law criminalizing the recruitment and use of children in the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Afghanistan’s revised Penal Code, which entered into force in February 2018, criminalizes the recruitment and use of children in military units and also criminalizes bacha bazi, a harmful practice whereby men use boys for sexual entertainment.

In 2019, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict launched a campaign to protect children affected by conflict.

The event in Khost, which was organized by UNAMA’s field office in Gardez, concluded with recommendations for stronger collaborations and better mechanisms for protecting the rights of children, especially those in rural and remote areas who remain most at risk.

UNAMA works with various institutions and individuals, including community leaders, youth groups, women and local media stations to create platforms – using radio, social media and television – for Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.

In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.