Save Children calls for perpetrators of violations against children in conflict zones to be held to account

After a day of heavy airstrikes in the Yemen, in which at least four children were killed and many were injured, Save the Children calls on governments around the world to recognise the role they have to play in ending grave violations against children, including ending arms sales to countries that indiscriminately bomb civilian areas.

The attacks by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition in Yemen happened on the same day that Save the Children launched a ten-point Charter setting out key points to ensure that children are protected during conflicts. Holding perpetrators to account is one of the pillars of the charter, which was presented at the Peace Palace in The Hague, The Netherlands.

The charter forms the basis for a safer future for the 420 million children currently living in conflict-affected areas.

Children in conflict face severe and multiple violations of their rights, like killing and maiming, sexual violence, recruitment and obstruction of humanitarian aid.

The Charter, presented during the launch of the Stop the War on Children-campaign, outlines what states and armed groups can and must do to ensure children are protected from war and supported in their recovery.

Hundreds of children in The Netherlands and tens of thousands of children in over 50 countries all over the globe joined the Stop the War on Children campaign by raising their hands in a STOP sign, symbolising the urgent need to protect children living through conflict.

In its report on paediatric blast injuries, Save the Children revealed that explosive weapons account for 72% of child deaths and injuries across the five world’s deadliest conflict zones – in 2017, at least 5322 children were killed by explosions in these zones. Worldwide, around one in five children live in conflict affected areas, where they run the risk of being killed or maimed, abducted, or see their schools and hospitals bombed. Violations against children have nearly tripled since 2010.

Children from Syria and Nigeria presented the Charter to Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s HC for Human Rights and Her Royal Highness Princess Viktória of The Netherlands, at the end of the Stop the War on Children Global Symposium, taking place to mark 100 years of Save the Children.

At the symposium, global decision makers such as Michelle Bachelet, Virginia Gamba, Fatou Bensouda, medical experts and representatives from countries like Afghanistan, Argentina, Japan, Colombia, Syria, Spain, Sierra Leone, UK and The Netherlands, joined children from conflict areas to make commitments to better protect children in conflict areas.

Michelle Bachelet said, “It is absolutely critical to have this discussion now, as millions of children suffer in conflict every day. The rights and well-being of children – including in conflict – should be a priority for all of us, and we need stronger and more consistent systems to hold to account the perpetrators of crimes. The ten points launched today are an important reminder to all governments of the commitments they have made to children’s rights. They reinforce the work being undertaken by the UN and other actors to protect children in conflict situations.”

The Stop the War on Children Charter is based on three pillars: providing safety by making sure that parties to any conflict adhere to international law and standards, pursuing justice by holding perpetrators to account and taking measures on the ground to ensure children receive all practical help they need.

Save the Children International CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt, said,”1 in 5 children are now growing up in areas affected by conflict, and those children are seeing and experiencing things that no child ever should. Homes, schools and playgrounds have become battlefields, and children end up trapped on the frontline. Explosive weapons kill and maim children indiscriminately, and aid is used as a weapon of war.

“The world seems to be accepting an outrageous new normal of the conventions of war being treated with flagrant disregard, and children are paying the price. It is shocking that in the 21st Century we are retreating on a principle that is so simple – children should be protected.

“Today we are bringing together leaders in the Peace Palace in The Hague to try to end this culture of impunity. The failure to protect children in conflict not only robs children, but also their countries—and the entire world—of a better future. All governments and warring parties can make a difference by backing up the charter to protect children in conflict.”

/Public Release. View in full here.