Roadmap for protecting children in conflict areas:Rights and Commitment.

 Report by:Haffiya Elyas.                                                              
Child soldiers are children (individuals under the age of 18) who are used for any military purpose. Some are in their late teens, while others may be as young as four.

Some child soldiers are used for fighting – to kill and commit other acts of violence. Others are used as cooks, porters, messengers, informants or spies, or in any other way their commanders want. Child soldiers are also used for sexual purposes.

A two day consultative workshop was organized yesterday by the National Council for Child Welfare to review the road map for protecting children from grave violations in areas of armed conflict in Sudan, which comes in partnership with UNICEF, in the presence of national and international partners and representatives of armed struggle movements.

 Whenever stories about armed conflict, terrorism or the possibility of war appear on television or in the news, considering the possible reactions of children and youth is important. Such topics quickly become a focus and concern for children. Addressing children’s reactions is especially important when the issues directly relate to their family life, such as deployment of a parent for military service.

Secretary General of the National Council for Child Welfare NCCW, Dr. Abdul Qadir Abdullah Abuh, affirmed the government’s commitment to protecting children and thanked the regular forces, rapid support and armed struggle movements, and praised their cooperation in the matter of visits and investigations and their reception of members of the Road Map Committee, expressing the Council’s readiness to move forward until reaching an end to the involvement of children in Armed conflict to promote children’s rights and protection.

NCCW Secretary General indicated that Sudan’s report on the involvement of children in armed conflict will be submitted to the Sudan Mission to the United Nations on March 29, in preparation for handing it over to United Nations officials concerned with the file of involving the and use of children in areas of armed conflict.

The Action Plan for the Protection of Children in Armed Conflict was  signed by the Government  of Sudan and the UN on 27 March 2016 is considered one of the important steps in child protection , the Action Plan set out a series of measures to enhance the overall protection of children affected by armed conflict, including the cessation and prevention of child recruitment. The Government has shown serious commitment to fully implement the Action Plan. Several steps have already been taken by the Government to ensure its implementation, including establishing relevant structures at the national and state level for its implementation, providing access for verification, sending command orders and undertaking steps to access age verification mechanisms.

UNICEF representative, expressed his happiness with the progress made and considered that this is a great step that supports the investigation and access to all 12 targeted states, especially since the visit took place to only one state.

He considered the work of the technical committee and the presence of all this number of partners as a good indication of the success of protecting children from grave violations in areas of armed conflict.

The representative of UNTAMS had clarified their commitment to this file, stressing their partnership with the government and the mission’s interest in protecting children in areas of armed conflict.

  Legislation in the Sudan, the transitional Constitution of the Sudan, the armed Forces and National Security Act and the Child Act 2010 had helped to protect children from The Government is also working to obtain amnesty for children involved in armed conflict with a commitment to improve children righs. 

It is worth noting that in 1989, a major new human rights instrument was introduced: the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This provides for much more complete protection of the child—defining standards of how children should and should not be treated. Indeed, the principles, the provisions and the procedures of the Convention are particularly relevant at time of war when all the rights of the child are at risk.

Articles of the Convention that are especially important in wartime include all those related to survival and to family support, as well as those concerned with education, health care and adequate nutrition. Other rights that are particularly at risk include rights to:

protection against exploitation and violence;protection against torture, or any other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;family reunification;a name and nationality.

The Convention also makes specific mention of children in war. Article 38 calls on States Parties (i.e. governments) to apply the rules of international humanitarian law that are relevant to the child, and to take every feasible measure “to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by armed conflict.”

Article 38 also urges governments to take all feasible measures to ensure that children under 15 have no direct part in the hostilities. Specifically with respect to child soldiers, it states:

States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, States Parties shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest.

There was some controversy over this article in the drafting process. Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in particular, felt that the age limit was set too low. However, this debate has continued, and a United Nations working group has been established to draft an Optional Protocol to the Convention which would ban recruiting anyone below the age of 18.

Article 39 of the Convention also covers children in armed conflicts. It refers to the need for physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of child victims.

 Sudan was one of the first countries to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990. Sudan has formed a technical committee to prepare its fifth and sixth periodic combined report on the implementation of the CRC, with submission planned for March 201640. It has also signed and/or ratified other international instruments concerning children’s rights and protection

 On the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), Sudan raised the reservations that it, ‘Does not consider itself bound by Article 10 regarding the protection of privacy, Article 11 (6) regarding the education of children who become pregnant before completing their education or Article 21 (2) regarding child marriage’41. Sudan signed and ratified the 2004 Arab Charter of Human Rights in 201342. Conventions and protocols that Sudan has not upheld to date

 National legislation on children The Government of Sudan (GS) has made efforts to improve the legislative framework, to harmonise it with international standards, and to develop child protection mechanisms to create a protective environment for children. Sudan’s Interim National Constitution 2005 (INC) was the first national legislation in Sudan to recognise children’s basic rights. Following the separation of South Sudan, the GS initiated the drafting of a new constitution. This process started in 2011 as a joint programme between the Ministry of Justice and UNDP. Public education activities on constitution-making were developed across all 18 states, with other initiatives also underway by academic institutions and non-governmental organisations NGOs (e.g. the University of Khartoum, the  Ahfad University for Women, the  Al-Ayyam Centre and the Constitution Making Initiative). 

The on-going National Dialogue is a forum that offers the chance for political and civil society organisations to present their views on issues for inclusion in the new constitution. Sudan achieved a milestone through the enactment of the Child  Act in 2010, preceded by a comprehensive participatory process to determine the Child  Act’s scope. The INC and other legislation supports it, while the  Act supports the implementation of international treaties at national level, and ensures that national child-related legislation conforms to the CRC. It defines a child as every person who is not above 18 years old, criminalises child exploitation and abuse, raises the age of criminal responsibility from seven to 12 years, and establishes a comprehensive Justice for Children System.   

The Child  Act’s achievements were recognized by the UNCRC in 201044, but the Committee pointed to discrepancies over the definition of the child: ‘While welcoming the definition of a child as every any person under the age of 18 years under the Child  Act (2010), the Committee is concerned at the lack of consistency in the State party’s legislation and practice with regard to the definition of the child. In particular, the Committee is concerned that adulthood is, in practice, determined by reference, inter alia, to the attainment of puberty in conformity with  sharia  law. The Committee emphasizes that the incorrect determination of childhood has serious implications for the protection of children’s rights, particularly in relation to juvenile justice and child marriage’45. In 2013, the Constitutional Court resolved the important legal inconsistency between the Child  Act 2010 and the Criminal Law 1991 in relation to death penalty and age of the child. Its ruling affirmed that in any case concerning children the Child  Act should be applied, not the Criminal Law46. The Child  Act 2010 has not criminalised female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

 National strategies/plans for children Sudan has developed a number of child-related policies and plans, some of them at state level by extrapolation from national legislation. These plans are the official yardsticks to guide the organisation and management of child protection interventions. The Ministry of Welfare and Social Security (MWSS) or the National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW) have the coordinating roles for many of them. National Strategy for the Reintegration of Children  Associated with Armed Forces and Groups 2008: Led by the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (DDRC), and offering a framework to crystallize interventions and reintegration programs throughout Sudan (based on 2007 Paris Principles to protect children from recruitment by armed forces/groups

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