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On February 8, the UN General Assembly held an informal meeting marking the 20th Anniversary of Resolution 51/77 (1997) on the promotion and protection of the rights of children. This resolution established the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC). In his opening remarks, President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, called the resolution “a landmark development in our global efforts to improve the protection of children in conflict situations.” A high-level panel discussion was moderated by SRSG-CAAC Ms.
From 22 to 24 November 2016, 31 leaders, commanders and advisers of 21 armed movements from 11 countries, including Syria, Iraq, Colombia, Yemen, and Burma/Myanmar, participated in workshops and discussions around the issue of child protection in armed conflict.
« We thank Geneva Call for this meeting on international norms to protect children, and for recognizing our role to promote human values in armed conflict, and this even though we are considered outlawed in our country » said a representative of an armed movement.
As humanitarian actors increasingly operate in situations of internal armed conflict, the importance of negotiating with ANSAs to ensure access has come to the forefront. Yet humanitarians on the ground and the broader international humanitarian community often fail to understand ANSAs’ perspectives and motives and, as a result, struggle to engage with them effectively.
Children in Armed Conflict
Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of armed conflict. They may be separated from their caregivers, their education may be interrupted or prevented from commencing, and in many respects they are less able to withstand physical and mental trauma. Children are more easily recruited into armed forces or armed non-State actors (ANSAs), and in addition to combat roles, may be used as spies, porters, informants, even in some cases for sexual purposes.
2014 was marked by an increase in the number and intensity of non-international armed conflicts in different contexts and countries. These conflicts are taking a dramatic toll on civilian populations, forcing families to leave their homes or children to enrol as fighters. More than ever, dialogue with armed non-State actors (ANSAs) is necessary for the protection of civilian populations from the effects of armed conflict.
Can a hospital be targeted if the enemy is inside and targeting you? Can you enrol young people as combatants without being sure they are 18? Can you pretend to surrender in order to attack your enemy by surprise? These are the types of questions—and they sometimes involve complex answers—that many combatants in armed groups might ask themselves in conflict areas. Geneva Call’s new mobile application quiz – called Fighter, not Killer- is available in English, French and Arabic and provides the answers to these questions in a simple yet meticulous way.
From 17th to 20th November, Geneva Call held in Geneva its Third Meeting of Signatories to the Deeds of Commitment and gathered 70 high-level representatives – political leaders, commanders and officers and legal advisers – of 35 armed non-State actors (ANSAs) coming from 14 different countries including Syria, Burma/Myanmar, Sudan, Philippines and Somalia. Most are signatories to at least one of Geneva Call’s Deeds of Commitment, but some non-signatory ANSAs also attended.
The recent War Report describes 27 on-going non-international armed conflicts in 24 States or territories, all involving armed non-State actors (ANSAs), most of them unequivocally subject to International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Violations of international humanitarian norms are widespread in all of these conflicts, with civilians consistently suffering the most. Many IHL violations – though not all – are committed by ANSAs.
On 12 March, following discussions initiated by Geneva Call, the European Parliament in Strasbourg unanimously passed a recommendation to the European Council to support the engagement of armed non-State actors on child protection in armed conflict. The recommendation urges the Council to encourage parties to conflict to cease recruitment of children and to sign action plans, and in the case of armed groups to adhere to Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict.
This report was stimulated by a conference on armed non-State actors (ANSAs) and the protection of internally displaced people organized in 2011 jointly by Geneva Call and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. The conference itself followed on from a special edition of Forced Migration Review magazine on ‘Armed non-state actors and displacement’.
Armed nonstate actors, be they insurgents, vigilantes, or criminal groups, are a common challenge in many African countries. Despite being illegal and clandestine, such groups often develop a mutual dependency with communities and civilians for security or economic relations. This has broadened strategies to manage these threats.
Globally, humanitarian and human rights
actors are increasingly approaching not only the armed forces of States,
but also those of NSAs to try to reduce the abuses committed during armed
conflict. By combining relevant literature with the findings from the analysis
of NSA involvement in humanitarian mine action, the report suggests some
factors and incentives that might influence the behavior of an NSA and
its likelihood of committing itself to respect humanitarian norms, as well
as factors that might influence the outcomes of such engagement.
At the global level, current and former
NSAs are contributing to humanitarian mine action, understood as activities
which aim to reduce the social, economic and environmental impact of landmines
and unexploded ordnance. The present report, which completes the 2005 report
"Armed Non-State Actors and Landmines. Volume I: A Global Report Profiling
NSAs and Their Use, Acquisition, Production, Transfer and Stockpiling of
Landmines", aims to add to the knowledge concerning the involvement of
NSAs in mine action.
Current and former NSAs are or have been involved in humanitarian mine action - understood as activities which aim to reduce the social, economic and environmental impact of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) globally.
Victim-activated landmines will maim and
kill irrespective of the hand that lays them and incognizant of the party,
military or civilian, that causes them to detonate. Acknowledging these
facts, a growing number of States has become party to the 1997 Convention
on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of
Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (henceforth referred to as
the Mine Ban Treaty or MBT). The MBT requires signatories to ban landmines
from their territories and to alleviate the impact that existing mines
can have on their population.
Mine action is often seen as an exclusively post-conflict activity. While such a perspective is understandable, it is nevertheless a limited view. An end to fighting does offer the best conditions for clearing battlegrounds of landmines, or for raising awareness of the dangers that mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) present, but focusing on the peace ignores the hardship inflicted on civilians by landmines throughout the war. Indeed, the majority of conflicts today happen within the borders of States, pitting armed non-State actors (NSAs) against the forces of the government.
What role do women leaders within armed opposition groups play in promoting or violating international humanitarian law and human rights law during situations of armed conflict? Are there ways for national and international humanitarian and human rights actors to work more effectively and successfully with such women to promote these laws during armed conflict?
In order to achieve a truly universal ban on antipersonnel mines, it is essential to engage armed non-state actors in the fight. This report represents an attempt on the part of Geneva Call to fill information gap by compiling and analysing currently available information on armed non-state actors mine use for the period of 2003-2004. The aim is to reflect the contribution of armed non-state actors to the landmine problem.