"Will you listen?" - Young voices from conflict zones

Report
from UN Office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict
Published on 18 Dec 2007
Preface

The 1996 UN report "The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children", widely known as the Machel study, for the first time brought the issues faced by children in armed conflict to international attention. Ten years later, a strategic review has now been convened to assess progress and look forward to identify key challenges and priorities for the future of the Children and Armed Conflict Agenda. The resulting report is to be presented to the General Assembly in October 2007, with the publication of more detailed analysis and findings to follow over the next year.

This Companion to the 10 year Machel Strategic Review compiles the views and recommendations of some 1,700 children and young people in 92 countries. Their thoughts and ideas were collected as a key contribution to the Review through a series of focus group discussions and an online questionnaire.

Focus group discussions were conducted by UNICEF, UNFPA and NGO partners in 18 countries, and involved approximately 1385 participants in 125 focus groups.The discussions were conducted in countries recently or currently affected by armed conflict. The online survey received 385 responses from a total of 92 different countries, a majority of which (78%) were from developing countries.

The focus group discussions included children and young people who have experienced conflict themselves, with many of the participants speaking about how their own lives have been affected. Facilitators tried to ensure a safe environment, to use the local language where appropriate and to create a certain 'comfort participants despite the unique challenges in each country.

For example, participants in Rwanda requested to submit their answers in writing, as they felt talking about their experiences in a group setting would open up many wounds. A focus group discussion in Somalia was held through a radio show in which more than 140 children and young people called in to talk about their experiences.

The following pages present a wide range of voices, concerns and demands captured by these discussions and online surveys. For more details and background on the survey that lead to this companion report, please visit www.unicef.org/voy

This report was compiled and edited by Vidar Ekehaug from the Global Youth Action Network (GYAN) and Chernor Bah, Special Youth Fellow at UNFPA. Special thanks go to Mima Perisic, Naseem Awl and the Division of Communication from UNICEF, Cécile Mazzacurati and David Del Vecchio from UNFPA, Susan Nicolai from the

Machel Review Secretariat, Jenny Perlman Robinson from the Women's Children, and all the GYAN team.

We are displaced children.

We are children who have been used by armed groups.

We are orphans.

We are street children.

We are girls who sell our bodies to survive.

We are children who have to work

We are children who can't go to school.

We are children with disabilities.

We are children living with HIV.

We are detained children.

We are girls who have been raped.

We are children taking care of our brothers and sisters.

We are children without a childhood.

"We have all lost a part of our life, and it will never come back." - Young man, 18, Burundi

We are from Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo (Serbia), Liberia, Nepal, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Uganda and many other countries.

We won't tell you our names because it could be dangerous

We all have one thing in common: Our lives have been affected by armed conflict. That is why, even though we come from different places and our problems are not always the same, we speak with one voice.

We have not given up all hope yet. We still want to go to school and play with our friends. We want to help build peace in our societies and make this world a better place. We still have big dreams.

For some of us, getting together for the sake of this report gave us a rare opportunity to sit with our friends and share our stories. It has also been an opportunity to finally tell you what we feel and think.

But talking is not enough. Will we see any change after you meet to talk about us? Will you hear our voices and act on what we tell you?

We have tremendous energy and a strong will to fight for our futures. Many of us are already taking action. Will you join us?