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At a glance: United States of America

Ten years on, the Machel Study cites continued abuse against children in conflict

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0796/ Toutounj
UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy speaks at the launch of the new ‘Machel Study 10-Year Strategic Review’ at UNICEF House.

By Amy Bennett

NEW YORK, USA, 17 June 2009 – More than a decade has passed since Graca Machel reported on the horrors of children trapped in armed conflict to the United Nations General Assembly. This year, a new publication documenting the results of a ten-year strategic review of the Machel Study has been launched by UNICEF and the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict.

The launch took place today, 16 June 2009 at UNICEF House, to a gathered crowd of UN experts and representatives from various organizations devoted to the protection of children.

The findings of the Machel review were presented in October 2007 to the United Nations Secretary General as part of the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. Following views of the inter-agency advisory group members, it was agreed to issue a second more in depth, substantive publication that would serve as a tool of reference for practitioners.

The new publication will be used in the ongoing struggle to help children that are affected by conflict. A panel discussion accompanied the launch – a platform to discuss the progress made since 1996, but also to remind the world that more must be done to better protect children from war.

In a changing world

“We have new and emerging issues,” emphasized the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, Radkhika Coomaraswamy. “And we really have to see how we are going to meet them and I think that the Machel Study is the first place that this has been looked at, and that has chronicled these changes.”

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0798/ Toutounji
L to R: From UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right,s Craig Mokhiber; From UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Chief Izumi Nakamitsu; From ADECOP, Guelord Mbaenda; From Save the Children Alliance, Gorel Bogarde.

Globally, it is estimated that over one billion children live in countries or territories affected by armed conflict – almost one sixth of the total world population. Of these, some 300 million are under the age of five. They suffer from both the direct consequences of conflict, as well as the long-term effects on their development and well-being. 

“They are not only caught in the crossfire, they are often the intended targets of violence, abuse and exploitation," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. "Over the past decade, children have been the victims of attacks on schools and hospitals, and they continue to be killed or maimed by landmines and other explosive devices. In conflict zones, their vulnerabilities often increase because violence claims their first line of defense: that is their parents.”

 'Will you listen?'

The title of a publication released in 2007 called ‘Will you listen? Young voices from conflict zones,’ remained a strong theme of the launch. Guelord Mbaenda, UNFPA and Executive Director of ADECOP in the DRC, said that children and young people often feel powerless in their own lives and that this is why they join armed groups. Incorporating them into the decision-making process will empower them.

Since the Machel Report was issued, children’s concerns are now more frequently reflected in peace negotiations and agreements, as well as in the mandates of peacekeeping missions. But children and young people want more.

“I hope the Machel Review will lead to an increased focus on the role children and young people can play in shaping our futures,” said Mr. Mbaenda.




UNICEF correspondent Amy Bennett reports on the launch of the Graca Machel 10-year strategic review of children in armed conflict.
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Former child soldier Ishmael Beah narrates a piece on children in armed conflict.
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