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Ten years on, Machel Review

© UNICEF/ HQ01-0370/Roger LeMoyne
Sudan: Two small boys, one with his arm around the other, walk near Rumbek, capital of the southern province of Lakes. One of the boys wears an over-sized T-shirt bearing the UNICEF logo and the words "All children all rights everywhere," which he acquired at a transit camp for recently demobilized child soldiers that is situated in the town.
17 October 2007 - A new report, released in October 2007 by UNICEF and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG), urges all UN member states – both donor countries as well as those ravaged by war – to fulfill their responsibilities to children in conflict zones.

A follow-up to the landmark 1996 Graça Machel study, “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children,” the new report covers the past decade. Given the changing nature of conflict in the world, and the threats it poses to children, this Machel Study review is particularly timely. 

The review finds that, in war zones throughout the world, civilians – particularly children – are not just caught in the crossfire. They are increasingly the targets of violence, abuse and exploitation, victims of poorly-trained, lightly armed groups that prey on civilians. Children are victims of sexual assault, terrorist attacks, strikes against schools and hospitals, and abductions aimed at forcing them to serve as combatants, servants or sex slaves.  Their family possessions are seized or destroyed, exposing them to poverty, hunger and disease. Often the violence claims their first and only line of defense – their parents.

While the original study alerted the world to the brutal realities faced by child combatants, this new report broadens the concept of children affected by war to include all children affected in all situations.  This new approach seeks to protect not only those children whose physical security is threatened, but also those who are in dire need of basic services -- such as education, health, water and sanitation – or those who are displaced by war or suffering from hunger or disease. Consider the following statistics:

  • In 2006 more than 18 million children were displaced by war, both with and without their families;
  • At least 50 percent of the world’s out-of-school children are living in conflict zones;
  • Aid agencies estimate that only 30 percent of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have access to even the most basic health services.

A number of international legal standards protecting children from the horrors of combat have emerged in the past decade in response to the original Machel Study. Yet despite this progress, hundreds of thousands of boys and girls continue to serve as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers and for sexual purposes.  The strategic review calls upon governments to adhere to international norms protecting children and to use their influence to put an end to the unlawful recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. Other key recommendations include a call to end impunity for violators of children’s rights and to include children in the peace-building process.
Indeed, the importance of allowing young people to speak out on conflict is reflected in the simultaneous release of a separate report – “Will You Listen: young voices from conflict zones.”  This moving and often heart-breaking account depicts the horrors many children have endured as well as their hope to build a new life free of violence.

Related press releases and news notes:

NEW YORK, 17 October 2007 Ten years on, Machel Review cites continued abuse against children in conflicts



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The Machel Reports { External site}
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