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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

At ‘Machel plus 10’ launch, children have their say about conflict

© UNICEF/2007/Susan Markisz
At the ‘Machel plus 10’ Youth Report launch, Fatou Sanoe, Saif Ayed (speaking) and Chernor Bah present the findings, which represent the thoughts of 1,700 children from 92 countries.

A decade after the United Nations issued Graça Machel’s landmark report on children affected by armed conflict, the context of conflict has changed dramatically. A strategic review of the Machel report was released in mid-October to address this issue for the next 10 years. Here is the last in a series of stories testifying to the importance of that review, ‘Machel Plus 10’.

NEW YORK, 1 November 2007 – About 1,700 children from 92 countries contributed to a report that accompanied the recently launched UN review highlighting the devastating impact of armed conflict on the lives of millions of children.

The youth report, ‘Will you listen? Young voices from conflict zones’, includes firsthand accounts of the atrocities that children suffer during war and calls for more involvement of children in resolving conflicts and healing post-conflict societies.

The report accompanied the Machel Study 10-Year Strategic Review by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, which finds that as major wars are replaced by low-level conflicts, the threats to children are increasing.

‘Giving young people a voice’

Young people identified nine issues as the most pressing: violence, displacement, rape, missing out on education, poverty, loss of childhood and lack of international support.

“This is giving young people a voice. It’s telling you to make the right decisions. We want to be brought into the process,” said Chernor Bah, a Special Youth Fellow at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and one of a panel of young people who presented the report at the United Nations.

Mr. Bah became a displaced person and then a refugee because of conflict in his native Sierra Leone. His fellow panel members included Saif Ayed from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Fatou Sanoe and Ayouba Swarway from Liberia and Vidar Ekehaug from Norway.

Children believe they are ignored

Drawing upon direct quotes from children in conflict zones, the youth report says many children believe they are ignored in aid planning. They also feel that their governments do not do enough to support international agreements protecting children. 

“It’s an emergency. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying,” said Mr. Bah.

The report was developed jointly with UNFPA and other partners. The co-sponsors of the launch included the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations, Special Representative Coomaraswamy, UNICEF and UNFPA.



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