of Armed Conflict
on Children

Report of Graça Machel,
Expert of the Secretary-General
of the United Nations

Selected Highlights




Health and nutrition
Promoting Psychological recovery and social reintegration
Education: Investing in the future of children


Child soldiers: An affront to humanity
Children in flight: Refugee and internally displaced children
Gender-based violence: A weapon of war
The devastation of landmines and unexploded ordnance
Adolescents: A neglected group


International law and the protection of children in armed conflict
The protection of children: A priority for the international peace and security agenda
Advocating for children's rights: Actions for everyone


"The sources of conflict and war are pervasive and deep. To reach them will require our utmost effort to enhance respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, to promote sustainable economic and social development for wider prosperity, to alleviate distress and to curtail the existence and use of massively destructive weapons."

United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali,
An Agenda for Peace, 1995.

Armed conflict, more than any other force, has transformed the lives of millions of children and women. Children and their families are not just getting caught in the crossfire. Many are being targeted. Nothing is spared, held sacred or protected. It is the singular characteristic of armed conflict in our time that children suffer most.

In the past decade alone, an estimated 2 million children have been killed in armed conflict. Three times as many have been seriously injured or permanently disabled. Countless others have been forced to witness or even to take part in horrifying acts of violence. These statistics are shocking enough, but more chilling is the conclusion to be drawn from them: more and more of the world is being sucked into a desolate moral vacuum, a space devoid of the most basic human values, a space in which children are slaughtered, raped and maimed, where children are exploited as soldiers, starved and exposed to extreme brutality.

Calling a halt to attacks on children

The lack of control and the sense of dislocation and chaos that characterize contemporary armed conflicts can be attributed to many factors, such as political upheavals and struggles for control over resources in the face of widespread poverty and economic disarray. The callousness of modern warfare may be a natural outcome of the social revolutions that have torn traditional societies apart. But whatever the causes, the time has come to call a halt. The international community must proclaim attacks on children for what they are - intolerable and unacceptable.

As a result of a recommendation of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the General Assembly in 1993 requested the Secretary-General to appoint an expert to study the impact of armed conflict on children. After two years of research, field visits and consultations, Graça Machel, the Secretary-General's Expert on the subject and a former Minister for Education in Mozambique, submitted a report, titled Impact of Armed Conflict on Children (document A/51/306 and Add. 1), to the 1996 session of the General Assembly. The report's most fundamental premise is that children simply have no part in warfare. It reveals the full extent of children's involvement in the armed conflicts raging around the world, and sets out the findings and recommendations aimed at Governments, entities of the United Nations system, intergovernmental and regional bodies, civil society organizations and individuals. This booklet is aimed at raising awareness among the widest possible audience of the impact of all forms of armed conflict on children. It focuses on some of the report's main recommendations for action. The examples provided in this publication have been drawn from research for the report on Impact of Armed Conflict on Children.