Armed Conflicts – WPAY
26. Peace and security are prerequisites for reaching the goals of the World Programme of Action for Youth. Protection of vulnerable young people in situations of armed conflict is an immediate concern. The past decade has seen an unprecedented increase in the involvement of young people, both as victims and as perpetrators, in armed conflict. Today, there are an estimated 300,000 child and youth combatants actively involved in armed conflicts.k
27. A comprehensive legal framework has been developed during the last decade on the protection of youth. However, this legal framework has been confined to those who are under the age of 18.l The Convention on the Rights of the Child provides the legal basis for ensuring children’s rights. The World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children, adopted in 1990, aims to “protect children from the scourge of war and to take measures to prevent further armed conflicts, in order to give children everywhere a peaceful and secure future”. A new agenda for action by the international community has been set to achieve the protection of children in situations of armed conflict. Several new international instruments, such as International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, were developed. Both documents prohibit the forced and compulsory recruitment of children and youth up to age 18 in situations of conflict.
28. It remains debatable whether the progress achieved in the past decade in establishing an international legal framework for the protection of minors in armed conflicts has contributed to increased willingness among warring parties to protect children and youth. Experience from some countries in conflict does not lead to optimism that the achievements on the international political, legal and normative level are being translated to actions on the ground. However, on the basis of some key lessons of programmes dealing with youth in armed conflict, a number of recommendations could be made.
29. It is essential to accumulate and store knowledge on effective ways of responding to the special needs of youth in armed conflict. Sharing this information for the international community in an accessible and structured way would provide better knowledge to make early interventions that could save lives. Special attention may be given to different approaches of reintegrating youth who were victims and those who were perpetrators.
30. The elaboration of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes should include ways to tailor them towards the special needs of youth, in particular with regard to specific information and access to these processes for young soldiers, skill development and training at demobilization camps for young soldiers and follow up of ex-youth soldiers who have been reintegrated in their communities of origin. Evaluation and special programming for youth should incorporate a gender perspective.
31. Devising educational measures with a focus on building skills in crisis prevention and peacebuilding could help prevent violent and armed conflicts. This approach rests upon the growing awareness that youth are dynamic agents of peace, and instead of being part of “the problem”, they should become part of the solution. The perspective emphasizes the role of young people as peacebuilders, and allows them to help sustain peace, instead of responding violently to looming conflict.
32. The issues pertinent to the situation of youth and former child soldiers should be incorporated into peace negotiations and into programmes that aim to reintegrate them into society. Youth participation helps to build participatory democracy and helps to achieve better outcomes of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts.
33. In environments that provide few attractive options for employment, armed conflicts often have offered young people a way of generating income. Providing opportunities for meaningful work for youth decreases the risk of young people being recruited into or voluntarily joining hostile forces. In post-conflict situations, policies that emphasize strategies for youth employment not only help to provide a decent living for young people, but also discourage young soldiers from being re-recruited into armed conflicts. Special attention may be paid to tailoring education, vocational training and skills development to the actual labour market needs of the region where ex-youth soldiers will return. In this context, training has to go hand in hand with job creation in the informal and formal local labour market.
k. See A/59/282.
l. The term “child”, in connection with United Nations conventions on the legal protection of children, in the majority of the cases describes all persons under the age of 18; the term .young adult soldier. describes persons between 18 and 21 years of age.