Are There Enough Humanitarian Laws Put in Place to Protect Children?

Two men carry Syrian children in their arms to safety through a cloud of smoke while the road is filled with piled up rubble Two men carry Syrian children in their arms to safety through a cloud of smoke while the road is filled with piled up rubble © Sultan Kitaz/Reuters

Humanitarian laws are put in place to create a sense of safety and protection, but not enough protect vulnerable children who need them the most.

The founder of Save the Children, Eglantyne Jebb, said it best when she said “all wars are wars against children”. This Human Rights Watch article cited below raises the question whether  enough humanitarian laws if any are in place to protect and serve children stuck in the middle of conflict. The second part to the question is if governments are also willing to hold criminals accountable and finally protect the needs of children. The Inquiry on Protecting Children in Conflict, a 500-page report, explains that young people are the most vulnerable and susceptible to violence as a result of conflict and wars. The report also calls for immediate reform to international humanitarian law, criminal law and human rights laws.

Throughout the world children are caught in the crossfire, rebellion and often are the most affected consequently. Some of their unfortunate reality are lack of school facilities, such as classrooms and school buses, because they have been overrun by military control and inevitably are being attacked while their teacher is conducting a lesson in their classrooms. One of the places a child should feel safe to play with their friends, get an education and create positive memories has turned into a war zone. They also have to fear being raped, kidnapped and fear for their lives. Consequently, children are seen as an opportunity to recruit to the rebel side by turning them into child soldiers. By making them commodities in countries such as Iraq, Syria, and South Sudan at such a young age they are not under special protection because of their age, but seen as an added number to the regime who can die at any moment. On top of worrying about outside affects they also have to worry about their personal fight against disease, starvation and wondering where their next meal will come from.

The United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, insinuates that there should be some clarification and strict laws put in place to protect children who are left behind to feel the effect of war and conflict. As a chairman for The Inquiry on Protecting Children in Conflict, some of Brown’s ideas are that it should be unlawful to deny access to humanitarian assistance when it could leave children starved. He continued to say there should be a collective punishment as a result of breaking these laws or violating care intended for children. Also, there should be specific laws that prohibit schools from being used for military purposes because it leaves them vulnerable to being targeted. So then the problem thus becomes with all of his proposed solutions, the laws that are already in place are not effective nor consistently enforced. This resulting effect is because the governments of conflict and war torn countries do not think deeply of the irrevocable effects that children will feel for their lifetime and pass to their future children, nor the moral and ethical codes they choose to violate against children. Some of the countries that feel the failure of laws the most are South Sudan, Myanmar, Syria and Nigeria. In South Sudan girls have to worry about gang rape and abduction starting from as young as eight year olds. In Syria and Yemen, school children are in fear of leaving their homes to go to school and never coming back because of air raids, chemical warfare and bombings. Furthermore, almost all of these countries have a second battle to face; if they are not harmed or killed by theses acts of violence, then starvation will inevitably be the cause of their deaths. The report illustrated that Yemen is on the verge of the famine affecting some five million children.

In conclusion, many more laws and policies need to be put in place in order to protect children of war. Even wars have rules but in this day and age rules set in place to keep children out of war are nonexistent or violated frequently. The careless way countries and governments are not paying attention to these children causes the numbers of death, rape, and enslavement to grown exponentially. An estimated 350 million children in the world about one in six children live in a war zone. This statistic has risen 75% from 200 million children in the world in the early 1990s. In the report Brown gave his opinion and his proposal to help protect the needs and wants of children, but are they enough? The Inquiry on Protecting Children in Conflict, launched in 2017, featured legal experts, globally influential policy-makers, thinkers and activists. Their plan to bring an end to the “culture of impunity” was to focus the attention to attacks on schools, denial of humanitarian aid and sexual violence against children and other inhumane acts. Within the report there is an outline of the six grave violations previously identified by the UN Security Council which has continuously failed to hold perpetrators accountable nor protect children. These new proposals and laws will mean nothing if they are not properly and continuously enforced and if people are not held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.  




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