Children play on top of a bullet-riddled building in Gaza –
Photo credit UN – Shareef Sarhan
CAIRO – 4 June 2017: The International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression is observed each year on June 4. This international day aims to draw attention to the pain suffered by children who are victims of abuse in all its forms.
According to UNICEF’s “Humanitarian Action for Children 2016,” around 250 million children live in countries and areas affected by conflict. These children are in need for protection from violations perpetrated against them in such chaotic environments. The same publication indicates that in 2015, children represented an increasing proportion of the 1 million refugees and migrants that entered Europe, the vast majority coming from the Syrian Arab Republic and conflict zones in the Middle East.
In its report on the status of unaccompanied minor refugees published in May 2017, UNICEF said that in 2015 and 2016 there were 300,000 unaccompanied and separated migrant children worldwide. The figure is almost five times higher than the 66,000 children counted in 2010 and 2011.
In March 2017, UNICEF announced that 2016 was the worst year for young Syrians, reporting at least 652 children died in the ongoing conflict. It adds that schools, hospitals, playgrounds and other areas children usually use are becoming increasingly unsafe as they are targets for attacks. UNICEF said at least 255 children were killed in or near schools. The report added that more than 850 children in Syria were pushed into combat in 2016. Furthermore, an estimated 13.5 million people need urgent life-saving assistance inside Syria, including 6 million children.
According to the U.N.’s official page, the day was adopted on August 19, 1982 at an emergency special session on the question of Palestine. The General Assembly was appalled at the great number of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese children victims of Israel's acts of aggression, and decided to commemorate June 4 of each year as the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression (resolution ES-7/8).
Fifteen years later, after the groundbreaking report prepared by Graça Machel that drew global attention to the impact of armed conflict on children, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 51/77.
This step began requiring attention from U.N. member states to actively work to address the vulnerability and violations faced by children in conflict-related situations through establishing necessary mechanisms, advocacy work and coordinated efforts to respond to these children’s needs.
Resolution 51/77 established the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed conflict. It builds on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol, and the annual Rights of the Child resolutions. In 2015, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2225, which will hold parties to armed conflict that engage in patterns of abduction of children to greater accountability.
On April 12, 2017 U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Virginia Gamba of Argentina as his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict replacing Leila Zerrougui of Algeria.
Around the world, organizations and individuals take part in awareness campaigns to make people aware of the fact that the right for those victimized children should be protected. These organizations include the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Global Movement for Children, the 'Say Yes for Children' campaign and other governmental and non-governmental organizations.
The most common violations faced by children in conflict affected areas include forced recruitment of children by armed groups, killing, sexual exploitation and sexual violence, abduction, HIV infection, forced labor, attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access.
More must be done to protect children from targeting by violent extremists, to promote international humanitarian and human rights law, and to ensure accountability for violations of the rights of children.
The Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) provides a universal plan to provide a better place for children. Through its goals, the SDGs aims is to provide protection and care for children in general and puts a special focus on children who are affected by armed conflicts.