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Q&A: The ICRC's engagement on children in armed conflict and other situations of violence: In conversation with Monique Nanchen, Global Adviser on Children, ICRC

Abstract

The protection of children in war and other situations of violence is enshrined in various bodies of law, and these provide a framework for several International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) activities benefiting children, in particular in areas where the institution has a clear mandate and where vulnerabilities are exacerbated by international humanitarian law (IHL) violations. The activities of the ICRC benefiting children stem from its mandate provided by the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocols, the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and the resolutions of the International Conferences of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Although the ICRC is not a child protection agency per se and child protection is not a standalone activity for the organization, it makes up a significant part of ICRC's operations, in particular where children's vulnerabilities are exacerbated by the realities of armed conflict. In this conversation with the Review, Monique Nanchen, the ICRC's Global Adviser on Children, explores the multiple efforts being put in place to mainstream child protection into the ICRC's work, and reveals some of the various challenges that come with protection and assistance activities benefiting children affected by conflict and other situations of violence.

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This interview was conducted in Geneva on 6 June 2019 by Ellen Policinski, Managing Editor, and Kvitoslava Krotiuk, Thematic Editor at the Review.

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1 Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989, Art. 1.

2 See ibid., Art. 3. The principle of consideration of the best interests of the child is complemented by the customary norm of IHL maintaining that children are entitled to special respect and protection. See Henckaerts, Jean-Marie and Doswald-Beck, Louise (eds), Customary International Humanitarian Law, Vol. 1: Rules, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005 (ICRC Customary Law Study), Rule 135, available at: https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v1_rul_rule135 (all internet references were accessed in October 2019).

3 For an overview of the special respect and protection that IHL affords to children, see Vité, Sylvain, “Protecting Children during Armed Conflict: International Humanitarian Law”, Human Rights and International Legal Discourse, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2011. See also ICRC Customary Law Study, above note 2, Rule 135.

4 See Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, 25 May 2000; African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, 1 January 1990.

5 UNICEF, The Paris Principles: Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups, 2007, available at: www.refworld.org/docid/465198442.html.

6 Government of Canada and Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, The Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and Preventing the Recruitment and use of Child Soldiers, 2017, available at: www.vancouverprinciples.com/the-vancouver-principles/.

7 Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, 2014, available at: www.protectingeducation.org/sites/default/files/documents/guidelines_en.pdf.

8 See also Loane, Geoff and Santos, Ricardo Fal-Dutra, “Strengthening Resilience: The ICRC's Community-Based Approach to Ensuring the Protection of Education”, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 99, No. 905, 2018.

9 See ICRC, “South Sudan: The Phone Call that Reconnected 2,500 People Separated by War”, 7 February 2018, available at: www.icrc.org/en/document/south-sudan-phone-call-reconnect-2500-people-separated-war-conflict.

10 See ICRC, “Angola/DRC: The Unaccompanied Children of Lóvua Refugee Camp Share Their Stories”, available at: www.icrc.org/en/document/angoladrc-unacompanied-children-lovua-refugee-camp-share-their-stories.

11 See, for example, “Libya-Egypt: Two Years On, Twelve Children Reuinted with Their Families”, 20 December 2018, available at: www.icrc.org/en/document/libya-egypt-two-years-twelve-children-reunited-their-families.

12 See the ICRC's Restoring Family Links website, available at: https://familylinks.icrc.org.

13 See Convention on the Rights of the Child, Art. 12; UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 12, “The Right of the Child to Be Heard”, 20 July 2009.

14 ICRC, Professional Standards for Protection Work, 3rd ed., Geneva, 2018, available at: www.icrc.org/en/publication/0999-professional-standards-protection-work-carried-out-humanitarian-and-human-rights. See in particular p. 27, “Avoiding Harmful Effects”.

15 See, for example, Save the Children, Education Against the Odds: Meeting Marginalised Children's Demands for a Quality Education, London, 2019, available at: https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/library/education-against-odds-meeting-marginalised-childrens-demands-quality-education. In this recent study, “nearly a third (29%) of children surveyed said education was their top priority” (p. 4).

16 See ICRC, Framework for Access to Education, Geneva, July 2017, available at: www.icrc.org/en/document/framework-access-education.

17 See ICRC, “Back to School in Kherbet Daoud: ICRC Rehabilitates School and Playground in Northern Town”, 10 July 2019, available at: www.icrc.org/en/document/back-school-kherbet-daoud-icrc-rehabilitates-school-and-playground-northern-town.

18 See ICRC, “Myanmar: No Limit to Education”, 22 August 2018, available at: www.icrc.org/en/document/myanmar-no-limit-education.

19 See, for reference, ICRC, “Rio Project: Programmes Helped Reduce Humanitarian Impact of Violence in Rio de Janeiro”, 2 November 2016, available at: www.icrc.org/en/document/rio-project-programs-helped-reduce-humanitarian-impact-violence-rio-de-janeiro.

This interview was conducted in Geneva on 6 June 2019 by Ellen Policinski, Managing Editor, and Kvitoslava Krotiuk, Thematic Editor at the Review.

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Q&A: The ICRC's engagement on children in armed conflict and other situations of violence: In conversation with Monique Nanchen, Global Adviser on Children, ICRC

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