KABUL - The rights and wellbeing of children were the focus of a UN-backed symposium for Logar schoolteachers, who arrived in Kabul yesterday to discuss ways to protect children from abuse in the context of Afghanistan’s armed conflict.
More than 40 schoolteachers travelled to Kabul from several districts across Afghanistan’s central province of Logar to attend the event, which was organized by UNAMA’s central regional office to facilitate discussion on improving local-level coordination to protect children’s rights.
At the outset of the daylong symposium, Mosa Mahmoodi, a Logar civil society leader, noted that children are the primary victims of armed conflict. “They are recruited into the conflict, sexually abused and even used for drug trafficking,” he said, urging participants to monitor and report all violations.
“If you consistently report incidents of children’s rights violations, the perpetrators won’t feel secure,” Mahmoodi stressed. “They will fear being reported.”
Other participants offered similar perspectives and called for mechanisms to be put in place to address the issue more effectively. “We must enhance coordination with children’s rights groups to remind parties to the conflict about their responsibilities,” said Ahmad Wisal, a Logar schoolteacher.
“Teachers play an essential role in protecting children’s rights, as they regularly interact with children and can encourage other strata of the community to advocate for their protection,” said Mohammad Shoaib, another teacher from the province.
Logar, one of six provinces in Afghanistan’s central region, is situated south of Kabul. The province’s residents, especially women and children, continue to face serious challenges, as insecurity has led to limited access to education, health facilities and other essential services.
At the conclusion of the Kabul symposium, participants jointly resolved to establish a children’s rights advocacy committee and to carry forward their discussion about protecting children’s rights among their respective communities in future events and engagements.
In 2011, the Afghan government and the United Nations signed a Joint Action Plan for the Prevention of Underage Recruitment. In 2014, the government’s Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict endorsed a 15-point Road Map toward compliance with the Action Plan. Measures outlined in the Road Map include the criminalization of the recruitment and use of children.
According to international law, a child associated with an armed force or armed group refers to any person younger than 18 years old who has been recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity, including as fighters, cooks, suicide bombers, human shields, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1261 lists six grave violations against children in conflict: killing and maiming; recruitment or use of children as soldiers; sexual violence; abduction; attacks against schools or hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access.
UNAMA works closely with all parties to the conflict to monitor and report any rights violations committed in the context of the armed conflict and to promote accountability.
Since 2009, when UNAMA began systematic documentation of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the Mission has identified extreme harm caused to children in the armed conflict.
UNAMA’s 2019 Protection of Civilians Midyear Report, covering the period 1 January to 30 June 2019, recorded 3,812 civilian casualties, of which 1,207 were children (327 killed and 880 injured) representing almost one-third of the overall total number of civilian casualties recorded by UNAMA in the period.
In addition to working with parties to the conflict to promote accountability, UNAMA also works with various institutions and individuals, including community leaders, youth groups, women and local media stations to create platforms – using radio, social media and television – for Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.
At almost every UNAMA-backed event, local media partners not only record the discussion and debate for later rebroadcast, but also create new programmes around the issues that are raised, extending the discussion and creating new opportunities for local voices to be heard on issues such as peace, reconciliation, government transparency, human rights and rule of law.
In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.