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Issue #1603      July 24, 2013

Children and armed conflict

Graca Marchel, wife of Nelson Mandela, in her ground breaking 1996 report to the UN, reported that around the world millions of children are caught up in conflicts in which they are not merely bystanders but targets. More recently, she stated that wars have always victimised children and other noncombatants, but modem wars are exploiting, maiming and killing children more systematically than ever. War violates every right of the child – unlawful recruitment, sexual violence, displacement, killing and maiming, separation from family, trafficking and illegal detention. And in addition to these effects are the indirect consequences of war – including the loss of basic services such as water, sanitation, health and education as well as the rise in poverty, malnutrition and disease.

Graca Marchel also points out that today’s weapons of mass destruction are not nuclear or biological – they are the estimated half billion small arms and light weapons that fuel conflicts around the world.

At the time of this report, UNICEF stated that in the last decade:

  • two million children had been killed
  • four-five million children had been disabled
  • twelve million children made homeless
  • more than a million children orphaned or separated from their parents
  • some 10 million children traumatised.

In a new report to the UN, Graca Marchel notes that armed conflict now kills and maims more children than soldiers.

It is 66 years since the UN was founded and 54 years since the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of the Child. Other key documents for the protection of children include the Geneva Conventions, various Security Council resolutions and the Paris Principles.

It is obvious that little progress has been made over the years and this is because international law is not binding on the signatories. Sadly, also, the world’s only super power has not signed the UN Declaration for the Rights of the Child. Nor does the US support the banning of land mines and cluster bombs, both responsible for thousands of ongoing casualties amongst children.

To be able to kill and maim people on the scale as indicated above involves a lot of firepower and munitions.

The permanent UN Security Council members: The USA, UK, France, Russia, and China also dominate the world trade in arms, which is big business. The world spends US$1,000 billion annually on the military.

Former president Jimmy Carter, during his presidential campaign in 1976 said, “We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of arms.”

In September 1939, President Franklin D Roosevelt made an appeal to the governments of France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and to His Britannic Majesty:

“The ruthless bombing from the air of civilians in unfortified centres of population during the course of the hostilities which have raged in various quarters of the earth during the last few years, which has resulted in the maiming and in the death of defenceless men, women, and children, has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity.

“If resort is had to this form of inhuman barbarism during the period of this tragic conflagration with which the world is now confronted, hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings who have no responsibility for, and who are not even remotely participating in, the hostilities which have now broken out, will lose their lives. I am therefore addressing this urgent appeal to every government which may be engaged in hostilities publicly to affirm its determination that its armed forces shall in no event, under no circumstances, undertake the bombardment from the air of civilian populations or of unfortified cities, upon the understanding that these same rules of warfare will be scrupulously observed by all of their opponents. I request an immediate reply.”

Six years later the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.

Since the end of World War 2, the US continued by bombing 26 mainly Third World countries. The carpet-bombing of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam alone killed and maimed millions. Like all Third World countries there would be very little medical help available for the victims.

A terrorist is someone who has a bomb but no air force. President FD Roosevelt would have been as dismayed as President Jimmy Carter is at the ongoing use of torture, the indefinite detention without trial, the use of dogs to make prisoners talk and more recently, the use of torture to obtain information from Afghan civilians.

And predator drones pose another sinister threat to the Third World as if there aren’t enough already.

What does Christian America mean when it pronounces “In God we Trust”? It is even printed on their bank notes.

What can be done to end this madness and turn the world around? The downward spiral of depravity has to be stopped. Might a worldwide social media have an impact on world leadership?

Who would initiate and finance the campaign?

Reading the Anatomy of Peace by Emery Reeves and the open letter to the American people might inspire some people.

The Beacon  

Next article – Culture & Life – Vigilantes Rule, OK?

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