Children are often the most vulnerable group in the devastating consequences of conflict, which include unlawful recruitment, gender-based violence, killing and maiming, separation from families and human trafficking. The UK is strongly committed to supporting the rights of children in conflict and to their protection. It is imperative that children feel safe and secure within their communities, and get the education to which they are entitled.
The UK Government takes direct action to protect children in conflict zones, by applying diplomatic pressure and by funding projects to help protect and rehabilitate children. We have spoken out publicly against those governments and groups that abuse children’s rights – for example, in September at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Children in Armed Conflict. At the UN General Assembly’s annual session in November, we played an active part in the annual forum on the Paris Commitments and Paris Principles, which aim to consolidate global humanitarian knowledge and experience in working to prevent recruitment of children as soldiers, protect them, support their release from armed forces or armed groups and reintegrate them into civilian life. At the forum, we made clear the need to protect children in armed conflict and combat impunity by holding perpetrators to account for crimes against children.
The UK is a member of the United Nations Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, which leads the international response on this issue. This includes pressing those parties to conflict listed in the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on Children and Armed Conflict to develop action plans to address violations committed against children. These signed commitments bring perpetrators into compliance with international law, release children from armed groups and protect children from violations. The UN engages in child protection dialogue with armed groups for the purpose of developing and implementing these action plans. States in which armed groups have entered such commitments in 2012 include South Sudan, Burma, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Philippines, Yemen and Syria.
In 2012, the UK continued to support the work of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. In September, we worked to secure the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2068 (2012), which stressed the importance of comprehensively protecting children in all situations of armed conflict, and a commitment by the UN Security Council to address the impact of conflict on children.
Through DFID, the UK supports programmes to reduce both direct and indirect impacts of conflict on children, including on their education, employment, health, nutrition, water and sanitation. DFID almost doubled its core funding to UNICEF in 2011–12, to £40 million per year. In Pakistan, UK aid will help to support 4 million more children in school and improve nutrition services, preventing 500,000 children from becoming under-nourished. In Nepal, DFID provided £9 million from 2009 to 2012 to an employment fund providing skills-training to 40,000 young men and women from disadvantaged groups.