«Children who have lost their childhoods to war should not also lose their futures» – explained UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman after launching the Machel Study on 16 June 2009 in New York. UNICEF, together with the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, are calling to increase the protection of children affected by conflicts and wars.
The Machel Study is a report that was developed by a coalition of civil society representatives and young people, as well as governments, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations.
Used as an advocacy tool, it seeks to create awareness among the public about the dire effects of war and conflicts on children’s rights. In 1996, Graça Machel published a study on the impact of armed conflict on children. From that point on huge progress has made in the area of protection framework.
As the nature of armed conflicts changed in recent years, the impact of war on children and young people is worse than ever. Next to women, children have become the most vulnerable group in a given conflict. They suffer the direct consequences of armed conflicts: small arms and armed groups, landmines, aerial bombings, as well as terrorist measures. Girls and boys are recruited as combatants, targeted during attacks against schools and hospitals, or illegally detained. Apart from this, in many cases, they face sexual violence. Their development and well-being is also at risk. Girls and boys who live in conflict areas often do not have access to education and are likely to live in poverty and suffer from malnourishment and disease.
The Machel Study helps us recognize and understand the vulnerability of children as well as their role in conflicts. Children affected by conflict and war grow up under difficult circumstances. One way to change that negative trend is to make sure they are directly involved in peacebuilding, as well as recovery and reconstruction programs. After all, children embody the future and it is of utmost importance to make sure they are protected.