International Day Against Child Soldiers And Associated Issues Today

The 12th February was commemorated as The International Day Against The Use of Child Soldiers, with UNICEF saying that an estimated 300,000 children worldwide live in war zones and are used either as human shields or as direct combatants, engaged in acts of violence. One organisation of concern in this process is Hamas, the Palestinian Group who form a Leading Authority. Hamas it is claimed, are engaged in going into schools, running classes and workshops, in which political radicalization is encouraged, and that in turn can lead children directly into engaging in acts of violence. Those acts of violence in themselves can - and previously have - included knife assaults, shootings and the launching of rockets at Israeli civilians. The question here is not about Israeli guilt or innocence, but simply regarding the legality of the use of child soldiers and assassins, and also about the rights of children to grow up free from political and military indoctrination. With the majority of readers in this debate finding themselves - for reasons of traditional upbringing - to be ill at ease with the idea that states can actively encourage children to commit murder and bring about serious injury. It is an view formed from the underlying basis of popular opinion that children are in Western eyes considered to know too little about the facts of life at their age to be able to effectively be indoctrinated into devoting the rest of their lives to pursuing hatred and violence against their neighbors. Because in the West, it is assumed that most soldiers have some moral basis of action, some education and some opinion forming of a free thinking variety that permits them to engage in conflict for and on behalf of the nation state...So clearly the first question - morally - that arises is to whether the world can consider framing legislation of a strong enough nature to actually bring child soldiering to an end?

World Law - A Pigs Ear Since 1945 ? (Photo taken by Philip John Allen, at Colwyn Bay, 1940's Weekend, from during the 2014-2017 period)

Of course this is where the issue becomes more complex. After all, in theory laws exist to control what happens to children, all over the world. Yet these laws are proving more and more outdated, and more and more toothless. Proofs of the theorem? Well, let me take another associated area of concern regarding the future position of children. And this is sometimes connected with child safety, that interlocks with conflict and political control, and which lies in the field of child migration. Right now for example, Kent County Council (KCC) have 400 child migrants in their care, which KCC claim is heading toward twice the officially acceptable UK Government recommended number. While against this backdrop UK Border Force are under scrutiny for assisting immigrants to gain safe passage between France and the UK, on more or less the same day that Norwegian authorities confirmed that a body washed up on New Years Day 600 miles away, has been identified as that of Artin Iran-Nejad, an 18 month old boy lost in a family of five (two adults and three children in total) who all died, while trying to cross the English Channel illegally. With these events in themselves coming in proximity to Morocco encouraging 6,000-8,000 people to swim to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta (where at least 400 of the said immigrants have turned out to be children and under age youths, all of whom are now in Spanish custody, and some of whom appear to tell stories of having been taken out of school by parents or Moroccan Police, especially to be involved in the days activities). A disconnect you say? Child soldiering and child immigration are different things, not to be confused? Perhaps so, but every day now, in the USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and other countries, the leading authorities are seeing more and more child migrants. And there is a feeling that this could be just the beginning of a tidal wave in many quarters if we do not have some policy in place to help address the causes. For example it may well be one reasons why the British Prime Minister at a recent meeting of the G7 called for more assistance with dealing with world poverty. After all, Covid 19 has resulted in economic poverty and slowdown, family deaths, and other types of instability. Doubtless some will say the gloomy forecasters are scare mongering. That this is a Dan Brown Inferno type of spin on a horrible prophecy of population youth explosion that shows only some signs of being at work in the real world. Moreover, that part of the problem lies also in the popularity myth at work among migrant children themselves - that a better life awaits children if they swim or hide or buy or cheat their way to a new life. That nobody wants, or rather bothers, to tell the children how dangerous, or unproductive this journey might be. Nobody at any rate who survives in their family or peer community - and that we should therefore (at a political level) be talking about getting nations to be more honest with their own children about the risks and outcomes of such actions. So what about those risks? They include drowning; suffocation in container lorries; sexual abuse and enforced prostitution; virtual slavery; becoming drug mules, being indoctrinated into gangs and the rest. Clearly these risks rank highly. They are more than just occasional nightmares, since they rub against the real life of each child in the chain of illegal immigration, and also more than occasionally touch the lives of child soldiers, with some instances of lives bridging both domains. So how do we respond? One view is that we need a concerted political effort, to create, enforce and permanently establish World Laws that have meat on the bones and teeth in the mouth to try to curtail, then eradicate child soldiering, child migration and child sexual abuse. In short this means a complexity of measures, of rules and enforcing bodies, with some bodies replacing other types of organisations. Because right now, world society is not really fit for purpose. Since it repeatedly demonstrates its failings. However at the same time, we must learn from our past errors and improve; which means transplanting the best and cutting out the rest. Really as with Landmines what is needed is a Guardian Angel type person to step up and front a Program, and then a Project Administration that really aims to put things right, step by step. Because right now, global society is losing ground. So when we talk about a Project Administration, what is it that the World (G7, G20, Eurozone, USA, UN, UNICEF, Summits and Accords) need to address exactly? Firstly, it has to be a Primary Dedicated Body, that is appointed and respected by everyone. This body needs to be tasked and funded internationally, and to operate with very specific rules outlined by the stated leading authoroties. And this body therefore needs Laws and Rights. It needs to be able to go into Hamas schools for example as an instance and enforce through trade and discourse Child Rights. Not feasible you say? Well, when it comes to nuclear energy and nuclear bomb building we try to enforce such regulation. And some of it works. So why not also for Protecting Children?

About the author: Philip John Allen was the original director of Beyond The Warrington Bombing, a fundraising video made for the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Trust in support of the building of the Peace Centre in Warrington in 1997.

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