Armed conflict and violence take a heavy toll on children’s lives in different parts of the world. Not only do children suffer from the direct consequences of war and armed violence (recruitment in armed forces or groups, physical injuries, death), they are also indirectly affected by displacement, loss of relatives and the trauma associated with witnessing acts of violence.
Recognizing the importance of this increasingly global issue, the Movement, at its 30th International Conference in 2007, resolved to “work together to develop at all levels comprehensive violence-prevention and reduction programmes in order to build safer communities through practical measures that take into account social and economic development objectives, and to facilitate the rehabilitation of youth affected by violence.”
The Movement’s components have developed – separately or in partnership with other Movement components or organizations – a range of activities to benefit children affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence: nationwide campaigns aimed at promoting applicable law, instruction in humanitarian values and life skills, activities specifically targeting children living in high-risk communities, initiatives addressing the psychosocial needs of children, social reintegration programmes for children released from armed forces or armed groups, and so on. At the initiative of the ICRC, representatives from 19 National Societies and the International Federation, as well as a number of external experts,3 gathered in Geneva in March 2011 for a three-day workshop to discuss best practices and lessons learned from National Societies’ activities in the areas of social reintegration, psychosocial support and violence prevention in urban settings. This workshop also aimed to prepare the ground for a fresh Movement approach to the issue of children affected by armed conflict and violence.
Though all the components of the Movement are working for a common goal, each has its distinct role and area of expertise. The ICRC has experience in carrying out humanitarian action in conflict-affected zones and in facilitating humanitarian access to victims. The ICRC shares a number of assets with its Movement partners, such as its contacts with other international organizations and with governments, as well as the advantages it owes to its reputation for neutrality and independence. National Societies provide knowledge of the local context and networks of volunteers and local partners. The International Federation develops global tools and conceptual frameworks to coordinate activities on the ground. In summary, Movement coordination is essential to ensure that the activities undertaken are relevant and coordinated, and that the response is adapted to the context and has a firm local basis.