In armed conflicts around the world, children and adolescents are subjected to egregious violations, such as sexual violence, killing and maiming, abduction, and recruitment and use as child soldiers. The day-to-day lives of these children are further disrupted by attacks on their schools and hospitals, and by the denial of humanitarian assistance.

Although tangible progress has been made in recent years to hold perpetrators accountable and to prevent future violations, there remains an urgent need for more effective programs and policies to address the needs of children affected by armed conflict.

Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict strives to end violations against children in armed conflicts and to guarantee their rights. As a global network, the Watchlist builds partnerships among local, national, and international nongovernmental organizations, enhancing mutual capacities and strengths. Working together, we collect and disseminate information on violations against children in conflicts in order to influence key decision-makers to create and implement programs and policies that effectively protect children.

Watchlist’s work follows three main program areas:

History and Governance

Watchlist was formed in 2001 by a group of leading human rights and humanitarian organizations in response to the need for improved monitoring and reporting on violations against children in war. Watchlist is known for its work on children and human rights, boasting – through its members – both a solid expertise on child protection and a wealth of information and experiences coming directly from the ground.

Watchlist’s programmatic content is set by an Advisory Board composed of five international NGOs. Its network further includes eleven Associate Member organizations who share our commitment to protect the security and rights of children affected by armed conflict.

Watchlist membership includes, but is not limited to, the following organizations:


Watchlist Staff

Ezequiel Heffes is the Director of Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict in New York. Prior to joining Watchlist, Ezequiel worked for Geneva Call as a Senior Policy and Legal Advisor and for the ICRC in various operational positions in Colombia, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He holds a PhD from the University of Leiden, an LLM in IHL and Human Rights from the Geneva Academy, and a law degree from the University of Buenos Aires School of Law. He has been involved in different research projects and has widely published on different international law issues. Ezequiel is the author of Detention by Non-State Armed Groups under International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2022), the co-editor of International Humanitarian Law and Non-State Actors. Debates, Law and Practice (Springer/Asser Press, 2020) and of Armed Groups and International Law. In the Shadowland of Legality and Illegality (Edward Elgar, Forthcoming 2023).

Bethany Ellis is Watchlist’s Global Advocacy Advisor. She is responsible for leading advocacy initiatives to advance the children and armed conflict agenda at the UN and related bodies in collaboration with Watchlist’s Director, Advisory Board, Associate Members, and partners. Prior to joining Watchlist, she served as a research consultant for Save the Children offices in Germany and Serbia, analyzing the impact of European refugee and asylum policies on the protection of displaced children. She previously led the education in emergencies portfolio for the Global Business Coalition for Education in New York and Washington, DC, and has also worked in Chennai, India on initiatives to end bonded labor and human trafficking. Bethany holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor’s in International Political Economy from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She is based in New York.

Aleksandra Jelonek is Watchlist’s Grants and Operations Coordinator. Prior to joining Watchlist, she served as the Communications Officer for the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs. She previously worked in the Refugee Resettlement division of Catholic Charities Community Services New York and at Future Families, a nonprofit serving refugee and asylum seeker youth in Pretoria, South Africa. She holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Humanitarian Studies from Fordham University.

Rob Grace is Watchlist’s Lead Researcher. Prior to joining Watchlist, he led or contributed to research projects on humanitarian access, humanitarian security risk management, civilian protection, and human rights fact-finding for the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies at Brown University, Center for Civilians in Conflict, U.S. Institute of Peace, and Global Interagency Security Forum. He currently holds faculty appointments at Tufts University and University of San Diego, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on armed conflict. Previously, he taught at Brown University, Boston University, and Brandeis University. He holds a PhD in political science from Brown University, where he wrote a dissertation, now a book project, analyzing humanitarian access obstruction. His research won the Best Dissertation of the Year Award from the Academic Council on the United Nations System in 2023.

Samantha Holmes is Watchlist’s Researcher, hosted by the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) at the University of York. She is also the Coordinator of CAHR’s Generating Respect Hub – a Watchlist partner contributing to impactful and timely research on children and armed conflict. Prior to joining Watchlist, Samantha served as the Asia Advocacy and Communications Officer for ARTICLE 19. She previously worked in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as a Legal Consultant for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and continues to support local and international non-governmental organizations on research and advocacy regarding the human rights situation in Cambodia. Samantha holds an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of York, and she obtained her LLB from Queen Mary University of London.

Annual Reports