From October 15 to 17, 2019, Watchlist’s Program Director traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to participate in the Pan-African Conference on Children Affected by Armed Conflict. The conference, organized by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and Save the Children, brought together senior policymakers from across the African continent to discuss children and armed conflict, including strengthening synergies between the United Nations’ and the African Union’s work on the agenda.
Participants included representatives of local, regional, and international civil society; government representatives from several conflict-affected African countries, as well as from key donor governments; UNICEF; the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Confli
ct (OSRSG-CAAC); the African Union Commission; and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC). In addition, Save the Children facilitated the participation of children and youth from several conflict-affected countries in the region, who presented their concerns and recommendations for the protection of children’s rights in armed conflict to policymakers at the conference.
Watchlist’s Program Director Adrianne Lapar spoke on a panel on grave violations of children’s rights in armed conflict, alongside Dr. Musavengana Chibwana, senor child protection officer of ACERWC, and H.E. Ambassador Rebecca Otengo Amuge, permanent representative of the Republic of Uganda to the AU, IGAD, and UNECA. Addressing the children and youth attending the conference, Ms. Lapar highlighted the role of local civil society in monitoring, reporting, and response to grave violations against children and the importance of child participation in policy and programming discussions. She urged policymakers, including governments, UN, and AU officials, to respect and promote civil society space and to work in partnership together. She also encouraged the children and youth representatives to continue advocating on behalf of children affected by war.
The three-day conference provided an important space for candid discussions on addressing children’s rights concerns in conflict-affected African countries. The participants committed to stop the war on children, uphold international commitments, hold perpetrators to account, end impunity, provide services to children affected by conflict. They developed a call to action, which includes concrete recommendations for stakeholders from governments, civil society the UN, the AU, and other regional and sub-regional organizations.