ECOWAS PLAN OF ACTION ON WAR AFFECTED CHILDREN



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ECOWAS PLAN OF ACTION ON WAR AFFECTED CHILDREN
- Part III with Issa B.M. Kamara -Earlier Parts 1 and 2 follow immediately-

Continuing from Pt 2:- EARLY WARNING SYSTEMS:

Resolve to implement early warning/response systems in the region to forestall armed conflicts and the victimization and abuse of children and their involvement in these conflicts.

Designate focal points (community members, traditional authorities, and other organisations) which are represented throughout the country to act as early warning contact centres. Also, designate a government agency, international organisation, or representative of civil society in national capitals to collect, compile and report immediately on signs of potential conflicts.

Bolster ECOWAS early warning capacity so that the four Observation and Monitoring Zonal Bureaux can network with designated centres in national capitals and oversee an early warning network with the aim of protecting children from involvement in conflicts.

Ensure that media representatives are afforded the necessary freedom to recognise and report responsibly and accurately on potential and actual conflicts;

Identify groups or individuals who are willing and able to function as non-partisan mediators;

In conflict prone areas, encourage dialogue between opposing factions by holding periodic meetings with community leaders and other local authorities, including women and young people.

(C)REGIONAL INITIATIVES

ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Mechanism:

Integrating Child Protection into ECOWAS Peacekeeping Initiatives. Ensure that the protection and well-being of Children feature systematically in any negotiations to end war and peace accords.

Integrating the protection of children into ECOWAS peacekeeping operations. Ensure that the measures are incorporated into ECOWAS peacekeeping operations.

That the protection and rights of children are explicitly provided for in the mandates of ECOWAS Peace keeping missions;

That Child protection advisers are attached to ECOWAS field missions;

That appropriate training is provided for all peacekeeping personnel with ragard to the rights and protection of children;

COMMIT topromote sub-regional, cross-border intitiatives to reduce the flow of small arms and light weapons, the recruitment and abduction of children, the displacement of populations and the separation of families, as well as illicit trade in natural resources;

CALL on the International Community to provide more support to host countries and UNCHR, in order to reduce the social, economic, environmental, and security impact of refugee outflow within the sub-region.

CALL on ECOWAS states to provide, with the support of UN agencies and donors, full protection, access and relief to refugees and internally displaced persons, the vast majority of whom are women and children, in accordance with international refugee law and the Guiding Principles in Internal Displacement.

COMMIT to support the Protocol Relating to the mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security signed by all ECOWAS member states at the Lome Summit on 10 DEcember,1999.

a) Ratify in the shortest time possible the protocol relating to the mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security.

b) Fully support, both morally and financially, a role for the protocol relating to the mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security, in the protection of children in areas of potential conflict and war-affected children.

c) Ensure through work with donor organisations, that the four Observation and Monitoring zones mandated in Article 24 of the Protocol (in Banjul, Ouagadougou, Monrovia and Cotonou) are fully functional within a reasonable time, and that their monitoring and reporting functions include early warning and monitoring on children’s rights and security. Monitoring should include social, political economic and military indicators relating to the security of children.

ECOWAS MORATORIUM:

STRONGLY URGE ECOWAS member states to support the implementation of the ECOWAS moratorium in order to halt the prolifieration of small arms and light weapons in the sub-region.

Fully support the programme for co-ordination and assistance for security and development, and in particular, the implementation of a regional arms and light weapons registry and data base.

Assemble an ECOWAS experts high-level group to assess implementation of and non-compliance with the ECOWAS Moratorium at national levels, and to recommend measures to be taken against individuals or states proven to have violated the ECOWAS Moratorium on small arms and measures to encourage full implementation.

Ensure that national military, police and customs officials and all other security agencies and customs administration training programmes include sessions on the ECOWAS moratorium on small arms and light weapons, as well as instructions regarding identification of behaviours which constitute an infraction of the ECOWAS Moratorium.

PEACEKEEPING DUTY

Resolve with assistance from the international community, to keep duty tours of ECOWAS peacekeepers to a reasonable length, in keeping with UN standards.

INSTITUTIONALISING CHILD PROTECTION WITHIN ECOWAS

ESTABLISH an office within ECOWAS Secretariat, a Desk or focal point dedicated to the protection of war-affected children which deals with emergency assistance, humanitarian and human rights issues, including early warning capacity and adequate vocational training. This Desk or focal point should draw on expertise and growing knowledge base housed in the Programme for Assistance and Coordinatoon for Security and Development (PCASED) to ensure that the impact of arms proliferation on war-affected children is addressed;

In so doing, build ECOWAS capacity to monitor the implementation of, and adherence to, International instructions on the rights of the child, and to monitor contraventions of the provision of these conventions;

Institute ECOWAS measures against states, groups or individuals which use child soldiers or which assist in the use of child soldiers;

Obtain the support and collaboration for such measures from the international community. WEST AFRICAN WEEK OF TRUCE FOR WAR-AFFECTED CHILDREN

AGREE to institute, in solidarity with any country in a conflict situation, an annual “West African Week of Truce for War Affected Children” in all ECOWAS member states, to coincide with the Day of the African Child (July 16) to raise public awareness about the plight of war-affected children in the region.

Identify national groups charged with coordianting educational activities for the week of truce;

Ensure the coordination of relief and humanitarian services including vaccination and registration of children during the week of truce;

Support efforts to disarm and demobilise all children who have been involved in armed conflict and ensure that the principle of best interests of the Child is taken into account when doing so.

Rehabilitate and reintegrate war-affected children during and in the period leading up to the week of truce, in addition to taking all necessary sterps for family reunification and the physical and psycho-social healing of all war affected children,

Institute measures on the week of truce to encourage and mobilise families to register all children who were not registered at birth;

Engage international groups as official ceasefire monitors in areas of conflict, during the week of truce.

COMMIT to work with Community leaders to support efforts to strengthen and apply traditional values and norms which provide for the protection of children in situations of conflict, in recognition of the important role of these values and norms in African societies.

COMMIT to take measures to involve young people as participants and advocates in the movement for the protection of war-affected children, including developing children to children networks, and links within West Africa.

CALL ON the donor community, UN agencies and international NGOs to support and strengthen national institutions, local NGOs, local civil society, and communities to offer support and build local capacities for protection and advocacy for war-affected children.

DECIDE todedicate a meeting of ECOWAS Foreign Ministers within the next twelve months to examine the role of national governments and ECOWAS in the protection of all war-affected children.

ECOWAS member states urge the internationalcommunity toprovide expertise,as wellas moral and financialsupport for thje implementation of these initiatives.

EARLIER PARTS ONE AND TWO NOW FOLLOW:-

ECOWAS plan of action on war affected children

------ Part One

A two-day conference on war affected children in the West African sub-region, hosted jointly by the governments of Canada and Ghana and held in Accra, was attended by participants drawn from all sixteen member states.

At the end of this conference and after very serious and sincere deliberations, the participants who included representatives from governments, civil society organisations, international organisations and donor agencies came out with a plan of action to address, in totality, issues, concerns and the present state and future of the war-affected children within the sub-region.

PROTECTION with focus on implementing norms and standards, demobilization, disarmament, rehabilitation and reintegration, and education;

PREVENTION with particular attention to address political, social, economic factors, military education and training, media awareness and activities, early warning systems.

REGIONAL INITIATIVES with emphasis on ECOWAS conflict prevention mechanism, ECOWAS Moratorium, peace-keeping duty, institutionalizing child protection within ECOWAS and West African week of truce for war affected children.

Below is the first part of the full text of the action plan:-

At the invitation of the government of Ghana in collaboration with the government of Canada, with the active participation of the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, and the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, we, ECOWAS Member States, meeting in Accra from 27 to 28 April, 2000, adopted a declaration on war affected children. Pursuant to declaration , we ECOWAS member states agree to cooperate with representatives of civil society organsiations, international organisations, and donor agencies, to carry out the following actions:- PROTECTION Implementing norms and standards.

Call for the immediate release by armed groups in the sub-region of all children abducted and held against their wish.

Resolve to ratify and fully implement the provisions of international instruments on the rights of the child.

Call upon ECOWAS member states to take all necessary steps to fully implement and respect the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1261 (1999) and 1265 (1999), the four Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols, as well as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the child, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Labour Organisation Convention 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour and the draft Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and further call upon all parties to sign and ratify the protocol once it is open for signature.

a) Host training sessions on the application and implementation of the international instruments on the rights of the child, especially the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the draft Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict;

b) Following adoption of the plan of action, designate a national body responsible for coordinating and monitoring the implementation of international instruments on the rights of the child, and provide the name and address of this body to the legal division at the ECOWAS Secretariat;

c) Following adoption of the plan of action, bring into force national legislation and regulatory measures to set the minimum age for military recruitment at 18 years;

d) Following adoption of the plan of action, bring into force comprehensive national measures including legislative, regulatory and administrative measures - on the protection of children which incorporate the substantive provisions of the above international instrument on the rights of the child;

e) Disseminate information on the key provisions of international instruments on the rights of the child. This information should be readily available to local population in West Africa, in non-tecnical style and translated into local languages and dialects. The information should be communicated both orally and in written format.

Commit to ratify the statute of the International Criminal Court and to bring to justice those who commit violations against children. Demobilization, disarmament,rehabilitation and reintegration

Commit to working closely with civil society groups to ensure the protection, disarmament, and demobilization of child combatants and reintegration and rehabilitation of war-affected children into their families and communities,

a) Identify trained local or nation groups to serve with ECOMOG stand-by units, to assist with disarming, demobilizing, reintegrating and rehabilitating war-affected children as mandated in the protocol relating to the mechnism for conflict prevention, management, resolution, peace-keeping and security including addressing the gender-specific challenges of reintegration;

b) Ensure the close collaboration and co-ordination between all governments and civil society groups active in the region in the provision of services to war-affected children with particular attention to gender dimensions.

ECOWAS PLAN OF ACTION ON WAR AFFECTED CHILDREN - Part II
By Issa B. M. Kamara

Demobilization, Disarmament, Rehabilitation and Reintegration

Leaders of the West African sub-regional states RESOLVED to establish and strengthen programmes for the rehabilitation of all war-affected children, as well as programmes for the successful reintegration of those children within the communities:

a) Raise media awareness on issues relating to war-affected children.

b) Ensure that the particular and differentiated needs of war-affected children are taken into account in the provision of services to war-affected populations, and to ensure that such considerations are maintained in service design, development and delivery in keeping with efforts to institute the sphere project: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response and other relevant instruments;

c) In areas prone to conflict, the social services infrastructure should be structured and expanded to care for the specific needs of girl and boy child soldiers and war-affected children and to enable continuous assessment of each individual child;

d) Ensure the overall protection of the girl child as provided for by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Beijing Platform for Action. Pay particular attention to sexual exploitation, abuse and trauma, including those associated with pregnancy;

e) Consult extensively at the community and national level to ensure that rehabilitation and reintegration programmes are carried out in collaboration with civil society, community leaders, traditional and religious authorities, including women’s and children’s organisation;

f) Allocate a percentage of the national budget to demobilisation, reintegration and rehabilitation programmes, whenever there are children affected by armed conflict;

EDUCATION

AGREE, in cooperation with donor agencies, to work towards ensuring that all children have access to quality basic education, and as part of that effort, develop school curricula to support awareness of human rights and good governance principles, alternate dispute resolution methods, tolerance, and techniques for conflict management.

a) Provide the resources required to maintain educational services for children,including refugee and internally displaced children in conflict and post-conflict situations;

b) Provide for the sensitization of other students, parents and school authorities to accept all war- affected children, including child soldiers, as students and to recognise their particular needs by developing flexible teaching methodologies geared to instruct these children;

c) Review and modify school curriculum and course materials to integrate peace education and remove discriminatory gender, ethnic and religious stereotypes;

d) Support and encourage the efforts of community leaders parents, elders, teachers and religious leaders to reclaim valuable traditional values;

e) Provide for economically viable and marketable (or artisan oriented) skills or vocational training to allow young men and women to own a sustainable livelihood.

B. PREVENTION

i) Addressing fundamental political, social, economic factors.

a) Resolve to take political, social and economic preventive measures to address factors which tend to contribute to the occurrence or recurrence of conflict, and to that end calls on ECOWAS member states to ensure good governance and democratic practice, more equitable patterns of resource distribution within countries, national cohesion and elimination of conditions of extreme poverty and despair.

ii) Military Education and Training

Decide to incorporate child rights and the protection of children in armed conflict, into training programme for military forces and other security agencies,

a) Devise, share and incorporate military training manuals and programmes on International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, focused particularly on children’s rights;

b) Intensify existing training programmes for military forces and other security agencies, to be more sensitive to issues of child rights and gender;

c) Develop a network of military institutions sensitive to the rights of the child, gender and specialised training on international humanitarian law issues. This network will ensure periodic evaluation of the effectiveness of these international humanitarian law training programmes;

d) Adopt measures to improve the gender balance among peacekeepers in national armed forced;

e) Explore ways and means to enforce compliance with international instruments on gender and the rights of the child;

f) Include women’s and children’s organisation in training of military forces, police and other security agencies.

iii) MEDIA AWARENESS AND ACTIVITIES

Resolve to develop specific programmes to provide information, education and communication materials on child rights in order that the media are well informed to contribute to the rights, welfare and protection of children, and to develop media activities, particularly radio programmes, for the benefit of war affected children, sensitive to, and consistent with the best interests of the child,

a) Host information sessions for local organisations on the provisions of international and regional instruments on the rights of the child, including United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1261 (1999) and 1265 (1999)and the four Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, as well as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the child, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Draft Optional Protocol on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and Security Council Resolutions 1261 and 1265 and encourage and assist local media organisations to monitor the effective adherence to these instruments;

b) Organise information sessions to media organisations on the provisions of the statute of the International Criminal Court, including the definitions of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

e) Develop media information, particularly radio programmes, devoted to the needs and interests of children and young people affected by conflicts. This would serve to give voice to children’s concerns, offer education, training and entertainment, promote tolerance, reconciliation, and raise awareness of the rights and protection of children.

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