Author Archives: Martin Tegnander

New Mapping of Children Affected by Armed Conflict

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On February 16 to 18, decision-makers from all over the world came together to discuss current and future security challenges at the Munich Security Conference (MSC), which has become the major global forum for discussion of security policy. At the conference, Save the Children will launch its new report The War on Children: Time to End Grave Violations against Children in Conflict. The report is based on a new mapping of children in armed conflict conducted at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

Our findings are quite alarming: we find that more than half the world’s children are living in conflict-ridden countries, and furthermore, one in six children live in close proximity to where the actual violence occurs.

Children are Hard Hit by Conflict

Children are often and severely affected by armed conflicts. We are constantly reminded of this through pictures and news reports from the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Nigeria, Yemen, and Somalia. The UN has defined six ‘grave violations’ of children in armed conflict. These include killing and maiming, recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access. In addition to being directly exposed to killing, physical harm, and illegal recruitment, children also suffer more indirectly from the consequences of war. Children living in conflict-affected areas often miss out on education, lack access to clean water, and suffer from mortality risks due to illnesses and malnutrition, or lack of vaccines and medical care such as basic maternity services.

The Knowledge Gap

Since the mid-1990s, the issue of war’s impact on children has been high on the international agenda. Despite this, we do not have systematic and detailed information on the numbers of children that are killed in armed conflict worldwide. However, we do have quite detailed information about where, within countries, that conflicts take place. Hence, we can say something more certain about the number of children that live in conflict-affected areas, or ‘conflict zones’.

Combining detailed information on the location of violent conflict events from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) and population data from CIESIN (2005) and the UN (2017), we have been able to estimate the number of children that live in close proximity (defined as 50 km or less) to where conflict events are taking place.

Key Findings

The main findings from our mapping exercise include the following:

  • In 2016, approximately 1.35 billion children under the age of 18 (59% of all children) were living in a conflict-affected country.
  • In 2016, approximately 357 million children (that is, one in six) were living in a conflict zone.
  • In 2016, approximately 165 million children were living in high intensity conflict zones, i.e. conflicts with more than 1,000 battle-related deaths.
  • The number of children living in conflict zones has been steadily increasing since the year 2000, although the number of countries with armed conflicts has remained quite stable during the same period.
  • Asia is the world region with the highest total number of children living in conflict zones.
  • The Middle East is the world region in which a child has the highest probability of living in a conflict zone.

Policy Recommendations

Our initial mapping of children in conflict-affected areas has several implications for policy and further research.

First, the actors who are actively working to address and reduce the impact of war on children need to support the generation of more systematic knowledge on the various ways in which children are affected by armed conflict, both directly – through killing and maiming, child soldier recruitment, and sexual exploitation, and indirectly – through adverse health effects. In short, more resources should be invested in generating and managing data related to children and armed conflict across time and space.

Second, there is of course an urgent need to protect the more than 350 million children that live in conflict zones today. Concrete recommendations in this regard include the following:

  • Supporting peacekeeping operations in conflict-affected areas.
  • Designing and upholding credible sanctions against armed groups in conflicts to prevent child soldiering and the use of sexual violence against children.
  • Increasing aid to conflict-ridden countries in order to rebuild infrastructure and health systems.

This blog post was orginally posted on the PRIO blog. You can read the full PRIO background report here. For a shorter overview, read our PRIO Policy Brief.

For more information, read Save the Children’s full report on The War on Children.

Postponement Notice for Humanitarian Network Event

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we unfortunately have to postpone our Humanitarian Network event planned for the 27th of January 2016. We are expecting to reschedule this for early February, and a notification will be sent out to all members in due course.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Please direct any queries to Eric Cezne at ericez@prio.org

Tønnessen warns about the curbing of Darfur’s women activists in policy brief

In the recently published policy brief Curbing women activists in Darfur in the wake of the international criminal court, Liv Tønnessen – Senior Researcher at CMI – highlights how a restraining political climate in Sudan has curtailed local, national and international efforts to monitor and report on cases of sexual violence in Darfur. In the wake of Sudan’s President Omar-al-Bashir’s indictment to the International Criminal Court (ICC) under allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including responsibility for systematic and widespread sexual violence in Darfur, women activists have been affected through the constant threat of NGO shut down and increased governmental surveillance.

‘The official stance of the regime is that widespread and systematic sexual violence has not taken place’, Tønessen writes. Civil society initiatives and international human rights and humanitarian NGOs operating within the field of sexual abuse have been accused by governmental bodies of partiality and intervention in the domestic affairs of the state and deemed as threats to the security and stability of the country. As a result, Tønnessen suggests that the work of women activists in Darfur has been both indirectly and directly affected. The former occurs through the expulsion or closure of NGOs and results in a loss of vital funding for their activities. The latter implies that increased surveillance and threat of being shut down contributed to re-direct activities away from sexual violence and means that efforts to report and monitor cases have been drastically reduced as data on the issue becomes more difficult to obtain.

Despite being curbed by restrictive measures, in an act of bravery, women activists are still raising their voices at great personal risks. ‘This time they are not working through the gateway of international humanitarian NGOs, but in their own right’, Tønnessen concludes.

N.B. This policy brief was published in CMI Insight and is an output of the Protection of Civilians: From Principle to Practice project, a project under the umbrella of the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS). Read the full policy brief here.

Syria’s humanitarian crisis

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The Syrian revolt has over the past three years escalated into a massive humanitarian crisis with regional implications. At present, almost half Syria’s pre-war population (22 million) is displaced, including 6.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 2.3 million refugees. Inside Syria, almost ten million war-affected residents need outside assistance, the majority of them being homeless. At the Kuwait donor conference in January 2013, the international community pledged USD 1.5 billion in aid to the “Syria Regional Response Plan”. In June, the amount was tripled to USD 4.5 billion, the largest humanitarian appeal in UN history. By end of the year the amount was raised to USD 6.5 billion the largest-ever appeal for a single crisis.

 Complex emergency

The Syrian civil war has turned into a complex emergency with brutal violence, massive displacement and regional havoc. The most intense battles have taken place along the Hama-Homs-Idlib axis. This is the most ethnically diverse part of the country, where the Alawites – who make up about 12 per cent of the pre-war population – live side-by-side with the Sunni majority representing over 70 per cent. Strategically, the Syrian Army is determined to remain in control of the Homs-Hama “corridor” connecting Damascus with the Alawite heartland in the Latakia and Tartous Governates. For this reason, the Army has staged massive attacks on rebel strongholds in Homs, Hama and Aleppo ruining the built environment, killing civilians and causing repeated displacement.

Displacement crisis

The Syrian displacement crisis is consistent with (global) panel data surveys demonstrating the robust link between violence and displacement. The turning point was the the Syrian army’s ground assault on Homs in March 2012, which changed the nature of the conflict,from a security to military approach that led to a steep rise in casualties and displacement (Figure 1). In mid-2013, the UN casualty figure was more than 100,000 dead, with current estimates reaching 130,000 (Dec. 2013). Since the start of 2013, nearly 50,000 people are fleeing Syria every week. With no diplomatic or military solution in sight the Syrian civil war will continue. The displacement crises will therefore expand too, with dire consequences for regional stability.

 

Syria displacement crisis (Figure 1)

Figure 1: Syria displacement crisis: March 2011–December 2013 (33 months)
Sources: Data compiled from several sources: HIU, ICDM, OHCHR, SNC, UNHCR, UNOCHA.
 
This blog post is part of a longer article analysing the Syrian displacement crisis within the context of contemporary forced migration theory and assesses its impact on the region, forthcoming in Maghreb-Machrek (2014).