A Year of Hard Work: Review of Children in Armed Conflict/Affected by Violence Research Initiative at IIHA
Laura Perez, the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs’ Helen Hamlyn Senior Fellow and Director of Graduate Studies, has been hard at work this year furthering the research on children in armed conflict at IIHA. She is an expert on the protection of children in situations of armed conflict and on the UN Security Council’s children and armed conflict agenda. In just one year she established a partnership between IIHA and the Watchlist on Children in Armed Conflict, co-organized and co-convened the 2021 Policy Workshop on Children and Armed Conflict, appointed a humanitarian research scholar to develop a policy paper on the denial of humanitarian access for children, piloted a new graduate course, and was invited to serve as a Co-Chair of the Academic Advisory Group on Child Reintegration.
In 2021, as part of the new research area on children in armed conflict, Fordham University established a partnership with the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, an advocacy organization working to influence the UN Security Council’s children and armed conflict (CAAC) agenda. Watchlist and IIHA joined forces to develop policy and advocacy papers that will support the work of humanitarian organizations implementing protection and assistance programs for children in situations of armed conflict.
As part of the new partnership with Watchlist, IIHA co-organized and co-convened the 2021 Policy Workshop on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), which was held on January 28th and 29th. The 7th such policy workshop, it brought together UN Security Council Member States, non-Council Member States, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (OSRSG-CAAC), the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, UN agencies, and civil society to discuss the implementation of the UN Security Council’s CAAC agenda and to develop targeted recommendations for the year 2021. The workshop included discussions on the impact of counterterrorism policies and laws on the protection of children’s rights in armed conflict settings. The report of the policy workshop was issued as an official UN Security Council document (S/2021/504), and it was also issued as a document of the 75th General Assembly under Agenda item 66: Promotion and protection of the rights of children.
In September 2021, Fordham University appointed Mr. Pascal Bongard as a Humanitarian Research Scholar at IIHA to support the work of the children in armed conflict research area. Pascal Bongard is currently the Senior Research Coordinator at Geneva Call, where he has worked since 2000 on humanitarian engagement with non-state armed groups. He is developing a policy paper on the denial of humanitarian access for children which will be published jointly by IIHA, Watchlist, and Save the Children in April 2022.
During the fall 2021 semester, as part of the new research area on children in armed conflict, Laura Perez developed and taught a new elective graduate course on child soldiers for the Master of Science in Humanitarian Studies (MSHS) program. Students examined the international legal framework for the protection of child soldiers and the international humanitarian response system designed to assist their physical and mental well-being. Students also critically assessed these mechanisms for their efficacy and continued relevance for protecting children during war. Invited speakers included Michel Chikwanine, a former child soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Michelle Shephard, an award-winning investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker who directed Guantanamo’s Child about Omar Khadr who was detained in Afghanistan in 2002 at the age of 15 and held in Guantanamo Bay for over a decade.
Also this year, Laura Perez was invited to serve as Co-Chair of the Academic Advisory Group on Child Reintegration (AAG), an initiative of the Office of the Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. The other Co-Chair is Dr. Alpaslan Özerdem, Dean of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University. The AAG is working to develop policy papers needed by child protection practitioners to advocate for much needed funding for reintegration programs for child soldiers.
So, what will happen next in the research area on children and armed conflict/affected by violence at IIHA? In 2022, Laura Perez will be launching a Webinar series on children and armed conflict, which will consist of one-on-one interviews conducted live online with child protection practitioners. Additionally, IIHA is coordinating the 8th Policy Workshop in CAAC, which will be held on February 3, 2022, co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Canada and Germany to the United Nations. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on all of IIHA’s research and initiatives.