Lusaka, Sunday, 27 November 2022: COMESA working with Save the Children, the African Child Policy and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) have convened a three-day conference on reinvigorating commitment by Member States and relevant stakeholders towards providing all-rounded protection to children in situations of conflict in Africa.
Specifically, the conference aims to advocate for stronger protection of children in situations of armed conflict, raising awareness, learning and knowledge exchange on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) and mobilizing commitments and investments on CAAC.
The African Union (AU) and COMESA commissioned studies in 2020 and 2021 respectively and identified, among others, that efforts to mainstream child protection in conflict prevention and response efforts was ad hoc.
For instance, the Early Warning Systems in Africa do not have child-sensitive early warning indicators.
The studies also revealed among others weak integration of child protection in conflict situations by Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms, lack of regional strategies on CAAC and lack of technical guidance notes and Standard Operating Procedures on involvement of children in post conflict reconstruction, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of children.
Cognizant of these challenges and appreciating the contribution of relevant actors in the promotion of peace, security and stability on the continent, COMESA has taken the initiate to bring together stakeholders from the region to initiate dialogue and build consensus towards bridging the identified gaps in the implementation of the CAAC agenda by its Member States.
The Head of Governance, Peace and Security Unit at COMESA Secretariat Ms Elizabeth Mutunga says the conference is an opportunity for the organization to explore the opportunities available to COMESA and its Member States in honouring their international and regional commitments and promises to children affected by armed conflicts.
“This conference will create space for children to inspire policy makers, leaders and actors in the region to commit to and be accountable for their protection in situations of armed conflict,” said Ms Mutunga.
The conference set for Nairobi, Kenya from Monday 28 – 30 November 2022 will take the format of a political dialogue which will involve government and civil society technocrats and ministers who will craft the final call to action which will summarize the key recommendations and resolutions from the conference.
A technical dialogue which will integrate thematic expert presentations on emerging cross-cutting issues such as the impact of armed conflict on children, environmental risk factors and climate change that directly impact children in conflict situations will also be held.
There will also be child-focused sessions involving key actors in the CAAC discourse at the continental, regional and national levels who will deliberate on child’s rights, challenges, good practices and opportunities for advancing the CAAC agenda.
According to the experts, there has been a 34% increase in the number of children living in conflict zones since 2010 and a 170% rise in incidents of grave violations against children, as verified by the United Nations.
Of the ten worst conflict-affected countries with a high risk on a child, six are in Africa, demonstrating an urgent need for the protection of children in situations of armed conflict across the continent.
Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda have confirmed participation.