Save the Children, through the project ‘Strengthening Child Protection in Africa Union Peace Support Operations in East and West Africa’ on 7-9 December held a knowledge and learning event in Dakar. The recognition of the importance of sharing knowledge, exchanging best practices and learning within the multi-dimensional facets of child protection in peace support operations (PSO) was the impetus for organizing the event. In attendance were stakeholders working in the government, humanitarian and Non-Governmental Organizations (such as World Vision, Africawide Movement for Children, International Organization for Migration), peace-keeping training centers (such as the Kofi Annan International PeaceKeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC)), the African Union Peace and Security Department, the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Inter- Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), PSO personnel (military and civilian) among other.
The event provided an excellent opportunity to share information on research, current issues and best practices on child protection in conflict situations; reflect on the impact of the child protection training, explore opportunities and challenges while showcasing new ideas and trends in training; create an opportunity for the development of communities of practice, and enhance communications and knowledge sharing among peace support operation actors.
Participants deliberated on and identified priority areas that would significantly contribute to child protection in conflict situation and those requiring greater focus from all actors. Inspiring stories and practical experiences on the use of skills and knowledge acquired from peace support operations training in regard to military interaction with children during peace keeping missions were shared. The participants emphasized the need to review PSO training curriculum to address the ever changing nature of conflict and the significance of focusing on children. They also proposed the need to harmonize and standardize PSO training curriculum and develop clear mechanism to ensure accountability by the mission staff.
Child protection mainstreaming plays an important role in ensuring that actors are sensitive and adhere to good child protection standards. The development of the child protection standard operation procedures within the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) and the establishment of a child protection unit within the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have provided levels of accountability to child protection issues in both institutions. Child protection mainstreaming is important in ensuring that actors strive to make deliberate efforts such as capacity building that would enhance their operations. In order to strengthen reporting on the grave violations, accountability measures are key coupled with proper child protection mainstreaming measures.
Moreover, the cost of conflict on children was recognized as an important area of focus by the participants. As such, state parties, the international, regional and local communities should ensure that investment in child protection systems before, during and after conflict is adequately done. The importance of engaging with children so as to understand the impact of conflict on their lives, and more so meaningfully involve them at all phases of the project so as to have them as partners in arriving at sustainable solutions to the challenges that they face was also identified.
Child protection in conflict areas calls for inter-agency and multi-stakeholder engagement. However, the linkages among various actors has been weak necessitating an urgency to develop relationships, strengthen synergies and break the perception barriers that has affected interaction amongst various actors. Consequently, there is an overarching need for mechanism that would promote timely communication, collaboration and learning through information sharing and knowledge management platforms. Additionally, the African Union protection of children in armed conflict strategy provides a perfect and timely backdrop for aligning interventions by the various actors for regional integration and sustainable impact that can be scaled out. As such, stakeholders’ interventions and key issues need to be well packaged and articulated in advocating for child protection policy formulation.
Find out more information about the event below: