Draft Research Agenda
A Proposal by The Special Representative of the Secretary-General For Children and Armed Conflict
I. Executive Summary
I. Executive Summary
1. The research initiative on children and armed conflict proposed here is to be undertaken by a network of research institutions, scholars working in close collaboration with operational actors (especially UN agencies and NGOs), policy-makers and the donor community.
2. In the internecine conflicts of recent years, children have featured centrally as both the targets and the perpetrators of violence. The number of children who are being directly affected by armed conflict is enormous and unprecedented, and their rights, well-being and protection merits special attention. While there is growing political will, and there are some resources, to tackle this issue, international response is hobbled in part by significant gaps in our knowledge. The interventions of international and local actors will benefit tremendously from deeper knowledge and sound analysis of the dynamics of this phenomenon. Knowledge and good analysis, in turn, require systematic and thorough research of the many ways in which are affected by armed conflict. Several lacunae need to be addressed in order to enhance more comprehensive, sustained and effective action.
3. Apart from the main and immediate objective of producing reliable information, Tools and methods which will facilitate action and a more effective response on the part of policy-makers, operational actors and donors, this research program will fulfill The following general objectives: a) Bring the issue of children and armed conflict to the Forefront of agenda of the academic and research community, policy-makers and donors; b) Facilitate and promote collaboration among research institutions, policy-makers, practitioners, academics, and activists working on the subject of children and armed conflict across disciplinary and geographical boundaries; c) Narrow the knowledge gap and develop the dialogue between institutions, academics and practitioners in developed and developing countries (or from conflict and non-conflict zones), regarding research and activities in the field of children and armed conflict; d) Help build local capacity for research, information gathering and analysis in war-affected areas by transferring skills to local researchers in the field of children and armed conflict; e) Identify and reinforce local constituencies and capacities for protection of children from situations of armed conflict, and the rehabilitation of those affected by it.
4. The research agenda proposed here is aimed at filling some of the critical knowledge gaps, which emerge from lessons learned over the past four years of work in this area, drawing on the Graca Machel report and the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. This research agenda concentrates on four areas that require particularly urgent attention in order for effective programs and policies to be developed on behalf of children affected by armed conflict. These areas are: i) Reliable data on children and armed conflict; ii) Current trends in warfare affecting children; iii) Cultural norms and values concerning the protection of children in times of armed conflict; iv) Assessment of program interventions and responses on behalf of children affected by armed conflict.
5. Reliable Data on Children and Armed Conflict: At the most fundamental level, our grasp of the exact extent of the problem is inadequate. While it is generally accepted that the number of children currently affected by armed conflict is extremely high and perhaps unprecedented, the international community lacks reliable data at the global and regional levels and at the level of individual conflict situations. Currently, there are no accurate figures for the number of children affected by armed conflict in the world. Participants in this research theme will survey existing knowledge and fill the gaps that exist. It is important to develop data collection procedures that will be continuous and which will allow the analysis of data over extended periods of time.
6. Current Trends in Warfare Affecting Children: In addition to reliable data on the impact of armed conflict on children,there is also a widespread need for more systematic and empirical identification of trends in the conduct of organized violence that have led to the disproportionate victimization of children. The uncontrolled proliferation of small arms, the indiscriminate use of land mines, the illegal trade in minerals by armed groups that target civilians, the systematic use of extreme cruelty and sexual violence as weapons of war, and the phenomenon of 'warlords' are some of the defining features of these conflicts. Indeed, specialists in war studies have pointed to the distinctive character of most contemporary civil wars, and to a qualitative shift in the nature and conduct of warfare which severely affects defenceless civilians, especially children. By shedding light on current trends the participants in this research theme will provide a comparative perspective of the correlation between these trends and the victimisation of children in contemporary conflict.
7. Cultural Norms and Values concerning the protection of Children in times of Armed Conflict: At the heart of the growing phenomenon of mass violence and social disintegration is a crisis of normative and value systems. Deficient as our grasp of the extent of the problem is, even less is known about what kinds of cultural norms and values about children and warfare exist, and how these are undermined or shattered by war. The erosion and non-observance of normative frameworks and value systems can give rise to an "'ethical vacuum' - a setting in which international standards are ignored with impunity and where normative and value systems have lost their sway1". There is a need to identify norms and values that could lead to the positive protection of children from war. The propagation of international norms for the protection of children in times of armed conflict has also been hindered by an insufficient knowledge on the part of international community of the local norms and values within societies that have protected children from harm. It is of fundamental importance to try and find points of intersection between local and international norms in order to enhance the protection of children from armed conflict. Participants in this research theme will, through systematic comparison, identify cultural normative and value systems that lead to the protection of children from armed conflict, and investigate the ways in which local standards of protection have (or have not) worked to the benefit of children.
8. Assessing Program Interventions and Responses on behalf of Children Affected by Armed Conflict: An equally significant gap in our knowledge relates to the effectiveness of the various types of intervention that are being undertaken on behalf of children affected by armed conflict. UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, bilateral aid agencies, national governments and community based organizations all have sought, in the midst and the aftermath of conflict to provide protection, relief and rehabilitation to children affected by armed conflict. Yet so complex and sizeable is the problem, and so great the strain on those trying to address it, that those developing these program interventions have had few opportunities to systematically and scientifically assess their impact, and thus pave the way for more effective interventions in the future. Clearly, there is a need for sustained, independent, and scientific assessment of what has worked or not, and why. The participants in the research program proposed here will carry out independent and scientific assessments of interventions made both by international agencies and local community-based organizations on behalf of children. They should also be able to produce sets of indicators that can be used to assess the effectiveness of interventions, as well as identify 'best practices' and 'lessons learned' for the benefit of future actions.
9. The Research Products: The research outputs and outcomes should be innovative and creative and go beyond the traditional outcomes, such as written reports. Although these will constitute part of what will be produced, the aim is to build accessible and user-friendly tools that can be easily applied by practitioners and policy-makers. A key principle of the research program must be to involve people working on the ground in order to tailor the products to their needs. Products such as database and websites, policy oriented papers and reports, academic articles and books, oral history through audio, video and written materials, sets of indicators and 'best practices' and 'lessons learned' will constitute some of the outcomes of this research. Others will be the development of new constituencies of individuals and organizations working on this issue; the publication of new data which will bring the issue to the forefront of the political, economic and social agenda of policy-makers and donors; the improvement of local capacity for research and analysis in conflict affected areas; and the promotion of collaboration between academics and practitioners devoted to the issue of children affected by armed conflict.
10. The Network and its Structure: The implementation of this agenda will require the establishment of a research network that brings together a number of institutions and scholars working in this field. These will be: UN agencies, especially UNICEF, UNHCR, UNDP and WHO; international NGOs; academic and research institutions as well as a number of individual scholars and practitioners committed to this issue. The network will have at its head an advisory board, which will provide the overall orientation and oversight for the program, and ensure that its general objectives are being pursued. It will also have a research committee, which will coordinate the research activities by directly monitoring and supporting the research teams through its thematic sub-committees. The Social Science Research Council in New York, one of the major partner institutions in this network, with recognized experience in managing international multi-disciplinary research programs, has agreed to host the secretariat for the initiative. The secretariat will handle the day-to-day management and coordination of the program. This structure implies that the network will involve different institutions and individuals at different levels.
11. Next Steps: A three-day workshop that will bring together the potential participants in this research program, is being planned for spring 2001. The participants will include UN agencies, scholars, policy-makers, practitioners and donors. The workshop agenda will mainly focus on mapping the current situation of research on children and armed conflict, on methodological and practical aspects of organizing the research program, and on expected outcomes. An intensive three-day engagement will allow the sharpening of the research agenda, the elaboration of the four themes, and the identification of connections between the themes. It will also help to determine a division of labor among participating institutions, organizations and individual researchers.
The Government of Italy has generously offered to sponsor and host the workshop next spring at the Italian Centre for Study of Children's Rights in Florence. It is expected that the research program will be officially launched at the conclusion of the workshop.
In the internecine conflicts of recent years, children have featured centrally as both the targets and the perpetrators of violence. Almost one-half of the world's 21 million refugees are children, while it is estimated that another 13 million children have been displaced within the borders of their own countries. The number of children under the age of 18 who have been coerced or induced to take up arms as child soldiers is generally thought to be in the range of 300,000. Each year, between eight and ten thousand children are the victims of landmines. It is estimated that during the decade between 1986 and 1996, armed conflicts killed 2 million children, injured 6 million, traumatized over 10 million and left more than a million orphaned.
These figures indicate that children are disproportionately affected by armed conflict, and their needs merit concerted attention. Children, caught in the midst of critical stages of personal development, are affected by war more profoundly than adults. They depend, even more than adults, on the protection afforded in peacetime by family, society, and law. Wars can threaten to strip away these layers of protection, with adverse consequences for children's development and consequently for peace and stability for generations to come. There are many features to children's suffering in conflict situations. Children are maimed and killed, and uprooted from home and community. Children are made orphans, separated from their parents and subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation. Children are used as combatants, made to suffer from trauma and deprived of education and healthcare. Particularly damaging for future generations is the impact of war on girls. Disadvantaged even in peacetime, girls undergo sexual abuse, rape, enslavement and other tribulations during war. When humanitarian efforts are undertaken to relieve suffering, or even during efforts to build peace in the aftermath of conflict, the particular needs and special concerns of girls tend to be forgotten, not the least because of the lack of systematic knowledge of these needs in specific cultural and social contexts.
In recent years, the extensive impact of armed conflict on children has prompted several significant actions to address this phenomenon. In 1990, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which contains important provisions for children affected by armed conflict, came into force. In 1996, building on the work of non-governmental organizations and academic studies, Graça Machel submitted a groundbreaking report to UN General Assembly on the impact of armed conflict on children. Based on Machel's recommendations, the General Assembly created the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict in 1997. The office is mandated inter alia to "assess progress achieved, steps taken, and difficulties encountered in strengthening the protection of children in situations of armed conflict; raise awareness and promote the collection of information about the plight of children affected by armed conflict and encourage the development of networking3" ; as well as "foster international cooperation to ensure the respect for children's rights4" in the various stages of armed conflict. Since the publication of the Machel report on the impact of armed conflict on children5, and the establishment of the mandate of this office, a number of actors have worked together and made important and tangible progress in moving forward the issue of children affected by armed conflict. Advocacy and awareness have increased significantly; children affected by armed conflict have been placed high on the international political agenda; major regional organizations have adopted this issue as part of their own agendas; the UN Security Council adopted the landmark resolution 1261 affirming the protection of children affected by armed conflict as a peace-and-security concern; the well-being of war affected children is now being included in peace agendas and has become a priority concern in post-conflict peace building; international standards have been strengthened - the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and the classification of war crimes against children in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court are particularly significant; children's concerns are being integrated into UN peace operations; and there has been a major growth in the advocacy and program activities by NGOs, focusing on children affected by armed conflict6.
While these developments have created a framework for international action on behalf of children affected by armed conflict, several lacunae need to be addressed in order to enhance more comprehensive, sustained, and effective action. The interventions of local and international communities will benefit tremendously from deep knowledge and sound analysis of the dynamics of this phenomenon. Knowledge and good analysis, in turn, require systematic and thorough collection of information of the many ways in which children are affected by armed conflict. With this in mind, and building upon the Machel Study and the experience of the first three years of the mandate, in 1999 the OSRSG/CAC initiated a process of consultations with specialized institutions and individuals from both the academic and the practitioner communities. These consultations, which were aimed at establishing the basis for a research agenda and program, confirmed the need to develop an understanding of the impact of armed conflict on children at the local level, and the need to find points of intersection between international actions and interventions and local developments in specific conflict zones with regard to prevention, protection and rehabilitation. This suggests the need to establish adequate mechanisms to expand and deepen the dialogue between international and local organizations, on the one hand, and between the research community and practitioners on the other. It is only by engaging in a meaningful interaction with local actors (local state and non-state institutions, locally based organizations and the victims themselves) that it will be possible to understand the issue from the perspective of those affected by it.
While the need for political will and resources to tackle this issue is increasingly being addressed, international efforts are often hampered by certain gaps in our knowledge. The research agenda proposed7 here is aimed at filling some of the knowledge gaps, which emerge from lessons learned from the past 4 years of work on the issue of children and armed conflict. This research project will concentrate on four areas that require particularly urgent attention in order for effective programs and policies to be developed on behalf of children affected by armed conflict. These areas are: i) Reliable data on children and armed conflict; ii) Current trends in warfare affecting children; iii) Cultural norms and values concerning the protection of children in times of armed conflict; iv) Assessment of program interventions and responses on behalf of children affected by armed conflict. This ambitious program, while envisaged as a long-term project, will address the issues proposed here in discrete components with precise thematic or country focus. The program's broad scope is also meant to engage the interest of the diverse constituencies working on children and war, and function as a catalyst for the development of further and self-sustained research in the field.
A project of this nature will directly benefit a number of institutions working in the field of children and armed conflict, both at the local and international levels. The products of this research will feed directly into the efforts of a number of actors working on the ground to provide assistance to children affected by armed conflict - UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNHCR and WHO; international and local NGOs, national governments and civil society. At the decision-making level, policy-making bodies such as the UN, EU, national governments, and the donor community will be able to make use of the research outcomes to inform their decisions and policies. Also, advocacy and activist groups will draw from concrete and reliable information produced in the course of this research program to enhance their work. The research materials obtained will also be instrumental to the academic and research community at large for teaching, and for developing further research projects on these issues.
Apart from the main and immediate objective of producing reliable information, tools and methods which will facilitate action and a more effective response on the part of policy-makers, operational actors and donors, it is expected that this research exercise, which will bring together several institutions (international, regional and local) will fulfill the following general objectives: a) Bring the issue of children and armed conflict to the forefront of the agenda of the academic and research community, policy makers and operational actors, advocates and donors. b) Facilitate and promote collaboration among research institutions, policy-makers, practitioners, academics, and activists working on the subject of children and armed conflict; across disciplines and geographical areas. c) Narrow the knowledge gap and develop the dialogue between institutions, academics and practitioners in developed and developing countries (or from conflict and non-conflict zones), regarding research and activities in the field of children and armed conflict. d) Build local research and analytical capacity, especially in the South and conflict zones by transferring skills to local researchers in the field of children and armed conflict. e) Identify and reinforce local constituencies and capacities for protection of children from situations of armed conflict, and rehabilitation of those affected by it.
III. Gaps in Our Knowledge: Research Themes
i) Reliable Data on Children and Armed Conflict
At the most fundamental level, our grasp of the exact extent of the problem is inadequate. While it is generally accepted that the number of children currently affected by armed conflict is extremely high and perhaps unprecedented, the international community lacks reliable data at the global and regional levels and at the level of individual conflict situations. Currently, there is no accurate knowledge of the number of children affected by armed conflict in the world. Several numbers are produced by different sources, some of them are outdated, others contradictory or unreliable. Often, the exact sources for that information are unknown, and it is impossible to track down sources for verification. And these are, most often, the only figures at our disposal. The introductory paragraph of this document attests to that. We were unable to produce current figures, having to settle for those from 1996. An empirical statistical survey needs to be undertaken to gather current figures and fill this gap. Of course, the necessity for accurate information goes beyond aggregate figures. Data is needed on the number of child soldiers; the numbers of children killed or handicapped; refugee and internally displaced children; orphans; children abducted or taken into slavery; and on the abuse of girls by armed groups. These figures need to be disaggregated by age, gender, education and health levels, ethnicity and other possible variables. The most accurate "mapping" possible of the impact of armed conflict on children is therefore needed, both as the basis for further analysis and to assist organizations in devising policies and programs. Participants in the research program proposed here will survey existing knowledge and fill the gaps that exist. To this end, they will consult with affected populations and with field organizations active in specific conflict and post-conflict settings. It is important to develop data collection procedures that will be continuous and which will allow the analysis of data over extended periods of time.
ii) Current Trends in Warfare Affecting Children
In addition to reliable data on the impact of armed conflict on children, there is also a widespread need for more systematic identification and analysis of trends in the conduct of organized violence that have led to the disproportionate victimization of children. The uncontrolled proliferation of small arms, the indiscriminate use of land mines, the illegal trade in minerals by armed groups that target civilians, the systematic use of extreme cruelty and sexual violence as weapons of war, and the phenomenon of 'warlords' constitute some of the defining features of these conflicts. At the micro level, we need to know what are the locally discernible trends on these issues. To what extent do these trends constitute new elements in the way warfare is conducted? What other forms do such developments take, and how do they affect - positively or negatively - the situation of children exposed to armed conflict? How have such trends evolved over time? How do all these (new or old) trends correlate to the victimization, marginalization or empowerment of children in situations of armed conflict?
The analysis of local war trends needs to be understood within the context of more global trends and interactions. A large-scale culture of war is today a reality, and it links particular war zones to foreign media, development and business groups, power brokers, arms suppliers, soldiers, mercenaries and strategists. As these many groups interact, and local and transnational concerns are enmeshed, ideas and values about what constitutes 'acceptable' warfare practices are constructed and reshaped. Indeed, specialists in war studies have pointed out to the distinctive character of most contemporary civil wars, and to the qualitative shift in the nature and conduct of warfare. Today's conflicts are primarily internal, often fought by multiple, semi-autonomous armed groups within existing state boundaries. They are protracted, lasting years if not decades, and they make defenceless civilians - especially children and women - particularly vulnerable. "Children, women, the elderly, granary stores, crops, live-stock - all have become fair game in the single-minded struggle for power, in an attempt not just to prevail but to humiliate, not simply to subdue but to annihilate the 'enemy community' altogether. This is the phenomenon of 'total war'"8. Rather than having soldiers fighting each other on the battlefield, war is increasingly fought by irregulars - civilians drawn into military roles, in many cases by force. The separation between the 'battlefield' and the 'home front' becomes very blurred as civilians - especially girls and boys - are increasingly incorporated into martial activities in ways that defy established conventions about civilian protection in times of war. Economic and private interests - what some authors call the 'privatisation of violence' - are often the main motive behind these conflicts, which destroy not only people's lives and material possessions, but also their moral fibre and sense of dignity. Thus, there is a critical need for focused scientific analysis of these contemporary conflicts and how they affect children in particular. Why and how have so many children been caught up in the midst of conflict? What factors explain children's involvement in conflicts? What trends (new and old) are conducive to children's exposure to armed conflicts? By shedding light on the trends in the conduct of armed conflict the participants in the research program proposed here could provide an image and a comparative perspective of the contexts in which children become both victims and perpetrators of political violence.
Several sub-themes can be identified in this research area. a) The economics of warfare and the economic impact of warfare on children: how are these military groups funded? What kinds of trade, licit or illicit (minerals, weapons - especially small arms - oil and drugs) support these wars? What kinds of actors (local and global) take part in this type of business? To what extent are children and young people involved in them? What is the economic cost of war on children? To what extent are social welfare funds (especially from education and health sectors) diverted into the military and the war effort? What is the real impact of and cost of this diversion of resources for future generations? b) The characteristics of this type of armed conflict: Is direct combat between armed forces (government and rebel) an absent feature in these wars? To what extent is terror a fundamental weapon of war? How do these children manage the ambiguity of their situation as child soldiers - simultaneously 'innocent' children and merciless killers? How do children see themselves within the war machine? What other activities and occupations are available for children, in these particular war settings, besides being involved with one military group or another? c) The military role of child combatants: What is the role of children in these types of war? What are the mechanisms used in the recruitment and initiation of children into a culture of violence and terror? What is the rationale for using children as combatants? How is the re-configuration of these children's identities as warriors achieved? How is child participation in warfare socially perceived at the local level? How do the young perpetrators of violence see themselves - as victims, heroes, soldiers, or criminals? And what are the links between their own perceptions and the perceptions of those around them (families, communities etc.)?
iii) Cultural Norms and Values concerning the protection of Children in times of Armed Conflict
At the heart of the growing phenomenon of mass violence and social disintegration is a crisis of normative and value systems. Deficient as our grasp of the extent of the problem is, even less is known about what kinds of cultural norms and values about children and warfare exist, and how these are undermined or shattered by war. The absence or non-observance of normative frameworks and value systems can "give rise to an 'ethical vacuum' - a setting in which international standards are ignored with impunity and where normative and value systems have lost their sway"9. There is a need to identify norms and values that could lead to the prevention of war and the protection of children caught up in it. "The most damaging loss a society can suffer is the collapse of its value system. Values matter, even in time of war. In most societies distinctions between acceptable and unacceptable practices were maintained, with taboos and injunctions proscribing the targeting of civilian populations, especially children and women"10. On the other hand, it is also important to investigate value and normative systems related to notions of childhood and child protection in times of war. What does it mean to be a child? How do societies understand the issue of child protection? What kinds of signifiers are attached to family life and parent-child relationships, especially in times of war? How do societies perceive political violence and their effect on children? What kinds of values/norms exist with regard to how wars should or should not be fought, and who may or may not take part in warfare? How are these boundaries enforced or maintained in times of war? What changes are effected in wartime that render children vulnerable?
The propagation of international norms for the protection of children in times of armed conflict has also been hindered by insufficient information and knowledge on the part of international policy-makers of those local norms and values within societies which have protected children from harm. To the extent that the erosion of these value systems may have partially enabled the victimization of children in the first place, their revival or strengthening could provide strong local bases for the protection of children. Equally significantly, these normative values could provide essential reference points for the propagation of international norms, not just among international actors and activists but also among communities and within societies. It is critical, therefore, to know where such knowledge exists or may have existed, and where it has survived or changed.
The dominant framework informing most responses to children's involvement in war is based on the normative models of international humanitarian law. However, the important role played by international humanitarian law does not eliminate the need to develop an understanding of the dynamics at the local level. What kinds of other normative and value systems exist outside the international ones? Are there any 'local Geneva Conventions'? To what extent do they correspond or not to international norms? How can international norms and values be 'translated' into local world-views and meaning-systems? It is of fundamental importance to try to find points of intersection between local and international norms in order to enforce the protection of children from armed conflict. The successful implementation of these norms depends largely on their being understood, incorporated and observed locally in conflict zones where children's involvement in war is most likely to occur. This suggests a need to establish adequate mechanisms to expand and deepen the 'conversation' between international agencies and organizations and institutions at the regional, national, and local levels. An engagement and meaningful interaction with local actors will provide an understanding of normative and value systems from the perspective of those affected by conflict (the children, their families and communities).
A wider challenge is to assess how local cultural norms and values may intersect with broader political, economic and religious forces in ways that could lead not just to the protection of children during armed conflict, but could sometimes even cause them harm. While important new research has helped to reveal the broader causes of contemporary conflicts, we still have only a very partial understanding of why so many of these conflicts involve children as soldiers and victims. Without a deeper and more nuanced understanding of local dynamics, the capacities of international and local actors to prevent the negative impact of armed conflict on children, to protect them once they have become affected, and even to re-integrate them in post-conflict situations, will be limited. In this context, it is also critical to understand the role that children themselves can play in activities designed to assist them. Children are often active agents in processes that influence their lives and not merely passive members of "target groups" that are acted upon by others.
Participants in the research program should attempt to synthesize existing knowledge on conflicts that have been especially devastating for children. As counter-cases, they should explore recent conflicts where the effects on children have been relatively minor or attenuated by strong normative and value systems at local and/or wider levels. Through systematic comparison, they could identify the kinds of conflicts in which children have been either protected or deeply involved, shed light on the operative circumstances in each such case, and investigate the ways in which local dimensions of protection have (or have not) worked to children's benefit.
Several sub-themes can be identified in this broad research area. One of them could be the direct collection of information that could lead to the identification of cultural norms and values concerning the protection of children in times of conflict and warfare: Who is allowed to fight a war, and in which circumstances? What age limits are locally considered acceptable for an individual to become a combatant? What kinds of 'dos' and 'don'ts' regulate military activity, especially in relation to children and youths? In other words, what kinds of rules or ethics of war and combat exist, and what is their rationale?
Another sub-theme, much broader that the previous one, could be the issue of what constitutes childhood (youth, adolescence, teenage) and how it is different from adulthood (manhood, womanhood). What kinds of normative models and meaning systems are attached to the notions of children and childhood? How are the relationships between adults and children (within the family, at school, at the church and in society in general) perceived and articulated? What processes exist to establish the transition from childhood into adulthood? To what extent is military training and activity perceived to be a form of transition into manhood for boys? What notions of masculinity and femininity mould the development of boys and girls? What are the social expectations of society vis-à-vis children?
The role of girls in war is another important sub-theme in this research area. How do different value systems identify girls' social roles, obligations and responsibilities? What is socially expected from girls? What is the extent of young women's participation in war? What kinds of roles are assigned to them - soldiers, guards, servants, cleaners, cooks, objects of sexual pleasure, or wives? How are girl's roles in the war socially perceived by local communities?
iv) Assessment of Program Interventions and Responses on Behalf of Children Affected by Armed Conflict
While the previous theme centered on the issue of prevention and protection before and during conflict, this fourth theme focuses on the post-conflict rehabilitation, healing and reintegration of children affected by armed conflict. Another significant gap in our knowledge relates to the effectiveness of the various types of intervention that have been made to date on behalf of children affected by armed conflict. UN agencies, international non-governmental organizations, bilateral aid agencies (international and local), governments and community-based organizations have all sought, during the course of providing humanitarian assistance, to assist children affected by armed conflict, especially in post-war settings or in camps for refugees and internally displaced people. Yet so complex and sizeable is the problem, and so great the strain on those trying to address it, that those developing these interventions have had few opportunities to systematically and scientifically assess their impact, and thus pave the way for more effective interventions in the future. Clearly, there is a need for sustained, independent, and scientific assessment of what has worked or not, and why. Similarly, in post-war contexts a number of responses to the problem have been conceived and implemented at the local level by governments and the affected communities. Many communities have taken charge of the healing, reconciliation, rehabilitation, and social reintegration of children involved in armed conflict. Some studies have already highlighted practices of post-conflict healing of the social wounds of war performed by families, local healers and churches. How much do we know about these initiatives? How effective were/are they? What is their long-term impact? In what ways can they complement initiatives carried out by international, regional and other local organizations?
The participants in the research program proposed here could carry out independent and scientific assessments of interventions made both by international agencies and local community-based organizations on behalf of children - the provision of education and health for displaced children, the care of orphans and other unaccompanied children, the healing of war trauma, and the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers, and the like - in the aftermath of armed conflict. They could identify best practices and lessons learned on the basis of these assessments. In addition, they could investigate the ways in which other interventions not explicitly focused on children may have affect them (positively and negatively) in situations of armed conflict. Their efforts in this regard will complement the internal reviews and evaluations that many intervening organizations already conduct. Indeed, to the degree they are available, these evaluations will serve as an important window on various organizations' data-gathering capacities, their criteria for measuring success, and their ability to reflect on their work. The research should be aimed at producing sets of indicators for measuring the effectiveness of interventions on behalf of war-affected children. Through these evaluations, and through independent case studies, the research participants could provide a comparative perspective on the conditions - both external and internal - under which interventions are likely to achieve their goals. Important questions addressed by this thematic group could include:
How do various organizations define the situation of war-affected children in post-conflict situations or in camps for refugees and internally displaced people? How do they identify the causes of their disproportionate victimization? Given limited resources, how do they decide what to prioritize - dealing with trauma, providing vocational training or basic education, mobilizing children on healthcare or nutrition, or protecting children's rights? How do children respond to these initiatives? How do various organizations assess the particular needs and concerns of girls, and what steps do they take to orient their programming to address these needs? What role, if any, do children play in shaping the intervention and its implementation, and is there a positive relationship between their participation and the success of the intervention? How can the long-term impact of these interventions be assessed? How does the very presence of an agency, especially one that dispenses resources among a very poor community, alter relations within that community (even within households), and with what effects on children?
Most organizations working on behalf of children do not operate in a vacuum. What effects do other intervening actors - such as agricultural experts, relief workers, local governments, the family, religious groups and the community in general - have on the status and well being of children? What kinds of communication and coordination exist between them, and with what effects? To raise and address these questions is to recognize that the best efforts of programs designed on behalf of children must be calibrated within a wider context, which involves the work of others (not just other international agencies, of course, but national governments and local agencies as well) if they are to achieve their aims. The notion of 'best practices' applies to a wide range of organizations. Through a set of case studies exploring how agencies operate within a broader context, and through collecting the lessons learned from these studies, the participants in the research program could also identify 'best practices' relating both to individual organizations and to the complex of organizations working on this field, and suggest concrete sets of indicators that will facilitate the assessment of these types of interventions.
For example, the tracing and reunification and reintegration program of war-affected children in Mozambique that followed the cease-fire and the peace accord is reported to be one of the most successful reunification programs undertaken in post-conflict settings for children. Why is this program considered to be successful? What institutions, local, regional and international were involved in this program? What kinds of coordination did it require, and by whom?
Another important aspect to investigate further is the one that relates to concepts of the healing, reconciliation, and social re-integration of war-affected children in post-conflict situations. What meanings are attached to healing, to family and community reconciliation? How is war trauma locally perceived? How do communities re-absorb their children - as heroes, criminals, victims, makers, or breakers of society? What processes are there to reincorporate them into society? Some studies have shown that in some conflict-affected areas local communities perform rituals to heal war trauma and reintegrate war-affected children. What is the effect of these local interventions? To what extent do international interventions complement these local initiatives? What is the long-term impact of these healing and reintegration rituals? How are these post-war cleansing and purification for war-affected children organized? What psychotherapeutic strategies are employed to deal with children's war trauma? How can modern psychotherapeutic strategies of trauma healing be effective in these contexts? What kinds of indicators will allow measuring success in these types of interventions?
There seems to be a direct correlation between war and the spread of HIV/AIDS and STDs in young people in contemporary conflicts. The spread of HIV/AIDS and STDs through unprotected sex in times of war can lead to the infection of massive numbers of youngsters, especially girls. Research is needed to verify this correlation, measure its extent, and identify those conflict areas where it is prevalent. What is the incidence of HIV/AIDS and STDs on young people, and especially on girl victims of sexual abuse during war? What kinds of interventions have been carried out to deal this problem both in the midst and aftermath of conflict? To what extent have these interventions been effective? What lessons can be learned from them? What other strategies (strong involvement of the community, development of public information and awareness campaigns, special training for local practitioners, availability of resources for preventive and curative measures and the like) can be used to minimize or solve the problem?
These are just some examples of possible research topics. The decision about what to focus on will certainly depend on thematic priority and coherence, the country or region under study, and other factors. While many questions can be identified, not all these issues are to be covered at once. The examples merely illustrate the wealth and immensity of information that is yet to be discovered. Hopefully, the answers to some of these questions will provide better insights into the lives of war-affected children and their families and communities. Also, this research should not only capture the present situation, but should also examine the different ways in which certain features and trends take on new forms and shapes over time, and how these�enew' developments affect societies.
IV. Gaps in our Method: Research Methodology
For this initiative to produce the most useful information and analysis, there should be a direct relationship with actors on the ground, both local people and institutions working on these issues and their international counterparts. It is particularly important to involve local actors and people affected by conflict in the research program. We need to know about their experiences, their coping mechanisms, and their expectations. Also important is to keep the study and analysis of the situation of children affected by conflict within the wider context of the family, the community and the social, political and economic environment in which they live and which affect their fate. The research will thus be mainly oriented towards a long-term context-sensitive participant-observation approach.
i) A Multi-disciplinary and Multi-Sectoral Approach
There is a need to bring together researchers from both the academic and the policy/practitioner worlds, and from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. Much (though not all) of the literature on children and armed conflict is produced by practitioners and field staff who are not always trained researchers, and who are often understandably overwhelmed by their programmatic duties. While the literature produced in this way constitutes already an extensive bibliography, it is mostly based on internally commissioned reports by various UN agencies and NGO's. This literature is often unavailable (or not easily available) beyond the staff of these institutions. Equally, the literature produced by academics very often fails to reach policy-makers and practitioners. Thus the systematic collaboration between academics (from various disciplines) and practitioners in gathering data and providing analysis in this field is critical to this research exercise. It is important to encourage the academic community to undertake and develop research programs on the impact of armed conflict on children. The project will also aim at creating a system and network for rapid assessment of the situation in conflict areas. Such an assessment would entail a comprehensive mapping of all dimensions - political, economic, social and environmental - of the impact of conflict on children. This can be particularly important when a conflict breaks out and there is a need to assess its overall impact on children in order to provide the necessary assistance.
ii) Comparative Perspective
The research should provide a comparative perspective. Studies will be carried out in different regions and different countries, and researchers should draw on comparisons. There is a need to develop a comparative analysis between different conflict situations, in order to understand how and why particular phenomena take specific characteristics in one context and not in another. What kinds of social, cultural, political, and economic dynamics make possible the differences and/or commonalities? How can experiences from one region/country say something about, or help explain other regional and country experiences? How can lessons learned in one particular context be useful for other social settings and situations? Also, the identification of common manifestations and features of a phenomenon in different places could lead to the establishment of global policies and strategies for dealing with it.
iii) Promote Collaboration and Avoid Duplication
Research teams will undertake systematic research on their particular themes but can also commission relevant research input from researchers and institutions not formally linked to the network. There is also the need to collate and bring together the existing research on the impact of armed conflict on children, which might be dispersed. Some of the knowledge gaps identified above may have been already partially addressed through existing research. The systematic presentation of this research will allow policy-makers to tap into it. It will also allow researchers to identify additional gaps, and assist in avoiding duplication of work already done. A survey of the research currently being done, or already completed, could be made available on-line through the web-sites of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the institutions participating in the research program.
iv) Collaboration with Institutions from Developing Countries and Capacity Building
Emphasis should be placed on the participation of institutions and individual researchers from the areas affected by conflict in order to make possible their interaction with colleagues from non-conflict zones. By virtue of generally being closer geographically to situations of armed conflict, these institutions and individuals can offer a uniquely insightful perspective, which combined with an 'outside' perspective will be critical to understand the phenomenon of children and armed conflict. This program should, therefore, facilitate their fullest participation in the research network. Eventually, they should become the primary focal points for sustained research on the impact of armed conflict on children at the local level. A key initial step will be to strengthen their research capacity by providing adequate training and resources whenever necessary. Making available small grants and fellowships for research on children and armed conflict for M.A. and Ph.D. students and faculty at local universities will be a way of developing interest and expertise in this field in places where it is most needed.
v) Types of Research Activity and Timeframe
Although this initiative is envisaged as a long-term program we intend to start with a five-year research program, subdivided into two operational phases of two and a half years each. The research themes proposed above involve different types of research activity that, by their very nature, will require different timeframes. First, there is the on-going statistical research component aimed at gathering accurate figures about war-affected children. Secondly, there is the medium-term analytical research component, which deals with the regular assessment of the effectiveness of particular interventions on behalf of conflict-affected children. And thirdly, there is the systematic long-term research component focusing on: the identification and analysis of new trends in situations of political conflict that affect children; cultural norms, values, and meaning systems; and processes of social re-habilitation and re-integration in the aftermath of conflict.
vi) The Research Network and its Structure
The implementation of this agenda will require the establishment of a research network that brings together a number of institutions, organizations and individuals with experience in this field. Apart from bringing in key UN agencies - especially UNICEF and UNHCR - the research network will involve a number of already existing networks working on issues related to children and armed conflict such as the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Save the Children Alliance, and various academic/research networks. This network will have at its head an advisory board composed of prominent international personalities devoted to the problem of children and armed conflict drawn from UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO, key NGOs and the academic and donor community. The advisory board will provide the overall supervision of the program, and ensure that its general objectives are being pursued. The advisory board will also nominate a research committee, composed of leading researchers (both scholars and practitioners operating on the ground from UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO, and NGOs) in the field of children and armed conflict, which will oversee the research activities. The research committee will be multidisciplinary and internally organized into subcommittees. Apart from covering the general aspects of the research program, the research committee will also monitor the requirements and progress of the four research areas. The composition of the research committee will be as varied as possible, bringing together researchers and practitioners from (and operating in) both conflict and non-conflict areas. The research committee will directly monitor and support the research initiatives through its thematic sub-committees.
The administrative, logistical and financial management of this research exercise will be demanding because of the widespread nature of the network of institutions and individuals involved in it. Instead of creating a new management structure, it is proposed that a secretariat will be based at the Social Science Research Council in New York, one of the major partner institutions in this network with recognized experience in managing international multi-disciplinary research programs. The secretariat will handle the day-to-day management and coordination of the program, establishing links with the research teams, convening the meeting of the advisory board and the research committee, and following up the decisions taken by these two bodies. The secretariat should also provide support to the research teams and institutions involved in the network.
This structure implies that the network will involve different institutions and individuals at different levels. Certain individuals will be central to the conceptualization and guidance of the research activities as members of the research committee. At a different level there will be a number of partner institutions, mainly locally based, which will be in charge of undertaking specific research projects. Equally, individual researchers may apply, or be invited, to conduct projects on particular topics.
The initial phase of the project will certainly explore what research has already been done, or is underway in order to identify new gaps and avoid duplication. Instead of starting by commissioning new projects, whenever possible, the project will build upon existing research networks and projects by supporting, expanding or re-shaping them as necessary and appropriate. At an initial stage the program will only focus in a small number of countries. Countries will be selected on the basis of particular characteristics, such as their different stages of conflict -i.e. in the midst, immediately post-, and long-term post- phases of conflict. The conflict situations might include: Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Uganda, Angola, Burundi, Sudan, Mozambique, East Timor, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala, The Balkans and Northern Ireland. Starting with a limited number of countries will make it easier to ensure more coherence, better focus and a more effective and manageable onset for the program.
V. Research Outputs and Outcomes
The research outputs and outcomes should provide concrete tools for action on behalf of children affected by armed conflict. They must be innovative and creative and go beyond traditional products such as books, articles and written reports. Although these will constitute part of what will be produced, the aim is also to build simple and user-friendly tools that will not necessarily require an academic background or expertise to be effectively applied. The key principle of the research program must be to involve people working on the ground in order to tailor the products to their needs. The research will also produce less tangible outcomes such as: reinforce cooperation between academics, policy-makers and operational actors; help to build local capacity for research and information gathering in areas affected by conflict; and identify and promote local constituencies of protection and rehabilitation of children affected by conflict. Moreover, creative thinking is needed on how outcomes can be better disseminated, and how research products can have a faster turnover, be made more accessible and exciting, and cut across boundaries between academics, practitioners and policy-makers, between international and local constituencies.
The research program will provide operational actors, policy-makers, advocacy organizations, practitioners, academics, and activists with reliable information and knowledge regarding the situation of children affected by armed conflict. This may include the following: database and websites, which would have comprehensive information to be made available on-line for further enquiry. Currently no such database exists that is specifically devoted to the empirical identification of all parameters of impact of armed conflict on children; policy oriented papers and reports, addressed to and for the benefit of policy makers in order to inform and facilitate their action; sets of indicators, which will be of paramount importance in helping efforts geared to measure interventions, and define new policies; a rapid assessment network, focusing on a prompt mapping of the overall situation of children affected by armed conflict in a particular area; academic articles and books, which would be used in teaching, both in universities and schools; new constituencies of advocates for the cause of children affected by armed conflict amongst young people, especially students and young scholars; oral history through audio, video and written materials, which would capture the present through stories and accounts of war and conflict recounted by children, their families and communities; and sets of examples of best practices and lessons learned from the analysis of past and current interventions.
VI. Next Steps
The research agenda outlined above will constitute the conceptual basis for a three-day workshop to be organized with potential participants in the program in Spring 2001. The workshop will bring together participants from academic and research institutions, UN agencies, international and national NGOs, policy-making and the donor community. Especially important will be the contribution of researchers and practitioners from countries in which children have been deeply affected by war. It is critical to bring actors from these countries into the design phase of this initiative in order to ensure that their sense of relevant knowledge needs are firmly incorporated into the research program.
The workshop agenda will consist of three main issues: First, the mapping of the current situation vis-à-vis research on children and armed conflict. Presentations will be made on the state of current research in each of the four thematic areas. Secondly, the methodological and organizational aspects of the research, including how to constitute the network, to organize the research teams; and what kind of division of labor to establish. And third, the issue of research outcomes: how to bring about creative and effective outcomes that will have direct relevance for practice and policy. An intensive three-day engagement will allow sharpen the research agenda, the elaboration of the four themes, and the connections between the themes. It will also help to determine a division of labor among participating institutions, organizations and individual researchers.
The Government of Italy has generously offered to sponsor and host the workshop next spring at the Italian Centre for the Study of Children's Rights in Florence. It is expected that the research program will be officially launched at the conclusion of the workshop.
2 The Office of the Special Representative expresses particular gratitude to the Social Science Research Council in New York for its valuable contribution to an earlier draft of this paper and for subsequent discussions of the overall project. The Office also extends its appreciation to several individuals and institutions, which have generously shared their views on the research agenda.
3General Assembly Resolution on the Rights of the Child of 20 February 1997 (A/RES/51/77), page 7: a) and b)
4 General Assembly Resolution on the Rights of the Child of 20 February 1997 (A/RES/51/77) page 7: d)
5 'The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children', Report of the expert of the Secretary-General, Ms. Graça Machel, submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 48/157.
6 For further information please refer to the address of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for CAC to the General Assembly (Third Committee), on the 'Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children' on 11 October 2000.
7 This document constitutes a preliminary attempt to map out the major gaps in our knowledge. Further debate and brainstorming will need to be developed with the organizations, institutions and individuals participating in the research network.
8 Extract from Olara Otunnu's article "Innocent Victims: Protecting Children in Times of Armed Conflict" in United Nations 2000. London: Agenda Publishing. 2000: page 84.
9 The Special Representative's report to the General Assembly, 12 October 1998.
10 Cf. Olara Otunnu's article "Innocent Victims: Protecting Children in Times of Armed Conflict" page 84.