2020 marks 20 years since the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC). Ratified by 170 States, OPAC is an indispensable complement to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).
The Center for Children’s
Rights Studies and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child planned a
commemorative conference in Geneva on September 29, 2020. This was cancelled
due to the pandemic. Instead, four of the distinguished speakers recorded brief
statements seeking to give fresh impetus to OPAC.
The four speakers are:
- Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former UK Prime Minister;
- Virginia Gamba, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict
- Renate Winter, Member and former Chair, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
- Shaheed Fatima QC, barrister at Blackstone Chambers and lead author of Protecting Children in Armed Conflict.
They each addressed the current state of children caught up in armed conflict and what civil society and international organisations, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child, can do to better intervene and protect these children.
Shaheed Fatima QC’s video statement asks the international community to take up the call for a single, civil, international instrument that combines existing legal protections for children in armed conflict. The implementation of that instrument would need to be monitored by an international institution. Both aspects of this initiative could be incorporated within the existing architecture of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which includes an experienced and knowledgeable Committee that monitors compliance with the Convention.