Protection of Children in Armed Conflicts

“Empty Space“ is the name of the short film that won the Herat Human Rights Film Festivals. In her film, sixteen year old Mahbooba Barat tells the story of a boy who cannot go to school anymore, because he has to work to support his family after the death of his father.  All that remains of his hopes and dreams is an empty space in the classroom.

Children are especially vulnerable in conflict situations and wartime. Therefore, the United Nations have pledged to give prominence to the rights and protection of boys and girls affected by armed conflict. Back in 2005 the Security Council introduced a new mechanism to protect children in armed conflicts. Its aim is to draw up a United Nations black list of those parties to conflict which recruit child soldiers, deliberately kill and maim children or subject them to sexual violence. Not only are the conflict parties thus publicly discredited, but sanctions such as travel bans or the freezing of financial assets can also be imposed on them.

While Germany held a seat on the UN Security Council from 2011 to 2012, it chaired the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. Though its chairmanship of UN Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict is over, the German Government continues to work within the UN to improve the protection of children in armed conflicts and ensure that the perpetrators of prohibited acts are punished. In pursuit of that aim, Germany cooperates closely with the European Union, the United Nations and NATO. It also supports a large number of projects, for example in Afghanistan.

Modelled after the New York Working Group, a local Working group has been established in Kabul, uniting international partners in their efforts to protect children's rights. The German Embassy will chair this group and is planning on expanding its efforts for the protection of children in armed conflict. On November 21, 2016, Ambassador Walter Haßmann welcomed representatives of the Afghan government, members of civil society and international guests at his residence for an event on Children and Armed Conflict.

Ms. Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, addressed the guests in a video message and encouraged them to continue their support for children's rights and the protection of children in Afghanistan. Afterwards, the winning film from the Herat Human Rights Festival, organized by UNAMA, was shown.

Children and Armed Conflict

Mark Bowden, deputy head of UNAMA, speaking at the event on November 21, 2016

"Empty Space", Mahbooba Barat

(© Mahbooba Barat)

"Empty Space" by Mahbooba Barat won in the Herat Human Rights Film Festival

Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

(© Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict)

Video message from Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict