14 November 2013
by Julie McBride, War Child Holland
In 2007, UNICEF took the lead in developing the Paris Principles, and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups were developed. This document was a breakthrough in its addressing of the complex issue of the release and reintegration of child soldiers. However, since 2007, there have been a number of developments on the children and armed conflict agenda, not least a shift away from the focus on child soldiers towards a wider (and more protective) interpretation of children affected by conflict. In addition, there has been growing attention paid towards participation in transitional justice and reconciliation programmes, and towards more community-based and less child-centric approaches to achieving sustainable reintegration. War Child Holland, together with the Centre for Children in Vulnerable Situations, decided that it was time to address these new developments and to formulate a new set of guidelines on recovery and reintegration programming. This has resulted in the drafting of the Kampala Recommendations on the Recovery and Reintegration of Children and Youth Affected by Armed Conflict.
This process, led by War Child Holland’s advocacy team, began in May 2013, and involved online consultations with experts from the fields of psychology, transitional justice, human rights, education, child rights, child participation, advocacy and international law, and with young people in Uganda and Colombia.
The resulting draft recommendations were fine-tuned and finalised during the three days of the Kampala Conference on Reintegration, which took place from 25-27th September 2013. Young people from War Child Holland’s projects in northern Uganda attended the conference, and gave a statement endorsing the document. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, also expressed her office’s support for the new Recommendations via video link.
The text of the recommendations covers three main themes – Community and Society, Transitional Justice, and Child Protection and Participation – and the process of reintegration is defined as follows:
“… a long-term, communal and societal process that entails creating an environment where children affected by and associated with fighting forces or groups are enabled to find a role in their community; and that reintegration is transformational, representing a move away from a culture of militarisation, discrimination or social injustice towards a culture that is conducive to the realisation of child rights.”
The Recommendations acknowledge the indisputable importance of education in bringing about meaningful and sustainable reintegration for children and young people after conflict. Recommendation 2 specifies that recovery and reintegration processes should mobilise existing community support and take advantage of pre-existing educational structures. The implementation of reparations programmes for young people who participated in transitional justice mechanisms ought to focus primarily on the provision of education and skills training.
The Recommendations have now been shared with a number of national and international networks and coalitions, and War Child Holland hopes that they can become a benchmark for reintegration programmatic decisions and an established standard of good practice.
Julie McBride is a lawyer specialising in the international legal framework on children affected by armed conflict. She is the Child Rights and Advocacy Advisor at War Child Holland, where she currently focuses on country level and international advocacy on education in emergencies.