Malala Day: Equal access to education must not be sold for peace

Malala dayArticle 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states ‘Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration’. Article 26 asserts the right of all to an education. The preamble asserts that peace is best served by the observance of these rights. Are these ideas being implemented by the international community with regards to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Or is a desire for peace at any cost risking some of the United Nations most prized concepts?

Friday 12th July is Malala day, in response to a remarkable person called Malala Yousafzai. The Pakistani campaigner for the right to education is not a politician or academic far from the problems faced by those attempting to assert their right to an education. She is a 15 year old girl in the heart of the fight and suffered the terrible consequences when the Taliban shot her and friends while travelling to school. Ban Ki-Moon in response to her forthcoming visit to the United Nations reiterated the fundamental principle, equal and safe access to education while stating that ‘the international community must work together to prevent violations of the right to education’.

The United Nations, through its Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown is meeting with the Leaders of Pakistan to implore them to implement ‘radical actions’ on education. A global education delegation will be meeting with President Zardari for high level talks. This is a good start, but the reality is that the Taliban are in a commanding position, especially in the Swat Valley where the Malala shooting took place. The Taliban must be part of any realistic settlement that will ensure the right to education that the United Nations wishes to see.

The fatal shooting of a teacher fighting for girl’s education in Pakistan is a stark reminder that this is not just a threat to the right to education, but also gender equality. It is the education of girls that is clearly the target. NGO workers who are involved in the area of education have been attacked and Farida Afridi, a women’s rights activist was murdered apparently for her work on girls’ education. All these events are extremely worrying and the international community must continue to support all those who risk their own safety to protect and supply the fundamental right of education. Indeed Ban Ki-Moon notes that ‘through hate-filled actions, extremists have shown what frightens them the most: a girl with a book’.

The link between education and peace has been confirmed by Ban Ki-Moon and it is this link that must not be forgotten when the international community comes to make peace with the Taliban. The right to education must be sacrosanct, not a principle up for negotiation. America’s desire for peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan must not impact on the work being done in Pakistan to protect the right to education. In fact the talks should be seen as an opportunity to show the international communities resolve on this issue. The days following America’s initiative for peace were marred by acts of barbarism form the Taliban, including the bombing of a college bus carrying 40 girls (Fourteen died). Gordon Brown has made it clear that a peace deal with the Taliban will not end the violence if it does not include a ‘credible pledge to respect elementary human rights’. It is a terrible statistic that 1,000 Pakistan and Afghanistan schools have been bombed, burnt down or simply closed through intimidation in the last three years. This reality must be kept clear in the minds of those who are seeking peace (a necessary move) with the Taliban.

President Karzai has acknowledged that the Taliban’s attacks on civilians, especially schools and children, are a deep concern but must not prevent peace talks. Negotiation is the only way that peace can be brought to this region, and as a guiding principle of the United Nations it should always be the first approach. However, as Gordon Brown in his capacity as Special Envoy for Global Education confirmed, those brokering a peace deal in Afghanistan must always remember that ‘girls’ rights cannot be written off as a bargaining chip to be traded in for a pretence of peace’. The courage that Malala Yousafzai has and is showing and the sacrifices that teachers, schoolchildren and campaigners have made in this embattled region must not be forgotten. They must inspire us all to make the hope that the United Nations was founded upon a reality.

 

 Michael Stagg

 

Sources

http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45364&Cr=education&Cr1=#.UdvSdW1n1RE

http://educationenvoy.org/press/gordon-brown-in-pakistan-daily-on-malala

http://educationenvoy.org/press/gordon-browns-statement-following-the-fatal-shooting-of-a-pakistani-teacher

http://educationenvoy.org/press/pakistan-protect-students-teachers-schools-from-attack

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/06/25/a-fragile-peace-with-taliban-if-school-attacks-escalate/

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/06/25/a-fragile-peace-with-taliban-if-school-attacks-escalate/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23112020

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2013/sgsm14912.doc.htm

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A Horrifyingly Candid Journey into the Conscience of a Mass Murderer – The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing  The Act of Killing, a documentary film focused on the lives of the 1960’s Indonesian death squad leaders, is a chilling insight into the minds of mass killers. Produced by Joshua Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing was a way for Anwar Congo and his fellow death squad leaders to tell their story through film. Anwar and his fellow ‘gangsters’ were part of a move to eradicate all ‘communists’ from Indonesia following a failed coup by the Indonesian Communist Party. The purges also included the indiscriminate slaughtering of ethnic Chinese.

A group of small time movie theatre ‘gangsters’ shot to fame in 1965 with the failed coup elevating them to death squad leaders. ‘Gangster’ is how they describe themselves and inspiration for their dress, actions and poses in various photographs came from American films. They tell us that ‘gangster’ means ‘free men’ and wear the term with pride. The current government is shown making appearances with the ‘gangsters’ and lauds their contribution to upholding the regime as they can move around the red tape of bureaucracy and keep order where the government cannot. This is deeply disturbing and a shockingly open glorification of illegal and criminal action, demonstrating the extent of impunity within Indonesia.

The ludicrous scenes Anwar and his friends create make it all the more disturbing that these men are idolised killers. It is unclear whether the trippy scenes are attempts to fictionalise their actions and hide the shame they feel, unable to come to terms with indiscriminately taking human life or whether the stagnant culture they live in has glorified them to such an extent that they really do not understand or care about the acts they have committed.

We follow Anwar Congo and his friends from public engagements with the Pancasila Youth to places including their homes, shops where they openly extort money with thinly veiled threats and their favourite places to conduct killings. They visit a renowned newspaper office where the editor proudly claims to have supplied the names of so-called communists for the group to kill and confesses that he twisted the words of interviewees to label them communists as it made for better journalism; he shows no remorse for ordering the murder of innocent people.

The film chillingly moves between scenes of Congo discussing the best methods of killing so as not to dirty his clothes with blood, to his home where he interacts with his grandchildren. In this way Joshua Oppenheimer has created something remarkable, it prompts us to question how a man who is so gentle and loving with his grandchildren, even chastising them for injuring a duckling, could have personally murdered hundreds of people.

Oppenheimer’s ability to refrain from open criticism of the men allows them to develop their own concept for the film they are creating. The scenes

TAOK2

become ever more ridiculous with Herman Koto dressing as a woman to provide humour to the film as they worry the reconstruction of villages razed to the ground and whole communities slaughtered may become boring to viewers. This exposes the delusions that the group suffer from due to lack of change in Indonesia since the 1960’s and highlights the potential effects of glorifying a military regime forged in bloodshed and violence with no checks on the operation of the regime. This draws our attention to the impunity ongoing within Indonesia that allows the prevailing hostility to communists who need to be ‘exterminated’.

Through the shame of the shop-owners in the extortion scenes and the unwillingness of the public to be involved in attempts to recreate a storming of a communist household Oppenheimer manages to capture the fear of the ordinary people, the depth of feeling against communism and the ignorance of the killers. The contrast of the extortion scenes, which are distinctly menacing despite the light-hearted air of the extorters, and the regular return to filming next to a giant fish complete with dancing girls, seemingly with no obvious purpose, makes the group of ‘gangsters’ seem increasingly out of touch with reality.

TAOKThe film develops into a journey of discovery as we witness the emotional development of Anwar and we can see glimpses of conscience. The culmination of the film, Oppenheimer and Anwar’s discussion on the roof of a shop where many men were cold-bloodedly murdered, shows Anwar breaking down in remorse for what he has done. He claims he knows what the victims felt as they were dying yet Oppenheimer breaks his passivity by reminding him that the situations were nothing alike as Anwar had never been in danger of his life during their reconstruction.

The film, which has the capacity to be extremely troublesome in Indonesia, listed many names in the credits as anonymous which speaks volumes about the fear of speaking out against the regime. It is unclear just how far the acceptance of the abhorrence of communists has permeated the attitudes of Indonesians but we can tell that apathy characterises their relationship with politics. This is evident when it is uncovered that many at the rallies for the Pancasila Youth the audience are paid to be there and that the people vote according to who can bribe them the most. The Pancasila Youth, a paramilitary organisation claiming 3 million members and a legacy of the 1960’s is endorsed publicly by the government despite blatant extortion and illegality, something that is shown all too willingly by Herman and Anwar.

The fear is most strikingly demonstrated through the story of one of the crew helping with the film. He recounts to Anwar and Adi Zulkadry his personal experience from 1965. His Chinese step-father was dragged from his home and killed, his mutilated body being discovered by his then 11 year old stepson who was forced to carry the body to the woods to bury it. All throughout the man is saying ‘I am not criticising you’ and laughing at the story in an effort not to offend the ‘gangsters’, the response is that not everyone’s story can be told, implying this man’s story is just not as important as their own.

Oppenheimer can be accused of neglecting the historical as it does not feature heavily in the film but this is not the focus of the film. Instead it is on the actions of the men and the impact of impunity on the culture of fear that has been created in order to assuage the consciences of those involved in the genocide of 1965. It highlights the different ways of coping with our conscience, how each person may react to committing unspeakable acts against another person. Oppenheimer has created something truly remarkable. It captivates the audience with dialogue which is horrifying in the banality with which the subjects discuss mass murder and still revel in its glory 38 years later.

Bex Dunn

Rajiv Gandhi’s Nuclear Fears Remain a Threat Today

LC picJose Saramago, the Portuguese author and poet, once relayed a dream that in his lifetime a strike would take place in a weapons factory. He called it, “my one pathetic hope, that humanity might yet be capable of changing its path, its direction, its destiny.”

Rajiv Gandhi, addressing the U.N General Assembly in 1988, appealed, “Nuclear war will not mean the death of a hundred million people. Or even a thousand million. It will mean the extinction of four thousand million, the end of life as we know it on our planet earth…We seek your support to put a stop to this madness.”

Here in 2013, Saramago’s dream has not been realised and the threat of Gandhi’s holocaust is still a spectre in the wings. The high hopes of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty seem to be just that, high hopes and hot air. In simple terms the CTBT has at its core, the aim of eliminating all nuclear test explosions in both the civil and military purpose. It opened for signatures in 1996…but as yet it is still not in force.

The superpowers of the USSR and the United States under General Secretary Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan aspired at Reykjavik twenty years ago, to the elimination of all nuclear weapons. They saw trust and cooperation as the answers that had failed them throughout the Cold War years. It was what the world needed to see and hear, and still needs to see and hear: The most powerful nation’s leaders, with the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons envisioning a nuclear free future.

The impact of non-ratification should not be underestimated now. This is a treaty that was deemed, “the hardest sought, hardest fought prize in arms control history”, by signatory and former US President Bill Clinton. Hopes were raised by the Obama administration with the famous Prague speech but inaction has set in,

“The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War…so today, I state clearly and with conviction Americas commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons”.

Since Obama gave this speech however, the US approach to nuclear disarmament has been a mixed one to say the least. The Senate and leading Republicans are not making it easy by a long stretch for President Obama, even so far as announcing they will work to thwart any plan to reduce the arsenal further.

Cynics site that there is no formal enforcement of the CNTBT, therefore it is a tool with no teeth, but in what way could there be an enforcement of a weapon so extraordinary that nothing compares in potential damage infliction? Maybe we have to see it in its own right. With ratification, a ‘global norm’ could be born resulting in political and economic consequences if nations violate.

Out of 183 States, 159 have ratified the treaty. Of those remaining to ratify we have China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Egypt, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the USA. I believe, the US must, as the leading superpower, be prepared to stand by the convictions it wishes the rest of the world to live by. What does it say when the countries who advocate nuclear disarmament are the very countries that possess it and refuse to give it up? What does it say when a President of a democratic country cannot garner the support of his country folk? Not only is this a ready excuse for other countries when pushed to disarm, but also it makes a mockery of the scale of nuclear war, as a reality that could all too easily be realised at our peril.

What is needed is a firm commitment to plant the seed of Gandhi’s dream into the twenty first century. Nuclear disarmament is By far the principle challenge of our time, and needs to take centre stage once again. In the Prague speech, Obama also said, “I’m not naïve. This goal will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime. But now, we too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, ‘yes we can’”. It is not utopian, nor madness; rather it is the sanest path to a peaceful future.

Elizabeth Cartwright

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/05/obama-prague-speech-on-nu_n_183219.html

Has the Concept of R2P gone by the Wayside Over the Syrian Conflict?

The term ‘sovereignty as responsibility’ is becoming widely accepted as a key international principle. None argue that a state has the right to treat its citizens in any way it wishes, even for its own survival. However, there have been numerous events that have shown this to be an ideal more than a reality, most notably Rwanda and Srebrenica. R2P is the response to these events. Does the Syrian conflict fall under R2P? Will this conflict and ensuing humanitarian disaster be different from previous failures to act?

There are some key areas that seem to invoke the R2P doctrine. The massive numbers of civilian deaths (70,000 by UN figures) as well as the widespread destruction of towns and mass civilian displacement (more than 2 million internally) are all horrific realities. However, the alleged use of chemical weapons is a potential war crime which must invoke an international response. In March, Ban Ki-moon and the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) voiced their ‘deep concern about the alleged use of these deadly weapons in Syria’. The UN appeared unable to confirm the use of these weapons but stated that the ‘use of chemical weapons by any side in Syria would be a grave violation of international humanitarian law’. What the international community needs to know is, were they used and if so by whom? This information it would appear is hard to acquire but must be sought. Indeed the Secretary-General insisted that there must be ‘the timely flow to the United Nations decision makers of accurate… Information [regarding] the four crimes’ that invoke the R2P doctrine.

The Syrian government made a formal request to have these claims investigated by the UN, asserting that the opposition fighters were the real perpetrators of any chemical attack. However the regime delayed the granting of unfettered access for an investigating mission. The United States urged the Syrian regime to give full access to the UN, while simultaneously stating that their own intelligence showed the Assad regime had indeed used chemical weapons, which crossed a US ‘red line’. Obama asserted this act would mean the increasing of aid and assistance to the opposition. However, the responsibility of the international community is to protect civilians, not to aid one side of a conflict or the other, neither the opposition nor the Assad regime should be artificially granted victory by the international community.

Russia, in turn, openly doubts the validity of the US reports of the use of chemical weapons. Arguing it is a fabrication to legitimise the US position against Assad. Russia has responded with threats to increase support for the Syrian government.  Both the United States and Russia can be accused of picking sides and using a humanitarian disaster for political gain and power politics. Still, Russia also called for a full investigation by the United Nations into these allegations.

It appears the United States and Russia are involved in precisely the ‘hesitation and finger-pointing’ the Secretary-General warned of in his report on the implementation of the responsibility to protect.  There is still (unfortunately for the civilians in Syria, its refugees and many others in the world today) a wide gap, which the Secretary-General lamented, in the ‘forceful and timely response’ to such crimes and violations. The timely and decisive response, which the United Nations and the Secretary-General has called for, after three years of a worsening conflict and an ever increasing humanitarian disaster in Syria, has failed to manifest. When will the United Nations calls be heeded, and when will politics cease to be a factor in the application of the Security Council’s obligations?

There are some positive murmurings. The Secretary-General has acknowledged the call of the G8 for the granting of full access to the United Nations mission to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria and their commitment to bring all sides of the conflict to the negotiating table. There are many NGO’s involved with the supply of aid and assistance to the people of Syria and much the UN is doing independent of the Security Council’s big five. Still, a full peace deal is needed. Even if the conflict is not seen to fall within the remit of the R2P doctrine the international community must act. However, disagreements between Russia, France, UK, and United States are making the likelihood of a peace conference less likely. So the question still remains will the international community see this through, only time will tell.

Michael Stagg

References:

http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/responsibility.shtml

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44429&Cr=syria&Cr1=#.UchqlJxuswI

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44429&Cr=syria&Cr1=#.Ucg5wpxuswI

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44776&Cr=syria&Cr1=chemical#.Ucg_bZxuswI http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2013/sgsm15119.doc.htm http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/13/syria-chemical-weapons-white-house-text Implementing the responsibility to protect, Report of the Secretary-General, January 2009. http://www.latimes.com/news/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-russia-us-syria-chemical-weapons-20130614,0,4582672.story      http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2013/130128_Guest.doc.htm  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/18/putin-dashes-g8-hopes-syria-breakthrough

Drugs & Drug Trafficking – The growing storm

Press Conference on Launch of UN Fund for Human Trafficking Victims

Drug Trafficking is a menace that has struck our society hard. In recent times, it has grown into a monster big enough to be a threat perhaps on the same level as that of terrorism. It has engulfed states all across the globe, and if left unchecked, will shatter our society into pieces. The UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) defined drug trafficking as “a global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws.” Definitions are important because a law is built on it, and laws in turn provide the ground for action against criminals. The question is what is the best way to fight this phenomenon which is expanding rapidly year by year?

The single most important reason as to why a business thrives is because of the demand of a product. The popularity of illegal drugs today cannot be overlooked. It is largely hidden, but it is there. The World Drug Report found that in 2010, there had been around 230 million people around the world who were said to have used illicit drugs. 230 million out of a billion seems to be a tiny number and looks all but insignificant. However, that number is greater than the entire population of most countries!

Countering drug trafficking is a process which is likely to stretch out over many years. The war on drugs is tricky because it is a war which has no clear enemy. The situation in Mexico is a telling example of how stubborn the drug trading business is. A direct attack on their livelihood leads to an equally extreme response. As long as they have a market, they will fight to sustain it. Drugs are harmful mainly because of the notorious effects on users, which in turn is detrimental to the society at large. Also, illegal trafficking leads to enormous loss of revenue for governments. The key to tackling drugs trafficking lies in reducing the demand. It is a simple theory. As long as the demand is there, drugs will somehow find its way to the user.

There needs to be a campaign against drug trafficking on a similar level to that of the campaign against smoking. People still smoke. However, today everyone is aware of the fact that it is harmful. Our attitudes towards smoking have changed. There are very few today who still consider it to be fashionable. The majority of us regard smoking as a wasteful practice. In short, there needs to be enough awareness around so that it discourages people from the idea of taking drugs.

As well as that, it is vital that drug users should be treated as victims rather than as criminals. In a lot of the places, drug users are shoved into the prison or charged a heavy fine. By treating them as criminals, we create an environment where the energy is spent on punishing victims rather than the perpetrators. Those who are addicted, need help, not further misery.

In a nutshell, it all comes down to how we project drugs as in our society. If there is widespread awareness and education, if its demon is communicated properly to the people, then naturally the demand will begin to fall. And with the demand, the supply will too.

 

Maitreya Thakur

 

Sources

UNODC Drug report 2012

The Rise in Nigerian Piracy

Ship destroyed for carrying stolen oil

A report by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) and other seafarers’ groups has revealed that the incidence of piracy off the coast of West Africa has now overtaken Somali piracy. The report states that 966 sailors were attacked in West Africa in 2012 compared with 851 off the coast of Somalia. West African pirates mostly steal fuel cargo and the crews’ possessions, often resorting to extreme violence. The document declares that five of the 206 hostages taken last year during West African piracy attacks have been killed. The report, entitled The Human Cost of maritime Piracy 2012, was released by the IMB, the ‘Oceans beyond Piracy’ project, and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response programme.

This rising problem on the West African coast is an overwhelmingly Nigerian one. The rise is Nigerian piracy is partly because an international naval force is operating off the coast of Somalia, but is also partly because of the peculiarities of the Nigerian economy and the widespread corruption prevalent in the country.

While the typical modus operandi of a Somali pirate is to hold ships and kidnap their occupants for profit, the Nigerian pirates’ main motives are to steal crude oil or refined petroleum products from oil tankers. The IMB report noted ‘many vessels are attacked while at anchor, drifting, or conducting ship-to-ship transfers of refined cargo… only 33% of vessels were attacked while actively in transit in the Gulf of Guinea. In contrast, attacks off Somalia almost always occur while ships are underway’.

The reasoning behind the success of the West African pirate is the chronic failure by the authorities to build and keep domestic Nigerian oil refineries. Bluntly, there is so much money to be made from exporting crude oil from the region’s biggest oil producer and re-importing refined fuel to the large Nigerian population that developing a productive economy by building refineries has been forgotten. In a good year, Nigeria produces more than two million barrels of oil a day, but only has the capacity to refine a quarter of that; in practice though, poor efficiency and maintenance means that even less than that is produced.

Every day, hundreds of tankers are travelling along the waters of the river Niger; these provide a perfect scenario for pirates to operate. The swamps conceal numerous private jetties and mini-ports as well as a network of pipelines which are often broken into. Coupled with a weak, and sometimes corrupt security force, and until recently, armed rebellion, these conditions have led to the development of a well-organized industry for stealing – or as it is known in Nigeria, ‘bunkering’- oil products.

This illicit import-export industry has become almost institutionalised by a government subsidy on petrol sales that cost the country several billion dollars a year and encourages these illegal activities. This subsidy is paid to well-connected fuel importers to keep prices low and stop unrest amongst the majority of the Nigerian people. Nigerians are by no means ignorant to the amount of money stolen at the top rungs of their society, and have come to demand cheap petrol as their ‘slice of the pie’. However, what actually happens is that the subsidised fuel is sold on the black market at higher prices and this has a profound effect on the Nigerian people in two predominant ways; firstly, the government is cheated by the fuel importers, and secondly, the Nigerians themselves face higher prices.

There have been some attempts to remove the subsidy and introduce a more rational system of fuel selling, however they have been prevented from doing so by the ordinary Nigerians who feel they need the subsidy, and by the ‘evil cabal’ of the importers and pirates making vast sums of money under the current arrangement.

Dan Flear

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-22956865

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-22944460

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19555334

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20549056

The Plight of Children in the CAR Worsens as the Crisis goes Untreated

car-refugees-300x257

The Central African Republic (CAR) has long been associated with political instability and humanitarian need. President François Bozizé’s government ascended to power through a coup in March 2003. However, on March 24th 2013, the Séléka coalition of armed groups seized control in the capital city of Bangui. The deposed Bozizé fled the country, with a coalition leader, Michel Djotodia, declaring himself to be the new president.

The coup has worsened the CARs already perilous humanitarian situation, plunging the country deeper into chaos. Amy Martin, who heads the OCHA (the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) branch in Bangui, has stated that one of the capital’s central needs is the security and protection of its civilians. Indeed, there have been widespread reports of human rights abuses, committed by both Séléka militias and national security forces. Human Rights Watch stated in May that: ‘When the Séléka took control of Bangui, the rebels went on a looting spree, killing civilians, raping women, and settling scores with members of the Central African Armed Forces’. In April, the United Nations Security Council expressed its anxiety regarding the worsening situation in the CAR, calling for accountability by ‘those responsible for violations and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law’.

While the OCHA has estimated that the country’s entire population has been affected by the crisis, the children of the CAR have been particularly affected for a number of reasons.

Firstly, UNICEF has stated that approximately 2 million children are without access to basic social services. For example, the provision of healthcare outside of the country’s main hospitals has been unpredictable. The Médecins Sans Frontières’ head of mission in the CAR, Ellen Van Der Velden, commented that, ‘In some areas [of Bangui] the health centres are functional, in others they are closed, again in others minimal services are being delivered’. With UNICEF predicting that 14,000 children will suffer from life threatening malnutrition because of the looting and closure of nutritional centres, the absence of a stable healthcare service could be disastrous.

Furthermore, the crisis has severely disturbed the education system. The violence has displaced thousands of children and teachers in Bangui, leading to the closure of many schools. The education system throughout the country was subsequently affected, with half of its schools becoming shuttered. UNICEF has stated that at least half of the CAR’s schools remained closed one month after the seizure of power by the Séléka coalition, and has estimated that over a million children are not attending school as a consequence.  Many schools have been looted since the coup, depriving them of basic supplies and preventing emergency distributions due to the possibility of further pillaging. Subsequently, the CAR’s education ministry is doubtful about the re-opening of schools in the near future, with Education Minister, Marcel Loudegue, stating that ‘the children are understandably at home because the security situation demands it’.

Finally and most troublingly, armed groups have continued to recruit children. Children in the CAR are at great risk of being forcibly recruited, with a UNICEF spokeswoman commenting that ‘most vulnerable are children who have lost their home, have been separated from their families, or were formerly associated with armed groups’. The agency has stated that over 2000 children were part of armed groups before the current crisis, and that these numbers have increased after the coup. Indeed, Amy Martin has declared that ‘the presence of child soldiers is evident amongst the ranks of Séléka’. Furthermore, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimated in March that one fifth of children not in school in the CAR have been forcibly recruited, demonstrating the complexity of the crisis and the impact of the closure of schools.

While some organisations have taken measures to alleviate the impact of the crisis on the CAR’s children, there is still a lot of work to be done. UNICEF vaccinated over 120,000 children in Bangui from measles between May 22nd and 24th. However, the CAR remains neglected by the wider international community, because its crisis is essentially viewed as being a domestic one with some wider repercussions, but which are less of a concern for international peace and security than the crisis’ in states such as Somalia. Subsequently, actors such as the OCHA have suggested that the humanitarian appeal of $139 million for the CAR is under-funded. The situation is further hindered by access issues, with hundreds of thousands of citizens currently cut off from aid supplies. The deputy head of the OCHA office in Bangui, Abdoulaye Sawadogo, has stated that the access difficulties are ‘mainly due to security reasons, which prevents humanitarian organisations [from] resum [ing] their operations’.

The CAR undoubtedly needs greater attention from the international community if its humanitarian crisis is to be alleviated and its children are to be protected. Thibaud Lesuer, the CAR analyst for the International Crisis Group, has suggested that securing Bangui, creating a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and reforming the security sector are essential requirements for the country to return to a minimum security level and to begin its recovery. Whether the international community will be willing to assist the CAR to achieve these aims, however, remains to be seen.

Dan Browne

http://www.irinnews.org/report/97780/urgent-humanitarian-needs-in-post-coup-central-african-republic

http://www.internal-displacement.org/8025708F004CE90B/%28httpCountries%29/2A66991A6F1F9FB4802570A7004A8BDF?OpenDocument

http://allafrica.com/stories/201306070505.html

http://www.irinnews.org/report/97921/children-bear-brunt-of-car-crisis

http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/english/2013/03/children-left-vulnerable-as-crisis-in-central-african-republic-unfolds/

http://www.trust.org/item/20130424160803-lwp1d/