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Ahead of the 2021 Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development, SIPRI is pleased to share guest blog posts from partner organizations.
Working in silos will never take us anywhere if we want to ensure that children are protected from harm and that they enjoy their full rights amid the challenges of conflict and other crises, whether in the Sahel or elsewhere.
Instead, what is needed is a holistic approach to addressing the needs and the risks by state, communities and aid actors through complementary development, humanitarian and peace-building interventions (the so-called triple nexus). This will be the focus of Save the Children’s session ‘Children’s rights and the triple nexus—The need for collective engagement in Central Sahel’ at the 2021 Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development.
Rosalie Coulibaly is one of the drivers of a local youth organization in Mopti, central Mali. Organisation des Jeunes Africains pour le Développement et l’Emergence (OJADE) strives to reduce inequalities and strengthen the protection of children. She is one of the animators of a children and youth club supported by OJADE and works tirelessly to raise awareness among children and young people on protection, preventing the spread of Covid-19 and other issues.
Rosalie has been telling us about what it is to be a teenager in an area affected by conflict; her hopes, her fears and what she thinks needs to be done to ensure that her dreams are fulfilled. When speaking to her I can’t help thinking about the cultural richness of Mali, a country that has produced extraordinary artists like Salif Keita, Ali Farka Touré and Fatoumata Diawara, and about a time when it was still possible to see some of these artists live, with the sand and camels as background, at the annual Festival in the Desert in Essakane, north of Timbuktu. That is now just a memory; due to insecurity, the festival has not taken place since 2012.
For Rosalie and her peers, the list of challenging issues is long; among them, schools that are closed, nowhere to play, high malnutrition rates, children and youth migrating to seek livelihood opportunities elsewhere, child protection risks related to sexual violence, child marriage and recruitment into armed groups.
In the processes of developing and rebuilding Malian society, Rosalie says, children’s right to be heard is vital, but they should also play a more active role in defining the needs and solutions, through consultations with girls and boys. A top priority for her is to ensure education and access to income generating opportunities for all. The reopening of schools and health posts should be given priority, she believes. Other areas of key importance are access to drinking water and urgently responding to the needs of displaced children and their families, through both humanitarian assistance and reintegration of displaced families into the community.
One can only agree that these are all fundamental and unquestionable priorities. They are covered by both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which were adopted more than 30 years ago. And yet the issues persist.
Many of Rosalie’s recommendations are similar to those that made their way into the Children’s Call to Action at the 2019 Pan-African Conference on Children and Armed Conflict, which Save the Children and the African Child Policy Forum organized with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The recommendations made in that Call to Action and the children’s agency and voice were certainly one of the key takeaways from that conference.
The Call to Action declared that children across Africa want to grow up in a safe environment where they are protected against abuse and exploitation. They want to be taken seriously and listened to. They want to go to school, be healthy and enjoy their right to play. They want to see livelihoods opportunities for their parents and for themselves in the future. They also want to see that those who violate children’s rights are penalized, and that psychosocial support is provided for children who have been abused or have witnessed atrocities.
In a region affected by armed conflict—regardless of whether we see the challenges as primarily due to poverty, insecurity, lack of accountable governance mechanisms or other factors, including constraints rooted in the Covid-19 pandemic—I believe that the changes children want to see can only come about as a result of coordinated action between development, humanitarian and peacebuilding actors, whether we call it the triple nexus or something else.
Join Rosalie and a group of fascinating speakers with a wide range of perspectives on 4 May at 16.00 CET, for a roundtable discussion of what the triple nexus means to children and what is needed for children to be agents of change! Participation in the session is limited, so reserve your place now.
Register for the Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development here. If you have already registered you can sign up for individual sessions here.
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