Geneva, 20 November 2019
Today, the world marks 30th Anniversary since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November 1989. The most widely and rapidly adopted international treaty in history is currently ratified
by 190 countries. However, UNICEF reports uneven progress in 30 years of child rights treaty, calls on countries to recommit to promises made and underlines emerging threats. On this day, Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties condemns indiscriminate killings and recruitment of children by the armed forces in Yemen. The deterioration of the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen continues to this day since the start of armed conflict in March 2015. Children, as the most vulnerable group disproportionately affected by the armed conflict, pay the highest toll.
Yemen has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. However, the armed hostilities during the past years led to widespread and systematic violations and abuses against children. It includes indiscriminate killings, maiming, recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups, attacks on schools and use of schools for military purposes or as human shields, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, abduction and denial of humanitarian access. Moreover, destroyed infrastructure, shortage of basics such as water, food, sanitation and lack of safety contributes to hardship and prevents children from attending schools. The Yemeni children are denied of their right to education and a chance for brighter future.
The alarmingly frequent reports from the ground on targeted attacks on schools, teachers and students and use of schools for military purposes by armed forces are very disturbing. Children trapped by armed conflicts are not beyond reach; however, the Yemen children are denied their right to education. About 2 million school- age children are out of school and need support to fulfil their right to education; more than 1,600 schools are currently unfit for use due to conflict-related damage, hosting of internally displaced persons or occupation by armed groups.
It is well known that more than half of the world’s refugees are children, Yemen is not an exception. Getting children away from zones of conflict should be the first step of utmost importance. Children should be provided with education in the place of displacement. Displaced children are more accessible than those in zones of hostilities. Schooling should be organised along with phyco-social support for children. However, more resources are needed as funding gap is enormous and political action is of utmost importance in Yemen.
The civil war in violation of applicable international humanitarian law further added up to chronic challenges in educating Yemeni girls. The initiatives on fight against discrimination and women’s empowerment, including the implementation of CEDAW recommendations were disregarded by the Houthi-Saleh groups since the beginning of the armed conflict. Gender parity in primary and secondary education was low and decreased even further. In addition to hardship faced by children, from overall insecure environment to famine and discrimination against women, Yemeni girls are disproportionally exposed to conflict-related sexual abuse and abduction.
Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties calls for all parties to conflict to ensure protection of children and cease actions that impede children’s safe access to education. The parties should reconsider their modes of combat and means of warfare to prevent attacks on civilians and civilian objects, schools in particular. The armed groups should immediately cease acts of intimidation and threats against teachers and students, use of human shields and schools for military purpose. We insist that the ongoing recruitment and use of children by all parties to armed conflict should stop immediately and all children released from their ranks; released children should be provided with rehabilitation and re-integration programs.