L to R: Margaret Satterthwaite '99, Gordon Brown, Shaheed Fatima, Harold Koh, and Andrew Hilland LLM '08

Around the world, 30 million children have been displaced from their homes by conflict and violence. Some 10 million children are refugees, and 75 million live in zones of conflict. “There can be no more important issue to address when we look at human rights than the tragic situation faced by so many children who are trapped in conflicts,” said former UK prime minister Gordon Brown, now UN special envoy for global education. He spoke at a recent panel held by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) that focused on the findings of the 2017 Inquiry on Protecting Children in Conflict.

Brown launched the inquiry in April 2017, with the aim of examining what international law can do to better protect children in conflict zones. Moderated by Professor of Clinical Law and CHRGJ Faculty Director Margaret Satterthwaite ’99, the CHRGJ’s panel featured Brown; Shaheed Fatima, head of the inquiry’s legal panel, lead author of the report, and a barrister at Blackstone Chambers; Yale Law Professor Harold Koh, a consultant to the inquiry; and Andrew Hilland LLM ’08, the inquiry’s director.

Fatima presented an overview of the 600-page report, which addresses several areas of concern, including the killing and ill treatment of children, their use in armed conflict, and sexual violence against them. The inquiry identified areas of international law that need improvement: vague or ambiguous existing standards, nonexistent or underdeveloped laws, and existing international instruments that need broader ratification.

For example, the report recommends that a consolidated list of special protections for children should be created; that states in conflict should agree to specific measures to provide humanitarian access to children; and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which contains a number of protections for children, should be ratified by more states.

In addition, Fatima said, the inquiry suggests the creation of a single international law institution to collect and apply all of the relevant law to protect children in conflict.

The report will be published shortly, by Hart publishing. “If states can agree to anything at all in this climate, it is to protect the world’s most vulnerable in conflict,” Hilland said, adding,   “Protections for children in war have proved to be the area most likely and most conducive to international cooperation, but also the means for transforming the international relations between countries, and we hope that that will be the case for 2018.”

Follow the entire discussion on video:

Posted May 9, 2018