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Children in Armed Conflict

Germany's engagement for the protection of children: education is the key


Pupils in a school in the Ivory Coast. Copyright: BPAChil­dren are very often se­verely trauma­tised by the ex­pe­ri­ences of ex­treme vio­lence to which they are sub­jected in armed con­flict and crises. They also lack any value system or grounding in so­ciety. German de­velop­ment co­ope­ra­tion is there­fore working with the part­ner coun­tries con­cerned to support the re­inte­gration of former child soldiers into society through tar­geted mea­sures and at the same time give chil­dren who have been the vic­tims of or who have wit­nessed vio­lence a future. For these children to have any long-term prospects, they must have access to primary education and vocational training.

One example of Germany's involvement in the field of primary education is Afghanistan. Until late 2001, children – and girls in particular – had very limited access to education. Over 70 per cent of Afghans were unable to read and write. Since the fall of the Taliban, the BMZ has provided funding for the construction of some 230 schools throughout the country. According to the Afghan government, just 22 percent of school-age children were attending school in 2002; today the figure already exceeds 50 percent.

In the north-east of the country, Germany has provided 17 million euros for the construction and equipping of primary schools. In all, more than 10,000 teachers in Afghan primary schools and as many as 500,000 pupils will benefit from the measures. Women and girls will be given special priority, with funding being used specifically for setting up girls' schools, providing separate accommodation for female trainee teachers, and improving vocational training for women teachers.

Youth programmes for all

Child soldiers have been a target group for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programmes for some time. Germany is working closely with development organisations and church-based and civil society groups on this issue. Among other things, Germany is providing substantial support for demobilisation and reintegration projects in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa and in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Since 2003, the BMZ has provided more than 100 million euros in funding for demobilisation and reintegration programmes in Africa.

However, the DDR programmes do not always reach the children and young people who need them most. Germany is therefore also funding projects which target all children and young people in a conflict region, and which provide care and support for former child soldiers together with other young people traumatised by war. Families and communities are also involved in this process. For example, support is provided to set up youth organisations or develop youth policies at local level.

The Fund for Peace Initiatives is a tool which enables the BMZ to provide targeted support to local NGOs working in the fields of conflict management, trauma counselling and reconciliation. Resources from this fund have been approved for peace projects in Rwanda, Palestine and Kosovo, for example.

Prevention

Positive prospects for the future and a stable social, economic and family environment are the best protection against a descent into violence. Child and youth development is therefore an important cross-cutting topic for all sectors of German develop­ment cooperation. In some cases, children and young people are the main focus of this support, for example in primary education, vocational training and crisis prevention programmes. In others, they are part of a more broad-based target group, for example in projects which focus on policy advice, economic development, environmental conservation or health education.

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