In Bor, more than 50 members of civil society networks were sensitized on upholding child rights and ending grave violations against children at a two-day discussion facilitated by UNMISS. Photo by Mach Samuel/UNMISS.
JONGLEI – During conflict, women and children are some of the worst affected.When it comes to children, during South Sudan’s past civil wars, many were separated from their parents or recruited into armed forces and groups.To ensure child rights are upheld, in February 2020, this young nation signed the Comprehensive Action Plan to prevent and end the six grave violations against children. These consist of the recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming, sexual violence, attacks on schools and hospitals, abductions, and the denial of humanitarian access to children in need.In this regard, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) hosted a two-day discussion on this crucial topic with some 50 civil society representatives. Speaking at the forum, Geetha Pious, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Jonglei has highlighted the importance of accountability by urging authorities to reinforce the rule of law to prevent such abuses.“The strongest defense against impunity is the reinforcement of rules. We must all commit to protecting the rights of every child so that South Sudan can look forward to a future of peace and development,” averred Ms. Pious.Addressing participants on behalf of the state Governor, James Mawich Makuach, state Minister for Roads and Bridges, emphasized the need for psychosocial support for children to overcome the scars of violence they may have witnessed in the past.“Our children and youth must be given the chance to plan for themselves a bright future instead of getting caught up in different conflicts,” explained Minister Makuach.For Manyang James Anyang, a journalist and activist, it’s vital that the country’s leaders review the 2008 National Child Act and fully implement the Comprehensive Action Plan.“We need to raise awareness about child rights that are applicable in conflict zones. Knowledge will equip communities and law enforcement to deal with any violation,” emphasized Mr. Anyang.The long-term objective when it comes to such advocacy is to protect and prevent the occurrence of grave violations against children perpetrated by armed forces and groups. This would ensure that South Sudanese armed groups will, finally, be removed from what is known as the list of shame. The list being referred to is part of the UN Secretary-General’s report on the situation of children in armed conflict and contains national armies and other military groups known to violate one or more of the six grave violations.The workshop brought together participants in interactive sessions that dealt with myriad issues related to major violations of child rights and gave participating civil society representatives into the way forward in ending such egregious offences.