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Rights of Uganda Lost Generation Must Be Protected

8 JUNE 2006

Rights of the Lost Generation of Children[1] in Northern Uganda Must Be Protected…

Save the Children calls for special attention to the rights of the lost generation of children in northern Uganda

On the third day of an exceptional joint visit to Uganda, a high level delegation from Save the Children, the world's largest independent child rights organisation, has committed to do far more for all the children in northern Uganda affected by the conflict and called on the government of Uganda and the international community to do likewise.

The delegation experienced first-hand the atmosphere of insecurity still existent in the Acholi region, when the internally displaced people’s camp of Pader Town Council was attacked by suspected Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) troops the night after their departure.

“My international colleagues in Save the Children have reported to me that the situation for children is still dangerous. Every day is another day when children are at risk of abduction, another day of lost education; another day a child risks contracting malaria and another day a child can be exploited.

"Thousands of children face a daily struggle to survive in dreadful conditions in camps or villages. And every day more children are born into these dire circumstances. Enough is enough. The government of Uganda and the international community have a moral obligation to end this shameful situation for children,” John Bowis, Executive Director of Save the Children New Zealand said.

To demonstrate that children’s concerns are a priority, the emergency plan for the north should ensure that decisions and resources are deliberately targeted to address the conditions of all the children on the ground. In all these, there is a need for a UN leadership.

Save the Children is calling on the UN Secretary General to appoint a Special Envoy to address the regional aspects of the conflict as well as to support efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict by all the stakeholders.

David Wright, Country Director of Save the Children Uganda says “The government of Uganda must place more emphasis on finding ways to account for the thousands of children abducted by the LRA in the affected territories, who remain lost and largely forgotten. The parents who have lost their children in this conflict have the right to know what has happened to them. The Amnesty Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the regional governments affected need to cooperate more and find a way to trace the whereabouts of some of these children.”

Save the Children applauds the recent peace efforts marshalled by President Museveni and appeal to him to accompany this offer with a concrete plan of action for peace, centred on the rights of children. This should eventually lead to the establishment of a period for truth and reconciliation, as the fundamental basis upon which the return of a lasting peace in the region can be achieved.

[1] The term 'Lost Generation of Children' refers to a generation of children in Uganda that have missed out on a normal childhood because their parents have died either through AIDS or the country's 20 year long civil war.


Major recommendations of the Save the Children delegation

To the Government of Uganda (GoU):

1. The GoU must urgently establish child protection mechanisms in the affected districts to prevent, to investigate and address comprehensively all forms of human rights violations against children. To achieve this end:
- The appointment of an independent Children’s Ombudsperson is recommended, to speak out as an advocate for children, act as a watchdog and influence laws and policies affecting children;
- The GoU should adopt adequate steps to account for all missing children as a result of the LRA conflict.
- The GoU should also promote the elaboration of a harmonised disarmament, demobilisation, and community based-reintegration programme (DDR) both for child soldiers as well as other vulnerable children affected by the conflict. This programme must be led by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with demonstrated competence in child protection and child rights and should provide for the determination of the children’s legal status; the needs of different children’s groups; their entitlement to physical and psychological recovery, protection, education and family reunification and their participation;
- the recent decision of increasing the number of police officers in the camps and the return sites should be accompanied by measures providing for more female officers, equipping the police with the necessary child protection skills and the technical and financial means for carrying out swift investigations;
- The victims of abuse and violations should be given the required support, including access to justice and healthcare;
- the rule of law should be firmly enforced against the perpetrators, particularly against the members of security forces; and
- the court system should be strengthened through the assignment of resident judges, magistrates in the family and children’s courts, and an adequate number of probation and social welfare officers.

2. Emergency impact indicators that particularly focus on children should be immediately set up by the GoU, within the framework of the Emergency Plan for Northern Uganda. As part of its core obligations, the GoU should aim at ensuring:
- the provision of adequate child healthcare, with particular focus on reducing infant mortality, malnutrition and the prevention and treatment of preventable diseases;
- The minimum amount of safe water and latrines required in an emergency situation, as well as the essential food supply and the provision of sufficient shelter;
- the improvement of the humanitarian conditions in the existent camps by immediately creating sanitary corridors, fire-breaks, toilet areas and assembly points in the most congested ones.

3. When adopting decisions with regard to return, resettlement, or decongestion, the GoU should:
- Undertake a thorough analysis of the security situation on the ground in the whole northern region and provide the sufficient protection, with the support of UN experts if necessary;
- frequently inform the internally displaced people (IDP) of any progress, and frequently consult the IDP community with regard to security;
- Consider the progressive enlargement of the security perimeter in the existent camps in Acholi instead of focusing on the creation of new satellite camps, in order to avoid the duplication of structures. When security allows, voluntary return to the homelands should be prioritised;
- Guarantee the presence of the army outside the protection line, as established in the IDP Policy, and its involvement in ensuring “safe corridors”, in order to avoid the use of military escorts for humanitarian access;
- Involve the district authorities in the management of camps, return sites and in the population movements, in order to reduce the military presence.

4. The GoU must demonstrate its true commitment to peace by establishing a comprehensive plan of action for peace within the framework of the JMC. This plan should include:
- The abandonment of the military offensive and the proposal of humanitarian ceasefires for purposes of supplying relief to children kept in hostage;
- The protection of children’s rights and welfare in any peace agreement reached with the LRA;
- The establishment of a Select Committee of Parliament on northern Uganda to investigate in greater detail the situation of children in the north and report to parliament as regulary as possible. The Select Committee will make reccomendations as to what parliament and government can do to alleviate the plight of these children;
- A broad consultation to investigate the possibilities of adapting traditional and retributive justice to the root causes of the conflict, and with the creation of a mechanism of truth and reconciliation. A framework for the protection and participation of children in these processes should be established;
- Information about the Amnesty Act should be clarified and widely publicised and and a DDR for adult ex-LRA rebels and other members of the IDP community that provides sufficient incentives to defect should be adopted;
- The commitment from the Minister of internal affairs that there would be no further proposals for exclusions from the ongoing amnesty process other than the four top LRA commanders indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

To the international community

1. The UN Secretary General should recommend:
- the appointment of a Special Envoy to address the regional aspects of the conflict as well as to support efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict by all the stakeholders;
- to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeeping missions in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to help the respective governments to protect civilians against attacks by the LRA;
- the appointment of a Panel of Experts to investigate the activities, sources of funding and impact of the LRA activities in the region with the aim of cutting off sources of support and weakening the LRA;
- should offer his good offices to assist with efforts being made to peacefully resolve the conflict and monitor the commitment of all parties to the process.

2. The international community should technically and financially support any efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict, including peace and reconciliation initiatives, by creating a fund that would support cultural activities and traditional reconciliation processes.

3. The international community must support the GoU in its efforts to implement the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on children and armed conflict established by Security Council Resolution 1612.

4. With regard to the humanitarian aid provided, the donor community should ensure:
- That decongestion exercise truly improve the conditions of the displaced persons on the ground;
- that the relief provided is outsourced, to the extent possible, from local industries from the north;
- that IDPs are employed in the delivery of services to the extent of their competences;
- that any reduction of humanitarian aid is largely publicised and is done on the basis of an appropriate timeframe, established through a process of genuine consultation with the IDP community, the NGOs and UN agencies.

5. The international community should press for independent verification of the security situation and for better coordination of the information obtained from the Government, from the cluster approach, from UNOCHA and from the humanitarian community. Parallel action should be foreseen in fulfilment of the government of Uganda’s obligation to protect its’ own citizens.

Delegation members

Charles F. MacCormack has been the president and Chief Executive of Save the Children USA since 1993 and is a member of the steering board of the International Save the Children Alliance. Charlie is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the executive committee of InterAction, a coalition of 160 United States - based humanitarian aid groups.

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka has been the Chief Executive of Save the Children Sweden since September 2002 and is a member of the steering board of the International Save the Children Alliance. Before joining Save the Children, Charlotte worked as vice Chief Executive for The Red Cross.

Gro Braekken has been the Chief Executive of Save the Children Norway since 1999 and is a member of the steering board of the International Save the Children Alliance.

Jasmine Whitbread has been the Chief Executive of Save the Children UK since November 2005. Before joining Save the Children, Jasmine worked for Oxfam GB and Thomson Financial business. In 1990, Jasmine spent two years as a VSO volunteer in Uganda as a management trainer.

Mimi Jakobsen has been the Chief Executive of Save the Children Denmark since 2000. Mimi Jakobsen has been a member of the Danish Parliament for 24 years and she has been Minister of Culture, Social Minister and Minister of Industrial Affairs.

About Save the Children Alliance

The International Save the Children Alliance is a network of all Save the Children organisations, focusing on pooling resources, establishing common policies and carrying out joint projects. 27 Save the Children organisations make up the Alliance, the world’s largest independent movement for children, making improvements for children in over 110 countries. Save the Children has a Secretariat based in London, which supports and coordinates the efforts of all Save the Children organisations.

Visit http://www.savethechildren.net/alliance/index.html.


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