Sunday, April 10, 2011

A ray of hope from Philippines: Saving children from Organised Violence

Rick Bayan defined Childhood in 'The Cynic's Dictionary' as "The rapidly shrinking interval between infancy and first arrest on a drug or weapons charge".

One of the worst facts of today's world is, this interval is shrinking very fast, no matter whether it is in war-torn countries or the so called peaceful areas. Crimes like sexual sexual abuses, torture, violence, forced recruitments for organised violence etc are creating deep scars on childhood.

In many nations ideas like universal education and nutritional food for children etc are yet to be implemented; the situation is not better in a number of countries where these laws are in paper. Strict laws like banning child labour, trafficking, using children in prostitution etc are yet to receive its teeth in actual implementation. Still you can see small children working in hotels, construction sector etc at a time when they are supposed to be in schools. In many cases the problem is partly created by the government, they envisaged grand laws banning child labour etc, but at the same time didn't provide an alternate solution for elimination of reasons behind child labour.

Critical Situation in Mexico:

Recent reports on Washington Post about the new trends of killing children by the powerful Mexican Drug cartel not only reveal the gravity of the situation but also urges for immediate help. Till now they were able to live even in the midst of gang wars for the control of local drug markets; but now it seems like that luxury is no longer there. According to the report
According to U.S. and Mexican experts, competing criminal groups appear to be killing children to terrorize the population or prove to rivals that their savagery is boundless, as they fight over local drug markets and billion-dollar trafficking routes to voracious consumers in the United States.
 The children’s rights group estimates that 994 people younger than 18 were killed in drug-related violence between late 2006 and late 2010, based on media accountsd States.
Recent, sensational killings of children — shot in a car seat, dumped in a field with a bullet in the head, killed as their grandmothers cradled them — have shocked Mexicans and shaken their faith that family is sacred, even to the criminal gangs."

A ray of hope from Philippines

It is in this situation a week but an optimism is coming from Philippines. According to NYT report,
"National Democratic Front of the Philippines had agreed in principle to cooperate with the United Nations to identify and remove any child combatants from the New People’s Army, the Communist movement’s armed wing, which has waged a guerrilla campaign for the past four decades. The Philippine government has accused the Communists of using child soldiers, but the rebels insist it is their policy not to recruit combatants younger than 18."
“It is the first time that we have been able to reach out to the N.D.F.P., and I am hopeful that we will be able to sign an action plan as soon as possible,” Ms. Coomaraswamy (U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict) said of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines."
In 2009 August another rebel group - Moro Islamic Liberation Front - signed a similar plan with UN.

On Friday, Ms. Coomaraswamy said 600 combatants younger than 18 in the Islamic front had been identified and registered so far and that the number could exceed a thousand once the registration process is completed in nine months. Under the plan, these children are to be removed from combat and related work — like spying, acting as couriers and doing chores for the insurgents — and to be reintegrated into their communities and provided with education and health care.“The point is to take them away from the combat areas and put them in schools,” she said.

There is a positive response from military too, as it is started investigating the allegations of abuses against children, wounding or killing children in cross-fire and occupying schools during counterinsurgency operations.

It is yet to see how far these positive improvements can go. One of the main question looming around is what will happen when these armed gangs become week? will they re-enlisting the children again, to increase the number of combatants? Will other rebel, terrorist and drug gangs agree on this issue? Will the Mexican drug gangs take a look at the appeal of  poet and commentator Javier Sicilia (whose 24 year old sun was found dead in march) “to return to your codes, where civilians are not touched, where civilians are sacred, where children are sacred"? Or will these children have to live in the environments created by ever increasing violence, terrorism and carry the trauma for the rest of their life?

There is no  doubt that we got a good start in Philippines, it is indeed a ray of hope for humanity. If we are able to preserve this victory and achieve similar goals in other parts of the world, there is no doubt that, this will be remembered as the one of the biggest success of this generation.


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