The University of Wolverhampton

Children and War: Past and Present 2013

This conference is planned as a follow-up to the first conference, which took place at the University of Salzburg in 2010. It will continue to build on areas previously investigated, and also open up new fields of academic enquiry.

All research proposals which focus on a topic and theme related to ‘Children and War’ are welcome, ranging from the experience of war, flight, displacement and resettlement, to relief, rehabilitation and reintegration work, gender issues, persecution, trafficking, sexual violence, trauma and amnesia, the trans-generational impact of persecution, individual and collective memory, educational issues, films and documentaries, artistic and literary approaches, remembrance and memorials, and questions of theory and methodology. Specific conference themes anticipated are:

  • Children as victims, witnesses and participants in armed conflict
  • Holocaust, genocide and forced labour
  • Deportation and displacement, refugees and asylum seekers
  • War crimes, trials and human rights

A special focus will be on the ‘Changing nature of armed conflict and its impact on children’. In the past two decades, UN reports, including the 1996 study by Graça Machel and its 10-year review, noted with concern that the character and tactics of armed conflict are changing, creating new and unprecedented threats to children. Characteristics of the changing nature of warfare include the blurring of lines between military and civilian targets, the use of new technologies and the absence of clear battlefields and identifiable opponents. Extensive research is needed to deal with challenges emerging from this context, including the use of children as suicide bombers, the deliberate targeting of traditional safe havens such as schools and hospitals, the detention and prosecution of children associated with armed groups, and terrorism and the use of counter-terrorism measures (for more information, please see the ‘Note by OSRSG-CAAC’ on this web site).

Please send an abstract of 200-250 words, together with biographical background information of 50-100 words by 31 July 2012 to: J.D.Steinert@wlv.ac.uk. All proposals are subject to a review process. Successful candidates will be informed in October 2012 and will be asked to send in their papers by the end of April 2013 for distribution among conference participants on a CD. Further information will be made available in due time. The organizers intend to publish a selection of conference papers.

Conference language: English.

Fee for speakers: EUR 150. The fee includes admission to all panels, lunches, coffee and tea, and evening events.

Participants need to secure their own funding to participate in this conference. Depending on the outcome of applications, a limited number of grants to contribute to travel and accommodation costs will be made available for delegates unable to obtain own funding. As these grants will be on a refund-only basis after the conference, delegates are still required to pay the fee, travel and accommodation costs in the first instance.

The organising team: Wolfgang Aschauer (Salzburg), John Buckley (Wolverhampton), Helga Embacher (Salzburg), Darek Galasinski (Wolverhampton), Albert Lichtblau (Salzburg), Grazia Prontera (Salzburg), and Johannes-Dieter Steinert (Wolverhampton).

Photo credits

“Funk Kaserne, Germany. The group from Struth dances while waiting for the train. Throughout the trip the children danced whenever the train came to a halt. Most of the parents of these children were killed in concentration camps.” Photo by Wlad Groman, UNRRA U.S. Zone, May 10 1946. Courtesy of UN Archives and Records Management, New York (S-1058-0001-01-176).

“Peacekeeping – UNAMA. Children play in the newly established Sosmaqala Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp comprised of Afghans which have recently returned to their country following 25 years as refugees in neighbouring Iran.” Courtesy of Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, New York (http://www.flickr.com/photos/childrenandarmedconflict/6303909196/in/photostream).

Changing nature of armed conflict

Note by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

In the past two decades, a number of United Nations reports, including the 1996 study by Graça Machel and its 10-year review, noted with concern the fact that the character and tactics of armed conflict are changing. These developments have created new and unprecedented threats to children.

Children have become more vulnerable due to new tactics and methods of warfare, including the blurring of lines between military and civilian targets, the constriction of humanitarian space and access to affected populations, the deliberate targeting of traditional safe havens such as schools and hospitals, the rise of terrorism and the use of counter-terrorism measures.

Therefore, the emerging challenges in the protection of children must be understood in the context of the changing nature of armed conflict and its impact on children. Member States, in cooperation with the United Nations, civil society and the academic community, should devise and put in place effective protective measures to address the effects of these developments on children.

Protection of children during military operations

New instruments of war, including the use of new technologies, the absence of clear battlefields and identifiable opponents have led to greater risks to children during the conduct of hostilities. Wherever aerial attacks and drone operations occur, children are likely to be killed or injured. Although such attacks are not prohibited by international humanitarian law, as long as the principles of distinction and proportionality are upheld, armed forces should refrain as much as possible from these tactics and put in place protective measures and safeguards to avoid civilian casualties.

Use of children as instruments of violence

Of growing concern is the use of children to carry or wear explosives. In the past few years, in different countries, we have witnessed an increase in the use of child suicide bombers and child victim bombers, those who do not even know they are carrying explosives and are detonated from a distance. Girls and boys, sometimes as young as eight, are often unaware of the consequences of the acts they are instigated to commit. Such acts often lead to their own death and the killing of civilians, including other children.

Attacks on education

A marked characteristic of the changing nature of conflict is deliberate attacks against education infrastructure, as well as the targeting of school children and teachers. Beyond the destruction and damaging of school facilities, there are also continuing reports of the use of acid and gas attacks on girl students on their way to school, as well as shootings and suicide bombings on school premises. In some contexts, schools are also a prime recruiting ground for children by armed groups. Elsewhere, school buildings are used as military bases, turning them into high-value military targets.