Children's Rights and Protection

Armed conflict affects all aspects of a child’s development—physical, mental, and emotional. The disruption of food supplies, the destruction of agricultural infrastructure, and the loss of educational and health services all take a heavy toll on children.

After years of conflict, children in Syria are facing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. Grave human rights violations occur daily. A child’s life in Syria has become more dangerous than ever; children are exposed to abductions, early marriage, sexual exploitation, abuse, and child labor. Over 6.5 million people within the Syrian Arab Republic have been displaced, and almost 5 million Syrians are refugees.

Schools, kindergartens, and other education facilities are constantly under attack, hindering children from obtaining an education. Overall, education was hit hard by the war in Syria. Before the crisis, the country had a strong education system with almost universal primary school enrollment and with over 70% of children attending secondary school. Because of the crisis in Syria, an entire generation of children are at risk of being deprived of education.

The crisis and the human rights violations occurring in Syria have been widely discussed at the United Nations. ACEI’s UN Representative, Cassandre Guilbord Cyr, attended the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Period Review (UPR). UPR is a State-driven process under which the Human Rights Council provides each State the opportunity to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation and how they are fulfilling their human rights obligations. On October 31, 2016, the Syrian Arab Republic was under review.

During the UPR of the Syrian Arab Republic, state representatives condemned the use of children and teenagers as a means of warfare and particularly as forced recruited soldiers. A lack of children’s human rights monitoring was noted by many of the state representatives; some raised concerns about forced marriage, rape, and trafficking of children. The representatives also pointed to the arbitrary detention of children and teenagers in unsafe formal and informal detention centres. Many speakers also noted the lack of education opportunities available for children, mentioning the destruction of education infrastructure. The lack of safe and protected learning spaces, the shortage of teachers and textbooks, and inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities have all become obstacles to children’s access to education.

Mr. Hussam Edin AALA, Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United National Office at Geneva (UNOG) responded to the comments about children, stating that the Syrian government is acting to protect children against forced recruitment by passing bills to criminalize child recruitments in armed conflict, working with UNICEF and UNHCR. The Syrian government also established a national commission to monitor the conditions affecting children during the crisis.

Armed conflicts destroy homes, separate families, and undermine the very foundation of children’s lives. The international community must work to ensure that all children affected by conflict have their basic human rights and needs guaranteed, this includes access to basic education.

For more information:

The Universal Period Review (UPR) was established by the UN General Assembly to review the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. The Council UPR Working Group holds three two-week sessions per year. During each session, 16 countries will be reviewed.

UNICEF. (2016). No place for children: The impact of five years of war on Syria’s children and their childhood. UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa.

Documents from the UPR Session:

National report of the Syrian Arab Republic: A/HRC/WG.6/26/SYR/1

Compilation prepared by the OHCHR in accordance with paragraph 15 (b) of the annex to HRC resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to HRC resolution 16/21: A/HRC/WG.6/26/SYR/2

Summary prepared by the OHCHR in accordance with paragraph 15 (c) of the annex to HRC resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to HRC resolution 16/21: A/HRC/WG.6/26/SYR/3

Anne Bauer