Thirty years ago, the international community adopted the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, promising to expand efforts to protect the fundamental human rights of children. But while important progress has been made globally—including improved access to health care, nutrition and education—significant challenges remain. Most pressing is the need to protect children from harm in war and conflict.
The Convention boasts of being the “most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.” Yet, this may be largely irrelevant in the context of contemporary armed conflict; wars today are rarely fought between state signatories to Convention. Rather, non-state actors, such as terrorist organizations, are increasingly central actors in armed conflict. They care little for the provisions of international law, instead exploiting children on all sides of the violence.
Even when the United Nations “names and shames” terror groups by including them on a list of grave violators of children’s rights, there are no real “teeth” to compel adherence.
The violence in Gaza clearly showcases this problem. The past two years have seen indiscriminate rocket fire, most recently last week, and riots along the border, such as those from mid-2018. In these episodes, internationally-designated terrorist organizations Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) regularly target Israeli children and exploit Palestinian children for political gains.