KABUL: The Afghan government has signed and put into force a child protection policy, shielding children from the adverse effects of armed conflict.
Minister of Defense Tariq Shah Bahrami signed the initiative — the outcome of a year-long Afghan-led effort to codify measures for protection of children, including the prevention of violence against those in the Afghan National Army.
The policy sets out procedures for monitoring, reporting and investigating violations by any Ministry of Defense personnel and declares the intent to hold those who commit these crimes accountable.
Resolute Support commander Gen. John Nicholson hailed the initiative. “The NATO mission will continue to lend training, advice and assistance to work with the Afghan military.”
In a statement, he promised working with the UN and the international community to see that the child protection policy was fully embedded into the Afghan military’s operations.
Nicholson added: “Under my watch I’ve already made it clear and now I’m going to make it very clear. If soldiers under my command here — are witness to any gross violation of human rights, they have a duty to report immediately.
“We have improved our training and our own policies and procedures, and fast-tracked our efforts to make sure that we have the right tools in place to make it easier to report, and easier to follow up.’’
Swen Dornig, special advisor to Gen. Nicholson on children and armed conflict, has been an active interlocutor helping inform development of the Afghan child protection policy and bringing additional focus to the effort within Resolute Support.
Dornig said: “NATO policies and guidelines to embed child protection within the larger framework of protection of civilians are relatively recent. We know that children are especially vulnerable during conflict and disproportionately affected by violence.
“It is for this reason that we are trying to ensure that our efforts protect both boys and girls from violations during conflict. Regional organisations such as NATO have a responsibility and role to ensure the protection of children in conflict settings…”
In January 2017, Nicholson met in New York with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to discuss measures, in partnership with the international community, to improve the situation of children in Afghanistan.
Within Resolute Support, relevant pre-deployment and in-theatre training of personnel has been improved and instruction is now included in pre-deployment training taking place four times a year at NATO’s Joint Force Training Centre in Poland.
In addition, children in armed conflict training is provided twice a year to incoming leaders, and twice a month to incoming advisors to the train, advise, assist mission.
Child protection focal points in each of the military regions and functional areas have also been established, providing the means to support related programming and initiatives throughout the country, and to monitor and report through the chain of command.
A new, common, web-based database is being implemented. specifically for NATO personnel, to quickly report all human rights-related cases and allegations that they observe during the TAA mission in Afghanistan.
This database was designed in support of UN reporting mechanisms and is additionally supportive to US Leahy Law tracking requirements. It will enhance existing mechanisms to account for all gross violations of human rights, including children and armed conflict violence, as well as sexual and gender-based violence incidents across Afghanistan observed by NATO personnel.
In addition, Resolute Support personnel continue to support various senior Afghan officials and institutions including Afghanistan’s Office of National Security Council, to address instances and allegations of human rights abuses of youth in custody.