Stand up for love to stop the use of child soldiers

By Jennifer Fierberg

February 12, 2013, the world recognizes the International Day of child soldiers. Today, Child Soldiers are reported in 21 on-going conflicts around the world. Vision-GRAM International is an organization based in Canada and run by Congolese activists in order to stop the epidemic of children being forced into combat situations and provides them with education instead.  Vision GRAM-International serves at the international level with focus on children’s rights, women’s rights, small arms, human rights issues as well as conducting research on the issue conflicts in Africa, peace and Security. Further, Vision-GRAM International supports youth to facilitate the exchange between them around the world.

On February 11, 2013 a community meeting was held in Ottawa, Canada to raise awareness of the ongoing problem of the use of child soldiers. Vision GRAM-International highlighted the day with a briefing on the situation of children associated with armed forces and groups in the world and DR Congo in particular with the goal of “Stand up for love to stop the use of child soldiers.” The Executive Director,                 Victor Amissi Sulubika, stated that, “We used this opportunity to remind the community of the responsibility of States to protect children against the abuse and violations of their rights during armed conflicts, to support a strong and robust treaty on the arms trade to prevent the use of children in armed conflict. We stressed the importance of the fight against impunity to ensure justice for children in armed conflict.” Mr. Sulubika also stated that the event was attended by young people who marked their presence by placing the red handprints on black canvas and signing postcards urging for action to end the use of children by armed groups.

According to their website  Vision-GRAM states that, “The youth have been involved in conflicts in Central Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, DR Congo, Uganda), where a significant number actively participated in wars as soldiers and are playing roles in armed groups ( spies, killers, women, cooks,  etc.). Several have been killed, injured, raped, traumatized and abandoned. Some were forced to kill their parents or other family members. The battlefields have replaced the school and their futures mortgaged.

It is in this context that Vision-GRAM International  works in partnership with CEDAC (Training Centre for development of the ex-combatants ). Further,  working in Burundi, they  have established an International Consortium for the countries of the Great Lakes Region of Africa (International Consortium for the Great Lakes Region of Africa or IC-Great lakes / Africa) to prevent and eradicate violence among young people in contributing to behavioral change their behavior, working for peace, security and development in the region.

Vision GRAM-International promotes the rights of children associated with armed forces and groups by advocating for their demobilization, reintegration by helping them in their families and communities through various projects: education, socio-professional and income-generating activities. Vision GRAM-International lobbied governments for action in the prevention and the fight against impunity.

Amnesty International recently published a report on the effectiveness of a strong Arms Trade Treaty that would promote the elimination of child soldiers around the world. The UN also published the Convention on the Rights of the Child outlining optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and also called for a stronger Arms Trade Treaty to be signed which Vision-GRAM International has lobbied for at the UN on numerous occasions. 

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