IRRC No. 252

The protection of children during armed conflict situations

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We have looked at the protection offered to children in conflict situations by the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977. The principle that children are particularly vulnerable and in need of special protection has been developed in these provisions.When the idea of a Convention on the Rights of the Child was first put forward there were debates about whether this was the best way to proceed. The International Union for Child Welfare expressed reservations about the Polish draft proposal stressing the legal difference between a Declaration and a Convention. Although a Convention is theoretically stronger than a Declaration because it is legally binding, experience has shown that a Declaration adopted unanimously has a greater moral impact than a Convention only ratified by a few countries.Evi Underhill in a paper (undated) “Comments on the Draft Convention on the Rights of the Child” posed not only the question whether Conventions are necessary but also whether they are effective or implemented and if they correspond to the large variety of national customs, political, economic and legal structures.Certainly, concern has been expressed about the lack of geographical representation of Member States attending the working group which is drafting the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the meantime some NGOs are urging that the drafting process should be speeded up.

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