International Year of Youth - Fact Sheet - Armed Conflict

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Today, grave violations are taking place against children and youth in over twenty war-affected countries. As primary victims of armed conflict, young people experience many forms of suffering. They are killed, maimed, orphaned, abducted, deprived of education and health care, and left with deep emotional and physical scars. While girls and women are disproportionately targeted, boys and men are also sexually violated in conflict situations. Children and youth are uniquely vulnerable to involuntary military recruitment. Hundreds of thousands are associated with armed forces, including those of non-State actors. Young people’s participation in conflict has serious implications for their physical and emotional well-being. Further, the changing nature of conflict directly impacts children as war tactics include their use as suicide bombers, and systematic attacks are waged on schools. Counter-terrorism strategies can result in collateral damage, including youth casualties. Children and youth suffer from other consequences of conflict such as poverty, unemployment, low educational attainment, poor governance and the disintegration of families and communities. Rehabilitation and reintegration is particularly critical for children and youth formerly associated with armed groups in order to break cycles of violence and to find a new existence after a life of conflict and distress. Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes should build on individuals’ strengths, especially their resilience. Children and youth should be consulted in the process, with specific issues, including the needs of girls, explicitly addressed.

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