Today marks the UN International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression – an annual observance day established in 1982 during the Lebanon War.
It acknowledges the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse, particularly during wartime, and it reaffirms our commitment to protecting the rights of children.
It is a sad reality that in situations where armed conflict breaks out, it is the most vulnerable members of societies – often children – who are most affected by the consequences of war.
That continues to this day. From Myanmar to Afghanistan and from Yemen and Ukraine, the most innocent of all victims remain children.
The six most common violations are recruitment and use of children in war, killing, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals and the denial of humanitarian access.
In Yemen, there are reports of recruitment of child fighters, an ongoing humanitarian crisis and children falling victims to air strikes.
Shamefully, Britain provides weaponry that is used in those air strikes, and today we should all take a moment to reflect on the role we want to play in the world.
In Ukraine, meanwhile, we’ve seen and heard countless reports of children falling prey to Russian air strikes and military aggression. Despite convoys and buildings brandishing signs to indicate children inside, Putin’s ruthless invasion has been indiscriminate in its violence.
Last Saturday, I was pleased to receive a timely invite to a Ukrainian refugee support group that meets at All Saints Church in the ward I represent – Goldsmid.
The group is co-ordinated by the Network of International Women for Brighton and Hove and includes Ukrainian residents from our city.
The group provides a place for refugees to come together once a week to meet each other in a safe and welcoming space and access advice and support from some excellent and committed volunteers from organisations including Citizen’s Advice and the DWP, Adult Education, and a youth engagement officer from the council.
Most of the refugees were women and children and it brought home to me the reality of how difficult it is to establish some sort of normality in another country while recovering from trauma and all the time worrying about partners and parents who are on the front line fighting for their country.
So, today, let’s remember the current conflicts that plague our planet, the ongoing struggle for peace and the millions of children who are so often not only caught up in conflicts but become targets within them.
Elsewhere this weekend, my plans included joining some of the street parties to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
This Jubilee Weekend is an opportunity to unite us all and encapsulate the best of Britain – bank holidays that our trade unions and ordinary workers fought for that we can now all enjoy – as well as a celebration of a dutiful woman who has given every second of her life to public service and has always put her country first.
Councillor John Allcock is the joint leader of the Labour opposition on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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