Clare Short, Secretary
of State for International Development
to the Law Society, London, June 1998
Independent 'Podium' 24.06.98
the public at large, it is still not widely known that, since the end of
the Cold War, the nature of war has been transformed.
Wars are now largely fought within countries rather than between
of today's armed conflicts are taking place in poor countries.
And the casualties of war are now overwhelmingly civilians rather
One consequence of this historical shift is that vulnerable people,
particularly women and children, are now amongst the principal victims of
the past decade alone, an estimated two million children have died in wars
and a further six million children have been seriously injured or
But children can also kill, as well as be killed.
In perhaps the ultimate corruption of the innocence of childhood,
in many recent wars children have been forced to carry out atrocities
In Rwanda, during the genocide of 1994, some children were even
forced to kill members of their own families.
with these chilling realities, it is hard not to agree with Graca Machel
and more of the world is being drawn into a desolate moral vacuum... a
space devoid of the most basic human values".
want to focus my remarks on three areas.
the need to strengthen adherence to international human rights law and the
laws of war, amongst both governments and armed opposition groups.
In the past, enforcement has focused on states.
But we must also ensure that armed opposition groups are held
responsible for their war crimes.
second critical area that I want to highlight concerns the care and
rehabilitation of children who have been the victims of war.
My Department supports a range of projects to assist children
affected by conflict.
In northern Uganda we have provided support to children who have
been abducted and abused by the Lord's Resistance Army.
We have also been involved in Rwanda and Angola in family tracing
and reunification programmes.
And in various countries we have been involved in the
demobilisation of soldiers, including child soldiers.
Prevention is, of course, always better than cure.
third area I want to highlight is therefore the need for greater
international support to reduce the incidence of violent conflicts, and
the involvement of children.
protection in war cannot be isolated from the wider conflict prevention
and development agenda.
A recent paper by the OECD's Development Assistance Committee lists
the 34 developing countries furthest away from the poverty eradication
Twenty of these countries are either in the midst of armed conflict
or have only recently emerged from it.
While there is no simple formula for preventing wars or for peace
building, we know the conditions that tend to generate fighting.
We know that where people suffer economic marginalisation and where
inequalities are growing, the risks of violent conflict are higher.
development approach is therefore geared to promoting a pattern of
economic growth that benefits all sections of society, alongside support
for good governance, human rights and the law.
Reducing the risks of armed conflict also should involve tighter
controls over the flow of arms, particularly small arms and ammunition, to
regions of tension.
The British government has been instrumental in getting agreement
to a European Code of Conduct on arms exports.
We are also taking action on illicit arms flows and flows of
must search more actively for a means of building peace and development in
Somalia, Angola, Sierra Leone and other war-torn countries.
It is not good enough for us to provide humanitarian assistance
until conflicts burn themselves out.
Those of us who are anxious to minimise the use of force often call
for the use of sanctions instead of military action.
While the purpose of sanctions is to push rogue governments into
better behaviour, it is too often innocent civilians, particularly
children, who bear the cost of sanctions.
need to identify "smarter sanctions" that safeguard the
innocent, but provide the most effective levers to influence those
governments breaching humanitarian norms.
My department has undertaken some preliminary work on this issue.
I am keen that we develop a more informed debate that helps to
conclude, great injustice and cruelty often produce anger and despondency
in equal measures.
But cruelty against children elicits still deeper feelings of
common task is to surely turn that outrage into action.