Nine leading aid organisations, including Save the Children, will today launch a new humanitarian checklist to hold the Australian Government to account when it comes to preventing the suffering of children in conflict.
“We live in a world where children are increasingly bombed, forced to fight and attacked as they go to school, and where those inflicting the suffering often go unpunished,” Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds said.
“This checklist will help everyone concerned with the treatment of children caught up in conflicts assess the Australian Government’s efforts in seriously addressing humanitarian crises around the world.”
The checklist details the range of tools available to the Australian Government to prevent, influence and respond to conflict-related crises. Such responses can include using Australia’s influence in the UN system, with regional institutions or placing pressure directly on governments and individuals responsible for carrying out atrocities.
“It will help us ensure our political leaders are doing everything possible to resolve some of the deadliest and most devasting conflicts imaginable, in places like Yemen, Syria and Myanmar,” Mr Ronalds said.
“There is no doubt that the Australian Government could be doing more to prevent and resolve conflict around the world and protect innocent children caught up in such conflicts. It is in our national interest and in the interest of millions of children who suffer from wars waged by adults.”
“This should include the Australian Government refusing to issue licenses to sell arms to countries and coalitions which have been found to target schools, hospitals and civilians in their attacks.”
This comes as Save the Children this year prepares to mark its Centenary and launch its biggest ever campaign to protect children in conflict.
“So much has changed in the last 100 years, but it is perhaps one of the most damning indictments on humanity that the need for organisations like ours is just as strong as it was in 1919,” Mr Ronalds said.
“I firmly believe the tool we are launching today will help us hold the Australian Government to a higher standard, doing everything in its power to end the suffering of children from war and conflict.”
The UN estimates that 132 million people will be in desperate need of humanitarian assistance in 2019, while there are more refugees and displaced people than at any point in recorded history.
The Australian Checklist for Action assesses whether Australia has:
• Supported or initiated resolutions at the UN and other international decision-making forums;
• Applied diplomatic pressure on states responsible for rights violations;
• Provided humanitarian funding in line with Australia’s responsibilities;
• Banned the export of weapons that could be used to violate human rights;
• Imposed sanctions – such as asset freezes and travel bans – on leaders responsible for rights violations.
Rebecca Barber, author of the checklist and associate lecturer in humanitarian studies at Deakin University, said, “Australia campaigned hard to have a seat at the table in various UN forums. And yet, our performance does not always live up to expectations – particularly in ‘hard cases’ where Australia has political or economic ties to states involved in conflicts. Australia should leave no stone unturned in its efforts to restore a safe and free environment for families living in conflict zones.”
Signatories to the checklist include Save the Children Australia, World Vision Australia, Oxfam Australia, CARE Australia, Australian Council for International Development, Amnesty International Australia, Act for Peace, Deakin University’s Centre for Humanitarian Leadership and the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.
For interviews, call Jess Brennan on 0421 334 918