Northwest Asian Weekly
July 21th, 2010
Today, on July 21st, the United Nations signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) regarding child protection in Darfur. It is recognized as a landmark deal in humanitarian issues in the Darfur area.
On July 10–11, 2008, the Geneva centered dialogue based Humanitarian gathered Sudanese opposition movements and representatives from the African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN), non-governmental organizations (NGO), and others. This meeting initiated the dialogue on humanitarian issues in Darfur.
Since then, JEM has had further discussions with UN organizations, especially the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) about this issue. Within this framework, the Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations was developed.
In this document, JEM committed itself to “actively support UNICEF work on the protection and well-being of children affected by the conflict in Darfur.” It pledged to release any children under the age of 18 currently associated with the group, and then hand them over to UNICEF.
“I am sure that the children will be well protected,” said Ahmed Hussain Adam, JEM’s official spokesperson. “We made a very strong commitment…starting now, the children will see a brighter future…there is no military resolution in the issue of child protection; it should be solved through political dialogues.”
“JEM has been very open and active during this process,” remarked Dennis McNamara, Humanitarian Adviser. The area that the statement covers is limited, though he is “hoping this agreement to be a classic example of a positive outcome of humanitarian cooperation.”
“This agreement has been well-acknowledged by the government,” said Nils Kastberg, UNICEF director.
“This treaty identifies rape and other sexual violations against children.” He continued: “Peace talks may or may not go well, but the protection of children should go well and we are committed to this endeavor.”
He further pointed out that the reasons children associated with the military are various, such as lack of food, water, and education; some are simply taken along by their fathers. “It is not enough to prevent children from recruitment, but to ensure they are not associated to any Sudan army in any forms.”
UNICEF and other organizations have made significant progress on children protection issues. 10 years ago, according to monitoring reports, there were 20,000 children slower in the Darfur area; now the number is down to 8,000-10,000.
“Children [in the Darfur conflict area] only see the dark side of life, such as killing, shooting, violence…this agreement means to make changes for the future generation of Darfur,” said Sulieman Mohammed Jamous, JEM Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs.
Xin Huang is a senior at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. He is participating in a summer internship in Geneva, Switzerland, where he is attending conferences at the United Nations.