Select Committee on International Development Memoranda

Memorandum submitted by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

1. The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is a religious denomination and charity with a longstanding commitment to the peaceful solution of violent conflict. This submission is based on our experience in the programmes of work of Quaker Peace and Social Witness, our corporate witness department, in former Yugoslavia and West Africa, and the work of the Quaker United Nations' Office in Geneva.

2. Regional experience in the Western Balkans

2.1 Quaker Peace and Social Witness provides training and facilitation for individuals and grassroots groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro. The programme, 'Dealing with the Past' is targeted especially at assisting those committed to acknowledge the shared responsibility within all communities for the wars of the 1990s. The aim is to challenge the widespread culture of denial and avoidance and thus to lay foundations for restored trust and stable cooperation.

2.2 In addressing the avoidance of future violence, we would encourage Britain's involvement in the region, to be integrated into an approach that is pursued through the European Union and aimed at encouraging all the post-Yugoslav states towards eventual EU membership on an even-handed basis. Such integration would maximise incentives for cooperation and minimise the dangers for combative isolation. We welcome the steps that the UK`s government has taken to this end.

2.3 Recent experience in Vojvodina and Kosovo suggests that commitment to human rights standards has too often been limited to paying lip service to such standards, and making tactical concessions to delay full compliance. We welcome the particular commitment that the UK has made in insisting on Croatia`s full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia at The Hague, prior to the granting of its candidate status. We remain concerned at the many remaining cases of impunity for atrocities throughout the region and the maintenance of perpetrators in public positions, in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo.

2.4 We would encourage a relaxation of Western European visa regimes for young people in the region as a way of encouraging travel and opening them to the culture of stable democracies. We would similarly support steps to encourage any processes of dialogue to deepen reflection on the complex web of responsibilities for past crimes and promote truth and reconciliation.

3. Regional experience in Northern Uganda

3.1 Quaker Peace and Social Witness provides intensive training and support for northern Ugandan groups working for peace and alleviating the effects of violent conflict. This work is grounded in our awareness of the need to ensure that a cycle of post-independence violence is permanently broken and of the need for coherence between security, peacebuilding and development strategies.

3.2 QPSW works closely with Civil Society Organisations for Peace in Northern Uganda in emphasising the crucial priority of the return of children who have been abducted from the Acholi communities by the Lords Resistance Army. We consider this is a crucial step to the rebuilding of trust between the people of the North and the Ugandan government.

3.3 We welcome the current amnesty as a significant feature in enabling the attrition of the Lords Resistance Army and consider that the manner of any post conflict justice will be crucial to the sustainability of peace. The active participation of the Acholi people will be essential for any enduring peace and the work of the International Criminal Court will need to be carefully integrated with local and traditional processes of community reconciliation, and with national judicial processes including the application of the amnesty. As a signatory to the Rome Statute, we hope that the United Kingdom will play an important role in encouraging accountability to the local and national community and strengthening the role of the amnesty.

3.4 While there is currently no 'road map' for sustainable peace in northern Uganda, our current experiences emphasises the need to think creatively. We would encourage particular caution in developing interventions that might undermine accountability and responsibility to the population of northern Uganda. We welcome DFID's increasingly nuanced approach to the complex dynamics of conflict and development in responding to these challenges, and would urge the a whole hearted commitment to developing programmes that ensure the involvement of the Acholi People in making a sustainable peace a political reality.

4. Young people in the armed forces

4.1The Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva, has undertaken a joint research project with the International Labour Organisation, based on in-depth individual interviews with young (ex)soldiers from developing countries. The following observations are drawn from this research, undertaken in developing countries including Afghanistan, Colombia, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka.[123]

4.2 We would identify five major factors that lead to children and young people becoming soldiers other than by direct abduction: war, poverty, lack of education or use of education to incite participation, lack of employment/income and lack of family or ill -treatment/exploitation or incitement by the family. Without an understanding of these factors, as a framework for the planning of policies and courses of action, no programme is likely to have a sustained effect. Any activities that reduce wars and poverty, provide access to quality education for all children and a reasonable standard of living, and improve family solidarity and parenting skills will have an effect on reducing the incidence of child soldiering. Since these factors are cumulative, as well as mutually reinforcing, any programme to prevent (or reduce) child recruitment and promote demobilization and reintegration that tackles all or several of them is likely to be significantly more effective than if they are addressed separately. The most influential factor will have to be determined case by case in each conflict situation. For example, is it lack of access to school, or is the school the breeding ground for recruitment? Factors will also vary according to different regions within the conflict area and/or the different groups involved (religious, ethnic, urban, rural, girls, boys). Thus urban boys in one area may prioritise access to formal education, whereas their rural counterparts may want work, or vice versa. Girls may see vocational training as more, or less, relevant than schooling, and so on. The same need for specific analysis applies at the individual level.

4.3 In the light of these factors we would make the following specific proposals:

4.3.1 We would encourage the adoption of the Minimum Income for School Attendance programmes used in Mexico and Brazil as a basis for reintegrating former child soldiers into education, as well as to prevent/reduce recruitment initially.

4.3.2 We would urge programmes to address the high incidence of domestic violence or abuse of children, that will reduce the number of adolescents running away to join armed forces or groups. The particular impact of such violence or abuse on girls, its interplay with the dearth of other options for them, and the greater likelihood of them not being in school, illustrate the need to tackle the bigger problem of the status of girls and women in society. Domestic violence tends to be even higher in post-conflict situations and thus this issue needs to be prioritised as part of peacebuilding.

4.3.3 We consider that greater attention should be given to the demobilisation of girls. Few girls are currently demobilised and reintegrated on a par with boys. Demobilisation of child soldiers that excludes girls, whether intentionally or by default, is discriminatory. Because so few girls are demobilized, the assumption remains that there are few girl soldiers — and that girls associated with fighting forces are not soldiers but merely "camp-followers". Girls who volunteered for armed forces or armed groups are because of abuse, exploitation or discrimination are therefore being doubly discriminated against. At the same time, girl soldiers may choose not to go through a formal demobilisation programme in order to avoid further stigmatisation. Programmes therefore need to be available and accessible without requiring formal demobilisation.

5. Small arms - How can the UK improve its peace-building and post conflict reconstruction policies?

5.1 Most approaches to date to the problem of the proliferation and wide-spread use of small arms have been focused on managing and controlling the supply of small

arms. These are vital. But factors which drive individuals and groups to acquire and

possess small arms must also be part of the equation if small arms approaches are

to prove effective and sustainable.[124] In 1999 the Quaker United Nations Office

initiated a series of workshops into how demand for small arms was understood at

a local level. Our experience leads us to suggest that greater government commitment to country based initiatives addressing demand would be an invaluable counterpart to supply side initiatives in addressing the prevalence of guns in post conflict situations. The development of 'Gun Free Zones' within South Africa provides an instructive model for how this can be approached in national and local settings in Africa.

5.2 We welcome the work of the UK government both in raising the priority of conflict prevention and in building effective links between Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and Department for International Development. (DFID) and for including projects on decommissioning of small arms within the Africa Conflict Prevention Pool. We commend the work of the DFID in supporting projects on disarmament and demobilisation of former combatants and encourage greater attention to be placed on the subsequent reintegration of combatants into civilian life, so as to prevent a recurrence of recruitment. We urge the UK government to take a lead in demonstrating how men and women, boys and girls are differentially affected by small arms, and ask that special attention be given in UK assistance policies to the post-conflict reintegration needs of boy and girl soldiers. Not only is this a compelling human need, but it is a critical conflict prevention priority

5.3 We hope that the Committee will learn from the directions recommended in the

forthcoming report of the Swedish Government`s Stockholm initiative on

Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration[125] as a model of good practice and that the UK government will be able to take a lead in supporting the UN`s integrated Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration standards for all UN agencies.

5.4 We welcome the UK's support of the 'Transfer Control Initiative Support Arms

Transfer Initiative' and the support of the Foreign Secretary`s commitment to develop this into an eventual Arms Transfer Treaty. We would encourage DFID to combine this supply side approach with giving greater priority to the factors that feed demand for small arms in developing countries. We encourage work in linking this supply side initiative to the kind of development projects that would limit effective demand for weapons. Supply side initiatives, when considered in isolation, too frequently ignore the significance of the value of local engagement with civil society in addressing questions of demand.

6. Poverty Reduction Strategies

Quaker Peace and Social Witness and our partner organisation have been working since 2001 on the impact of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers on communities in Nicaragua and Uganda. We welcome steps that have been taken to increase local participation in the setting of policy and recognise the significant work that DFID has undertaken in encouraging a focus on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable communities. We would encourage the UK government to integrate an approach to small arms into future poverty reduction approaches in the developing world.

We consider that further work by the UK government in conjunction with multilateral organisations and national governments could contribute to the likelihood of sustainable security in post conflict countries.

7. Conclusion

We welcome DFID`s attention to the need to integrate security and economic planning in post conflict countries. We encourage a continued commitment to the long term sustainable development that will be necessary to transform economies that profit from war into the stable and peaceful economies that will encourage long term inward investment.

17th January 2006

123   Rachel Brett and Irma Specht: Young Soldiers: Why they choose to fight , ILO/Lynne Rienner, 2004



124   Demanding Attention: Addressing the Dynamics of Small Arms Demand, David Atwood, Ann-Kathrin Glatz, and Robert Muggah, Quaker United Nations Office and Small Arms Survey, 2006.  Back

125 Back

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