Impact of Armed Conflict on Children

© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0217/Romenzi
In Syria, a boy plays with a toy gun, in a province affected by the conflict between rebel and government forces. Two men - one armed and masked, and another who is checking his mobile phone - stand nearby.

This session was designed for conflict situations in general but where appropriate, should be amended for the country in which the training is located.


  • Understand the potential impact of conflict on children, families and communities.
  • Participants to be introduced to the concept of grave violations against children committed by armed forces or armed groups.
Participants Orientation MRM Staff
Session 1. Participatory exercise on how children are affected
2. Short debriefing
Time required 60 minutes
Venue requirements Large space - can be the main training room, if it is possible to move tables to create a large space in the middle
Resource person(s) 1 person with knowledge of the topic and with practical experience working in a field presence
Training materials - Role cards document "Impact of armed conflict child roles" [PDF] (to be prepared as described below)
Documents for participants - UN Convention 182 Worst Forms of Child Labour [PDF]
Inter-agency guiding principles on unaccompanied and separated children [PDF]
Paris commitments [PDF]
Children and DDR [PDF]
- Youth and DDR [PDF]
Impact of Armed Conflict on Children 1 & 2 [PDF]
Protecting Children during Armed Conflict [PDF]
The Graça Machel Study 10-year Review [PDF]
Access to materials The training materials and all documents for participants are included in Folder Module 3: Impact of Armed Conflict on Children


  1. Prepare role cards as described below - one per participant. Each role card should be different and state child's gender and age. See the document "Impact of armed conflict child roles" in the training materials folder. These should be cut up one for each person.

Session Sequence

The following walks the facilitator through a participatory exercise followed by brainstorming and plenary discussion.

  1. Participatory exercise child protection in conflict situation (20 minutes)

    To identify risk and protective factors for children in an emergency; to highlight which children are likely to be particularly vulnerable in an emergency.

    1. Describe the following scenario (note this can be changed to suit the context in which you work). There has been increasing violence in the town where you live with unknown insurgent groups making daily attacks and the army increasing its presence as it responds to these groups. On the radio you hear that in many towns the situation is the same and the rebel group is getting stronger. There are armed men everywhere and sometimes in the area in which you live you have seen tanks.
    2. Ask the participants to stand up, and line up against one side of the room. Give each a role card, and ask them to think about how it feels to be this child in the situation described.
    3. State that they will be read a statement, if they can answer yes, they should take a step forward. A large step means they can say yes easily, a small step means that the statement is somewhat true for them. If they cannot answer yes, they should remain where they are.
    4. Read the following statements, one at a time, allowing time for the participants to consider the question and to move forward if they agree with the statement:

      • You are able to get food and water each day
      • You have shelter
      • You have some protection from recruitment into armed forces or groups
      • You have some protection from sexual violence
      • You are able to access health and education services
      • You have time and a safe place to play
      • You have someone to go to if you are worried or distressed
      • You can make decisions about your life and what you do
      • You are able to take part in community activities
    5. Ask the participants who are at the front - what gave them protection? Ask those in middle and back - what were their principal protection issues? What made them vulnerable? What gave them protection?
    6. Ask participants at the front, how did it feel that you were out in front?
    7. Ask participants at the back, how did it feel that there were children who were in front of them?
  2. Plenary discussion (40 minutes)

    Effects of children, families and communities


    1. What is armed conflict?
    2. Consider the situation where you work. What are the possible affects of that conflict? On:
      1. Children
      2. Family
      3. Community

    As the participants provide answers write up on a flip chart. The following are all possible answers but may include many more:

    Effects on children:

    • Loss of life or injury
    • Torture
    • Sexual violence
    • Abduction
    • Separation
    • Domestic violence
    • Exploitation (sexual, labour, trafficking)
    • Displacement
    • Psychosocial
    • Normal routines lost
    • Anxiety, fear, mistrust

    Effects on family

    • Parents may not be able to protect their children
    • Domestic violence increases
    • Economic problems
    • Separation

    Effects on community

    • Education and health facilities are not functioning or inaccessible
    • Tensions within the community
    • Community values distorted
    • Thousands of children suffer the consequences and communities cannot cope/support/respond

    Grave violations on children

    Inform the participants that this training is about monitoring and reporting and responding to grave violations against children committed by armed forces or armed groups.

    Determine which of the effects listed above could count as a grave violation against children.

    • Ask the participants to consider the list on the flip chart and which ones would fall into this category. If time discuss this in pairs for a few minutes.
    • Ask participants to tell you which ones are not directly committed by armed forces or armed groups. If the plenary agrees, cross out that item.
    • Do the remaining ones fall into what could be classed as a grave violation against a child committed by an armed force or armed group?
    • Provide the list of the six violations for MRM. Do the effects listed on the flip chart(s) all fit here. If any are not included discuss the implications.
    • Does this relate to the situation in the context in which you work - discuss as appropriate.

    Tip: Participants may ask the question, what constitutes an armed conflict or what is defined as an armed group; given that bandits and criminal gangs are armed groups. The below quote from the 2005 SG's Annual Report may be useful.

    Para 96. "In the context of preparing monitoring reports and lists, it should be emphasised that there is no universally applicable definition of "armed conflict" in general, and in particular that the mandate of my Special Representative does not contain a definition of the term. In the performance of his mandate, my Special Representative has adopted a pragmatic and cooperative approach to this issue, focusing on ensuring broad and effective protection for children exposed to situations of concern, rather than on the definition of the term "armed conflict". The mention or discussion of any particular State or situation should not be construed as a legal determination that there exists a situation of armed conflict within the meaning of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols."
    Children and Armed Conflict: Annual Global Report of the Secretary General. (February 2005)

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