International Advocacy Network for the Rights and Needs of Children Born of War

In the period from February 16 to 18, the association “Forgotten Children of War” organized the conference “International Advocacy Network for the Rights and Needs of Children Born of War”. The aim of the conference was to establish the “International Network of Children Born of War”. The conference was attended by organizations from the region and the world, whose work influences and aims to improve the status and rights of children born of war. One of the strategic goals of the “Forgotten Children of War” Association was to organize a conference in order to create a platform for the exchange of experiences and practices within the framework of the topic “children born of war”.

In November 2021, the UK Government launched the first step in creating of an international platform to support tens of thousands of children who, due to the circumstances of their conception, are marginalized and stigmatized by their families and communities. The platform addresses the challenges of children born of war, categorizes them by priority, offers options for solutions, and provides a framework for coordinated action for implementation. By committing to actions within the framework of the platform, global partners, governments, international organizations and civil society can take the necessary actions to support these children. We remind you that the “Forgotten Children of War” Association, in addition to its advocacy successes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, participated in the creation of the Law on Civil War Victims of the Brčko District, and with that step left traces of history by participating in the creation of this platform.

In accordance with the situation at the global level, and the successful advocacy process in BiH, we agreed that the beginning of 2023 is the right time to implement the conference.

The ultimate goal of the conference was to, in cooperation with related organizations from around the world and other actors, ensure the participation of children of war in the processes of creating strategies, policies and processes that affect their status, which would contribute to the improvement of the position of survivors and the equality of children born of war globally. During the conference, various practices in BiH, the region and the world were presented and discussed, with a view that certain strategies must be adapted to cultural, traditional, religious and political contexts in different conflict and post-conflict countries. This approach allowed us to gain insight into methodologies, tools and practices applicable in different environments.

The guest of honor at the conference was Gerd Fleischer, a child of World War II, who shared her life experience and participation in the war children’s lawsuit against the Norwegian state before the European Court of Human Rights in 2007.ž

Read more about Gerd Fleischer:

The conference was consisted of six segments: research aspect, legal recognition, the role of art and culture in healing trauma, networking and the possibility of cooperation, international experience, and experiences of the Western Balkans. You can read more about each aspect below:

  1. Research aspect – presentation of the research by Dr. Sabina Lee and Dr. Amra, in which the results and work of the research are presented. The interdisciplinary research network Children born of War was presented. It is important to point out that the Association “Forgotten Children of War” was conceived as a pilot project during the writing of the mentioned research.

More about Sabine Lee:

  1. Legal recognition – the presentation of “Platform for Action” – World Vision and the UK government, which we heard at the PSVI conference in London in 2022, where BiH as a country was given the opportunity to sign and implement this strategy. The presentation was made by the project leader, Erica Hall. The TRIAL International BiH publication on children born war was also presented, with the aim of exchanging advocacy experience in BiH and generally on the legal framework currently in place in BiH.
  2. Trauma healing vs. Art and culture – the play “In the Name of the Father” was presented in a film format, after which there was a conversation with the director and participants in this project. The goal is to highlight the importance of art in the process of healing trauma and accepting traumatic circumstances and consequences. Given that art has proven to be a good mediator for dealing with the past and the consequences when we have marginalized identities and society in dialogue. As part of the panel, the director of the play Darrel Toulon had a short workshop on documentary dance theater and shared his experience and methodology of working on the play “In the Name of the Father”, which he applied according to the same principle with children born of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also with children from Uganda.
  3. Networking and cooperation opportunities – How to spread the word? – presentation by the CEO of the Global Survivors Fund, who presented key issues around the world, highlighted the importance of joint advocacy and raising awareness, and suggested tools for further advocacy.

More about Esther and GSF:

  1. International experience – presentation and perspective of Eunice Otuko Apio from Uganda and Cathleen de Kerchova, director of the organization Enfants de Panzi et d’Ailleurs, who in cooperation with Dr. Mukwege spoke about the systematic program of empowerment and education of children who were born from the act of rape and who survived rape in the territory of the Congo DR.

More about Enfants de Panzi et d’Ailleurs:

More about Eunice:

In addition to participants from all over the world, the conference was also attended by regional representatives who presented the importance of the experience of the countries of the Western Balkan (Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina).

  1. The importance of the experience of the countries of the Western Balkans – a review of the processes of transitional justice in the Western Balkans with the primary goal of pointing out practices and methodologies that are valid and useful for international action in various post-conflict areas. The representative of the “Association of Victims of War 92-95 Foča”, Midheta Kaloper, and then Marijana Senjak, who presented the state and perspective of aspects of transitional justice that directly concern the consequences of wartime sexual violence and children born of war in Croatia, also spoke on the panel.

One of the participants is Qendresa Prapashtica, a representative of the Kosovo Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of War Torture (hybrid model), who presented the situation of survivors in Kosovo. We also heard the presentation of Ivana Žanić from Belgrade in front of the Fund for Humanitarian Law, with a focus on the problems in (non)prosecution of sexual violence in the war before the courts in Serbia. Regional action is significant, which represents the backbone of building regional peace, but also building trust between the countries of the Western Balkans.

The BREAKING FREE exhibition was the final segment of the conference in which our members, mothers and women survivors opened the space to talk about the true effects of global, regional and national engagement in the framework of wartime sexual violence, gender-based violence, and children born of war. The idea was to present to all participants the daily struggles and problems faced by children born of war (which reflects their roles in society, family, partnerships, friendships, etc.). We let the engaged individuals and organizations know that their /  our joint effort is not in vain. The purpose is to send a common message through motivation and empathy that we want societies with equal values.

We would like to thank the following for their participation in the construction of the platform: the British Initiative for the Prevention of Sexual Violence in Conflict (PSVI) – Erica Hall, member of the PSVI expert team; representatives of the United States of America, Mexico, Guatemala, Kosovo, the Office of Special Representatives of the Secretary General for sexual violence in conflict, violence against and for children and armed conflict; UN actions against sexual violence in conflict; to UNICEF; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); PSVI Survivor Champions; Restoration of the Congo; Green Kordofan; Project Children born from war; Annie Bunting, University of York; Joanne Neenan – international lawyer; Lejla Damon; and the Global Survivors Fund.