JCU Celebrates 25th Anniversary of the U.N. Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflicts

Virginia Gamba

Virginia Gamba

On November 23, 2022, JCU welcomed Virginia Gamba, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflicts (SRSG CAAC), to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the mandate’s creation by the UN General Assembly. The event was organized with the Universities Network for Children in Armed Conflicts and the Istituto San Pio V as part of JCU’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.

The panel discussion was moderated by JCU Professor Silvia Scarpa with the participation of Mark A. Drumbl (Professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law), Laura Guercio (Professor at the University of Perugia and Co-President of the Universities Network for Children in Armed Conflicts), Fausto Pocar (Emeritus Professor at the University of Milan and Co-President of the Universities Network for Children in Armed Conflicts), and Paolo De Nardis (Professor at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” and President of the Istituto S. Pio V).

After welcoming participants, JCU’s President, Franco Pavoncello, began the Conference by highlighting JCU’s commitment to promoting awareness of the negative effects that conflicts have on children. In her keynote speech, Professor Virginia Gamba recalled how the United Nations verified nearly 24,000 grave violations against children, including the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts, killing and maiming, rape, and other forms of sexual violence, as well as abduction in 2021. She also explained that since 2000, more than 180 thousand children have been released from abduction and her office among others, has contributed to collecting data, adopting national action plans and other commitments, advocacy action, and the promotion of cooperation with relevant stakeholders, which includes accountability mechanisms.

Professor Drumbl opened the discussion by raising issues connected with the reintegration of former child soldiers, the role of technology and memory, the threshold for violence to be classified as an armed conflict, and the protection of juveniles. Professor De Nardis followed by speaking from a sociological perspective routed in structural functionalism theory about the issue of children in armed conflicts. Professor Pocar continued by reiterating Professor Drumbl’s point on the notion of ‘armed conflict,’ by focusing on the concept of dignity included in international human rights law and emphasizing the importance of the right to education for children during armed conflicts. Professor Guercio then highlighted the relevance of universities’ work to promote youth participation and to increase research in this field.

Professor Scarpa concluded the event using the three keywords emphasized in the SRSG CAAC Study on the Evolution of the Children and Armed Conflict Mandate 1996-2021, namely, cooperation, commitment, and perseverance and quoting former US President, John F. Kennedy, who said, Children are the most valuable resource and its best hope for the future. 

The video recording is available on YouTube.