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Forgotten Children of War Association Invited to UN Headquarters

The Forgotten Children of War Association from Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in the 10-year anniversary of the establishment of the mandate on sexual violence in conflict. They also took part in a Workshop on Advancing Reparations for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence at the UN Headquarters in New York

The Mandate on Sexual Violence in Conflict was established in 2009 and is dedicated to preventing and addressing conflict-related sexual violence. The unanimous adoption of Security Council resolution 1888 (2009) also recognized that sexual violence constitutes a threat to global peace and security, and created the office of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. On the 30th October 2019, survivors, leaders, and experts came together to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the mandate.

Alen Muhic and Nadia Delic-Klevstad, active members of the association of Forgotten Children of War (co-founded and supported by Amra Delic, ECR), gave a speech during one of the survivors’ hearings. This speech addressed the issues of children born out of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the association’s work regarding this issue. Alen Muhic shared his story relating to his parentage and his journey as a child born out of wartime rape. Specifically; Alen recounted his struggles with feelings of hatred and revenge before deciding to lead a life full of love. The key messages of the presentations included the demand for respect and recognition of the vulnerabilities of children born of war, and the need to end sexual violence in war.

The workshop began on the 31st of October with presentations concerning advancing reparations for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. The first panel consisted of survivor stories from Kongo, Kosovo and Iraq. The survivors shared their personal psychosocial and physical traumas, including challenges with seeking help and lack of safety. Discussions also centred around advocacy for basic rights and the lack of reparations. The next panel entitled: “Give support to the survivors so they can take back their lives again” included presentations from Nadia Delic-Klevstad. Nadia introduced the association of Forgotten Children of War further before discussing the three different subcategories of children born out of war. Briefly; Children fathered by enemy soldiers – mainly through rape and/or forced marriage, children fathered by uniformed and non-uniformed personnel of peacekeeping missions, and children fathered by humanitarian aid workers. Nadia then discussed the similar characteristics they share such as stigmatization, discrimination, emotional difficulties, attachment and identity issues, lack of legal rights and status and problems finding out the truth about their biological origin. When it comes to reparations, the children born of war from Bosnia and Herzegovina have a clear idea of what has been missing from their life and what would help them integrate into society.

The next panel addressed advocacy and direct assistance by civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This included a surprise visit from the SRSG Pramila Patten who shared her thoughts on this theme. This was followed by a presentation by Esther Dingemans who is the director of the Dr. Mukwege Foundation. Ms. Dingemans explained how the newly-founded Global Survivors Fund functions with survivors at its core, she also addressed the application process. The Centre for Equality and Justice from Sri Lanka was represented by its executive director Shyamala Gomez. Ms Gomez spoke about the organizations work with young girls that were forced into marriages and documented cases of conflict-related sexual violence. Despite not receiving support from the Sri Lankan government, the Centre continues its work with smaller NGOs and female activists. They hope to spread awareness of forced marriage and conflict-related sexual violence and help these young women.

The second day of the workshop focused on obtaining reparations through legal proceedings. The first panel introduced a team of highly skilled lawyers and representatives from the Law Offices of Kenneth Feinberg, the Hogan Lovells International, and the Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court. The presenters discussed their success stories in obtaining reparations and getting restorative justice for victims. They also discussed the need to work on a fundraising strategy due to a lack of financial support. This indicates the importance of various governments’ involvement. Statements from Mali, Iraq, UN Women, UNDP, the UN Action Secretariat and the Office of the SRSH on Sexual Violence in Conflict all focused on the need to form mechanisms and identify early warning measurements through different institutions in conflict affected regions. Norbert Wuhler then explained the importance of truth commissions, reconciliation, and transitional justice in conjunction with empowering the people. He stated: “One cannot avoid hard choices while working on reparations”.

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