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Children and War

Australian Red Cross, ICRC and Save the Children present the Children and War.

How do children experience war?

In wartime, children are especially vulnerable to a myriad of risks that deprive them of the opportunity to fully experience childhood and are all too often drawn into hostilities. In the ever-evolving circumstances of armed conflict, how can we provide all children with the protection they are both morally and legally entitled to and ensure that their needs and rights are fulfilled? To address this question, and just after marking the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Review of the Red Cross chose to dedicate its 911th edition to children affected by armed conflict.

Australian Red Cross, Save the Children Australia and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) presented the Children and War edition of the Review in a free public webinar on 9 September 2020.

The webinar featured a panel of eminent Australian and international speakers, including Ellen Policinski, Managing Editor of the International Review of the Red Cross; Vanessa Murphy, Legal Adviser on Women, Children and Sexual Violence at ICRC; Sophie McNeill, researcher for Human Rights Watch and former Middle East Correspondent at ABC; Rawan Arraf, Director and Principal Lawyer of the Australian Centre for International Justice; and Jason Lee, Country Director Occupied Palestinian Territories at Save the Children. 

The panel discussion was hosted by Rebecca Barber, Victorian IHL Advisory Committee at Australian Red Cross and PhD Candidate at the University of Queensland. 

Ellen Policinski is the Managing Editor of the International Review of the Red Cross. Prior to joining the Review, she worked in the legal department at the ICRC delegation in Washington, DC. She previously worked on IHL dissemination at the American Red Cross and was a law and policy consultant at the Washington-based NGO Center for Civilians in Conflict. She has an LL.M. from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, and a J.D. from the University of Villanova Law School

Vanessa Murphy is a Legal Adviser at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, where she is responsible for legal issues related to the protection of children in armed conflict. Between 2017-2020, she has worked in particular on issues related to children associated with groups designated as ‘terrorist.’ Her experience prior to the ICRC includes litigation on behalf of survivors of childhood sexual abuse, the running of support services for survivors of domestic violence and human-trafficking, and work for organisations including DCAF, Human Rights Now and the International Criminal Law Media Review. Vanessa holds an LLM in international humanitarian law from the Geneva Academy, a Graduate Diploma in Law in the UK, and a BA in Political Science from Yale University.

Sophie McNeill is the Australia researcher for Human Rights Watch, based in Western Australia. She was formerly an investigative reporter with ABC TV’s Four Corners program where she produced programs on the Hong Kong protest movement and the mass arbitrary detention of Xinjiang’s Muslims by the Chinese government. Sophie was also a foreign correspondent for the ABC and SBS in the Middle East, working across the region in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Egypt and Turkey, as well as Israel/Palestine. Sophie has twice been awarded Australian Young TV Journalist of the Year and in 2010 won a Walkley Award for her investigation into the killing of five children in Afghanistan by Australian Special Forces soldiers. She was also nominated for a Walkley in 2015 for her coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis. In 2016 she won two more Walkleys for her coverage of Yemen and besieged towns in Syria. Previously, she worked as a reporter for ABC’s Foreign Correspondent and SBS’s Dateline programs and she is a former host of triple j’s news and current affairs program Hack. She is the author of “We Can’t Say We Didn’t Know: Dispatches from an Age of Impunity.”

Rawan Arraf is a lawyer with ten years of legal experience in refugee protection, administrative law and international human rights law. She is the principal lawyer and director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, a specialist legal centre working to provide access to justice to survivors of atrocity crimes.

Jason Lee has recently been appointed as Country Director for Save the Children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He has been working as an aid worker since 2009 in both humanitarian emergencies and longer-term development programmes. This has spanned a diverse range of contexts from conflict, post-conflict and emergency settings such as Timor-Leste, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone during the West African Ebola epidemic and most recently with Save the Children in Yemen, where he was Deputy Country Director. He has experience on the provision of immediate life-saving humanitarian assistance and the resumption of basic essential services to systems/institutional strengthening. Prior to joining Save the Children, he worked with UN agencies such as UNDP and WHO. Jason's balance of technical practical hands on working in complex settings combined with his policy and technical expertise in humanitarian and development programmes provides invaluable insights and pragmatic approaches to upholding and promoting the rights of children.