Regional Training: Helping Children in the MENA to Rehabilitate

12th December 2018 - Beirut, Lebanon

UNODC concluded a regional capacity building training event, focusing on rehabilitation, reintegration, and justice for children recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups. The 35 participants (among them 17 women), included judges, lawyers, social workers, personnel of detention facilities and civil society representatives from Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.  Through interactive sessions, practical examples and exercises, the training focused on promoting accurate assessments of both the context in which children are recruited and exploited, and the situation of each individual child, in order to favour the adoption of tailored responses. Additional sessions focused on planning and implementing comprehensive reintegration and rehabilitation strategies, addressing disengagement from violence, recognizing the role of a specialised justice system for children to fulfil child rights while promoting the safety of society from the serious threats associated with terrorism. 

The training also served as a privileged platform to exchange experiences, practices and challenges across different countries, and with a multidisciplinary perspective. " When we talked to children we realised that despite their commitment to the groups, they still had an attachment to life. From there, we started working on their self-confidence, and their ability to express themselves and that was vital to see the first results", testified a social worker engaged with children accused of terrorism-related offences in Lebanon. The participation of international experts in clinical neuropsychology was instrumental to explore neuroscientific approaches to the brain development of children and the impact of traumatic brain injury. Mental health professionals in conflict areas were also invited to speak of the impact of violence on the behaviour of children. A session was dedicated to present examples of therapy that have proved effective with children used in hostilities, to rebuild their confidence and positive resocialisation, including art-therapy, meditation and equine-assisted therapy. "Even when they arrive as dangerous people, we can change their mindset by going back to their childhood" concluded a delegate from Iraq. 

Since 2015, under the Global Programme on Violence against Children, UNODC has addressed efforts to prevent and respond to the recruitment and exploitation of children by terrorist and violent extremist groups. Relying on its dual mandate in counter-terrorism and violence against children, the Office has provided specialised technical assistance in this area to over 20 countries through global, regional and national activities. Recognizing that child recruitment is an old phenomenon, but that strategies and tactics of terrorist and violent extremist groups are posing new global challenges for the protection of children, UNODC published a Handbook providing comprehensive guidance, anchored in international law, and identifying numerous promising practices to work in this area . Following this publication, UNODC will launch in 2019 three new training Manuals, respectively on: prevention of child recruitment by terrorist and violent extremist groups, justice for children in a counter-terrorism context, rehabilitation and reintegration of these children. 

This activity was organized thanks to the generous contribution of the Government of Japan.