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Children Born of War - Past, Present and Future

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CHIBOW (Children Born of War - Past, Present and Future)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2019-02-28

As described forcefully by consecutive Special Representatives of the UN Secretary General (UNSRSG) for Children Armed Conflict, the physical and psychosocial impact of armed conflict on children is immense. This is true for all children directly and indirectly affected by hostilities, but the impact is particularly pervasive, if children are associated with the enemy.

The EU acknowledges that at any one given time, at least 300,000 children are participating in armed conflict globally. Studies have further documented the physical and psychosocial impact of armed conflict on children within armed groups as well as during post-conflict situations; and particularly so, if children are perceived to be associated with the enemy – however the enemy may be defined. Yet some significant aspects of this phenomenon have not been addressed in research leading to very considerable personal and societal costs. Researchers and practitioners generally agree that social, economic and political aspects of reintegration are inextricably linked. Overwhelming evidence suggests that CBOW, not only those who are born as a result of systematic rape and forced pregnancies by enemy soldiers but also children born as a result of consensual relations, have been and continue to be a major obstacle to successful integration of both their mothers and themselves into post-conflict societies.

The overall research aim of the CHIBOW project was to improve understanding of the experiences, life courses, educational, social, health outcomes of CBOW relative to their age cohorts in conflict and post-conflict situations through the development of a broader and more advanced knowledge base. By linking historical and anthropological understanding with psychological and psychotherapeutic approaches within an intersectoral setting that directly addresses the translation of research outcomes into strategic programming, this research was both original and innovative. It aided directly the development of strategies leading to more sustainable solutions to the problem of integration of children fathered by foreign soldiers, or those who have been the result of relationships or gender-based violence rooted in war, into their local communities. Equally significantly for the individuals themselves, on the basis of a better understanding of the factors contributing to the marginalisation of CBOW we developed more specific intervention at local level that will aid the prevention of trauma associated with stigmatization and identity issues experienced by large groups of CBOW and thus mitigate the adverse effect of the children’s biological origin. In this, we worked together with groups of CBOW who co-designed research, and supported the development of interventions in response to research outcomes. Further, we collaborated actively with third-sector partners, including policy makers, the media and service providers to start implementing the proposed interventions.
Organised into six Work Packages (WPs), CHIBOW comprised four scientific WPs that pursue the network’s research objectives thematically:

WP1 (historical context) objectives have been delivered through training in historical methods via Advanced Training Courses (ATC) 2 & 5; through project-specific implementation of research aims of eight Early Stages Researchers (ESRs); and through encouragement of supplementary training and networking activities organized by and for the ESRs. A significant finding of WP1 is evidence of a number of important differentiating factors between research being undertaken in western Europe and that being undertaken in Central and Eastern Europe, pointing to a much more significant ‘wall of silence’ in operation in Central and Eastern Europe than that in Western Europe.

WP2 (conflict and memory) objectives have been delivered through training in quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, underpinned by modules on stigma, trauma and childhood adversities and psychosocial interventions (ATCs 1, 3 and 4); through project-specific implementation of research aims of three ESRs; and through encouragement of supplementary training activities with psychosocial emphasis and trauma treatment emphasis.

WP3 (education and citizenship) objectives have been delivered through training in quantitative and qualitative research methodologies (ATCs 1, 4 and 5); through project-specific implementation of research aims of four ESRs; and through specific secondments with educational and civil society third sector partners. Significantly, work conducted in WP3, challenged some assumptions about the progress of 20th century developments with regard to children’s rights. The notion of the 20th century as the ‘century of the child’ encouraged the view that children’s rights were not only universally subscribed to, but also universally adhered to – a notion that is queried by research in WP3.

WP4 (community) objectives have been delivered through training in the social contextualization of the CBOW experiences and social science research training (ATC1, ATC 4); through project-specific implementation of research aims of four ESRs and through specific secondments with third sector partners focusing on humanitarian intervention and development consultancy. Specifically, ESRs have investigated the use of citizenship in post-conflict reconstruction by exploring how local, regional and national governments use such constructs of citizenship following conflict and by examining how CBOW relate to such narratives, which often contradict their day-to-day experiences of alienation and exclusion.

WP6 (outreach and dissemination) objectives have been delivered through training in academic and non-academic dissemination strategies (ATC6); through working with experts in academic publishing and public engagement to professionals to understand and develop effective academic and non-academic dissemination strategies. This training led to a step-change in public engagement and impact activities with exhibition planning, film-making and social media training taking up a substantial part of the impact-focussed part of the ATC.
Aside from breaking new ground in the research in previously unresearched and under-researched geographies, the network’s interdisciplinary approach as well as the interdisciplinarity of each individual doctoral project have led to genuinely new insights into the historically and politically contextualised experiences of CBOW, which have significant implications for service provision as well as legal and policy responses, already evident in recent actions taken by the UN as well as different policy-makers and NGOs who have responded to the research results by foregrounding the needs of CBOW in their approach to justice and mitigation.

Public engagement and non-academic impact have been a central concern of the network from its inception. The participation of the entire network in the interdisciplinary and intersectoral ‘Child and War’ Conference in June 2016 and the Network Open Day initiated significant third-sector engagement for the researchers. Furthermore, the sustained collaboration with our partners in Sub-Saharan Africa has led to impactful engagement of the ESRs ranging from teaching activities in local universities to knowledge exchange with grassroots NGOs, from work with advocacy organisations to capacity building for local African research assistants.
CHIBOW ATC 5 (Oral History workshop) at the German Historical Institute, Warsaw, Poland - Sept 2016
CHIBOW kick-off meeting at Birmingham University, UK - November 2015
CHIBOW Final Conference and Network Open Event, Germany - 27-28 June 2018
CHIBOW ATC 5 at the German Historical Institute Warsaw, Poland – September 2016
CHIBOW ATC 1 & 2 at the University of Graz, Austria - February 2016
CHIBOW network open day at the University of Salzburg, Austria – July 2016
CHIBOW ATC 3 & 4 at Reinier Van Arkel, Den Bosch, Netherlands – June 2016
CHIBOW ATC 1 & 2 at the University of Graz, Austria - February 2016
CHIBOW ATC 6 (Academic and non-academic dissemination strategies), UK - June 2017