Fighting the exploitation of children in armed conflict
On the ground, France has stepped up, alongside UNICEF and local and international NGOs to fight against the use of children for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labour in the mines, as well as to prevent female sexual mutilation.
It is committed, in particular, to doing away with the exploitation of children in armed conflict, in particular through the Child Protection programme carried out in partnership with UNICEF in Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The bilateral cooperation project Support for the Institution of the Rule of Law in the Democratic Republic of Congo also includes action on improving regulatory texts against the phenomenon of “so-called witch” children, in reintegration street children from Kinshasa and Lower Congo and children working in the mines of Kasaï.
In the Great Lakes Region, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has hired two experts on the topic of children in armed conflict. This priority initiative, which is a follow-up to the Ministry’s commitments to the UN Security Council, falls in step with the Resolution 1612 monitoring and reporting mechanism. The objective is to build up networks of professionals and local organisations (NGOs, civil society, etc.) involved in the matter. The reintegration of child soldiers, as part of the Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) programmes, is designed first and foremost around family or community reunification and access to education.
Fighting against trafficking in persons and sexual tourism
France conducts initiatives to fight trafficking in persons, in partnership with the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe), the ILO (International Labour Organisation) and the IOM (International Office for Migrations).
To facilitate experience and best-practice sharing as regards prevention and support for victims, France has organised two regional seminars, one in Bucharest (Romania, 15-16 September 2005) for the Eastern Europe region, and the other in Dakar (Senegal, 9-11 May 2007), for the Western and Central Africa region.
The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has participated, with the Ministries of the Interior, National Education, Justice and the Family in elaborating an action programme against sexual exploitation of children in tourism, put forth by the Minister in charge of Tourism in 2006. The programme is composed of a preventive section, with awareness-raising actions for French citizens going abroad, carried out in cooperation with tour operators; and a repressive section, with extensions to offence definition, the option under the law of gathering genetic prints of the French citizens convicted abroad of sexual crimes against minors. A reference person in charge of legal action in France against French criminal has been appointed in French embassies in the countries exposed to this type of exploitation of children.
Developing women’s rights and taking gender into account in development policies
The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs works in favour of promoting and protecting women’s rights in the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) and Machrek countries (Jordan, Lebanon and Palestinian Territories), in partnership with UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for the Development of Women).
It has provided EUR 2.32 million in support to a project aimed at improving the understanding, awareness and capacities of institutions and NGOs in the field of women’s and family rights, through the institution of a database, the coordination of a network between NGOs and the implementation of pilot projects in each of the 6 countries involved.
France, which has contributed to and signed most of the major international texts on women’s rights (CEDEF Convention of 1979, Beijing Action Programme of 1995, etc.), generally works to take into account the cross-cutting issue of gender in all of its cooperation programmes, and in particular the Framework Partnership Documents. The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, for instance, initiated the creation, in 2003, of a “Gender in Action” programme and, in 2006, a “Gender and Development” platform, which brings together the main institutional players involved, as well as representatives of civil society. The platform has set up an inter-ministerial working group that is currently working on a strategic guidance document on Gender, in relation with the Governance Strategy validated by the CICID in December 2006.
French Cooperation also jointly funds programmes implemented by intergovernmental organisations:
The “International Programme to Fight Violence Against Women”, implemented by Médecins du Monde in 29 countries. The objective is to mobilise all of the medical and social stakeholders involved in this field in order to pool skills and guarantee optimal care for female victims of violence.
“Improving Access to Reproductive Health and Awareness-Raising about the Issues Arising from STDs and Excision for Women in Two Rural Districts”, implemented by Inter Aide in Ethiopia.
Improving the situation of penitentiary establishments and supporting penal reform
The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has implemented a project in favour of penal and penitentiary reform and due enforcement of international standards on Human Rights, in partnership with the NGO Penal Reform International. The project, deployed in 8 countries of the Priority Solidarity Zone - Benin, Senegal, Mali, Lebanon, Tanzania, Kenya, Niger and Namibia - has sought the involvement all of stakeholders in administering penal justice: prisoners and their families, the relevant ministries, the legal authorities, the penitentiary and judiciary personnel, civil society, etc. The main objective was to improve the workings of the penal justice system and detention conditions, encourage alternatives to incarceration and improve collaboration between the sectors and civil society groups involved. It was designed around exploratory missions intended to design specific reform programmes suited to the countries’ needs, in particular in favour of relieving congestion and improving prison management and developing production, training and coordination activities. Particular attention was paid to inmates with special needs, in particular those infected with HIV/AIDS. The project laid emphasis on building capacity and cooperation between the sectors and State and non-State organisations involved in administering the justice system.