Backbench Business — Protecting Children in Conflict

Part of Select Committee on Foreign Affairs – in the House of Commons at 2:14 pm on 3rd July 2014.

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Photo of Fiona O'Donnell Fiona O'Donnell Labour, East Lothian 2:14 pm, 3rd July 2014

I thank all hon. Members for taking part in the debate. As my hon. Friend Kerry McCarthy said, we might not have had quantity, but we have certainly had quality in the contributions. Jeremy Lefroy was right to say that the situation regarding protecting children in conflict is getting worse. I was pleased that my hon. Friend drew attention to the UN report published on Tuesday that makes that clear.

There was hope in the debate. If we had had a debate before the Syria crisis, we would not have emphasised education as much as we have today. Sir Edward Leigh, in an in-depth, considered and informed contribution—it was not lengthy—told us of his personal experience of the benefits that education can bring. It is not an add-on, but an essential part of our response to humanitarian crisis. The difference is that the Syrian refugees are not people for whom conflict was the last straw. Those people had quite good lives by middle eastern standards—in many cases, they are professional people.

For children who have seen and experienced things that no child should ever see, there is not a loss of hope, because children have a wonderful quality—resilience. All we need to do is give them that bridge to a life that was good. That can mean education or an attachment to one person in their lives who makes them feel valued. I presume Tim Loughton was talking about going to the Za’atari camp. One amazing thing that struck me is that families there now have a supermarket to go to. It would be the most amazing therapeutic experience for a child to be in a supermarket trolley, because it is a bridge to a life in which that child was a happy child. We need to offer children all the time those bridges and opportunities to a better and happier time, and to a childhood.

I thank the Minister for the work that he and his Department are doing. He has the support of Members on both sides of the House. Today, it seems that we are all comrades.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the matter of protecting children in conflict.