English Youth Minister, Mitch Barltrop, proposed Wednesday at the G8/G20 Youth Foreign Affairs Committee that arming children in war-torn countries with SMS capable technology serves the interest of peace globally. Canadian Minister, Andrea Sarkic, however, disagreed with some aspects of Barltrop’s claim.
Barltrop proposed the idea at the start of the second day of weeklong meetings in Washington, D.C. He said that children in war states could use SMS technology as an early warnings system to the world.
“We’re talking about giving children the autonomy to seek help,” said Barltrop.
He cited that an increasing number of children in developing countries have access to cell phone technology already, and that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) would also have to play crucial roles in the distribution of resources. He called the move “inevitable.”
Sarkic, however, was wary of the idea saying that in some countries even access to electricity is rare.
“It’s hard for me to reconcile what context he thought this would work,” said Sarkic. “I don’t see how this SMS business would help girl victims of sexual trafficking who can’t access a phone or any [other] resource.”
She said that a child text messaging in a war environment could actually be in more danger. She also said that the idea of an early warnings system is flawed.
“Half of these children are thrown into a high-risk conflict right away,” she said. “There is no buildup.”
Barltrop said the idea would work if developing countries were to prioritize technological infrastructure more.
“It comes down to prioritization,” he said. “The idea also fosters the longevity of technology.”
Sarkic noted that empowering NGOs and governments in developing nations to facilitate the transference of funds and resources is risky due to the threat of corruption. She also couldn’t look past who the initiative wouldn’t help.
“We have to think of the extremely marginalized,” she said.