February 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 January 2008
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THEMATIC ISSUES

Children and Armed Conflict

Expected Council Action

The Council is expected to discuss the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in an open debate on 12 February. The Foreign Minister of Panama is expected to preside and the Foreign Minister of France seems likely to attend.

The Secretary-General is expected to suggest that the Council consider giving equal weight to all categories of grave violations against children as triggers for placement of parties in the two annexes on his report, rather than just the issue of recruiting and using children.

In early February, work is expected to begin on negotiating a draft Council decision. (Expanding the categories for placing groups on the list would require a resolution.)

Please see the separate Security Council Report publication Children and Armed Conflict, which is the first of a new series of crosscutting reports which will approach thematic issues on the Council agenda systematically tracking the way in which the thematic principles are applied by the Council in individual country specific situations.

Key Recent Developments
Resolution 1612, adopted in July 2005, established a monitoring and reporting mechanism to collect, organise and verify information on violations against children in armed conflict and on progress made by parties in the Secretary-General’s annexes in complying with international norms on children and armed conflict.

For each situation, a Secretary-General’s report is considered by the Working Group. The report is based on information from a UN taskforce on the ground. Six criteria are used for monitoring and reporting:

  • recruiting and use of child soldiers;
  • killing and maiming of children;
  • rape and other grave sexual violence against children;
  • illicit exploitation of natural resources;
  • abduction of children; and
  • denial of humanitarian access to children.

The monitoring and reporting mechanism has now been established in six conflicts listed in Annex 1 (situations on the Council’s agenda) of the Secretary-General’s report: Burundi , Côte d’Ivoire , the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nepal , Somalia and Sudan . Two Annex 2 situations (those not on the Council’s agenda), Sri Lanka and Uganda , have voluntarily agreed to set up the monitoring and reporting mechanism. Myanmar and the Philippines are open to setting it up. Colombia has yet to give written consent.

The Working Group meets every two to three months and considers two situation-specific reports from the Secretary-General as well as an overview on other conflicts affecting children. It has met 11 times since establishment in November 2005. It adopted terms of reference, designed a “tool kit” of possible actions in response to violations and has considered 14 reports. It is now on the second round of reporting for the DRC, Sudan , Côte d’Ivoire and Burundi . Reports on the Philippines and Colombia have yet to be considered.

Conclusions have been adopted on ten of the 14 reports. Conclusions were published regularly until the last quarter of 2007. Reports on Cote d’Ivoire and Chad were considered in October but at press time, conclusions have not been released.

Options
One option is for the Council to simply express support and encouragement for the Working Group and its potential achievement and for the monitoring and reporting mechanism. In that event, a presidential statement might be considered.

A more ambitious option is to work on expanding the mechanism. This might involve:

  • adopting a resolution in February; or
  • adopting a presidential statement indicating agreement to develop additional measures and inviting the Working Group to prepare a draft resolution for its consideration.

Other options include:

  • requesting the Secretary-General to include a dedicated section on children and armed conflict in all his country-specific reports to the Council; and
  • requesting the Secretary-General and the Working Group to ensure the publication of reports highlighting the follow up of Working Group action including responses from the parties.

Key Issues
The key issue is whether the Council should adopt a new resolution to expand criteria for inclusion of situations in Annex 1. The more significant question in this regard is whether to give equal weight to all categories of grave violations of children involved in armed conflict. Since the start of the Secretary-General’s annexes, the gateway criterion has simply been use of child soldiers. Some feel this should be expanded to at least one more criterion, such as sexual violence. Others argue that all categories of grave violations should be used.

Another key issue is how to increase pressure against persistent violators. More transparency with follow up reports is one aspect. The issue of further targeted sanctions also lies in the background.

Another issue is ensuring that the Council’s thematic approach is not undermined by failure to follow up with enforcement measures such as sanctions. One possibility is to expand the mandate of the Working Group and request it to recommend individuals for targeted measures to the Council and oversee implementation of such measures when there is no appropriate sanctions committee.

Another issue is ensuring that the Secretariat establishes monitoring and reporting mechanisms in all situations being considered by the Working Group.

An issue is sustaining Working Group momentum. There seems to be some slowing in publishing Working Group conclusions. Linked with this is measuring the Group’s effectiveness against action taken.

Council and Wider Dynamics
In the past, members have put aside differences (such as whether to look at situations not on the Council’s agenda) and allowed important developments to occur in the Working Group on both substance and procedure. However, expanding the monitoring and reporting mechanism seems likely to stimulate some heavy discussion which may make it difficult to get agreement on the details of any such initiative in February. More time may be needed.

France , as Chair of the Working Group, has been the main driver behind many developments. The UK is now openly supportive. The US is actively involved but cautious about certain recommendations and the legal implications of Working Group decisions.

Italy and Belgium are generally supportive and are likely to accept some expansion of the criteria used for the Secretary-General’s list. China , while acknowledging the importance of the issue, remains cautious about moving too quickly. Russia , on the other hand, is open to having all six egregious violations used as criteria.

Among the non-permanent members, South Africa and Indonesia , have been reluctant to take strong action. New member Costa Rica is likely to be supportive and active. The level of likely African involvement is unclear although many recall the key leadership played by Benin when it was on the Council.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution
  • S/RES/1612 (26 July 2005) set up the Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.
Selected Presidential Statements
  • S/PRST/2006/48 (28 November 2006) welcomed the progress in the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.
  • S/PRST/2006/33 (24 July 2006) reiterated the Council’s commitment to the issue of children and armed conflict.
Secretary-General’s Reports
  • S/2007/758 (21 December 2007) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Sri Lanka .
  • S/2007/686 (28 November 2007) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Burundi .
  • S/2007/666 (16 November 2007) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Myanmar .
  • S/2007/515 (30 August 2007) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Côte d’Ivoire .
  • S/2007/520 (29 August 2007) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Sudan .

Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict Documents

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