April 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 March 2009
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THEMATIC ISSUES

Children and Armed Conflict

Expected Council Action 

The Council will discuss children and armed conflict in an open debate on 29 April. The foreign minister of Mexico, Patricia Espinoza, is expected to preside.

Members will focus on the Secretary-General’s progress report on the implementation of resolution 1612, which in 2005 established the monitoring and reporting mechanism and set up the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.

A presidential statement is a likely outcome of the debate with possibly a commitment to start work on a new resolution for later in the year.

Security Council Report will publish its second Cross-Cutting Report on Children and Armed Conflict in April in preparation for the debate.

Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General’s report is expected to be circulated in mid April with the latest list of parties that recruit or use children in armed conflict in the two annexes. Annex I is made up of situations on the Council’s formal agenda and Annex II are those situations that are not on the Council’s agenda. Possible recommendations include the following.

  • Expanding the criteria for inclusion of parties in the two annexes to include parties committing rape and other grave sexual violence, with the possibility for further expansion in the future. There are six violations considered grievous for children in situations of armed conflict (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). However, only recruitment of children is used in assessing if a group should be placed on the Secretary-General’s annexes.
  • Giving more attention to situations in the Secretary-General’s report which are not in his annexes (i.e. situations of conflict where there are violations against children but no child recruitment. In the 2007 report, this included Iraq, Haiti, Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel).
  • Suggesting that all relevant peacekeeping mission mandates include child protection provisions and child protection advisers.
  • Reinforcing the need for parties listed in the annexes to respond to demands for concrete time-bound action plans.

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. The monitoring and reporting mechanism has now been established in all conflicts listed in Annex I: Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar, Nepal, Somalia, and southern Sudan and Darfur (considered together); and the five Annex II situations (those not on the Council’s agenda): Chad, Colombia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Uganda.

The Working Group also set up by resolution 1612 has, since its establishment in November 2005, considered 24 reports and adopted 21 conclusions. However, there is an increasing time lag between considering reports and issuing conclusions.

The trial of Thomas Lubanga, leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (Union des patriots congolais, or UPC) from DRC and the first individual to be charged solely for the conscription and use of children under the age of 15, began on 26 January. This trial is seen by many observers as significant in demonstrating that the use of children in armed conflict is a war crime that can be prosecuted at the international level.

On 17 July 2008, the Council held an open debate initiated by Vietnam. The presidential statement following the debate reiterated the need for a stronger focus on the long-term effects of armed conflict on children and encouraged the Working Group to further improve transparency and efficiency. Unlike the previous presidential statement of February 2008, there was no reference to persistent violators, the need for time-bound action plans or reviewing provisions of its resolutions.

In January Mexico became the new chair of the Working Group when France, which had been instrumental in setting up the Working Group, stepped down after three years.

Options
The most likely option in April is a presidential statement reaffirming the Council’s commitment to addressing the impact of armed conflict on children and to implementing 1612. Possible elements include:committing to working on a new resolution;

  • demanding that persistent violators comply with all demands to stop recruitment and release children (special mention could be made of groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has ignored several public statements, and the government of Nepal, which has pledged but failed to release and rehabilitate minors being held in Maoist cantonments); and
  • emphasising the need for groups to deliver and implement time-bound action plans as soon as possible.

Other possible elements may be:

  • asking the Secretary-General to estimate how many more situations would come onto the Council if more violations were used to trigger the listing of a party in the annexes;
  • suggesting a review of the impact of the recommendations of the Working Group to assess the most effective tools used;
  • discussing lessons learned from the implementation of 1612 over the last three years; and
  • requesting the Secretary-General to provide recommendations for better Secretariat support for the Working Group, keeping in mind the need for transparency and institutional memory.

The adoption of a resolution is less likely in April but in the event that a decision is taken to work on a range of new measures for adoption late in 2009, the following are possible options.

Options for the Council include:

  • leaving the monitoring and reporting mechanism as is for a further period;
  • requesting the Secretary-General to provide an indicative assessment of how many new groups would be placed on the annexes of the Secretary-General’s report if the criteria are expanded to include some or all six major violations;
  • deciding to add some additional violations which could be used as triggers for inclusion in the Secretary-General’s annexes but leaving the other violations for consideration at a later time;
  • deciding to formally evaluate the work of the monitoring and reporting mechanism at regular intervals; and
  • requesting the Secretary-General to consider how the Secretariat could provide greater support for the Working Group, keeping in mind the need for transparency and institutional memory.

Options for the Working Group and the reporting by the Secretary-General include the following.

  • Request the Secretariat to provide the Working Group with a monthly table which updates responses to and implementation of action requested by the Working Group.
  • Decide to issue all Working Group correspondence, including follow-up correspondence, as UN documents (under the S/AC.51 document heading) in order to create an institutional memory and promote transparency.
  • Develop other possibilities for putting pressure on persistent violators in addition to the threat of targeted sanctions. One possible example is recommending that the Council refer cases to the ICC. On a case by case basis this possibility could be referred to in letters to parties or press statements. Another possibility for intensifying leverage on persistent violators would be to consider a visit of the Working Group (or a subgroup) to such situations on the annexes.
  • Request the Secretary-General to establish a focal point for children and armed conflict in the Department of Political Affairs with responsibility for a closer working relationship with those involved in peace negotiations to ensure that there are strong provisions on child soldiers in all relevant peace agreements.
  • Develop innovative and systematic systems for ensuring that the conclusions of the Working Group and any Council decisions are effectively disseminated to all parties included in the Secretary-General’s annexes. This could include specific requests to relevant Special Representatives, Special Envoys and UN agencies with effective field presences in the countries in question and to UN member states or NGOs actually engaged in relevant mediation processes.
  • Adjust the work programme of the Working Group to respond to a fast changing situation such as, for example, the deterioration in the DRC at the end of 2008. In that case, by the time the DRC report was issued in January, much of the information was out of date. One possibility would be to agree that the chair may convene Working Group meetings at short notice in such situations. Another may be to agree to targeted briefings from NGOs (in the past, a key avenue for such briefings was the Arria formula and between 2000 and 2008 a majority of Council open debates on children and armed conflict were preceded by an Arria briefing).
  • Establish a systematic channel of communication between the Working Group and existing sanctions committees for situations being considered by the Working Group that have a sanctions regime (i.e. DRC, Somalia, Sudan). This could be done by requesting the chair to be active in this regard.
  • Review the working methods and output of the Working Group to ensure that the Group is functioning as effectively as possible. Among the possible areas for consideration would be whether to change the format of the conclusions and whether there is a need to develop a mechanism to take up fast changing situations ahead of more stable ones.
  • Increase dialogue with governments that have parties listed in the Secretary-General’s annexes that are active within their national territories, perhaps mandating the chair to be active in this regard.
  • Ensure input to the Council’s terms of reference ahead of Council visiting missions so that the Council can focus on possible follow-ups to Working Group recommendations when visiting countries that are on the Secretary-General’s annexes.

Options regarding Annex II situations follow.

  • The Council could signal in a new resolution that it is willing, on a case by case basis, to consider recommendations from the Working Group on targeted measures in situations not on the Council’s agenda.
  • Signalling that if targeted measures were applied in Annex II situations, the mandate of the Working Group could be expanded to allow it to identify individuals for targeted measures and to oversee implementation of such measures.
  • Requesting the Security Council to provide the Working Group with a more formal Secretariat assistance for reports and meeting arrangements.

Key Issues
A key issue is whether the Council should more actively reinforce the efforts of the Working Group in country-specific situations. In Nepal, for example, the issue of former Maoist combatants recruited as minors, and still remaining in the cantonments, is key for the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). This is also an issue that concerns the Working Group. By using information obtained from the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Nepal, the Council may be able to address this issue more forcibly when considering the report of the Secretary-General on UNMIN.

Another issue is the impact of the Working Group chair rather than the Council president carrying out recommendations involving communication with non-state actors, and sometimes with governments. This has been an increasing trend.

A significant issue for the Working Group is how to ensure that parties recruiting children continue to respond to its requests.

Related is how to get agreement on using stronger action against persistent violators. (The Secretary-General’s 2007 report highlighted 16 groups that have been on the Secretary-General’s annexes for four consecutive reports.) With some members opposing targeted sanctions, an alternative form of pressure may be needed.

Also an issue is how to respond to fast changing situations. The November 2008 DRC report discussed in January 2009 was outdated given the escalation of violence in eastern DRC at the end of 2008.

A connected question is whether better communications can be developed between the Working Group and sanctions committees in country situations in Annex I such as the Sudan, DRC and Somalia.

Another issue is ensuring that a new resolution enhances resolution 1612 and does not hamper the functioning of either the monitoring and reporting mechanism or the Working Group.

Further issues include getting more groups to agree and implement action plans (formal action plans have only been signed with the four parties in Côte d’Ivoire, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, and the TMVP/Karuna faction in Sri Lanka) and keeping track of documents over the years and maintaining an institutional memory now that the chair is likely to rotate every two years.

A future issue, if there is agreement to start negotiating a resolution, is finding consensus on how to expand the trigger for including parties in the Secretary-General’s annexes.

Council Dynamics
Many feel 2008 was a difficult year for the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. A lack of consensus over conclusions on Myanmar and divisions on the Working Group’s working methods slowed consideration of reports and adopting conclusions in the first half of the year. However, by the end of the year it had appeared to be back on track, issuing four conclusions in December 2008.

The current composition of the Council, with several new members keen on thematic issues, suggests a productive dynamic in the Working Group this year. However, some old divisions may still produce delays. In the last two months disagreement between the US and Russia over language on killing and maiming of children in Afghanistan has delayed issuing conclusions on that country. The decision to proceed with a resolution is likely to see past differences resurface. For example, in considering an expansion of the trigger for placement on the Secretary-General’s annexes, some members may be comfortable with new criteria such as sexual violence. But others like Russia and China seem unwilling to have the sexual violence criteria without also adding killing and maiming.

Lack of consensus over the kinds of stronger action that might be employed against persistent violators is also likely to prove divisive given opposition to using targeted sanctions among some members, particularly China. But also it may provoke some innovative thinking.

Among the new members, Mexico as chair is likely to play a key role in shaping the issue over the next two years. Uganda will be the first Council member to have an armed group which originated in its territory being considered and its input will be very important when the Working Group next discusses the LRA. France, now that it is no longer chair, may be able to more easily deploy its extensive knowledge in helping to negotiate a new resolution.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/1612 (26 July 2005) requested the Secretary-General implement a monitoring and reporting mechanism and set up a working group on children and armed conflict.

Selected Presidential Statements

  • S/PRST/2008/28 (17 July 2008) reiterated the need for stronger focus by all parties concerned on the long-term effects of armed conflict on children.
  • S/PRST/2008/6 (12 February 2008) reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to address the impact of armed conflict on children and expressed its readiness to review past resolutions and build on the resolution of 1612.

Selected Reports

  • S/2009/84 (10 February 2009) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Sudan.
  • S/2009/66 (3 February 2009) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the Central African Republic.
  • S/2008/782 (12 December 2008) was the report of the Security Council mission to Afghanistan from 21 to 28 November 2008.
  • S/2008/693 (10 November 2008) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in the DRC.
  • S/2008/695 (10 November 2008) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan.
  • S/2008/532 (7 August 2008) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Chad.

Security Council Debate Records

Conclusions of the Security Council Working Group

Selected Letter

  • S/2008/455 (11 July 2008) was the letter on the Working Group’s activities from 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008.

Other

  • S/2006/275 (2 May 2006) set out the terms of reference for the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.
  • A/63/227 (6 August 2008) was the latest report by the Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.

Full forecast

 

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