July 2009 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 June 2009
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THEMATIC ISSUES

Children and Armed Conflict

Expected Council Action
In July the Council is expected to consider the annual report on the activities of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009. The Council is likely to be briefed by both France, which was chair of the Working Group until the end of 2008, and Mexico, which took over in January 2009.

By the end of July, the Council is also expected to take up the issue of expanding the criteria for including parties to armed conflict in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict, as foreshadowed in its 29 April presidential statement. Currently, the recruitment of children is the single trigger for placing an entity on the Secretary-General’s annexes, but the presidential statement recognised the value of expanding this to include the crimes of killing and maiming, rape and sexual violence against children in the context of an armed conflict.

Since the establishment of the Working Group in 2005 the Council’s practice has been to consider the Working Group’s annual report under “other matters”. However, if the discussion on expanding the criteria for inclusion in the Secretary-General’s annexes results in a formal Council decision, a meeting of the Council to adopt it is likely.

Key Recent Developments
The presidential statement, adopted after a day-long open debate on 29 April, reiterated the Council’s strong condemnation of the continuing recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. Moreover, it also recognised the importance of including killing and maiming and acts of rape and sexual violence that are prohibited under international law as criteria for listing in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s report. The presidential statement asked for the Council to take action on this matter within three months. It also highlighted the obligation of parties to armed conflict to comply with applicable international law, reiterated the Working Group’s request for administrative support, and called on parties once again to prepare and implement time-bound action plans. The presidential statement also emphasised the need to take immediate action against perpetrators of serious violations against children and to bring them to justice. The Working Group was asked to adopt timely conclusions and continue its review of its working methods.

The Working Group when dealing with country-specific issues tends to proceed by adopting sets of conclusions based on its discussion of Secretary-General’s reports.

The Working Group has stalled in 2009 largely due to inability to reach agreement on its conclusions on Afghanistan. The main problem appears to have been differences between Russia and the US over whether the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has violated international humanitarian law within the context of children and armed conflict. The Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan was published on 10 November 2008. The Council first discussed it in December. Mexico has been working with the US and Russia to try and resolve the issue. It now appears that conclusions might be released on 1 July covering children and armed conflict in both Afghanistan and the DRC (which was also first discussed in December).

The Working Group began discussions on 16 June on expanding the thematic issue of criteria for the Secretary-General’s annexes, as requested in the April presidential statement. This will feed into the upcoming debate. Mexico, as chair of the Working Group, had earlier held bilateral meetings with all Working Group members to determine positions. Mexico is expected to circulate a draft with elements for either a resolution or presidential statement shortly.

There have been three Secretary-General’s reports on children and armed conflict released this year: Central African Republic on 3 February, Sudan on 10 February and Myanmar on 1 June. It appears that the report on Sri Lanka may be released shortly. But no conclusions have been issued since 21 October 2008.

Options
Options for a resolution or a presidential statement include:

  • expanding the criteria for inclusion in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report to include killing and maiming and committing acts of rape and other sexual violence against children in situations of armed conflict;
  • establishing a systematic channel of communication between the Working Group and relevant sanctions committees. In situations where the Council has not imposed sanctions, one option would be to enable the Working Group to ask the Council to adopt resolutions with targeted sanctions against individuals, and to empower it to serve as a sanctions committee in such situations; and
  • reiterating the need for time-bound action plans and possibly asking for a review of factors that have limited the implementation of action plans.

Other possible elements include:

  • requesting the Secretary-General to include an assessment of the progress or deterioration of each specific situation in his reports on children and armed conflict;
  • deciding to evaluate the work of the monitoring and reporting mechanism and the Working Group at regular intervals; and
  • requesting the Working Group to provide other options for applying pressure on persistent violators, apart from targeted sanctions.

Key Issues
l issue for the Council is whether a resolution is needed or whether a presidential statement will suffice for expanding the trigger for parties on the Secretary-General’s annex and other possible elements. If the Council decides to focus only on expanding the criteria to include sexual violence and killing and maiming, a decision recorded in a presidential statement is a possible option. However, setting up a new mechanism specifically tied to sanctions committees suggests that the greater weight of a resolution would be appropriate.

A connected issue is whether having a resolution in July—whatever is decided—could be useful, even if not legally necessary, to signal the importance the Council places on this issue.

An underlying substantive issue is how to increase pressure on persistent violators? One suggestion involving a system of communications between the Working Group and the relevant sanctions committees is on the table. A related issue is how to deal with persistent violators if there are no sanctions in place.

Another issue is ensuring that a new decision strengthens existing mechanisms and does not undermine the operations of the current structures like the monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict as well as the Working Group. A better sense of how many new situations would come on to the annexes as a result of these new criteria may be useful in this respect.

An important issue is determining the listing and delisting criteria for the groups committing sexual violence and killing and maiming, within the context of armed conflict.

A continuing issue is how best to engage with non-state actors, how to encourage more groups to agree and how to implement time-bound action plans.

A potential issue is the slowdown in Working Group decision making, bearing in mind that it has not released any conclusions since the end of last year.

Council Dynamics
There is now some agreement that the trigger should be expanded. However, there are differences over the need for a resolution and what other areas should be addressed. Most Council members appear open to either a resolution or presidential statement, but many are waiting to see how the substance develops before deciding. Some, like Austria, have indicated that if a resolution jeopardises having the trigger expanded, then a presidential statement would be preferable. China, which had earlier in the year not been open to expanding the trigger, is now agreeable but would rather it be done through a presidential statement than a resolution.

In the past Russia had wanted all six violations (recruiting child soldiers, killing and maiming, sexual violence, attacks on schools, abduction of children and denial of humanitarian access) considered by the monitoring and reporting mechanism to be used in expanding the trigger. It now appears open to starting with an additional two criteria, as long as one of them is killing and maiming. Russia’s approach to the conclusions on Afghanistan may be related to its approach to killing and maiming and a new interpretation of humanitarian law.

China has been placing emphasis on setting clear priorities and improving the efficiency of the monitoring and reporting mechanism. The other area it has stressed is the need to cooperate fully with governments with groups listed in the Secretary-General’s annexes. It appears to want the Working Group to have greater control over listing and delisting of the groups on the Secretary-General’s lists.

France has worked closely with Mexico in transferring its institutional memory and continues to be an involved player, although less actively than in the past. Many of the elected members are actively involved and most appear supportive of having a substantive outcome in July. For members like Turkey and Vietnam, there are some red lines such as some modes of interactions with non-state actors.

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/2009/9 (29 April 2009) recognised the importance of including in the Secretary-General’s annexes those that commit acts of killing and maiming and sexual violence in situations of armed conflict and asked for the Council to take action within three months.
  • 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 1612.

Selected Reports

  • S/2009/278 (1 June 2009) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Myanmar.
  • S/2009/158 (26 March 2009) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.
  • S/2009/84 (10 February 2009) was the report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in 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 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.

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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