Children and Armed Conflict
Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to discuss children and armed conflict in an open debate in mid-July, which is expected to be presided over by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Germany is also the chair of the Council working group on children and armed conflict. The main focus of the debate will be on the Secretary-General’s 2011 report on children and armed conflict. The Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, and representatives from DPKO and UNICEF are expected to brief the Council during the session.
A resolution, possibly adding an additional violation to be used as criteria for the inclusion in the Secretary-General’s annexes, is a possible outcome of the debate.
Germany is also organising a side event on attacks on schools and hospitals on 30 June in preparation for the open debate. The keynote speech will be delivered by Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, Consort of the Emir of the State of Qatar and UNESCO Special Envoy on Basic and Higher Education. Among the panellists are representatives from UNESCO, UNICEF, ICRC and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflcit. Other interested parties like the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, a network of 35 interested member states chaired by Canada, will also be given the opportunity to make statements.
Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General’s 2011 report, published on 23 April, highlighted the growing trend of attacks against schools and recommended the Council expand the “gateway to the annexes” to the Secretary-General’s report to include parties that attack schools and hospitals. (Secretary-General’s reports since 2002 have contained two annexes of parties to armed conflict that recruit children: Annex I is made up of situations that are on the Council’s formal agenda and Annex II are those not on the Council’s agenda.) Other recommendations focused on the application of targeted measures against persistent perpetrators of grave violations against children, including:
- designating child-protection criteria in the renewal or establishment of the mandates of sanctions committees;
- requesting specific child protection expertise in its expert groups; and
- including systematic information on violations against children in reports and recommendations to relevant sanctions committees from the Council and the working group on children and armed conflict.
In 2011 no parties were removed from the annexes but four were added—two in Yemen (placing it for the first time on the Secretary-General’s annexes) and two in Iraq. The report notes the signing of action plans by Sudan Liberation Army (SLA)-Free Will and SLA/Mother Wing (Abu Gasim) in Sudan and the Afghan National Security Forces.
A delegation representing the working group on children and armed conflict visited Afghanistan from 4 to 9 June. Germany, which is the chair of the working group, sent representatives from New York, while the rest of the delegation was made up of representatives from the Kabul missions of the UK, US, France, China and Russia. The main objectives of the trip were to take stock of progress made by the Afghan government in the implementation of the Action Plan signed in January and to assess the impact of the conflict on the safety and accessibility of schools and hospitals for children. During the visit the delegation met with government officials, community and religious leaders, civil society and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
So far in 2011, the working group has adopted four sets of conclusions—on Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Afghanistan and Chad. It is currently discussing conclusions for the Central African Republic, which it is hoping to adopt by the end of July. In the second half of the year, the working group is expected to consider the Secretary-General’s reports on Iraq, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Colombia.
Germany, as chair of the working group, also issued two press statements, on 18 March and 18 May, addressing non-state actors who are parties to the conflicts in the DRC and Afghanistan respectively as a follow-up to the working group’s conclusions on the DRC and Afghanistan.
(For more information on the Working Group’s activities in 2010 please see our upcoming Cross-Cutting Report on Children and Armed Conflict.)
Since the last debate in June 2010, Coomaraswamy has made five field trips: Uganda (June 2010), Somalia and Kenya (November 2010), Afghanistan (January 2011), Philippines (April 2011) and Chad (June 2011). In both Afghanistan and Chad, she witnessed the signing of action plans by the government.
Coomaraswamy briefed the Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee on 23 May and proposed that it consider adding a new listing criteria related to children to its sanctions regime. This was the second briefing of a sanctions committee on the issue of children and armed conflict. She briefed the DRC Sanctions Committee on 21 May 2010, which most likely led in August 2010 to the committee’s adding the practice of recruitment and use of children as criteria against nine individuals already under sanctions. And on 1 December 2010 the committee added an individual who was designated for holding direct and command responsibility for child recruitment and maintaining children within his troops.
The key issue for the Council is whether to focus a resolution on expanding the trigger to include attacks against schools and hospitals (and the related need for monitoring and action plans for this new criterion) or to focus also on possible action regarding sanctions committees, persistent violators and non-state actors.
A key issue is whether the Council should try to use specific language for the new trigger based on international humanitarian law or if it should keep the wording more general, and thus allow the Secretariat some flexibility.
Also an issue is whether a possible new trigger should be confined to attacks and threats of attacks against schools and hospitals or if it should also include attacks against teachers and medical personnel.
Another issue is whether there is a need to address the lack of compliance by persistent perpetrators with the working group’s demands.
A related issue is assessing the tools used to reach out to non-state actors and recommending more effective alternatives.
A growing issue for the working group is the difficulty of holding meetings due to a shortage of space and translators.
- expanding the criteria for inclusion in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report to include parties that engage in attacks on schools and hospitals in a situation of armed conflict;
- requesting sanctions committees to include the targeting of children in armed conflict as part of their sanctions regime; and
- signalling that the Working Group should be more proactive in recommending that the Council adopt resolutions with targeted sanctions against individuals in appropriate cases; and
- indicating that the Working Group can, if necessary, perform the role of a sanctions committee in such situations where there is no sanctions committee.
Other possible options include:
- initiating a discussion on how to address issues like cross-border violations against children, reaching out to non-state actors and persistent violators;
- requesting the Secretary-General to provide alternatives to action plans for non-state actors;
- suggesting a report from the Secretariat reviewing the mechanisms set up by resolution 1612 to be presented in early 2012;
- requesting the Secretary-General include in his country-specific reports on children and armed conflict a section on follow-up to the Working Group’s conclusions; and
- requesting that the chair of the working group explore ways of getting funding for field missions.
Most Council members appear to be open to the idea of adding an additional trigger through the adoption of a resolution following the debate. The main concern among members appears to be related to ensuring that the language is appropriate for this new trigger, particularly in the context of international humanitarian law.
Under the German chairmanship, which began in January 2011, the working group has significantly reduced the time-lag between publication of Secretary-General’s reports on children and armed conflict and the working group adopting conclusions. Following a strict schedule of weekly meetings with informal meetings as needed, the working group has been able to generally publish about two conclusions every two months.
The constant interaction among members of the working group has led to a collegial working environment in which members appear keen to cooperate in order to keep to a schedule of reports and conclusions. Among the new elected members, Portugal has given this issue high priority and is playing an active role both within the working group and in mainstreaming the issue in the Council. France and the UK also continue to pay keen attention to the issue.
Security Council Resolution
Secretary-General’s Reports on Children and Armed Conflict
Security Council Debate
Conclusions of the Security Council Working Group