Children and Armed Conflict
Expected Council Action
In September the Council is expected to hold an open debate on children and armed conflict. (Germany, the Council president for September, is also the chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.) The new Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous are expected to brief. It is also possible that a representative from civil society may speak.
The debate is expected to focus on the Secretary-General’s recent report on children and armed conflict (S/2012/261) with particular attention being given to the issue of accountability and persistent perpetrators of violations against children in armed conflict.
Germany is planning to circulate a background note ahead of the debate. A presidential statement is a likely outcome.
(For a more detailed analysis of the Council’s recent work on protection of children both thematically and in country-specific situations, please refer to our 27 August Cross-Cutting Report on Children and Armed Conflict.)
Key Recent Developments
On 9 July, France and Germany co-chaired an “Arria formula” meeting to discuss ways of dealing with parties to conflicts that have been listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual reports on children and armed conflict for more than five years for committing grave violations against children, parties otherwise known as persistent perpetrators. The briefers at the “Arria formula” meeting were the then Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, Prof. Cecile Aptel from Tufts University and Dr. Bijaya Sainju from Partnerships to Protect Children in Armed Conflict (PPCC), an NGO network from Nepal.
The 11th Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict for the first time listed parties for attacks on schools and hospitals in its annexes in accordance with resolution 1998 adopted on 12 July 2011. It also removed three parties from and added five new parties to its annexes. Among the groups listed in the two annexes are nine government security forces (Afghanistan, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) and 42 non-state armed groups. (Secretary-General’s reports contain two annexes: Annex I lists armed conflict situations that are on the Council’s agenda while Annex II consists of armed conflict situations not on the Council’s agenda but considered situations of concern for children.)
In the report, the Secretary-General encouraged the Council to put increasing pressure on persistent perpetrators and to consider applying targeted sanctions, expanding designation criteria for grave violations against children to all relevant Security Council sanctions committees and studying ways of imposing sanctions when there is no existing sanctions committee. He also suggested that greater cooperation between the Working Group and national and international courts may help address the problem of persistent perpetrators.
The Working Group has been deadlocked on the conclusions for the report on children and armed conflict in Sudan since the beginning of 2012. While the Working Group was able to come to an agreement on conclusions for South Sudan relatively easily, this was not the case for the Sudan conclusions. The main problem appears to be a lack of consensus on the issue of humanitarian access. At press time, discussions were continuing but no agreement had been reached. In the meantime, the Working Group has begun negotiating the conclusions for Colombia.
The key issue for the Council is how to address accountability, particularly in relation to persistent perpetrators.
A related issue is whether there is a need to review the tools currently used to put pressure on the groups on the annexes to the Secretary-General’s reports.
A further issue is ensuring that more progress is made on adopting action plans concerning killing and maiming, sexual violence and attacks on schools and hospitals.
A longer-term issue is maintaining momentum on the progress in the work of the Working Group, in particular the adoption of its conclusions.
The most likely option is a presidential statement addressing the issue of persistent perpetrators, reinforcing the need for accountability and requesting a report in 12 months.
As a follow-up to the debate, the Council’s options include:
- holding a meeting in the near future on the issue of persistent perpetrators;
- adding violations against children as criteria for imposition of sanctions to relevant sanctions regimes;
- ensuring relevant sanctions committees designate violators against children as targets for sanctions;
- considering ways of increasing interaction on the issue of children in armed conflict between the Council, the Secretariat, national courts and the International Criminal Court (ICC);
- requesting the Secretary-General to encourage governments to enforce national legislation to ensure there is no impunity for those accused of perpetrating violations against children; and
- requesting the Working Group to include a section with recommendations concerning persistent perpetrators in any conclusions it adopts.
Germany, which has been chair of the Working Group since January 2011, has worked with great efficiency, leading to the adoption of a record number of conclusions in the first half of 2011. However, the difficult negotiations leading to resolution 1998 were a warning sign of a more challenging time ahead for the children in armed conflict agenda. Over the last year, efforts made to close the time gap between the publication of the Secretary-General’s country-specific reports on children and armed conflict and the adoption of the corresponding conclusions by the Working Group have been considerably slowed down by the lack of consensus over the Sudan conclusions.
A number of the issues raised during the last debate, including “mandate creep” and the definition of “situations of concern” are likely to come up again. Given the current dynamics, most members do not have an appetite for any new decisions on this issue and do not appear to be looking for more than a reiteration of points made in previous Council decisions and a request for the next report.
There does, however, seem to be a degree of consensus that more needs to be done to put pressure on persistent perpetrators. Several Council members believe that the first step could be to ensure that all relevant sanctions regimes include violations of applicable international law involving children and armed conflict as grounds for designation for targeted measures. But there is likely to be disagreement over the idea of imposing sanctions on parties in Annex II, that is, on actors in situations that are not on the Council’s agenda. Most members also do not seem comfortable with the idea of a thematic sanctions regime or committee. The idea of involving the ICC and national courts may also meet with resistance from some members although no clear positions have emerged as yet.
Selected UN Documents
|Security Council Resolution|
|12 July 2011 S/RES/1998||This resolution expanded the criteria for listing parties to conflict in the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict to include parties that attack or threaten schools and hospitals.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|16 June 2010 S/PRST/2010/10||This was on children and armed conflict.|
|25 May 2012 S/2012/365||This report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict concerned the LRA.|
|26 April 2012 S/2012/261||This was the 2012 annual report on Children and Armed Conflict.|
|21 March 2012 S/2012/171||This report of the Secretary-General was on children and armed conflict in Colombia.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 July 2011 S/PV.6581||This was an open debate on children and armed conflict.|
|12 July 2011 S/PV.6581 (Resumption 1)||This was the resumption of a meeting on children and armed conflict.|
|Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict Document|
|3 October 2011 S/AC.51/2011/6||This was the report of the working group on children and armed conflict, stating conclusions on children and armed conflict in Iraq.|
Other Relevant Facts
Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
Leila Zerrougui (Algeria)
Chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict
Ambassador Peter Wittig (Germany)