Children and Armed Conflict
Expected Council Action
In March the Council will hold an open debate on children and armed conflict chaired by Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui will brief the Council, as will the Executive Director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake; Hervé Ladsous from the Department of Peacekeeping; and a former child soldier from Sierra Leone, Alhaji Babah Sawaneh, who last spoke at the children and armed conflict debate on 20 November 2001 when he was 14. A concept note has been circulated by Luxembourg the lead country on the issue. Among the areas that may be covered are national capacity building, the financing of action plans, military use of schools and cooperation with regional organisations. A resolution is the most likely outcome.
(For a more detailed analysis of the Council’s recent work on protection of children, please refer to our 21 February Cross-Cutting Report on Children and Armed Conflict.)
Key Recent Developments
The last children and armed conflict debate was held on 17 June 2013. It was a public debate, not an open one, with only Council members plus “specially affected” parties speaking. Besides the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, the debate focused on persistent perpetrators (i.e., parties that have been listed for five years or more in the Secretary-General’s reports) and the need to hold them accountable. A presidential statement was adopted during the debate (S/PRST/2013/8). It reiterated the Council’s concern over persistent perpetrators and its commitment to deal with them effectively. It also highlighted the importance of concrete, time-bound action plans and the Council’s readiness to adopt targeted and graduated measures against persistent perpetrators. In addition, it encouraged the exchange of information between the Special Representative and sanctions committees as well as their groups of experts.
At the debate the Special Representative introduced the joint initiative “Children, Not Soldiers” by her office and UNICEF, aimed at ending and preventing recruitment and use of children by government armed forces in conflicts by 2016. The campaign will be launched on 6 March. Eight situations are listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s last annual report for recruitment and use of children by government forces. Afghanistan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia and South Sudan have signed action plans to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by their security forces. Sudan is in active dialogue with the UN over an action plan, while Yemen has made a commitment to end recruitment and use of children.
Since the last debate, the Working Group has adopted conclusions on the situation of children and armed conflict in Myanmar (S/AC.51/2013/2), Yemen (S/AC.51/2013/3) and the Philippines (S/AC.51/2014/1). (Conclusions on children and armed conflict affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army were adopted on 19 April 2013. Overall, the gap between reports published and conclusions adopted in 2013 was an average of 6.3 months, with actual negotiation time being an average of three months.)
The Secretary-General’s first report on the situation of children and armed conflict in Syria was published on 27 January and introduced to the Working Group on 14 February by the Special Representative (S/2014/31). The report covers the period from 1 March 2011 to 15 November 2013 and provides information on grave violations against children committed by all parties to the conflict in Syria. The Working Group will begin discussing this report after the open debate.
The Working Group visited Myanmar from 30 November to 4 December 2013. The delegation was led by Luxembourg and included Australia, Azerbaijan, France, Guatemala, Russia, the UK and the US. The main aim of the visit was to review progress in implementing the 27 June 2012 action plan to prevent the recruitment of children in the Myanmar Armed Forces and to assess the challenges and issues for monitoring and reporting as well as the reintegration of children. While acknowledging that some progress had been made, the Working Group delegation stressed that further progress was needed for full compliance with the action plan and for increased access for monitoring and reporting and for proactive identification, registration and discharge of children.
While the children and armed conflict agenda has been successful in developing a coherent architecture with a reliable monitoring and reporting mechanism, an overarching issue for the Council is how to move to greater follow-up and accountability particularly in relation to persistent perpetrators.
Another significant issue is how to ensure that child protection concerns are given due weight in UN peacekeeping and political missions. While country-specific decisions in 2013 continued to include child protection language, particularly when setting up or renewing UN mission mandates, there are still gaps in implementation.
Also an issue is ensuring that the Council receives regular feedback on child protection issues in country-specific situations.
Persistent perpetrators and how to put pressure on these groups continues to be an issue. A related issue is how to make the best use of tools, such as existing sanctions committees. For example, an effort could be made to include attacks on schools and hospitals as designation criteria for the 1988 Afghanistan Sanctions Committee since the Taliban have been listed in the Secretary-General’s annexes for such attacks.
Continuing issues for the Working Group include receiving relevant, current information that can be used as the basis for its conclusions, lengthy negotiations due to lack of consensus and little response to its recommendations.
The most likely option for the Council is to adopt a resolution at the open debate in which the Council might commit to focusing on practical measures that could improve the implementation of action plans, including capacity building at both the national and UN level. Another issue that could be given attention is attacks on schools and hospitals—with particular attention paid to the use of schools for military purposes—as there have been no action plans on this violation.
Options that would allow the Council to be better informed on child protection issues and could be incorporated into a resolution include:
- requesting the Secretary-General to include a separate section on the implementation of Working Group recommendations in his country-specific reports on children and armed conflict;
- requesting the Special Representative to brief the Council on situations on the agenda that have a children and armed conflict dimension;
- having the Working Group chair brief the Council when Working Group conclusions are adopted on a country-specific report on children and armed conflict or following a field visit by the Working Group;
- having the Secretary-General, Special Envoys, Special Representatives, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Department of Political Affairs update the Security Council on issues relevant to children and armed conflict during their regular briefings; and
- ensuring that commissions of inquiry include a children and armed conflict dimension.
Options for the Working Group include:
- requesting feedback from parties on requests in conclusions in order to track the impact of the tools being used (in this regard, inviting representatives from the states being considered in a Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict to meet with the Working Group might be useful);
- discussing alternatives to conclusions as a means of conveying the Working Group’s messages to the parties on the Secretary-General’s annexes;
- brainstorming new tools to put pressure on the parties, particularly persistent perpetrators;
- holding Arria formula meetings with relevant parties, including Child Protection Advisors (CPAs) and NGOs involved in child protection, in order to obtain current information; and
- instituting more regular contact with CPAs in UN missions for current situations being considered by the Working Group.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Over the last two years, the composition of the Council has not been particularly conducive to moving the children and armed conflict agenda forward. While several members that had strong views on limiting the scope of this agenda are no longer on the Council, there are still some who are wary of any major changes at the thematic level. China and Russia continue to stress the importance of national sovereignty and are reluctant to consider stronger measures such as sanctions, thus limiting the options for putting pressure on persistent perpetrators. However, together with France and the UK who have been supportive of the issue over the years, a significant number of elected members this year—in particular Argentina, Australia, Jordan, Lithuania and Luxembourg—have an active interest in this issue. With the current mix in the Council there may be an opportunity for new momentum on this issue.
UN Documents on Children and Armed Conflict
|Security Council Resolution|
|19 September 2012 S/RES/2068||Expressed deep concern about perpetrators who persisted in committing violations against children and reiterated its readiness to adopt targeted and graduated measures against them. The Council also called on the Working Group to consider, within the year, a broad range of options for increasing pressure on these persistent perpetrators and asked the Special Representative to brief on the delisting process. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 11 in favour, none against and four abstentions (Azerbaijan, China, Pakistan and Russia).|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|17 June 2013 S/PRST/2013/8||This presidential statement expressed strong concern over the high number of repeat offenders that openly disregard Council resolutions and stressed the Council’s commitment to effectively deal with persistent perpetrators as well as its readiness to adopt targeted measures against them.|
|15 May 2013 S/2013/245||This was the report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, covering the period of January-December 2012.|