September 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 August 2014
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THEMATIC ISSUES

Children and Armed Conflict

Expected Council Action

In September the Council will hold an open debate to discuss the latest report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (S/2014/339). Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF Yoka Bradt and a representative from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations are expected to speak. Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Jean Asselborn of Luxembourg will be attending. In addition, actor Forest Whitaker, who has supported the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, is expected to participate. (The campaign aims to eliminate child recruitment by government security forces by 2016.) At press time no outcome was expected. 

Key Recent Developments

The 13th Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict covers global trends, including the impact on children of the use of explosives, air strikes and terror tactics on civilian populations. It also highlights the worsening situation in a number of countries, including the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, Syria, and northern Nigeria, and provides updates on the implementation of relevant Council resolutions. Overall the report covers 23 situations and in its annexes lists 59 parties for grave violations against children, including 51 armed groups and eight armed forces in 15 country situations. Chad was de-listed from the annexes while Nigeria was introduced as a situation of concern due to systematic attacks on schools and the killing and maiming of children by Boko Haram.

On 7 March the Council held an open debate on children and armed conflict and adopted resolution 2143 (S/PV.7129). A key focus of this resolution was the need to respect and protect schools from attacks and use by armed forces or groups. It also stressed the importance of mainstreaming child protection issues when undertaking security sector reform, including through age-assessment mechanisms to prevent underage recruitment and establishment of child-protection units in national security forces. The resolution also highlighted the role of child-protection advisers in mainstreaming child protection. In addition, it focused on the role of regional organisations in child protection and the need to incorporate child-protection provisions in peace agreements. Many of these themes are expected to be highlighted during the debate.

The Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict has had six formal meetings in 2014. It has adopted conclusions on the situation in the Philippines (19 February) and Mali (7 July); received briefings from the South Sudan Country Task Force (by video teleconference), the Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, Smail Chergui, and ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. During these meetings, Zerrougui presented the reports on the situation of children and armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Syria and also briefed on her visits to South Sudan and Yemen as well as on the conditions for children in Iraq. The Working Group is currently negotiating conclusions on the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Syria and is about to start negotiations on the conclusions to Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in the DRC.

There was some progress in getting parties to commit to action plans. Yemen signed an action plan to end the recruitment and use of children in the armed forces on 14 May, leaving Sudan as the last of the eight countries with government forces on the Secretary-General’s annexes that have yet to sign an action plan to stop recruitment of children. Both Afghanistan and South Sudan reconfirmed their commitment to action plans to end the recruitment of children, with Afghanistan on 1 August endorsing a road map towards compliance.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is how best to address the issue of children and armed conflict in new and rapidly changing conflicts that involve children, such as Gaza and Iraq. The current process of listing parties followed by the production of Secretary-General’s reports and consideration by the Working Group generally means it takes several years before recommendations are made.

A related issue is being able to quickly obtain credible information on the situation of children in a new conflict where there is no established monitoring and reporting mechanism.

The phenomenon of attacks on schools and hospitals gained greater visibility following the adoption of resolution 2143. An issue for the Council is how this aspect of the children and armed conflict agenda can be developed further and how parties can be encouraged to sign action plans to stop using schools and hospitals for military purposes.

While country-specific decisions have increasingly included child-protection language, particularly when setting up or renewing UN mission mandates, a greater focus on implementation continues to be an issue.

Ongoing issues include persistent perpetrators, how to deal with non-state actors, sanctions and accountability.

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.

Options

An outcome is not a likely option, as most members do not believe that there is much to be added at this point to resolution 2143, which was adopted less than five months ago. 

The most likely option is for member states to use the opportunity to further consider the role of the Council in relation to the children and armed conflict agenda. The ongoing crises in which children are severely victimised, such as the CAR, Gaza, Iraq or South Sudan, are likely to be brought up in the debate. Topics that could be covered include:

  • responding to situations where children’s rights are clearly being violated, including regular briefings from the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and press releases from the Working Group;
  • addressing accountability and cooperation with justice mechanisms, such as the ICC;
  • exploring how child protection should be taken into consideration during mediation;
  • not neglecting non-state actors and armed groups, as well as violations other than recruitment, now that there is a focus on government forces and recruitment due to the “Children, Not Soldiers” initiative;
  • assessing the impact of the first several months since the launch of the “Children, Not Soldiers” initiative;
  • ways of improving the working methods of the Working Group so that conclusions can be adopted more speedily, including shorter, more focused conclusions and more precise schedules for the reports to be considered by the Working Group; and
  • considering ways of enhancing cooperation and building stronger partnerships with regional organisations.
Council Dynamics

After several years of difficult dynamics on this issue, the current mix in the Council allowed for more cooperative negotiations on resolution 2143 and the two conclusions adopted to date in 2014. However, Working Group negotiations on conclusions on the situation of children in Syria have been more complicated, reflecting the larger Council dynamics on Syria.

While a significant number of Council members are supportive of or at least neutral to the issue of children and armed conflict, most are not looking to expand its scope in any significant way. In addition, many members, even those supportive of the issue, have a number of red lines that do not easily allow for strong recommendations from the Working Group. As in the recent past, new ideas are not readily accepted, making it difficult to even issue press statements or share information with bodies such as the ICC.

Luxembourg is the lead on children and armed conflict.

UN Documents on Children and Armed Conflict

Security Council Resolutions
7 March 2014 S/RES/2143 This was a resolution on children and armed conflict.
Secretary-General’s Reports
7 March 2014 S/2014/339 This was on children and armed conflict, covering the period 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2013.
Security Council Meeting Records
7 March 2014 S/PV.7129 This was the most recent debate on children and armed conflict.

 

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