Children and Armed Conflict
Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to hold an open debate on children and armed conflict in August. The debate will focus on the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, which was circulated at the end of July.
The open debate will be chaired by Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba will present the Secretary-General’s annual report. Other speakers are likely to include the Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore; Mariatu Kamara, UNICEF Canada’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict; and Majok Peter Awan, a former child soldier and currently a UN child protection officer.
Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General’s annual reports focus on six grave violations against children: recruitment and use; killing and maiming; abductions; rape and other forms of sexual violence; attacks on schools and hospitals; and the denial of humanitarian access. In 2018, more than 24,000 violations were documented and verified by the UN in 20 country situations as compared to 21,000 in 2017. The number of cases of killing and maiming of children verified by the monitoring and reporting mechanism was 12,038, the highest recorded since that mechanism was established by resolution 1612 in 2005. Although resolution 1882 adopted by the Council in 2009 added killing and maiming as a trigger for inclusion in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report, the increasingly complex nature of conflict has made it more difficult to protect children in such situations. In 2018, there was also a significant increase in attacks on schools and hospitals. More positively, the report documented the release and reintegration of 13,600 children.
The annual reports also contain annexes listing parties that have committed grave violations against children (one including parties active in conflict situations on the Council’s agenda, the other one in situations that are not on the list of issues the Council is seized of). In the report for 2017, the list was divided into two sections (A and B)— parties that have not enacted measures and those that have, respectively. The report for 2018 did not add any new listings. Two parties—the Mai-Mai Katanga in the DRC and the White Army in South Sudan—were delisted as they no longer exist. Three parties were moved to Section B as a result of having put in place measures: the Mouvement Patriotique pour la Centrafrique in the CAR, the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces, and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Syria. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement moved to Section A owing to its lack of action in implementing the action plan.
On 20 June, the Council adopted resolution 2475 on the situation of persons with disabilities in armed conflict. The resolution followed the 3 December 2018 Arria-formula meeting on this issue. It stressed the specific needs of children with disabilities in armed conflict, encouraging member states to ensure that they have equal access to basic services and humanitarian assistance.
On 15 April, Special Representative Gamba briefed the Council on the effect of the war in Yemen on children and on her concerns, which included lack of humanitarian access and high levels of killing and maiming. On 22 May, she briefed Council members on her visit to the Central African Republic under “any other business”.
On 5 July, the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC), part of the ex-Séléka coalition and a party to the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic, signed an action plan with the UN to end and prevent grave violations against children. On 1 July, the Syrian Democratic Forces signed an action plan with the UN to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children under the age of 18. In March, the UN signed a memorandum of understanding with the Yemen government to strengthen the protection of children affected by the armed conflict in Yemen.
The Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict together with UNICEF launched the Global Coalition for the Reintegration of Child Soldiers in September 2018 to encourage greater support for child reintegration programmes. They organised two consultations to exchange experiences on reintegration programming on 11-12 June and on 22 July. Another campaign launched by the Office of the Special Representative is “ACT to Protect Children Affected by Conflict”. Its aim is to focus global attention and efforts on ending the six grave violations against children as well as preventing future violations by strengthening collaboration, partnership and synergies among local, regional and international actors.
On 11 July, the ICC convicted Bosco Ntaganda of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between 2002 and 2003. Ntaganda, a commander of the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC) and its military wing, the Patriotic Force for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC), was convicted of 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity, including conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into an armed group and using them to participate actively in hostilities.
Developments in the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict
Belgium took over from Sweden as the chair of the Working Group in January. By the end of July, the group had met 18 times in formal and informal meetings. It adopted its conclusions on the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Syria on 10 July. The report was introduced on 14 January, but differences among Council members, including over how to refer to certain parties and chemical weapons, led to protracted bilateral negotiations. On 30 July the Working Group adopted its conclusions which cover the Secretary-General’s fourth and fifth reports on children and armed conflict in Myanmar. Following the release of the Secretary-General’s fourth report on Myanmar in December 2017, the Working Group asked for an update as the fourth report did not cover the violence in Rakhine that had started in August 2017. The fifth report was released on 16 November 2018. The Working Group is expected to start negotiations on the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Yemen in early August.
The Working Group held video teleconferences (VTCs) with the UN country teams in Mali in February and the DRC in May ahead of the mandate renewals of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali and Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC. A VTC update from the country task force on monitoring and reporting team in Nigeria was expected on 31 July. These VTCs provide an opportunity for the Working Group to monitor progress made on protection of children issues and to obtain information that can be used in integrating these issues into mandate renewal resolutions.
The Working Group held a joint meeting on 29 July with the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, with briefings by Gamba and Special Representative on Sexual Violence Pramila Patten.
Key Issues and Options
An overarching issue is how to prevent violations against children, given the evolving nature of conflict and its impact on children.
Resolution 2427 adopted in July 2018 connected the children and armed conflict agenda to the issues of conflict prevention and sustaining peace. Among other points, it highlighted integration of children in peace processes and reintegration of children associated with armed forces and armed groups. An issue for the Council is assessing efforts to address these matters. The Council could use the regular briefings on UN peace missions to obtain a better understanding of concrete steps being taken and what sort of Council action would be useful.
A continuing issue is maintaining the core work of the children and armed conflict agenda, such as holding the perpetrators of violations against children accountable and implementing action plans, while addressing emerging issues, such as children associated with violent extremism or children born out of sexual violence.
A further issue is deepening the integration of children and armed conflict issues in the Council’s work on country-specific situations. One option would be more situation-specific meetings focused on children and armed conflict. In July 2018, Sweden held a meeting on the humanitarian needs of children and armed conflict in Syria, and in March Special Representative Gamba briefed at a meeting on Yemen. More systematically including a briefing on children in relevant country-specific meetings is an option. Keeping the Council regularly updated on developments in the children and armed conflict agenda through more regular briefings by the Special Representative following a field visit or by the chair of the Working Group following the adoption of conclusions could also be useful.
In the last few years issues have arisen around the accuracy, impartiality and credibility of the list of perpetrators in the annexes of the report. Greater transparency about the listing and delisting criteria may help address these concerns.
A continuing issue is the need for adequate resources for child protection personnel, particularly in light of peacekeeping budget cuts. A connected issue is the shrinking of humanitarian space in some conflicts and how it affects children. Further discussion of these issues within the Working Group could stimulate fresh ideas for addressing them.
Council and Wider Dynamics
There is overall strong continuing support of the children and armed conflict agenda among Council members. However, the difficult dynamics in the Council over issues such as Syria and Myanmar have filtered down to the subsidiary body level, making it hard to get quick consensus on conclusions in some situations. This has led to a slower pace in adopting conclusions in the first half of 2019, but members are still hopeful that they will be able to make up for this by the end of the year.
Members of the Working Group appear to be generally cooperative and supportive of Belgium’s efforts to make the negotiations on the Syria and Myanmar conclusions inclusive and open. A number of Council members, including the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Kuwait and the UK, are actively involved in the Working Group and, together with Belgium, have promoted the integration of children and armed conflict language in country-specific situations on the Council.
UN Documents on Children and Armed Conflict
|Security Council Resolutions|
|9 July 2018S/RES/2427||This was a resolution, unanimously adopted, that provided a framework for mainstreaming protection, rights, well-being and empowerment of children throughout the conflict cycle, as well as in sustaining peace efforts.|
|20 June 2019S/2019/509||This was the annual report on children and armed conflict.|
|3 June 2019S/2019/453||This was the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Yemen.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|9 July 2018S/PV.8305||This was the high-level open debate on children and armed conflict with the theme “Protecting Children Today Prevents Conflict Tomorrow”, chaired by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.|
|31 July 2019|
|19 July 2019S/AC.51/2019/1||These were the conclusions on Syria adopted by the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict.|