Working Group Meeting on Children and Armed Conflict
This afternoon (20 May), the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict will have a formal meeting where it will discuss the issue of persistent perpetrators and the latest report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Myanmar (S/2013/258). It will also receive a briefing from the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, on her recent visit to Chad.
Following this meeting, members of the Working Group will have a closed session which will provide an opportunity for a frank exchange of views on persistent perpetrators as well as the Myanmar report. (In the Secretary-General’s reports on children and armed conflict, persistent perpetrators are defined as parties that have been on the Secretary-General’s two annexes listing parties for child recruitment, violations of sexual violence and killing and maiming as well as attacks on schools and hospitals for more than five years. In the 2012 report, there were 32 persistent perpetrators. In the 2013 report, which is expected to be published in early June, it seems that the number of perpetrators has only decreased slightly, largely because groups have either been merged or organised differently in the lists.)
Resolution 1998, adopted on 12 July 2011, asked the Working Group to “consider within one year, with the support of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, a broad range of options for increasing pressure on persistent perpetrators of violations and abuses committed against children in situations of armed conflict”. This call to consider options for dealing with persistent perpetrators was reiterated the following year in resolution 2068, adopted on 19 September 2012.
Although the Working Group has not had a formal discussion on the issue of persistent perpetrators, there have been several more informal opportunities over the last two years. In June 2012, Jean-Marc de La Sablière, the former Permanent Representative of France to the UN and the first chair of the Working Group, produced a report entitled “Security Council Engagement on the Protection of Children and Armed Conflict: Progress Achieved and the Way Forward” at the request of the Office of the Special Representative. On 9 July 2012, Germany as the then chair of the Working Group organised an Arria formula meeting on persistent perpetrators which used this report as the basis for its discussions.
On 7-8 February 2013, Liechtenstein, the Liechtenstein Institute of Self-Determination at Princeton University and the Watchlist for Children and Armed Conflict held a workshop at Princeton University which focused on approaches to increase pressure on persistent perpetrators. The outcome of this workshop was circulated as a UN document (A/67/794-S/2013/158). At this afternoon’s Working Group meeting, Ambassador Christian Wenaweser (Liechtenstein) will present the recommendations from this workshop. The Special Representative is likely to cover the key issues in dealing with persistent perpetrators and make suggestions for ways of improving this process.
While some Council members appear reluctant to make radical changes to the overall process of dealing with parties on the Secretary-General’s annexes, there may be some who are keen to have a frank discussion on innovations that could lead to a more effective approach to these parties. In preparation for this meeting Luxembourg, as the chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, prepared a concept note with suggested issues to address in relation to persistent perpetrators. A key area of discussion today is likely to be new approaches for enhancing engagement with non-state actors and increasing pressure on persistent perpetrators. Another issue that may be raised is how to ensure that action plans signed by groups on the Secretary-General’s annexes are implemented, thus allowing them to be removed. Another important area that is expected to be covered is the issue of sanctions, including how best to use existing sanctions committees and what to do for situations that do not have a sanctions committee. Accountability through national courts and information-sharing between the Working Group and the International Criminal Court may also be discussed.
Members of the Working Group are likely to be interested in hearing about the Special Representative’s visit to Chad last week to discuss the implementation of the action plan to end the recruitment and use of children in the military, the Armée nationale tchadienne (ANT), which the government signed in 2011. (The ANT is listed as a persistent perpetrator in the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict.) It seems that, in spite of signing an action plan, effective measures to prevent underage recruitment have not been put in place. This is particularly significant as Chad is expected to be a key contributor to the new peacekeeping mission in Mali, which was established by the Council last month in resolution 2100. Council members are likely to want to know if steps are being taken to strengthen recruitment procedures in Chad, as there are concerns that the troops, if not properly screened, would be in violation of the UN policy of 18 years and above for its peacekeeping troops. (It should also be noted that Chad is a candidate, currently running unopposed, for a Council seat in 2014-2015.)
The final item on the agenda of the formal meeting is the introduction of the Secretary-General’s third report on Children and Armed Conflict in Myanmar. The members of the Working Group will then begin to work on its recommendations to this report. (The Working Group’s recommendations are issued as “conclusions”. On 17 April, it adopted its first set of conclusions for 2013 which was on the Secretary-General’s report on the situation of children in armed conflict affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army.)
Although not a direct focus of today’s discussion, the humanitarian crisis in Syria and its devastating impact on children will likely be on the minds of several Council members and may be raised in the discussion. On 18 April, Zerrougui briefed the Council, together with the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura, on the humanitarian situation in Syria. She stressed that the Syrian conflict had impacted more than 3 million children and more than 600,000 children had been counted among the refugees in the subregion. She highlighted that children are reportedly being recruited by the opposition and being used as human shields by the government forces. In addition, attacks on schools and hospitals in Syria mean children are being denied access to education and hospital care. Although during the Special Representative’s visit to Syria in December 2012 the Syrian government and Free Syrian Army agreed to cooperate with the UN to protect children, violations have continued.