Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict: Myanmar Visit
Members of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, led by its chair, Ambassador Sylvie Lucas (Luxembourg), will be visiting Myanmar from 1 – 4 December. The delegation is expected to convey key messages from their conclusions on the Secretary-General’s report on the situation of children and armed conflict in Myanmar, which the Working Group adopted on 16 August (S/AC.51/2013/2). Members are also interested in getting a better understanding of progress on the action plan and the peace process in Myanmar.
Field missions are a relatively new “tool” for the Working Group. There have been two visits so far – to Nepal in November 2010 and to Afghanistan in June 2011. A visiting mission to Myanmar was considered for the second half of 2012 but it did not take place. The delegation to Myanmar is made up of Working Group representatives from Australia, Azerbaijan, France, Guatemala, Luxembourg, the UK and the US from New York, while Russia will be represented by an official from their embassy in Yangon. They will be accompanied by a member of the Office of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict. (Unlike Security Council visiting missions, the cost of Working Group field missions are borne by the member states participating, which has made it difficult for some members to join the mission. However, this visit has more members going from New York than the first two missions.)
The delegation will meet with the UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting, representatives from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and civil society while in Yangon. They will also have the opportunity to visit a recruitment unit and meet former child soldiers. In Naypyidaw members will meet officials from key ministries involved in preventing child recruitment, including the Ministries of Defence, Labour, Social Affairs and National Race Affairs and International Peacemaking. There is also a possible meeting with the Vice-President of Myanmar, Nyan Tun.
In preparation for the visit, on 20 November the delegation had a pre-mission briefing from the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, the Senior Adviser on Child Protection with UNICEF, Judy Grayson, the ILO Special Representative to the UN and Director of the ILO Office, Telma Viale and Programme Officer with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Alec Wargo. In addition, Charu Lata Hogg, of the NGO Child Soldiers International, participated over the phone. (Child Soldiers International published a report in January 2013, Chance for Change, on ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Myanmar.)
Myanmar signed an action plan to end the recruitment and use of children in its armed forces, Tatmadaw, in June 2012. Members of the Working Group are expected to convey the need to accelerate the implementation of the action plan and are likely to be interested in more details of any progress made since the action plan was signed, including how many children have been discharged. They might also discuss what more needs to be done before the Tatmadaw can be removed from the Secretary-General’s list of parties that have committed violations against children.
Another issue that is likely to be raised during discussions is the need for better access for the Country Task Force to military units to allow for monitoring of the implementation of the action plan. It seems that there have sometimes been difficulties getting access to battalions and to the Border Guard Forces.
In its meetings with government officials, the delegation is also likely to focus on the need to also have the seven listed non-state armed groups move towards signing action plans to end recruitment of children in Myanmar. Members may also highlight the importance of including protection as well as the release and reintegration of children in any ceasefire and peace talks agreements.
Another recommendation following up from the conclusions of the Working Group that may be brought up is the need for Myanmar to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
Luxembourg, as chair of the Working Group, will brief the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict on 6 December on the visit to Myanmar. At press time it was unclear if there would also be a briefing to the Security Council on the trip.