Joint Meeting of the Yemen 2140 Sanctions Committee and the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict
Tomorrow afternoon (18 September), the Yemen 2140 Sanctions Committee and the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict will hold joint informal consultations on the conflict in Yemen. Ambassadors Raimonda Murmokaite (Lithuania), the chair of the 2140 Sanctions Committee, and Ramlan Bin Ibrahim (Malaysia), who chairs the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, will co-chair the session. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, will brief. The purpose of the meeting is to increase Council members’ focus on the impact of the Yemen conflict on children, and to provide an opportunity for the two subsidiary bodies to exchange information. A joint press statement by the two subsidiary bodies is a possible outcome.
While the Council has paid close attention to the situation in Yemen this year, violations against children have not been a key consideration. Four groups (the Houthis, Al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula, the government forces and the pro-government militias) have been listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report since 2011. The government of Yemen signed an action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the armed forces in May 2014. However, the implementation of the Action Plan has stalled since August with the deterioration in the political and security situation. Instead there are indications that the recruitment and use of children has increased this year. The Working Group last focused on Yemen when it adopted conclusions on the first Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in Yemen in December 2013, but the situation in Yemen has changed drastically since then.
Zerrougui is expected to highlight the increased violations against children in Yemen, particularly since the conflict escalated in late March. Between 1 April and 30 June, according to the UN Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism set up to monitor grave violations against children in Yemen, at least 402 children have been killed, and more than 606 have been injured. In a press statement on 24 August, the Special Representative said that their analysis of information documented by the UN showed a more than tripling in the number of children killed and injured from 1 April to 30 June compared to the first quarter of 2015 and that the majority of documented child casualties (73%) were attributed to airstrikes. She is expected to stress the shocking rise in violations during the joint meeting. A key focus of Zerrougui’s briefing is likely to be the impact of the conflict on children’s access to education and the increased number of attacks on schools and education personnel. OCHA’s recent humanitarian bulletin, dated 14 September, noted that one in four schools in Yemen (3,584), have shut down since late March, and 860 schools are damaged or hosting IDPs. The office of the Special Representative has estimated that 3,600 schools will not reopen due to insecurity, and that this will interrupt education for about 1.8 million children.
A UNICEF report, Yemen: Childhood Under Threat, highlights the impact of Yemen’s humanitarian crisis on children. It notes that “countless more [children] risk death from malnutrition or otherwise preventable diseases”, which have been exacerbated by the Saudi-led coalition’s restrictions on shipping (also characterized as a “de facto” blockade of Yemen), reducing normal commercial imports. The decline in food and fuel deliveries has led to repeated warnings of famine and has made it difficult to operate hospitals or pump ground water. Council members are likely to be interested in more information on this aspect of the impact of the crisis on children as humanitarian access has been a key issue in Council discussions.
The proposal for the joint meeting came from Lithuania (as chair of the Yemen sanctions committee), based on a recommendation in the 20 February final report of the Yemen Panel of Experts that Committee members be briefed by the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict. The PoE’s final report highlighted the use of child soldiers by the Houthis and other groups, and the damage and use of schools by the Houthis during fighting in the summer of 2014 in north Yemen (S/2015/125). Committee members apparently had agreed to this recommendation. Since the panel’s final report was issued in February, the scale and impact of grave violations against children have dramatically worsened.
This meeting is in line with Lithuania’s intention to have the Committee take up discussion of issues related to the Yemen conflict which have not been fully explored and which faced difficulties within the Council due to political sensitivities. The Committee recently met to review progress made in establishing a UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism to increase deliveries of commercial goods to Yemen, which was followed by an open briefing of member states on the sanctions regime. In August, the Committee considered the mid-term report of the Panel of Experts, and it has plans in October to follow-up with the Panel on its findings on the financial sanctions and international humanitarian law issues.
Malaysia, as chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, was also interested in a joint briefing by the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, as it would create greater awareness of the work of the Working Group within a relevant subsidiary body. There had also been interest for some time in having Zerrougui brief the Working Group.
A joint briefing is also in line with the efforts of some members of the Council who have been active in trying to mainstream violations against children in the Council’s country- specific work. On Yemen this has not always been easy. Malaysia has highlighted the impact of the conflict on children during negotiations on Council outcomes but it has at times found it difficult to get agreement on language on children and armed conflict in Council products. On a number of occasions its proposals were rebuffed, due to perceived sensitivities of Jordan and Gulf Cooperation Council members. For example, although during negotiations on resolution 2216 in April, Malaysia’s proposal to demand that the Houthis end recruitment and use of child soldiers was incorporated in the final text, its proposal to include language on the killing and maiming of children and attacks against schools and hospitals was not.
While this is the first time the 2140 Committee is holding a joint meeting with a working group, it held a joint meeting with the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee and the Counter-Terrorism Committee on 3 July 2014. The session included the participation of the Secretary-General’s former Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, and briefings by the Yemen Panel of Experts, the Al-Qaida Committee’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team and the Counter-Terrorism Committee’s Executive Directorate (SC/11463).
Malaysia and Lithuania are working on a press statement on the joint meeting, which is expected to highlight the main points discussed. No immediate follow-up action or new designations are expected. While the Office of the Special Representative has in the past provided information to sanctions committees which have led to violations against children being added as designation criteria in listing individuals, at this point there is not enough verified information on violations against children committed by specific individuals to allow for such information sharing.