What's In Blue

Posted Mon 25 Nov 2019

Arria-formula Meeting on Reintegration of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups

Tomorrow (26 November), Security Council members will hold an Arria-formula meeting on how to better support children once they have been separated from armed forces and armed groups. In this regard, the meeting will focus on how bridging the “humanitarian-development-peace” (HDP) nexus can lead to more sustainable and successful reintegration of children associated with armed forces and armed groups. It will also focus on how incorporating children’s views can lead to more effective strategies for reintegration and post-conflict recovery.

The meeting is co-hosted by Belgium, Peru, Poland and the UK. Following introductory remarks by Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), who chairs the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, the following panelists will speak:   Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba, Director of UNICEF’s Emergency Programmes Manuel Fontaine, and Henk-Jan Brinkman, Chief of the Peacebuilding Strategy and Partnerships Branch in the Peacebuilding Support Office. Participants in the interactive session are Siobhan O’Neil, Project Director of the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research, and Yenny Londoño from the Group of Young Consultants on Childhood, Adolescence and Armed Conflict in Colombia. Rocco Blume, the Head of Policy and Advocacy for War Child, UK, will sum up the meeting.

The concept note highlights that the formal release of children associated with armed groups and armed forces is only the first step for their sustainable reintegration into civilian life, and stresses the importance of sustained education and healthcare services in that process. Speakers may raise the point that although the reintegration and healing process required for a former child combatant needs to be stable and long-term, funds and programmes are often short-term. This often leaves children vulnerable to social stigmatisation and re-recruitment.

The issue of reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups has been acknowledged by the Council in resolutions on children and armed conflict over the years, most often in the context of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR).  The main focus of the children and armed conflict agenda has been how to end violations against children. In the last few years, however, there has been an increasing focus on the needs of children following their release. Resolution 2427 adopted on 9 July 2018 recognises the importance of providing “sustainable, timely and appropriate reintegration and rehabilitation assistance to children affected by armed conflict”. It also highlights that reintegration should be gender- and age-sensitive and provide children with access to health care, psychosocial support and education.

Similarly, the Paris Principles and the Paris Commitments—guidelines on children associated with armed forces and armed groups adopted in 2007—stress the need for adequate and early funding to allow for children’s reintegration into civilian life. It also stipulates that reintegration programming is needed for at least three years. Many programmes today are much shorter than that.

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. The Coalition is composed of child protection experts from the UN, academia, civil society, the World Bank, and member states. Among its aims are addressing gaps in programming and funding and broadening the concept of reintegration to include the peacebuilding, sustaining peace, development and prevention agendas. An Expert Advisory Group, a Steering Committee and a Group of Friends were set up to advise the Global Coalition. The Special Representative may note that the Coalition is planning to release three papers in January 2020 on the gaps and needs of reintegration programmes, how to reframe reintegration, and the funding and financing modalities, respectively.  She is expected to focus her remarks on the HDP nexus and its effect on children. She may stress the need for more resources in order to address this issue.

The concept note highlights that child reintegration, which is carried out by UNICEF and other child protection actors, is primarily seen as belonging in the arena of humanitarian assistance, often resulting in short-term programmes. It suggests that, instead, reintegration needs to be situated in the sectors of peacebuilding, development and stabilisation to allow for longer-term programmes that could break the cycles of violence and reduce risks of re-recruitment. Participants may highlight that reframing the issue in this way could also help to promote greater coordination among the peace and security, development and humanitarian pillars of the UN. In addition, the Arria-formula meeting is expected to explore how children and youth formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups can be included more in designing and implementing reintegration programmes.

These issues are highlighted in Resolution 2427, which calls on member states and UN entities, including the Peacebuilding Commission, to “ensure that the views of children are taken into account in programming activities throughout the conflict cycle, and to ensure that the protection, rights, well-being and empowerment of children affected by armed conflict are fully incorporated and prioritised in all post-conflict recovery and reconstruction planning, programs and strategies as well as in efforts on peacebuilding and sustaining peace”.

With this in mind, the Arria-formula meeting hopes to address the following questions:

  1. What are some of the ways the humanitarian-development-peace (HDP) Nexus can be bridged and a short-term humanitarian approach to re-integration can be linked to a longer-term development and peacebuilding approach?
  2. How can children (until 18 years) and youth (18-29 years, according to the definition in resolution 2250 of 2015 on Youth, Peace and Security) formerly associated with armed forces and armed groups be involved in the design and implementation of reintegration programming solutions to conflict-related challenges that impact them directly?
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