Security Council Resolution on Children and Armed Conflict

About the author(s):

Katharine Fortin is an Associate Professor at Utrecht University where she teaches IHL and IHRL. Before joining Utrecht University, she worked at the ICTY, ICC and Norton Rose Fulbright. She is the author of The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2017) which won the 2018 Lieber Prize. She has written widely about the framework of law that applies to armed groups in non-international armed conflicts and is one of the editors of the Armed Groups and International Law blog.

Leila Zerrougui, the newly appointed Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict

Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council adopted  a resolution expressing deep concern that certain perpetrators persist in committing violations and calling on Member States to bring them to justice through national justice systems, and where applicable, international justice mechanisms. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 11 in favour and four abstentions (Azerbaijan, China, Pakistan and Russia).

The resolution called upon the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict to consider, 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’. The post below highlights a few key points from the debate but for a full account of the proceedings and the text of the resolution, see here.

New Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

The resolution from the Security Council welcomed the appointment of the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui.

Ms Zerrougui, who took up her position earlier this month, replaced Radhika Coomaraswamy as Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. Before taking up the position, Ms Zerrougui served for four years as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Deputy Head of the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO). A legal expert in human rights and the administration of justice, Ms Zerrougui has also been a member of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention from 2001 until 2008 and several other working groups and committees under the Commission on Human Rights.

Report on children and armed conflict

Yesterday’s Security Council debate was based on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Children and Armed Conflict which was released in June (see here). This annual report provides information on grave violations committed against children in the context of armed conflicts.

In its annex, the report lists those parties that engage in recurrent attacks on schools and/ or hospitals, or in recurrent attacks or threats of attack against protected persons in relation to schools and/ or hospitals, in addition to parties that engage in the recruitment and use of children, sexual violence against children and the killing and maiming of children in contravention of international law.

In part II of the report (p33-42), the Secretary-General describes the progress made by parties to armed conflict to halt the recruitment and use of children, sexual violence against children and the killing and maiming of children as well as the release of children associated with armed forces and groups.

In particular, this section of the report describes steps which have been taken under the monitoring and reporting mechanism (the MRM) which was established by Security Council resolution 1612 (2005). The MRM process is designed to provide a way for governments and armed groups which have been listed in the annex of the Secretary-General’s report with a means to be de-listed. This is done by means of dialogue with the listed parties and the drawing-up of action plans for the release of children and the end of their recruitment.

Part II of the report (referenced above), provides details of the dialogues and action plans which  have been entered into, in the last year.

Security Council Debate

Several key points from the debate to note are as follows:-

The debate drew over 60 speakers and included briefings by The Special Representative for Children in armed Conflict, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF and David Tolbert, President of the International Centre for Transitional Justice.

The Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict noted that action plans had been generally accepted by listed States and non-State parties as a unique tool which could successfully lead to delisting. She noted that in 2011, two parties, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist in Nepal and the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal in Sri Lanka had been de-listed.

She expressed concern however about the fact that of 52 parties listed, 32 persistent perpetrators had been listed for 5 years. She also mentioned a number of proposals which were under consideration to address these persistent perpetrators, which included tailored political engagement of the council, strengthened accountability measures and targeted measures.

Several States – Pakistan, Syria and Iraq – refuted the accuracy of the information in the Secretary-General’s report. Iraq expressed its view that international humanitarian law did not currently apply to the country because there were no more than sporadic acts of violence and terrorist attacks. Syria accused the Secretary-General’s report of being unsubstantiated and said that it politicised the humanitarian issue of safeguarding children. He said that the report ignored the many actions committed by armed terrorist groups, in violation of the rights of the child. The delegate from Pakistan said that the section of the report dealing with Pakistan was ‘misleading’ and expressed concern that recent reports on children and armed conflict had ventured outside the Secretary-General’s current mandate on the issue.

Switzerland reminded the delegates that there may be some instances in which the United Nations would not be able to conclude an action plan with non-State actors. He cited an instance in which the Government of Myanmar had prevented the negotiation of an action plan between the UN and two non-state actors, after which Geneva Call had been able to facilitate the signing of a commitment by the same actors. He said that such alternative initiatives must be encouraged in difficult situations and invited all parties to encourage complementary activities by States, international organizations and civil society for the benefit of child victims on the ground (see here for an article examining the relationship between the work of Geneva Call and the MRM)..

Further Reading:-

For further reading on the MRM process see:-

Getting it Done and Doing it Right, A Global Study on the United Nations Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on Children and Armed Conflict, Watchlist on Children and armed Conflict, 2008

Save the Children Policy Brief: the UN Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on Children’s Rights in Armed Conflict

Engaging Armed Non-State Actors to Protect Children from the Effects of Armed Conflict: When the Stick doesn’t Cut the Mustard, Jonathan Somer (Geneva Call), Journal of Human Rights Practice, March 2012

See also blog post here on Geneva Call’s Annual Report 2011

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