On 17 June 2013, the Security Council held its annual debate on children and armed conflict (S/PV.6980). Three United Nations officials and one NGO representative briefed the Council, after which all 15 Council members and 11 non-Council delegations participated in the debate.
Due to the Council’s full schedule, the debate followed a “public” rather than “open” format. This limited participation of non-Council members in the debate, and it gave a disproportionate role in the debate to those states mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report.
The debate was generally positive and manifested broad support within the Council for strengthening implementation of the children and armed conflict agenda. Participants expressed support in particular for justice and accountability, action plan conclusion and implementation, sanctions, engaging non-state armed groups, mainstreaming children and armed conflict in UN missions and peace processes, and rehabilitation or reintegration of former child soldiers. These aspects of implementation were all reflected positively in a Presidential Statement (S/PRST/2013/8) which was adopted by consensus, a positive development following the divided vote in 2012 over resolution 2068.
While action plans were referred to as the “cornerstone” of the agenda, several delegations emphasized that they should be used alongside a range of complementary tools in a comprehensive approach to prevent and end violations. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC) announced a new campaign to end the recruitment and use of children by all State armed forces by 2016 which was welcomed. However, few details were provided on this campaign. Many delegations called on the SRSG-CAAC and the UN to enhance efforts to engage non-state actors.
Concern was expressed during the debate and in the Presidential Statement about the need to address in particular persistent perpetrators of grave violations against children. The Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict called for the Secretary-General to issue a report specifically addressing perpetrators and how to hold them accountable.
Concern was also expressed regarding emerging challenges of child protection such as the military use of schools, the use of children as suicide bombers and drones. Current situations attracting significant attention included Syria, Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic.
Two principal lessons can be drawn from the 2013 debate for the future. First, to restore the important role of the debate in signaling and attracting support for the UN’s children and armed conflict agenda, future debates should return to the open format. Second, there is a need for a clear vision and strategy setting out how the different complementary tools can best be used to prevent and to end violations. The announcement of the SRSG-CAC’s campaign to end recruitment and use by State armed forces by 2016 is a welcome development. More details should be provided on this campaign, and similar initiatives should be developed with respect to non-state armed groups.