On October 14, 2015, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC), Ms. Leila Zerrougui, presented her annual report to the UN General Assembly during the Third Committee meeting concerning Rights of the Child. Following an opening statement about the status of children in armed conflict around the world by the SRSG-CAAC, Member States were given the opportunity to engage in an interactive dialogue. Delegates raised their countries’ priorities during interventions and responded with questions asking what else could be done regarding child protection in the context of armed conflict.
In her presentation to the General Assembly, the SRSG-CAAC highlighted multiple country situations where ongoing conflict has continued or worsened significantly over the reporting period (July 2014-August 2015), and an increasing trend in incidents of mass child abductions of children, which are often connected to other grave violations, such as child recruitment and sexual violence. She stressed the prevalence of groups committing extreme violence in these situations, and deemed education to be the key factor in reducing the risk of radicalization of children and youth. More specifically, in her presentation and report, the SRSG-CAAC paid special attention to the issue of conflict-driven attacks on education, urging Member States to protect and ensure children’s fundamental right to education.
Given the rise in attacks and military use of schools, the SRSG-CAAC urged Member States to join her in endorsing the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. The Guidelines call upon parties to armed conflict to avoid using educational buildings or making them targets of attack. In response to the SRSG-CAAC’s opening statement, representatives also stressed their concern over attacks on education. The Governments of Norway and Switzerland specifically urged fellow Member States to endorse the Guidelines, offering them as a solid basis for preventing the use of schools by national security forces and armed groups.
The SRSG-CAAC’s statement and report also discussed other emerging trends concerning the protection of children. The unlawful arrest and detention of children for their association with armed groups has become a worrisome issue for the SRSG-CAAC. She stressed accountability as being critical for preventing future violations, as well as peace negotiations as being an integral vehicle for creating safeguards for the prevention of further recruitment of children.
Currently, Member States are negotiating a resolution to come from the 70th UN General Assembly under the item “Promotion and protection of the rights of children”, focused on the theme of the right to education (pending adoption in late 2015).