Following the introduction of the Secretary-General’s annual reports on children and armed conflict, the Security Council hosts an open debate. United Nations officials, Security Council Members, and other interested Member States and Observers usually have the opportunity to address the Council. Thematic resolutions or Presidential Statements on children and armed conflict frequently are adopted during these debates.
Together with its partners, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict conducts targeted advocacy around the debates, seeking to influence country statements and outcome documents with the goal of ensuring maximum protection of children affected by armed conflict. Watchlist also publishes its analysis of the outcomes of the debates.
On August 2, 2019, the UN Security Council held its open debate on children and armed conflict (CAC) under Poland’s presidency. Poland highlighted the 10-year anniversary of the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1882 (2009), and followed up on prevention efforts, including vis à vis implementation of Resolution 2427 (2018). The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC), Virginia Gamba, presented the Secretary-General’s (SG) 2019 annual report on children and armed conflict. Additionally, the Security Council heard briefings from the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms. Henrietta Fore, and civil society briefers, Ms. Mariatu Kamara and Mr. Majok Peter Awan, who survived violations as children in Sierra Leone and then-southern Sudan, respectively.
On July 9, 2018, the UN Security Council held an Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAC) under the Presidency of Sweden. At the Debate, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict (SRSG-CAAC) presented the Secretary-General’s annual report on CAC pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2225 (2015), covering the period from January 1 to December 31, 2017. Under the theme of “Protecting Children Today Prevents Conflicts Tomorrow,” Sweden used the opportunity of the Open Debate to address how protecting children affected by armed conflict can contribute to conflict prevention and sustainable peace.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2427, and following the adoption, received briefings from the SRSG-CAAC, Ms. Virginia Gamba; Ms. Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); and Ms. Yenny Londoño, a civil society speaker representing a Group of Youth Advisers in Colombia. Ms. Londoño described her experience joining the FARC-EP armed group in Colombia at age 13; her subsequent demobilization, reintegration, and rehabilitation; and her advocacy on behalf of children during the Havana peace talks. Ms. Londoño called on Governments to fulfill their obligations to children, including by guaranteeing their rights and ensuring that children impacted by armed conflicts receive the full reparations to which they are entitled. Ninety-one state delegations, representing approximately 116 countries, delivered statements during the Open Debate, which was overall positive in tone.
On October 31, 2017, the UN Security Council held an Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAC) under the Presidency of France. At the Debate, the Secretary-General (SG) presented his annual report on CAC pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2225 (2015), covering the period from January 1 to December 31, 2016. France used the opportunity of the Debate to encourage more endorsements and follow up to the Paris Principles and Paris Commitments. The Council adopted a Presidential Statement on CAC (S/PRST/2017/21).
On August 2, 2016 the UN Security Council held an Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAC) under the Presidency of Malaysia, Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. Malaysia chose to focus the Debate on the impact of extreme violence and displacement on children, which were also highlighted in the Secretary-General’s annual report on CAC.
At the Open Debate, the Council was addressed by the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, the SRSG-CAAC, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, and the Executive Director of UNICEF, Mr. Anthony Lake. The overall tone of the Debate was mostly positive. Nearly half of the intervening delegations (30 of 69) voiced support for the Council’s CAC agenda and the mandate of the SRSG-CAAC, while reflecting on the agenda’s accomplishments over the last 20 years. The most prominent themes addressed were: 1) need for accurate and credible listing of perpetrators of the six grave violations, free of politics and based on impartial, evidence-based reporting, and use of credible tools such as the UN-led Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism; 2) call for successful implementation of existing UN action plans with armed forces and groups listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual reports on children and armed conflict; 3) calls for maintaining the UN’s specialized capacity to better monitor, report, and respond to child rights violations in the field, including on detention of children for their association with armed forces and armed groups, and attacks on health care; and 4) strengthening child rights protections within UN peacekeeping operations by ensuring greater accountability for, and prevention of, violations by UN peacekeepers.
On June 18, 2015 under the Presidency of Malaysia, the Security Council held its second Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAC) during the calendar year, this time focusing on the issue of abductions of children in situations of armed conflict. The June open debate followed the publication of the 14th Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict. During the Debate, Security Council Members unanimously adopted Resolution 2225 (2015), adding abductions as the fifth “trigger” for inclusion of parties into the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report.
Prior to the Debate, Watchlist released a briefing note on “Expanding the UN’s Children and Armed Conflict Agenda.” In the note, Watchlist highlighted abductions of children in situations of armed conflict and the detention of children allegedly associated with armed forces or groups. The note was published to influence the Resolution by providing specific recommendations on expansion of listing criteria to include abductions.
The first thematic UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAC) in 2015 occurred on March 25, under the Presidency of France, and focused on the theme of children as victims of non-state armed actors (ANSAs). For the second year in a row, this was the first of two thematic debates on CAC. The Open Debate did not result in an outcome document, but was followed by a non-Paper summarizing actions proposed by Member States on how to prevent and respond to violations committed by armed groups against children.
On September 8, the second Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAC) for 2014 took place under the Presidency of the United States. It followed the July 1 publication of the Secretary-General’s 13th annual report on children and armed conflict, and as a resolution was adopted in March, there was no outcome document. Member States were asked to base their intervention on the Secretary-General’s report.
On March 7, 2014 the UN Security Council held an Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict under the Luxembourg Presidency. This was first of two debates in 2014.
During the Open Debate, the Council unanimously adopted Security Council Resolution 2143 (S/RES/2143), advancing the CAC agenda in the areas of military use of schools and pre-deployment training in child protection for UN peacekeepers. It also urges UN entities to enforce the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, and urges governments to establish vetting mechanisms to ensure that perpetrators of grave violations against children do not form part of the security forces. Mirroring Resolution 2143, “protecting education from attacks” was a prominent theme of the Open Debate.
On June 17, 2013 the Security Council held its annual Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAC) following the publication of the Secretary-General’s 12th annual report, under the Presidency of the United Kingdom. The focus of the Debate, as well as a Presidential Statement (S/PRST/2013/8) adopted as an outcome document, was the issue of persistent perpetrators.
Three United Nations officials and one non-governmental organization 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 to “interested parties”, and as such gave a disproportionate role in the Debate to those states mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report.
On September 19, 2012 the United Nations Security Council held its annual Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict. The Debate took place on the basis of the Secretary-General’s 11th annual report on children and armed conflict, and focused on the theme of accountability. At the beginning of the Debate, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2068 emphasizing the importance of accountability for perpetrators of grave violations against children. Particular focus was placed on persistent perpetrators who continue to commit violations and abuses against children in situations of armed conflict five or more years after first being listed in the Secretary-General’s report.
Controversially, for the first time in relation to a resolution on children and armed conflict, four states abstained from supporting the resolution. Following the vote, the tone of the Open Debate was generally positive and reflective of a clear commitment of the majority of UN Member States to the CAC agenda. However, the criticisms of a minority of delegations of the Secretary-General’s established reports and the lack of unanimity behind Resolution 2068 sent a warning message of the need to remain vigilant against efforts to roll back the gains achieved under this important initiative.
The 2011 UN Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict was held on July 12, under the Council Presidency of Germany. During the Open Debate, the Council unanimously adopted Security Council Resolution 1998 expanding the UN’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism to include the grave violation of attacks on schools and hospitals as a trigger for its implementation.
Prior to the debate, the Watchlist released a briefing note, Next Steps to Protect Children in Armed Conflict, which highlighted the practical and achievable steps that the Security Council could take to ensure stronger protection for children affected by armed conflict.
Under the Council Presidency of Germany, the Debate included 49 representatives addressing the plight of children in armed conflict and encouraging progress to be made. Statements were made by Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC), Radhika Coomaraswamy, and the Executive Director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other high-level representatives addressed the Council including, Colombia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Portugal, and the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa.
Among the Members of the Council, Colombia, Russia, and India made strong statements. Colombia’s Foreign Minister said: “It is entirely naive to think that the United Nations or any other multilateral organization can change the minds of terrorist organizations (…). For that reason Colombia believes that the stated intention of agencies of the United Nations system to attempt to talk to those groups directly and without the consent of Governments is inadmissible and unacceptable”. Russia disputed the references in the Secretary-General’s 10th annual report on Children and Armed Conflict to India, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, and Haiti, claiming that the situations in those countries could not be designated as armed conflicts. India expressed its concern about the manner in which Security Council resolutions are being interpreted, and cautioned against “mandate creep”.