In December 2020, Belgium concluded its term on the Security Council, including its chairmanship of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict (SCWG-CAAC). During Belgium’s tenure as chair, the Working Group adopted 13 country-specific conclusions, supported by an increased pace of report production by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (OSRSG-CAAC) and relevant Country Taskforces on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMRs). This represents the highest number of conclusions adopted during a single chairmanship period, strengthening the timeliness and relevance of recommendations to situations on the ground.

In the fourth quarter of 2020 alone, the Working Group adopted its conclusions on children and armed conflict in the Sudan, the Philippines, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Mali. Watchlist welcomes adopted language emphasizing that children who have been recruited and used by armed forces and armed groups, including groups designated as terrorist, should be treated primarily as victims and their reintegration should be prioritized. Handover protocols can be a practical tool to prevent the detention of children associated or allegedly associated with armed groups, and Watchlist welcomes the SCWG-CAAC’s call on the Government of Nigeria to expedite the review and adoption of such a protocol, as well as its call for continued implementation of the Government of Mali’s 2013 handover protocol.

In addition, Watchlist welcomes continued emphasis on the adoption and implementation of action plans to end and prevent grave violations, accountability, and access to justice and comprehensive services for child survivors of grave violations.

To continue strengthening follow-up on adopted conclusions, the Working Group undertook a field visit to Mali in December 2019 and engaged in video teleconferences (VTCs) with CTFMRs throughout 2020.

Outside of the SCWG-CAAC, the Council adopted two presidential statements on children and armed conflict during the 2019-2020 term, focusing on the inclusion of child protection provisions in peace processes (S/PRST/2020/3) and protecting education from attack (S/PRST/2020/8). In addition, the Council released a press statement in June 2020 to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of SCR 1612 (2005) establishing the SCWG-CAAC.

Ambassador Philippe Kridelka, the permanent representative of Belgium to the United Nations, shared reflections and lessons learned from his time as Working Group chair in a letter addressed to the President of the Security Council and issued as S/2020/1288. Watchlist expresses its sincere gratitude for Belgium’s leadership on CAAC during its recent Council term, including through sustained engagement with civil society.

In January 2021, Norway took up its role as the chair of the SCWG-CAAC for the 2021-2022 period. Watchlist congratulates Norway on assuming the chairmanship and looks forward to supporting its leadership in the Working Group and broader Council action to protect children in armed conflict.