On July 11, 2022, the United Nations Secretary-General (SG) published his annual report (“annual report”) on children and armed conflict documenting grave violations committed against children in armed conflicts in 21 countries, plus the Lake Chad Basin region, from January 1, to December 31, 2021. Although there was a slight decrease in the overall number of grave violations as compared to 2020, violations perpetrated against children in war remained alarmingly high, with over 22,600 verified violations. Ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) are key challenges highlighted in the report. The annual report also includes an annexed list of warring parties—commonly referred to as the “list of shame”—who have committed a pattern of grave violations against children. The annexes divide listed parties into two categories: parties who have put in place measures to improve the protection of children during the reporting period and those who have not.
In 2021, the highest numbers of documented violations were the killing and maiming of children (8,070), the recruitment and use of children (6,310), and incidents of denial of humanitarian access (3,945). Situations with the highest number of verified violations were Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Children continue to be injured and killed by improvised explosive devices, explosive remnants of war (ERW), and landmines, which caused 25 percent of child casualties last year (2,257).
The report details alarming spikes in both abductions and rape and other forms of sexual violence against children—both violations increasing by over 20 percent since the previous year. Also of deep concern, abductions of girls increased by 41 percent, and attacks on schools and hospitals increased by five percent.
In the 2022 report, the SG announced that Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Ukraine, would be designated as ‘situations of concern’ with immediate effect, given the gravity and number of violations against children. The report did not, however, further elaborate on these situations. The SG also requested his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC) to promote enhanced monitoring capacity in the Central Sahel region. In his annexed list of warring parties who have committed grave violations against children, the SG notably did not list Israeli government forces, despite UN-verified information that they were responsible for killing 78 Palestinian children and injuring an additional 982 in 2021. He did issue a warning that, should there be a similar escalation leading to an increase in violence against children in 2022, Israel and Palestinian armed groups will be listed next year.
Despite these troubling trends and challenges, the SG’s 2022 annual report also outlines progress and achievements. Over 12,200 children were released by armed groups and forces last year, following UN engagement with warring parties, and at least 40 new commitments to better protect children were developed by parties to conflict, such as road maps and action plans. The SG also added dissident groups of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) to his “list of shame” for recruiting and using children in their ranks, as well as the armed group Jama‘a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) for the recruitment and use, killing and maiming, and abduction of children in Burkina Faso, and Boko Haram-affiliated and splinter groups for the abduction of children in the Lake Chad Basin region.