On February 10, 2017, for the occasion of the International Day against the use of Child Soldiers, the Kingdom of Belgium organized an international conference on the development and implementation of child protection policies by the UN and regional organizations, with a particular focus on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union, and the African Union. The conference was preceded by a high-level opening featuring Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians, as well as Mr. Didier Reynders, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Rose Gottemoeller, Deputy Secretary-General of NATO, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC), and Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights.

The conference also recognized the 20th anniversary of the mandate of the SRSG-CAAC and the publication of Graça Machel’s landmark report on the impact of armed conflict on children in 1996. In the report, Machel called on regional and subregional bodies to ‘formulate plans of action to protect children,’ and many organizations have heeded this call. The nature of conflict, however, has evolved immensely since 1996, and so have the UN and regional peace support missions. As capacities for child protection grew, tangible achievements in protecting children have been realized, but challenges remain.

The objective of the conference was to facilitate information sharing between the UN and regional bodies on developing and implementing child protection policies, including training and guidance, in order to identify best practices and ultimately improve child protection in conflict settings. Consisting of three panels, the first featured child protection policy development for UN peacekeeping operations and missions of regional organizations. The second panel exchanged experiences in terms of implementing the UN Security Council’s resolutions on children and armed conflict in the field, and the final panel presented on child protection training for military, police, and civilian actors in armed conflict. It was in the framework of the third panel that the Executive Director for Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict presented Watchlist’s ‘1612 Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism. A Resource Packs for NGOs’.