On August 20, 2015, under the Presidency of Nigeria, the UN Security Council held a special briefing entitled “Consolidating Security Council engagement on security sector reform: towards further implementation of resolution 2151 (2014)”. The meeting served as follow up on the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2151 (2014), which was the first standalone resolution on security sector reform (SSR) adopted by the Council. Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict worked in tandem with its Associate Member Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative to influence the negotiations of this resolution, and the successful lobby efforts contributed to inclusion of strong language reflecting the importance of mainstreaming child protection in SSR. However, despite how well integrated child protection was in the resolution, in this briefing, Watchlist observed that the Security Council’s efforts to monitor its implementation fell short of discussing the role of child protection in strengthening SSR.

Resolution 2151 was formally adopted on April 28, 2014, as an outcome to the Security Council Open Debate on SSR under Nigeria’s leadership. Watchlist developed policy recommendations for mainstreaming children’s rights in SSR jointly with the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative. Efforts to mainstream child protection in the thematic work of the Council on SSR led to the inclusion of a strong operational paragraph (paragraph 6) on the integration of children’s rights in SSR. At the August 20, 2015 briefing, Member States were invited to reflect upon how the Security Council could strengthen the UN’s support to nationally led SSR efforts in peace operations contexts.

The SSR process offers an opportunity to establish specific legal and practical safeguards for the protection of children, such as measures to prevent the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and to end impunity for perpetrators of grave violations. Resolution 2151 encourages Member States to include child protection in military training, standard operating procedures, and military guidance; establish child protection units embedded in security forces; strengthen recruitment procedures including age verification; and develop effective vetting mechanisms to ensure that those responsible for violations and abuses against children are not included in the ranks of national security forces.

In the experience of Watchlist’s partner Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, which has actively engaged on the issue of child protection and SSR, the most effective SSR should stretch beyond training into doctrinal guidance and the overall force structure development. Examples of successful preparatory trainings in SSR on the issue of encountering children in conflict exist. This year, the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), exposed to the decades-long practice of child soldiering in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), welcomed trainings on the prevention of recruitment and use of children. The UPDF’s leadership and the Chief of Defense Staff saw the immediate benefits of the training as a vehicle for the professionalization of their troops, and for becoming better equipped to deal with the issue of encountering children in conflict.

Similarly in 2012, the Government of Sierra Leone collaborated with the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative on developing a training for the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), the Sierra Leone Police Service (SLP), and the Sierra Leonean Prison Services (SLPS) to provide their personnel with standard operating procedures to both prevent child recruitment and use, and respond to  incidences of child soldiering (read more). The Uganda and Sierra Leone cases can serve as useful examples for sensitizing concerned countries on the benefits of SSR for their post-conflict reconstruction efforts. The potential for impact can be immense, given the fact that in Uganda’s case UPDF is one of the largest peacekeeping contributors in Africa, with capacity to further serve as trainers of security forces in Somalia and the Central African Republic.

Given the centrality of children and armed conflict in the Security Council’s overall peace and security agenda, and the treatment of child soldiers as a security concern, the Council’s continued engagement on the issue of child protection through the SSR thematic agenda would warrant formal reporting on progress that Member States are, or should be, making on this provision of Resolution 2151. The Council should consider inviting the Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to the next briefing organized in honor of this resolution.