Seven parties to conflict are listed for at least one grave violation against children in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s (SG) 2021 annual report on children and armed conflict (CAAC). Syria was among the situations with the highest numbers of verified grave violations against children in 2020. In October, the Council will receive its monthly briefings on the humanitarian situation, political process, and use of chemical weapons in Syria. In July, the Council adopted SCR 2585 (2021), extending the cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid through the Bab al-Hawa crossing. According to UNICEF, intensified hostilities in Northwest Syria have led to the death or injury of at least 54 children since the beginning of July. COVID-19 cases have reportedly risen considerably in Northern Syria in recent months, and explosive ordnances continue to be a risk for children. A recent report by Save the Children describes violence and other survival risks faced by children who continue to be held in Northeast Syria for their or their family members’ alleged or actual association with ISIL. A September Amnesty International report documented cases of detention, torture, and other ill-treatment of former Syrian refugees, including children, upon their return to Syria. The Security Council Working Group on CAAC (SCWG-CAAC) received the SG’s third report on CAAC in Syria (S/2021/398) in April. Negotiations were ongoing at the time of writing. The Security Council should:

  • Demand that all parties uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights law (IHRL), taking concrete measures to prevent and, in any case, minimize child casualties, immediately end and prevent any further abuse against child returnees, and call for immediate and concrete steps to hold all perpetrators accountable;
  • Urge neighboring and other refugee-hosting countries to respect their obligations under refugee law, including the principle of non-refoulement;
  • Urge all listed parties, including Syrian Government forces, to develop and sign action plans to end and prevent violations against children, and call on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to promptly and fully implement their action plan;
  • Remind all parties that children associated with armed groups should be treated primarily as victims, including those children actually or allegedly associated with groups designated as terrorist and those children who may have committed crimes; their reintegration should be prioritized in line with international juvenile justice standards; and detention of children should only be used as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;
  • Urge Member States to facilitate the return of their nationals, including children of their nationals, held for their or their family members’ actual or alleged association with ISIL, following individual, rights-based needs assessments; provide reintegration support in line with international law and standards, prioritizing the child’s best interests; and prevent children from becoming stateless.

Norway and Ireland are the lead countries on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

This information is based on Watchlist’s Children and Armed Conflict Monthly Update – October 2021.

UN Action

Year listed: 2012
Action Plans signedSyrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – recruitment and use of children (June 2019)
Secretary-General’s reports on CAAC in Syria: 2018; 2014
Security Council Working Group conclusions on Syria: 20192014

Perpetrators listed in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual reports on children and armed conflict

2001 2002 2003 2005 2006 2007 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
 Government forces, including the National Defence Forces and pro-government militias* a,b,d a,b,c,d b,d,c b,c,d b,c,d a,b,c,d
Free Syrian Army (FSA) – affiliated groups* a a a a a
Ahrar al-Sham a,b a,b a,b a,b
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) a,b a,b,c,d a,b,c,d a,b,c,d,e
Nursah Front (also known as Jabhat Fath al-Sham) a,b a,b a,b a,b
People’s Protection Units (YPG) a a a a
Army of Islam a

a: Parties that recruit and use children
b: Parties that kill and maim children
c: Parties that commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children

d: Parties that engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals
e: Parties that engage in abduction of children
f: Parties that deny humanitarian access to children

~ This party has concluded an action plan with the United Nations in line with Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004) and 1612 (2005).
* This party has been in the annexes for at least five years and is therefore considered a persistent perpetrator.