On June 18, 2015, the UN Security Council (UNSC) held an Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAC) under the Presidency of Malaysia, Chair of the UNSC Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. This was the second open debate on CAAC in 2015, the first one having been hosted in March under the Presidency of France. The June open debate followed publication of the 14th Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict by the Secretary-General (SG), covering the period from January 1 to December 31, 2014. In addition to the discussion of the report, Malaysia highlighted the abduction of children in situations of armed conflict and, to that end, introduced as an outcome document Resolution 2225 (2015), which expanded the UNSC’s children and armed conflict agenda by adding abductions as the fifth “trigger” for inclusion of parties into the annexes of the SG’s annual report.

At the open debate, 73 delegations intervened, representing 167 countries. The overall tone of the debate was positive, with Member States voicing overwhelming support for Malaysia’s initiative to shine a spotlight on abductions. Most prominently, the following themes were discussed in the delegations’ statements: 1) the Secretary-General’s inclusion of parties to armed conflict that engage in abductions of children as criteria for listings in the annexes to his reports on CAC; 2) preventing attacks on education and ending military use of schools; 3) a call on all parties to ensure that children associated with armed groups or forces are treated as victims first; and 4) ensuring accountability of security sector actors for effectively protecting children’s rights while deployed in the field.

Firstly, 48 delegations welcomed the UNSC’s expansion of the ‘triggers’ for listing parties to a conflict to include the grave violation of abductions. Seven delegations condemned abductions of children, with 5 calling for their immediate release.

Twenty-four delegations voiced concerns regarding attacks and threats of attacks on schools. Fifteen delegations spoke on the issue of the military use of schools, with 10 specific mentions of the Safe Schools Declaration launched in Oslo on 28-29 May that endorses the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.

Twelve delegations emphasized the importance of making sure that children associated with armed groups or forces are ‘victims first’ and should be treated as such, and furthermore, eight delegations paid particular attention to the issue of detention of children for their association with armed groups or forces. On this theme, one delegation specifically called for the SG to monitor and report on detention of children on the grounds of their association with armed groups or forces, while another made a specific call for concerned parties to develop protocols for the handover of children associated with armed groups or forces to child protection actors.

Lastly at this open debate, eleven intervening delegations spoke about accountability for peacekeepers while serving in the field to effectively protect children’s rights. Two delegations called for the Secretary-General to develop a policy prohibiting government armed forces listed in the annexes to his CAC reports from contributing troops until they have adopted and fully implemented action plans.

Watchlist’s analytical summary provides more detail on the above themes featured in the debate, and a more detailed overview of delegation statements related to Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict’s key recommendations to the UNSC, among other themes featured in this debate.

Link to the full analysis of the debate