The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2427 on July 9, during the Council’s annual Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAC), held under the presidency of Sweden. The debate followed publication of the Secretary-General’s 2018 annual report on CAC, published on June 27, which documented a 35 percent increase in grave violations in 2017, as compared with the previous year. Following the adoption, the Council was briefed by Ms. Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; Ms. Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); and Ms. Yenny Londoño, a civil society speaker representing a Group of Youth Advisers in Colombia. Ninety-one state delegations, representing approximately 116 countries, delivered statements during the Open Debate, which was overall positive in tone.
Put forward by the Permanent Mission of Sweden, Resolution 2427 had 98 co-sponsors, marking a significant increase from previous CAC resolutions. The resolution commits the Council to taking concrete action in response to grave violations committed against children in conflict, and addresses several points included in Watchlist’s messaging. Specifically, the resolution emphasizes the importance of integrating child protection into conflict prevention and conflict resolution strategies, calling on Member States, UN entities, and other relevant actors to include child protection provisions – especially those related to release and reintegration of children formerly associated with armed forces and groups – into all peace negotiations, ceasefire and peace agreements, and provisions for their monitoring. It further calls for children’s rights and protection concerns to be incorporated in both conflict prevention activities and post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding planning and strategies. In line with Watchlist’s advocacy around detention of children for their alleged association with armed groups and forces, Resolution 2427 stresses that such children be treated primarily as victims and calls on Member States to consider non-judicial measures as alternatives to prosecution and detention that focus on the rehabilitation and reintegration of the child. The resolution further highlights the importance of child protection in UN peacekeeping and political missions, the importance of ensuring unhindered humanitarian access to civilians, and the need for strengthened measures to protect schools from attack and military use.
Under the theme “Protecting Children Today Prevents Conflict Tomorrow,” the debate emphasized the linkages between child protection and conflict prevention. During their briefings, Ms. Gamba and Ms. Fore highlighted the importance of timely and sustainable rehabilitation and reintegration programming and the need for increased political will to end violations, adhere to humanitarian law, and increase resources to support children impacted by conflict, respectively. Ms. Londoño told the Council of her experience joining the FARC-EP armed group in Colombia at age 13; her subsequent demobilization, reintegration, and rehabilitation; and her advocacy on behalf of children during the Havana peace talks. Ms. Londoño called on Governments to fulfill their obligations to children, including by guaranteeing their rights and ensuring that children impacted by armed conflicts receive the full reparations to which they are entitled.
Member State interventions were overwhelmingly positive and supportive of the CAC mandate, with a few delegations noting shortcomings, such as politicization of the listing mechanism and the lack of criminal accountability for many perpetrators. Common themes among the country statements included the importance of maintaining child protection capacity in UN peacekeeping and political missions, inclusion of child protection measures in peace processes, reintegration support for children formerly associated with armed groups, and the endorsement of existing child rights instruments and tools, such as the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Paris Principles, the Vancouver Principles, and the Safe Schools Declaration. Several delegates expressed concern over rising attacks on education and medical facilities, denial of humanitarian access, and deprivation of liberty of children for their alleged association with armed forces or groups.
Watchlist welcomes the resolution and Member States’ expressions of support for the CAC agenda and encourages the Council and the UN more broadly to translate words into action. A more comprehensive analysis of the debate and the impact of Watchlist’s advocacy efforts will be released in the coming months.
Read more about Ms. Londoño’s statement, as well as joint advocacy conducted with Watchlist during her visit.