On June 27, the UN Secretary-General (SG) published his annual report (“annual report”) on children and armed conflict documenting grave violations of children’s rights during 2017 in 20 countries, finding an overall increase in the number and severity of grave violations committed against children. More than 21,000 violations were verified by the UN in 2017, compared to 15,500 in 2016. In addition to providing information on grave violations against children in armed conflict, the report also includes an annexed ‘list of shame’ that names parties responsible for committing violations. For the second year in a row, the annexes divide listed parties into two categories: parties that have put in place measures to improve the protection of children and those who have not.
Ahead of the report release, on June 8, Watchlist and 23 other civil society organizations wrote an open letter to SG António Guterres regarding the situation of children in Yemen. The letter urged the SG to ensure accountability for child rights violations committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen through his annual report and its ‘list of shame.’ In the letter, civil society expressed concerns about the continuation of grave violations against children, including airstrikes that killed and maimed scores of children. Pointing to these as evidence that the coalition has not put in place sufficient measures to protect children, the letter urged the SG to fully condemn the violations by listing the coalition as a party that had not put in place measures.
In fact, the UN Security Council Panel of Experts on Yemen noted in its final report (S/2018/68) that “measures taken by the Saudi Arabia-led Coalition in its targeting process to minimize child casualties, if any, remain largely ineffective.” The report found that at least 85 children were killed or maimed in 10 coalition airstrikes carried out in 2017 that were investigated by the Panel. In April 2018, Watchlist released updated research on attacks on health care and denial of humanitarian access during 2017, noting that the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of Yemen prevented the import of food and commercial goods, contributing to widespread food insecurity, with approximately 1.8 million children suffering malnutrition by the end of the year. Given the coalition-supported attack on Hodeidah launched earlier this month, where more than 300,000 children are at risk according to UNICEF, the need for accountability and action is greater than ever.
The 2018 annual report, which was released on June 27, included the Saudi-led coalition in the ‘list of shame’ for the killing and maiming of children in Yemen, although it remained listed among those parties that according to the SG had put in place measures to protect children. According to the report, the coalition was responsible for 670 of 1,316 verified cases of killing and maiming documented by the UN in Yemen in 2017, showing little difference from 2016. In a change from last year’s report, the coalition was delisted for attacks on schools and hospitals, despite the report’s finding that the coalition was responsible for 19 of 20 verified attacks on schools and five of 11 verified attacks on hospitals. By not listing the coalition for attacks on schools and hospitals, the SG sends a dangerous signal to perpetrators by diluting his condemnation of child rights violations in Yemen.
Watchlist urges Member States to address this discrepancy at the July 9 Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAC), by calling on the SG to publish a complete, accurate, and credible list of perpetrators in the annexes of his annual reports based on the impartial evidence collected and verified by the UN. Given the lack of clarity regarding criteria for inclusion in the list of parties that have put in place measures to improve the protection of children, Member States should also urge the SG to publicly document and carefully monitor measures listed parties have taken during the reporting period to protect children. Furthermore, Watchlist encourages Member States to call on the SG to return to a single list of parties that commit grave violations against children in future annual reports to uphold the list’s credibility as a tool for accountability. The listing of perpetrators must be impartial and transparent.
To learn more about Watchlist’s advocacy ahead of the upcoming Open Debate on CAC, read our Special Bulletin. For more information on Watchlist’s reporting and advocacy around Yemen, please visit our website here.