On March 7 2014, the UN Security Council held an extraordinary Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict under the Luxembourg Presidency. This is one of two debates to be held in 2014. A second Open Debate will occur following the publication of the Secretary-General’s 13th Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, expected late spring 2014.
- Click here to read the transcript of the Open Debate
During the March Open Debate, the Council unanimously adopted Security Council Resolution 2143 (S/RES/2143). This resolution advances the Children and Armed Conflict (CAC) agenda in the areas of military use of schools and pre-deployment training in child protection for UN peacekeepers. It also urges UN entities to enforce the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, and urges governments to establish vetting mechanisms to ensure that perpetrators of grave violations against children do not form part of the security forces.
Introductory statements were made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC), Leila Zerrougui, Executive Director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, and former Sierra Leonean child soldier, Alhaji Babah Sawaneh. The Open Debate enjoyed the highest participation of Member States in recent years with sixty-one speakers, addressing the Council on behalf of eighty-two Member States. The overwhelming majority offered broad, positive support for the CAC agenda. Seven States (Colombia, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia, Sudan, Syria, and Thailand) made statements that affirmed their commitment to protect children in armed conflict but criticized some elements of the agenda, such as the inclusion of “situations of concern” in the Secretary-General’s annual report, a lack of clear criteria for listing and delisting purposes, and an alleged lack of accuracy of information included in the Secretary-General’s report.
Mirroring SCR 2143, ‘protecting education from attacks’ was a prominent theme of the Open Debate itself as well. Thirty-two delegations addressed the importance of ending the military use of schools, and thirty-five States condemned attacks on schools. Ten States affirmed the need to develop guidelines to prevent the military use of schools. Another recurrent theme in Member States’ statements was the need for child protection pre-deployment training for UN peacekeepers.
On March 6, a day prior to the Open Debate, SRSG Zerrougui and UNICEF launched a joint campaign, ‘Children not Soldiers’, to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers by governments by 2016. Eight governments are listed in the Secretary-General’s 13th Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict for the recruitment and use of children. In contrast, 44 non-State armed groups are listed for recruitment and use of child soldiers. Watchlist regrets that SCR 2143 did not mention the need to conduct a humanitarian dialogue with non-State armed groups for the purpose of adopting action plans.
In sum, the March Open Debate reflected the current positive consensus on the Children and Armed Conflict agenda. Small gains were achieved in the normative framework, but there is room for much more improvement. The favorable composition of the Security Council presents a real opportunity to further advance the Children and Armed Conflict agenda.