For the second year in a row, two Open Debates on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) will take place in 2015. On 25 March 2015, France will host the debate during its presidency of the UN Security Council. A second Open Debate will occur in June under the presidency of Malaysia, the Chair of the Security Council Working Group on CAAC, following the publication of the Secretary-General’s 14th Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict.
The March Open Debate will focus on the theme “Children Victims of Non-State Actors.” This is the first Open Debate that specifically discusses methods to end and prevent grave violations against children by armed non-state actors (ANSAs). The Secretary-General is expected to address the Council along with other UN actors and civil society. France invites Member States to deliver concrete proposals in their statements, and to commit to the Paris Principles and Guidelines on children associated with armed forces or groups to mark their engagement. France will not seek an outcome document, but will synthesize all the different ideas and proposals put forward by Member States during the debate on the above theme.
The March Open Debate marks one year since the launch of the campaign, “Children not Soldiers.” While the campaign succeeded in mobilizing high-level political engagement in support of its aim to end recruitment and use by government security forces by 2016, it only targets seven governments. The vast majority of parties listed in the annual report, 51 out of 59, are ANSAs operating in 15 situations of armed conflict. Of these, 25 ANSAs have been listed for at least five years and are therefore considered persistent perpetrators. In addition to recruitment and use, ANSAs perpetrate other violations. In 2014, the international community condemned abductions of children and attacks or threats of attacks on schools, as well as students and teachers.
In a concept note, France provides the general context, challenges, and format for the debate. France highlights the persistent problem of recruitment and use of children through abductions, which may be an indication of the Council’s intention to seek an expansion of the “triggers” for listing in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report. Currently, parties who recruit and use children, kill or maim, attack schools and/or hospitals, or commit rape and other forms of sexual violence are listed in annexes of the annual report. Two violations (abductions and denial of humanitarian assistance) are tracked by the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM), but will not lead to the listing of parties. It is possible the Council will seek to include abductions as an additional trigger in the coming year.
The Open Debate will be live-streamed on UN Web TV on 25 March. For live-Tweeting by Watchlist, follow us through @1612Watchlist.