In August 2014, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict (‘Watchlist’) published a new discussion paper entitled “A Policy Prohibiting Listed Government Forces from Contributing Troops to UN Missions.” In this discussion paper, Watchlist argues that the UN should develop and implement a policy that prohibits government security forces listed in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict from contributing troops to UN-mandated missions, until the Secretary-General has certified the full implementation of their action plan with the UN to end and prevent violations against children. This would help to incentivize governments to sign and implement action plans, enhance the protection of children in armed conflict, demonstrate the UN’s commitment to child protection, and reinforce the legitimacy of UN missions.
Eight government security forces (Afghan National Police, including the local police; the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC); the Burmese Tatmadaw Kyi; the Somali National Army; the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA); the Sudanese Government forces; the Syrian Government forces; and the Yemeni Government forces) are listed for grave violations against children in the annexes to the UN Secretary-General’s 13th Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict. The Governments of Sudan and Syria have yet to sign action plans with the UN to end and prevent these violations. The remaining six governments have yet to fully implement their action plans, and thus remain on the list of perpetrators.
While several UN policies aim to uphold the highest standards in its operations, the opportunity for government security forces known to commit grave violations against children to contribute troops to UN operations potentially undermines the credibility and standards of the UN. For example, the Yemeni Government forces, listed for recruitment and use, are currently contributing to nine UN missions. In another example, the forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), listed for recruitment and use and rape and sexual violence, will be temporarily “re-hatted” in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic from 15 September 2014. Watchlist raised concern over this issue in a press release.
However, the opportunity of contributing troops to peacekeeping operations can be used as an influential policy tool to advance child protection. The prospect of contributing troops can work as an incentive for governments to sign and implement an action plan with the UN to end and prevent grave violations against children. For example, in 2013 the prospect of transferring Chadian troops, then listed for recruitment and use, from the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) generated the necessary political momentum to accelerate the implementation of the action plan. The government renewed its commitment to the action plan by signing a road map with the UN that included ten prioritized measures for implementation.