On March 16, 2022, Watchlist, the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, and the Alliance’s Task Force on Children Associated with Armed Forces and Armed Groups (CAAFAG) published an Operational Guidance on Negotiating and Implementing Handover Protocols.

Handover protocols are agreements by governments or armed groups to swiftly transfer CAAFAG in their custody, or whom they have encountered, to child protection actors for appropriate support services, including, but not limited to, reintegration assistance. Handover protocols are an explicit recognition by states and, at times, armed groups, that CAAFAG are first and foremost victims of grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and they offer CAAFAG a safe avenue to leave armed forces and armed groups and receive the care, protection, and reintegration support they need.

The new guidance from Watchlist, the Alliance, and the CAAFAG Task Force provides child protection actors with good practices, lessons learned, and other useful information on previous and ongoing negotiations and implementation processes in various countries. Building on previous research from Watchlist, the guidance seeks to support child protection actors to initiate and strategically navigate handover protocol negotiations, to promote the release of CAAFAG in detention and improve standards for their prosecution, to strengthen the implementation of existing handover agreements, and to safeguard children at every stage of handover.

On March 24, Watchlist and the Alliance held a webinar on the guidance, which was widely attended by over 60 child protection practitioners, advocates, and policymakers joining from locations such as Burkina Faso, Canada, India, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Uganda. Following opening remarks from the Alliance, Watchlist presented the guidance, including key learnings and good practices. The senior child protection adviser from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) presented a case study on implementation of the handover protocol in Mali. Following the presentations, Watchlist moderated a question-and-answer session with participants. Watchlist hopes to hold additional webinars and training sessions with child protection practitioners to roll out the guidance and support the signing and implementation of additional handover protocols.