Each year, at the request of the UN Security Council, the Secretary-General submits a report on children and armed conflict that provides information on grave violations committed against children. The first report was published in 2002, following a request made by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1379 (2001) which also called for a list of parties to conflict to be included in the annex of the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict. This principle of ‘naming and shaming’ parties to conflict that commit grave violations against children in war is the cornerstone of the Security Council’s Children and Armed Conflict agenda.
The listing of a party in the Secretary-General’s reports is not only a ‘name and shame’ strategy, it also triggers enhanced monitoring and reporting of the situation by the UN. Including parties on the list of perpetrators enhances the protection of children in armed conflict by facilitating the UN’s engagement with the responsible parties to end grave violations. Once listed, parties may only be removed by signing and implementing a concrete, time-bound action plan, negotiated with the UN.
In March, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict released a policy note calling on the Secretary-General to put children’s rights up front and ensure a credible and accurate listing of perpetrators in 2017. The note provides the Secretary-General with recommendations for inclusion of eleven parties to conflict, and proposes sixteen additional parties for further investigation.
Around the time that the Secretary-General’s annual report is usually published each year, June, Watchlist and its members became aware of discussions among senior UN leadership on how to proceed with the report and listings of parties to conflict in 2017. These discussions included the consideration of a ‘freeze’ – i.e. a decision not to list any new parties to conflict in 2017 – and a new process of engaging with Member States which would precede their potential listing by the Secretary-General.
In response to these reported discussions, 44 NGOs from countries around the world came together and addressed a joint letter to Secretary-General Guterres. Signatories to the letter believe that a potential freeze would set a damaging precedent and undermine the list’s credibility, and call on the Secretary-General to publish a full and impartial list of all perpetrators of child rights violations in war in his 2017 annual report.
After the publication of the letter on June 2, 2017, Watchlist and its peers conducted several lobby meetings discussing the upcoming annual report with senior UN leadership in New York, London, Geneva, and Brussels. Among others, NGOs met with the Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, as well as representatives from the UN Department of Peacekeeping and the Secretary-General’s Office.
In various meetings, Watchlist has received assurances that the upcoming Secretary-General’s report will not be ‘frozen,’ and as such is looking forward to the anticipated August publication of the report and renews its call on the Secretary-General to ensure that the list of parties to conflict that perpetrate grave violations of children’s rights will be accurate, credible, and complete.