From November 4 to 7, 2018, the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict (SCWG-CAAC) traveled to South Sudan to learn more about the challenges children face as a result of the conflict. The visit was especially timely, with the signing of a revitalized peace agreement and South Sudan’s accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC), both in September. The trip also coincided with the Working Group’s review of the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict in South Sudan, published on September 25, and accompanying conclusion negotiations.
In meetings with senior officials, relevant ministries, and members of the police and armed forces, the Working Group urged the Government of South Sudan to strengthen the protection of children, including by expanding its current Action Plan to address all six grave violations against children. The Working Group also called on the Government to strengthen accountability for child rights violations by enforcing existing legislation and criminalizing the six grave violations against children in the upcoming review of the country’s penal code.
Members of the Working Group also met with children and youth formerly associated with armed forces or groups, who shared their stories of reintegration. Among other support, vocational training provides an opportunity for children to see an economic future outside of the armed forces and groups. While reintegration programs are providing necessary support, much more action remains to be taken in order to protect children.
The Working Group expressed its support for increased investment in reintegration programs, echoing Security Council Resolution 2427 on children and armed conflict, and stressed the importance of facilitating the release and reintegration of children as part of the Revitalized Peace Agreement. In his capacity as chair of the Working Group, Swedish Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN Olof Skoog emphasized the importance of reintegration, stating that as South Sudan moves towards peace, he is hopeful that the investments in humanitarian emergency relief can contribute to resilience, development, and reintegration.
Field visits are one of the many tools in the SCWG-CAAC’s toolkit to promote the protection of children affected by armed conflict, and Watchlist is heartened by the Working Group’s timely visit to South Sudan. In its regular analyses of the SCWG-CAAC’s working methods, Watchlist has advocated for the Working Group to increase the range and frequency in which it uses the tools in its toolkit, including by organizing at least one field visit per year to ensure follow-up on conclusions and to familiarize members with emerging security situations as they relate to children.