On 31 October 2014, the UN Secretary-General announced the establishment of a High-Level Independent Panel to undertake a comprehensive assessment of UN peacekeeping and special political missions. The panel will make recommendations to the Secretary-General on a number of issues including the changing nature of conflict, evolving mandates, good offices, peacebuilding challenges, human rights, and protection of civilians. The panel invited civil society, troop-contributing countries, member states, and UN agencies to provide input by the end of January 2014. Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict (‘Watchlist’) urged the panel to ensure that the rights and needs of children affected by armed conflict are carefully considered throughout the review process.

Boys and girls living in situations of armed conflict face multiple protection challenges. Vulnerability is exacerbated by displacement – with children comprising almost half of those forcibly displaced by armed conflict worldwide – separation from families, and the erosion or destruction of protection systems. These and other challenges require responses that are both age- and gender-sensitive, in which UN peace operations have a critical role to play.However, in order to do so effectively, the specific threats to and needs of girls and boys must first inform mission mandates, resourcing, and operational strategies. In order to better enhance the protection of children in UN peace operations, Watchlist recommended the following:

  1. Continue to support the incorporation of child protection within mandates of UN missions, in particular by including explicit references to children within mandates relating to protection of civilians, mission responsibilities in monitoring and reporting on grave violations against children, and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs (DDR), as well as ensuring that child protection is a crosscutting issue throughout the mission;
  2. Ensure adequate numbers of civilian child protection experts in all peace missions to ensure effective and appropriate responses to mandated tasks that are child-sensitive, and to ensure that child protection specialists can be deployed to all geographic areas where children are most at risk;
  3. Establish a mandatory requirement for pre-deployment and in-theatre training on protection and rights of children in accordance with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) Specialized Training Materials on Child Protection;
  4. Develop and implement a policy that prohibits government security forces listed in the annexes of the UN 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.