In July and August 2020, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict (SCWG-CAAC) adopted its conclusions on the situations of children and armed conflict in Iraq, Colombia, and Somalia, respectively.
On July 30, 2020, the SCWG-CAAC adopted its third conclusions on the situation of children and armed conflict in Iraq. Watchlist shared targeted recommendations ahead of the negotiation, many of which were reflected in the conclusions.
The conclusions are based on information provided by the Secretary-General’s (SG) third country-specific report on Iraq (S/2019/984), covering the period between July 1, 2015 and July 31, 2019. During this reporting period, the United Nations verified over 2,114 grave violations against children. A majority of verified child casualties, recruitment and use, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and abductions were attributed to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), potentially constituting war crimes or crimes against humanity.
In its conclusion on Iraq, the Working Group strongly condemned the scale and nature of violations against children and called for accountability for all violations and abuses against children, including by strengthening national accountability mechanisms, and welcomed the work of UNITAD. The SCWG-CAAC also called for swift adoption of a comprehensive child rights law criminalizing child recruitment and use and expressed concern at the deprivation of liberty of children for their actual or perceived affiliation with armed groups, including those groups designated as ‘terrorist.’ The SCWG-CAAC urged all parties to conflict to treat associated children primarily as victims, including those who may have committed crimes, to work to ensure their full reintegration, and to grant the UN access to all facilities where children are detained.
Watchlist welcomes the emphasis placed on reintegration for children formerly associated with armed groups, including those associated with ISIL, taking into consideration that detention should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period. Watchlist also welcomes calls for accountability and the provision of specialized and gender-sensitive services for survivors of sexual violence, including for those from ethnic or religious minorities.
On August 14, 2020, the Working Group adopted its fourth conclusions on the situation of children and armed conflict in Colombia. The conclusions are based on information provided in the SG’s fourth country-specific report (S/2019/1017), covering the period between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2019. Watchlist provided targeted recommendations ahead of negotiations, many of which were reflected in the conclusions.
During this period, the UN verified 850 grave violations against children, a notable decrease as compared with the previous reporting period, attributed in part to the signing of the peace agreement between the Government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) in 2016. However, delays in implementation of the agreement and the transformation of the conflict – including the strengthening and resurgence of armed groups in areas of the country – have led to grave violations of children’s rights. Recruitment and use of children, in particular by the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) and dissident groups of the FARC-EP , was the most prominent grave violation verified.
In its conclusions, the Working Group welcomed the signing of the peace agreement, noting with appreciation the guiding principle of the best interest of the child, the treatment of children associated with armed groups primarily as victims, and consideration of children’s views in the peace process. The SCWG-CAAC further encouraged continued and full implementation of the peace agreement, while expressing grave concern at continuing violations against children.
Watchlist welcomes the emphasis on continuing and adequately resourcing efforts to prevent sexual violence and recruitment and use of children, including those from indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities and refugee and migrant children. Watchlist also welcomes the call to strengthen the institutions of the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Guarantees of Non-Repetition, addressing the protection needs of children as witnesses and victims, with primary consideration for the best interest of the child.
On August 24, 2020, the Working Group adopted its fifth conclusions on the situation of children and armed conflict in Somalia. The conclusions are based on information provided by the SG’s fifth country-specific report (S/2020/174), covering the period between August 1, 2016 and September 30, 2019. Watchlist shared targeted recommendations ahead of negotiations, many of which were reflected in the conclusions.
During the reporting period, the UN verified over 14,800 grave violations against children in Somalia. Al-Shabaab was identified as the perpetrator of most of the verified violations, including recruitment and use, killing and maiming, attacks on schools and hospitals, abductions, and denial of humanitarian access. Somali Security Forces were the main perpetrators of rape and other forms of sexual violence verified during the reporting period.
In its conclusion, the Working Group expressed grave concern at the continuing high number of violations committed against children by all parties to conflict, particularly child recruitment and use and the deprivation of liberty of children for their actual or alleged association with armed groups. The SCWG-CAAC further urged the Federal Government of Somalia to implement its 2014 Standard Operating Procedures for the reception and handover of children separated from armed groups, including by treating children associated with armed groups primarily as victims, and calling for sustainable and comprehensive reintegration programs. The Working Group also welcomed the Federal Government’s commitment to protect education through its endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration.
Watchlist welcomes the Working Group’s call for swift and effective implementation of the Somali Federal Government’s action plans to end and prevent recruitment and use of children and killing and maiming, respectively, as well as calling on all armed groups to adopt and implement action plans to end and prevent all six grave violations.