On August 7, 2018, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict adopted its sixth conclusion on the situation of children and armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The conclusion is based on a report from the Secretary-General that provides information on the trends and patterns of grave violations committed against children in the DRC between January 2014 and December 2017. Ahead of the conclusion negotiations, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict (‘Watchlist’) shared targeted policy recommendations with Working Group Members, the majority of which were taken up by the Council.

During the reporting period, the UN verified over 11,542 grave violations against children by over 40 parties to the conflict, representing a 60 percent increase compared to the previous reporting period (2010-2013). The presence and activities of armed groups in Eastern DRC, as well as increasing ethnic tensions, continued to be a major source of insecurity and violence against children. During the period in question, conflict emerged in the previously stable Kasais, where the UN estimates that more than 1,000 children have been recruited, used, killed, maimed, or raped, and tens of thousands more have been deprived of education and health care.

In its conclusion, the Security Council Working Group expressed concern about continued violations against children, and strongly urged the Government to swiftly, fully, and effectively implement its joint action plan with the UN, including provisions relating to ending and preventing sexual violence by the Congolese armed forces (FARDC).

The Working Group also expressed concern about the continued detention of children for alleged association with non-State armed groups, in violation of a 2013 Ministry of Defense directive and a National Intelligence Agency directive. According to the Secretary-General’s report, at least 95 children were detained between 2014 and 2017 for periods ranging between 30 days and one year, in violation of the abovementioned directives, the Government’s action plan with the UN, and international standards. Watchlist reminds the DRC and other UN Member States that children formerly associated with armed forces or groups should be treated primarily as victims, who are entitled to the full restoration of their rights, including through sustained and long-term reintegration and rehabilitation programming that is gender– and age-sensitive. In instances where children may have committed recognized criminal offenses, they should be treated in compliance with international juvenile justice standards.

The Working Group also recognized the Congolese Government’s efforts to protect children, and called upon the Government to sustain the gains made through full implementation of its action plan on recruitment and use, including by ensuring accountability for child recruitment and use by State security forces and non-State armed groups. Furthermore, the Working Group called on the Government to swiftly implement the Safe Schools Declaration and accompanying Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, ensuring that attacks on schools are investigated and those responsible are duly prosecuted.

Watchlist and its partners urge UN Member States and donors to continue to support the efforts of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) to monitor and report on grave violations against children, assist the Government in implementing its action plan on sexual violence against children, and engage with non-State armed groups to end and prevent violations. Specifically, the UN Security Council should maintain MONUSCO’s dedicated Child Protection Section and ensure that it has the necessary budgetary resources and staff to carry out the mission’s children and armed conflict mandate.

Read more about Watchlist’s work on the DRC: https://watchlist.org/countries/d-r-congo/.