The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict adopted its first conclusion on the situation of children and armed conflict in Nigeria on November 15, 2017 (public document forthcoming). The conclusions are based on the Secretary-General’s (SG) country-specific report on the situation of children and armed conflict in Nigeria published in April. As the Working Group started its negotiations, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict (Watchlist) made targeted recommendations to its members, which were all reflected in some form in the final negotiated document. The Working Group adopted a comprehensive document, framed in a positive and productive tone, including in regards to the signing of an action plan by the Government-affiliated Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in September 2017 to end and prevent child recruitment. Watchlist calls for full implementation of said action plan, as well as implementation of the recommendations included in the conclusions.

Watchlist welcomes the Working Group’s call to the Government of Nigeria to strengthen protection of children affected by armed conflict and to facilitate the implementation of the action plan signed by the CJTF to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children. The party’s fulfillment of this action plan, with the support of the UN country team, and the establishment of re-recruitment prevention measures may considerably improve the protection of children affected by conflict. Additionally, Watchlist welcomes the Working Group’s call to donors to provide funding and support to the Government and partners in order to operationalize age assessment mechanisms in application of the measures set out in the action plan.

Moreover, Watchlist welcomes the Working Group’s call upon all parties to facilitate the release of children associated with armed forces or groups, and the emphasis put on the need to develop and put in place sustainable rehabilitation and reintegration opportunities, taking into account the specific and differentiated needs of girls and boys. Particularly, Watchlist commends the Working Group for highlighting the importance of the Government’s work with communities, religious leaders, and donors in order to raise awareness and reduce stigmatization, in order to allow physical and psychological recovery in environments that promote self-respect and dignity for children formerly associated with armed forces or groups.

Watchlist was particularly pleased to see the Working Group’s recommendations regarding concerns over the detention of children on national security-related charges and their deprivation of liberty on the basis of their alleged association with Boko Haram. In this regard, the Working Group reminded the Government of its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that detention should be used as a measure of last resort, for the shortest appropriate period, and with children treated primarily as victims. In addition, the Working Group encouraged the Government to adopt a protocol for the handover of children encountered during military operations to civilian child protection authorities, and urged the African Union’s Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to issue a Force Commander’s directive on the matter. However, Watchlist would like to have seen the Working Group echo its call upon the Government to close all women and children cells in the Giwa Barracks, a military detention center, where they are subjected to further violations and abuses of their human rights.

In response to the recommendation on ceasing attacks on and military use of schools, Watchlist welcomes the call made by the Working Group to all parties, and especially to Boko Haram, to immediately end the targeting and threatening of schools and their personnel as a recurrent tactic. The Working Group commended the Government for its endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration and stressed the importance of access to education and health care for children in the country. Nevertheless, Watchlist would like to have seen more specific requests for the immediate vacating of schools occupied by the National Security Forces, which is an ongoing issue.

Watchlist and its partners hope that the international community will support the implementation of action plans to end and prevent recruitment and use of children, especially by guaranteeing the maintenance of child protection capacity to monitor and report on the violations of children’s rights in armed conflict.

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