On May 4, 2018, the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict (SCWG-CAAC) adopted its second set of conclusions on children and armed conflict in Mali. The Working Group first met in March to review the Secretary-General’s second report on the situation of children and armed conflict in Mali, which was published in February 2018, and negotiations lasted approximately two months. Watchlist made targeted recommendations to Working Group members at the start of their negotiations, outlined in the April 2018 Children and Armed Conflict Monthly Update, all of which were reflected in some form in the final conclusions. Watchlist hopes for the complete implementation of the concluding recommendations, particularly the signing and development of action plans to end and prevent all violations and abuses committed against children.

In line with Watchlist’s recommendations, the Working Group condemned grave violations and other abuses committed against children in armed conflict in Mali and called for all parties to immediately end and prevent all violations. The numerous calls to action echoed Watchlist’s specific recommendations, including calls to end attacks against schools and hospitals; to promptly implement the action plan of the Coordination des mouvements de l´Azawad (CMA); to ensure the specific needs of girls and boys are taken into account in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) process and security sector reforms; and to remind the Government that children affiliated with armed groups should be treated as victims and afforded the rights guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

As suggested by Watchlist, the conclusions also commended the progress that has been made, particularly the endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration. The Working Group stressed the importance of access to education and called for the swift implementation of the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. The Working Group also commended the adoption of a national policy on child protection and promotion, the signing of an action plan with the CMA, the release of 72 child detainees, the implementation of the Protocol on the Release and Handover of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Groups, the provision of child protection training to the Malian defense and security forces, and other positive efforts.

Watchlist welcomes these and the Working Group’s many other recommendations, particularly the call to all parties to facilitate the release of children associated with armed forces or groups and to set in place measures to prevent further recruitment. It is hoped that all parties swiftly develop and implement action plans with the support of the UN country team and child protection officers. Watchlist is also pleased to see the Working Group’s call to community and religious leaders to engage with the Government and the UN to raise awareness and avoid stigmatization of children, allowing for their successful reintegration and rehabilitation.

Watchlist and its partners will continue to monitor the situation and make recommendations for the swift implementation of action plans to end and prevent all grave violations of children.