In April, the UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict (SCWG-CAAC) adopted conclusions on the situations of children and armed conflict in Yemen, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Afghanistan, respectively.
On April 8, 2020, the SCWG-CAAC adopted its second conclusion on the situation of children and armed conflict in Yemen. Watchlist welcomes the persistence of the Working Group, and in particular, Belgium as chair, on reaching consensus after a difficult 10-month negotiation. Watchlist shared targeted recommendations ahead of the negotiation, many of which were reflected in the conclusion text.
The conclusion is based on information provided by the Secretary-General’s (SG) second country-specific report on Yemen (S/2019/453), covering the period between April 1, 2013, and December 31, 2018. During this reporting period, the United Nations verified over 11,700 grave violations against children, with killing and maiming being the most prevalent violation. The recruitment and use of children and sexual violence remain underreported, particularly due to threats of retribution against monitors and stigmatization, respectively. Indiscriminate attacks on schools and hospitals, the denial of humanitarian access, and threats and attacks against humanitarian personnel were all prominent during this period.
In its conclusion, the Working Group strongly condemned ongoing violations against children in Yemen and called for accountability for all violations and abuses against children. Welcoming measures taken to date, the SCWG-CAAC stressed the need for such measures to be immediately implemented, and for parties who have not done so to engage with UN actors to develop and adopt action plans to end and prevent all grave violations. The Working Group also reiterated calls for child protection provisions to be integrated into all peace negotiations and agreements.
Watchlist welcomes the emphasis placed on accountability, inclusion of child protection provisions in peace processes, and the need for comprehensive and sustained reintegration support for children associated with armed parties. Watchlist is pleased to see the Working Group’s use of a broad range of tools to engage with listed parties to end and prevent grave violations; this includes the Council’s transmission of a letter to the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition, calling upon the coalition to continue to take concrete and effective measures to avoid and prevent child casualties during its operation and to prevent further attacks on schools and hospitals. Watchlist also welcomes the Working Group’s recognition of early marriage of girls as a harmful consequence of the conflict – the first such mention in an SCWG-CAAC conclusion.
On April 15, 2020, the Working Group adopted its fourth conclusion on the situation of children and armed conflict in CAR. The conclusion is based on information provided in the SG’s fourth country-specific report on CAR (S/2019/852), covering the period between January 1, 2016, and June 30, 2019. Watchlist provided targeted recommendations ahead of negotiations, many of which were reflected in the conclusion text.
During the reporting period, the UN verified grave violations against 1,364 children, 138 attacks on schools and hospitals, and 342 incidents of denial of humanitarian access. Attacks on hospitals, abductions, and the denial of humanitarian access significantly increased as compared to the previous reporting period. Recruitment and use was the most prominent violation.
In its conclusion on the situation of children in CAR, the Working Group welcomed the inclusion of child protection provisions in the February 2019 peace agreement between the Government of CAR and 14 non-State armed groups, while condemning continued violations committed by signatories to the agreement. The SCWG-CAAC strongly condemned continuing violations against children, particularly their recruitment and use, and urged parties to immediately release children in their ranks and take steps to prevent future recruitment.
Watchlist welcomes the emphasis on adoption and full implementation of action plans to end and prevent violations, as well as on international justice and accountability mechanisms, including the International Criminal Court and the 2127 Sanctions Regime. The Working Group also expressed deep concern over continued allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of children by UN peacekeepers, strongly condemning such acts and calling on the UN and its Member States to take appropriate measures to ensure full accountability.
On April 29, 2020, the SCWG-CAAC adopted its fourth conclusion on the situation of children and armed conflict in Afghanistan. The conclusion is based on the SG’s fourth country-specific report on Afghanistan (S/2019/727), covering the period between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2018. Watchlist shared targeted recommendations ahead of the negotiations, many of which were reflected in the conclusion text.
During the reporting period, the UN verified over 14,200 grave violations against children. Afghanistan remains the deadliest conflict for children, the UN verifying over 12,500 child casualties during the reporting period – an 82 percent increase from the previous period. Other documented violations include recruitment and use, sexual violence, abductions, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access. Rape and sexual violence against children remains underreported.
In its conclusion, the SCWG-CAAC expressed grave concern at the deteriorating situation of children in Afghanistan, particularly the significant increase in the number of children killed and maimed. Welcoming progress made by the Government of Afghanistan towards implementing its 2011 action plan and 2014 roadmap to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children, the Working Group stressed the need for accountability, and called for the release and reintegration of children held in detention for actual or alleged association with armed groups.
Watchlist welcomes the emphasis on accountability; the call for parties to take immediate and specific measures to end and prevent sexual violence, including the practice of bacha bazi; and the call for compliance with international law, particularly with respect to the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. At the same time, Watchlist is disappointed to see only words of praise for the United States in the conclusion, despite the number of child casualties attributed to US-led international forces steadily increasing each year during the reporting period.