On November 22, 2017, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee finalized negotiations of its annual resolution on the Rights of the Child, focused this year on ending violence against children. The resolution (A/RES/72/245) was formally adopted on December 24, 2017, reaffirming Member States’ interest to continue to advance measures towards the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, and encouraging all Members to carry out the necessary legislative and administrative actions, among others, to effectively implement the rights recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Watchlist followed closely the negotiations on this resolution, and hopes for the complete implementation of its provisions, putting special emphasis on specific topics related to the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC) and her activities.

Watchlist was pleased to see the UN General Assembly reiterate its support for the Office of the SRSG-CAAC. This resolution extends her mandate for three years, thus recognizing the achievements since the establishment of this position and mandate. Furthermore, the UN’s budget committee approved a program budget increase for the Office of the SRSG-CAAC as a result of the resolution negotiations. This support is pivotal for the implementation of the Office’s core mandate relating to dialogue and signing of action plans with parties to conflict that commit grave violations of children’s rights and the Special Representative’s high-level advocacy efforts aimed at securing positive impact on children in countries with active armed conflicts. The increased capacity for the Office at a time of severe budget cuts within the UN speaks to the support Member States offer to the UN Security Council’s Children and Armed Conflict (CAC) agenda, now needed more than ever, given the number of humanitarian crises and impact of war on millions of children worldwide.

In the resolution, the General Assembly specifically asks the Special Representative to increase activities towards raising public awareness of her work by collecting and disseminating best practices and lessons learned. It also asks her to increase engagement especially with UN Member States, UN agencies, as well as regional and subregional organizations, all within the remit of her existing mandate. Welcoming these calls, Watchlist looks forward to learning about the SRSG-CAAC’s strategy for gathering information on best practices, and welcomes more field visits by the Office to follow-up on this strategy, monitor the situation in different countries, and further its engagement with relevant Member States on the CAC agenda.

In addition to the language adopted in the resolution, Member States should consider additional safeguards to protect children in conflict-affected areas. These include the treatment of children accused of association with armed groups first and foremost as victims entitled to full protections; alternatives to detention and prosecution of children; accountability for deliberate targeting and use of schools militarily; and the integration of guidance on schools into military training materials and special operating procedures.

Watchlist and its partners stand ready to support the UN and its Member States in implementing this resolution in the coming year and look forward to their continued commitment, in both words and actions, to protect the rights of children in conflict.