On September 17, 2015, under the Presidency of Russia, the UN Security Council held a debate on the status and progress of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The meeting was held as a response to a report of the Secretary-General (SG) on the situation in Afghanistan, released on September 1, 2015. The debate was also accompanied by the final outcome of a review of the UN’s role, structure and activities in Afghanistan, in form of a letter from the SG to the Security Council President. Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict followed this review process with the help of the pen holder on Afghanistan, Spain, and has most recently made recommendations for both the UNAMA progress reporting and the review process in its September CAC Monthly Update. Watchlist notes with disappointment the lack of inclusion of any child-specific mentions in the review outcome transmitted by the SG.
For the UNAMA debate, Watchlist lobbied friendly Member States to include language related to children and armed conflict in their statements. Specifically, Watchlist and its network members stressed the inclusion of the following key points: the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan in terms of protection of children; supporting the Government and the Country Task Force for Monitoring and Reporting in meeting the commitments made under the Road Map for Compliance towards ending recruitment and use; and supporting the implementation of the new age-assessment guidelines, revising child detention policies, and establishing child protection units in all Afghanistan National Police recruitment centers. Commendably, the governments of Spain and Malaysia included the strongest language on child protection.
However, in the review of its role, structure and activities in Afghanistan mandated by the SG this year, the United Nations failed to include any language on issues related to children. This is significant to note, as the outcome of this review will feed into the overhaul of UNAMA’s mandate next March, and the number of child rights violations still go unabated as a result of the conflict. Watchlist hopes the results of the review will not negatively impact the pending UNAMA renewal in early 2016, and that the UN will continue to mandate dedicated child protection capacity within UNAMA’s human rights section from that point forward.
With the forthcoming Security-Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict conclusion document on the situation of children and armed conflict in Afghanistan, Watchlist will continue to influence and advocate for Member States’ engagement regarding children’s concerns in the country.