On November 16, 2015, under the Presidency of the United Kingdom, the UN Security Council held a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria as a response to the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), and 2191 (2014), which all relate to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Syria. In addition to a briefing on the general situation by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien, the Council was also briefed by the Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC), Leila Zerrougui.
SRSG Zerrougui’s briefing focused on the killing and maiming of children, the recruitment and use of children, and attacks on schools in Syria. The SRSG expressed her deep concern about the growing threat to children in the Syrian conflict, pointing out that the death toll for children is expected to have increased significantly in 2015. Widespread military recruitment and indoctrination of children by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Al-Nusra Front is a continuing issue. The SRSG specifically expressed her concern for the future of education in Syria because of attacks on schools, with over a quarter of all schools having been partially or completely destroyed, and noting that the Syrian Government Forces have also been using schools for military purposes. She concluded her briefing by stressing that the issue of protection of children must be at the center of any future peace talks.
In November, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict raised key recommendations ahead of the briefing regarding child protection concerns in Syria as related to humanitarian assistance updates. After the opening briefings, Watchlist was pleased to see several Member States express their deep concern over the situation of children in their statements, speaking to those recommendations. New Zealand and Spain began by echoing the SRSG’s concern about the future of education, with both governments reporting that over 2 million children are without any education because of attacks on schools. Lithuania, Jordan, the United States, and Malaysia all expressed their deep concern about indiscriminate attacks and the use of barrel bombs in civilian areas specifically, calling on the Council to take action against such attacks. Lithuania and Jordan also condemned the continued attacks on hospitals, medical facilities, and medical personnel, with Lithuania nothing that Government forces are responsible for 90 percent of these kinds of attacks according to Physicians for Human Rights. Chile called for the implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict and resolution 2143 (2014) on protecting schools from military use.
The Council will again be briefed on the humanitarian situation in Syria during the month of December, and Watchlist will continue to influence and advocate for Member States to engage with the issue of children in armed conflict during High-Level briefings.