On February 12 and 13, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict (Watchlist) participated in the fourth workshop on Children and Armed Conflict (CAC) and Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) in Berlin. The workshop was hosted at the Center for International Peace Operations by the German Federal Foreign Office, and participants from both the New York UN headquarters and the field joined the conversation.
For the fourth year in a row, the policy workshop was intended to explore the synergies between the two agendas of the UN Security Council, CAC and WPS, as well as offer participants an opportunity to exchange lessons learned in dealing with challenges they face in their respective work. Keynotes were delivered to open the sessions by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on CAC, Ms. Virginia Gamba, and Ms. Claire Hutchinson, NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for WPS. The two communities shared their respective updates, and in closed sessions, moved into targeted discussions. Those discussions involved the impact of the UN’s Security and Peace pillar reform on the CAC and WPS agendas; implementation of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration (DDR) programs for women and children; engagement with non-State armed actors; and gender inclusivity in response to sexual violence in conflict.
The most commonly identified thread throughout the workshop was general agreement by the two communities of practice that the space for child protection and women protection at the UN is diminishing. This is mostly due to several factors: downsizing of UN peace operations upon request of certain Council members; combining of roles and cuts to specialized child protection and women protection functions previously mandated by Security Council in UN field missions; budget cuts to thematic areas resulting from parallel budget and mandate renewal negotiations; general de-prioritization of human rights and protection issues at the highest leadership levels; among others. Counterintuitively, while the number of violations perpetrated against women and children documented annually by the UN and reported to the Security Council have been steadily increasing, the UN’s ability to monitor, report, and respond to these violations is decreasing as a result of these trends. Colleagues shared concerns and took stock of the progress achieved in the agendas over the past year, offering suggestions and talking through some of the current dilemmas.
A workshop report detailing other discussions will be publicly released as a UN document in the coming months (see last year’s here).